So much of makers’ making takes place outside of the public eye, the effort is embedded deeply and meaningfully in their products, but is perhaps not readily apparent to the naked eye. There is a particular joy that comes from encountering a maker like Allysarhaye Graciano of BlackSheepMade, who can often be found during events crocheting or hand-knitting something on the spot for a customer, such as one of her incredibly popular pet beds, one-of-a-kind rugs, or elegant plant hangers.
Even if she’s not in the process of making when customers approach her booth, they can still tell that her products are teeming with complete and utter “handmade-ness”: unique shapes with contours that are wavy like water, gracefully guided by what could only be real human hands. This quality is embodied perhaps most significantly in her Ohhio Braid pet beds. Ohhio Braid is a squishy, playful, and chunky vegan yarn, and when Graciano weaves it into beds, it produces the visual effect of a pet being massaged by thick strands of super soft spaghetti that have just been twirled by a giant fork. “My dogs can’t tell me they like the bed I made them, but watching them cuddle up in it every night is just about the same, and I love it,” Graciano says.
While her pet beds may be her signature product for now, there is the sense that Graciano and BlackSheepMade seem capable of just about anything in the future. By December, she plans to release a line of handmade fingerless gloves inspired by her childhood fascination with cutting the tips off $1 gloves she’d buy in San Francisco’s Chinatown. She also plans to start selling one-a-kind sweaters and new pet products, and she wants to start exploring other fiber arts, like weaving, felting, and embroidery. To own a BlackSheepMade product begins to feel like owning something that is a very, very limited edition. A maker this skilled and this imaginative could very well be making entirely different things, say, five years from now, driving an urgency to buy any particular BlackSheepMade product that catches the eye while it is still available.
On top of her product-based ambitions, Graciano loves teaching knitting, crochet, and macrame workshops. “I was hooked on seeing students’ skills develop in just a couple hours,” Graciano says. “I’m working towards expanding my workshops in person, online, and in other languages. I’m fluent in Spanish and French and would absolutely love to teach abroad.” It’s in this respect that Graciano represents one of the best qualities in maker culture: a confidence in craft and creativity so unwavering that the maker completely embraces the act of teaching others how to do what she does, knowing her ability to evolve, innovate, and make brilliant products will keep people following her and will keep them rapt with wonder and excitement.
BlackSheepMade can be found at the San Jose Craft Holiday Fair on December 16–17, 2017.
Written by Kevin Biggers of SJMADE
Photography by Daniel Garcia