bootlegging. The rules that have been laid out for these issues, from the “outsourcing” of the bags to
the project are simple: an alternative labor source (the collaborators), to
1) Choose a designer label couture handbag, the creation of an economic model to sell them. At
preferably one that you covet. the same time, Syjuco brings issues like sampling
2) Using your own skill level, approximate that and remixing to the table, offering icons of modern
handbag in crochet. fashion to a craft world that is already hell-bent on
3) Do your best to replicate the size, scale, replicating designer looks on the cheap.
decoration, and function of the bag (including The completed handbags are wonders of ingenuity.
pockets, closures, and embellishments). Any way you slice it, crochet is a less refined medium
4) Photograph the completed bag and send it to than, say, knitting. The crafters involved in the project
Stephanie. Additionally, the completed bag have to dig deep into their respective skills to replicate
itself may be sent to Stephanie to be included the subtle beauty of the handbags in such a primitive
in an eventual exhibition. medium. The love and care that went into the bags
are evident, along with the initial fetishistic attrac-
tion to the source material. This handmade quality
The crafters involved in the was paramount for Syjuco at the inception of the
project. It was important that the collaborators’ own
project have to dig deep styles and skill levels shine through.
How does a fine artist like Syjuco reconcile her love
into their respective skills to of craft with her place in an art world obsessed with
concepts like “high” and “low” art? The Counterfeit
replicate the subtle beauty Crochet Project began as one of the many “small
projects” on her website — conceptual thoughts
of the handbags in such a that percolated until they were realized, seeing her
creative impulses through in between “serious” proj-
primitive medium. ects. Syjuco is so adept at turning these small works
into well-rounded conceptual art that many have
morphed into fully formed large-scale projects.
In exchange, participants receive credit toward The Counterfeit Crochet Project is a milestone
handmade Anti-Factory garments and full credit as in Syjuco’s art because it adroitly spans all of her
collaborators in the project. Eventually, snapshots interests. The project is a perfect bridge between
taken by the participants will be blown up to poster the worlds of craft, fashion, and art. The wonder-
size and displayed with participating bags. Also, fully accessible handbags lure the viewer in, with
crafters who offer their work for sale will complete instantly recognizable attributes of well-known
the full cycle of manufacturing, distribution, pub- fashion designers. Upon closer inspection, they
licity, and retail. reveal the intricacies of the project as well as the
As an educator and proponent of DIY, Syjuco detail and attention put into them by their makers.
includes a forum on her website to share her What’s next for Syjuco? In addition to a full slate
patterns, tricks, and encouragement. Source mate- of museum and gallery shows and creating clothing
rial is freely offered in the form of suggested bags, for Anti-Factory, she wants to keep adding to her
patterns, and tips. The project was an instant hit arsenal of old-world craft skills. By learning to
within the craft world, with over a dozen collabora- weave baskets, upholster furniture, and spin wool,
tors stepping up to the plate. Syjuco carefully Syjuco hopes to become a physical repository of
cultivates an air of the illicit around the project: craft knowledge. When craft is outlawed … only
bars are placed over the eyes of collaborators when outlaws will craft.
they are shown posing with their bags.
Counterfeit goods make up a multi-billion-dollar
black market economy involving sweatshops, Garth Johnson is a designer, educator, and rogue crafter
who lives in Atlanta, Ga. His website, extremecraft.com, is a
organized crime, and theft of intellectual property. compendium of craft masquerading as art, art masquerading
The Counterfeit Crochet Project addresses all of as craft, and craft extending its middle finger.