Every month the OTW hosts guest posts on our OTW News accounts to provide an outside perspective on the OTW or aspects of fandom. These posts express each individual’s personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the OTW or constitute OTW policy.
Gracie is an artist and photographer who uses her ability to hyperfocus to learn a wide array of obscure skills and esoteric knowledge to add to her larger body of work. In the last few years she’s been wholly obsessed with fandom, fanfiction, and exploring the techniques and challenges of turning fanworks into physical objects, which you can read more about on her Tumblr account. Today, Gracie talks about fan crafts and the special joys of fandom.
How did you first find out about fandom and fanworks?
I first found fandom back in November 2018. I had already been on Tumblr for a few years but only used it as a photo and aesthetic site. It was only when I happened across a beautifully made gif set of Captain Kirk from the Star Trek original series reboot that I even realized there was a whole other world on Tumblr. My anxiety was so terrible at the time that I decided to delve a little deeper. And I ended up falling in love with fic and with fandom.
It was a slow journey because I didn’t know how to be involved with fandom for the first year. So I mostly just watched from the sidelines. It wasn’t until I rediscovered my love for BBC Merlin that I finally started interacting with people. There are so many brilliant, talented people in this fandom. And it blew my mind to think that when I was watching the show back when it was on the air, there was all this going on, and I just had no idea.
What gave you the idea to make your first fan crafts?
The dumpster fire of 2020, was really rough on me — and the entire world. But after we went into lockdown in late March, I desperately needed something to occupy my thoughts and hands because my anxiety was ramping up again. I was devouring fic to help cope with the constant doomscrolling of the news. I read a fic called “The Threads That Bind Us” by a brilliant writer turned friend, tehfanglyfish, which featured a character learning to knit to make a courting gift. Reading it gave me an idea to try to create the scarf she was talking about by description. And having worked for many years as a fiber artist, I felt confident that I could do it.
But instead of just picking commercially available yarns, I really wanted to delve deeper into the history and availability of fiber and resources of that period. I started researching primary sources for what kind of wool might be available in the early Middle Ages, and well, everything spiraled from there. I picked some wool from my fiber stash, used my creaky old spinning wheel, dyed the yarns, and then knit the scarf the way I imagined it would look. When I was done, I wrote up my Tumblr post with tons of photos and all the many details, picked the line from the fic that inspired the entire thing, linked the fic, and tagged the author.
It felt terrifying — after all the work and effort — to finally put it into the world. More than just completing the thing, I really wanted it to be a love letter to the author who had given me such a lovely story to read. The author loved the scarf. And with the help of another friend, I coined the name fanARTifacts for the series.
Your works have a number of formats. Is there any kind you find particularly satisfying?
I don’t find one format more satisfying, necessarily. But I do enjoy that I almost always have to learn a new skill for each project. Or at least I try to do that. My ADHD blesses and sometimes curses me with the ability to hyper-fixate on something until I know everything I possibly can about it. It’s definitely something that has helped me a lot with fanARTifacts. And probably a big reason why I fell so hard for fandom in the first place.
It’s like, okay, I want to make this journal from a fic, but I have no idea how to bind a book. So I learned how to bind books. I needed to make a golden glowing jewel for another fic, but I had absolutely no idea how to do that and make it float as I wanted it to, so I learned how to build 3-D objects from paper and use digital art for the effects. I have learned how to sculpt clay, dye with natural dyestuffs, hand sew fine linen, and even make latte art to create the things for this series.
But more than just wanting to challenge me, knowing that I’m doing it for a reason other than my own desire to make things really makes me want to stick with it. It brings me joy to know that the author might feel some happiness that someone was so inspired by their work as to make a physical thing based on it. And while not every fanARTifact is created directly from a fic, it’s my favorite kind to create.
How did you hear about the OTW and what do you see its role as?
So while I learned about AO3 a few years ago, I didn’t know what the OTW was until last year. I suppose I see its role as a sort of legal safety net for the right to create fanworks. And to also preserve older works by helping integrate them into the archive.
What fandom things have inspired you the most?
The sense of community I’ve experienced in fandom spaces has been truly incredible. And watching the amount of time, love, and effort people put into something just for the love of the thing. It seems special in this overly commodified society where every artistic endeavor feels like it needs to be monetized. And more than that, the people I’ve gotten to know through fandom have been a joy. I’ve been so lucky to develop a few really close friendships with folks through nothing more than a shared love of media and have it grow into offline friendships, too.