Amy Sedaris on Why Arts and Crafts Are Recession-Friendly

The comic actress and author of Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People talks about crafts, the magic of resourcefulness and the joy of working with her brother, writer David Sedaris

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Amy Sedaris

She's played a middle-aged former junkie and high school student in Strangers with Candy and will use any excuse to wear a fat suit. But what Amy Sedaris really wants to do is make stuff. Her new book, Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People, is a comic look at DIY projects (how to make a knitted sausage, for example, or drumstick candles). She spoke to TIME about crafts, the magic of resourcefulness and why no one should be too scared to pick up a glue stick.

Do arts and crafts get a bad rap?
When I hear the word crafts, I think, "Ugh," because nowadays crafts are about something else. It means those little kits. You buy the frames, and all you do is apply seashells or something. Or it's sewing buttons on tube socks. It's just crap. I like crafts that come out of poverty or necessity. There used to be hobby shops where you'd get your supplies, and then you'd use your imagination. But now they do everything for you. They're making it too easy.

Do we need to have a greater appreciation for crafts?
Now it's treated as a way to pass time, not as a skill. When people tell me they are going to go scrapbooking, I say, "Why don't you make it yourself?" It's like chocolate-chip cookies. People buy the cookie-dough roll and slice it, and then they lay it on a cookie sheet. That's not making chocolate-chip cookies.

Is the book recession-friendly?
You think in a different way when you don't have any money. The joy of poverty is that you use your imagination to come up with stuff. Let's make a slingshot out of a wishbone. Or use a sandwich bag for a condom. That's the stuff I go for — stuff people make because somebody needs it. And those things always have a naive charm to them.

What are your favorite types of crafts?
I like religious crafts and Bible-school crafts. But I like just using what's available. If you save the hair from your hairbrush and you apply it to your face using toupee tape, it makes for really nice facial hair. That was a craft in my book. It took a really long time to save all that hair, believe it or not.

You have often worked with your brother, the writer David Sedaris. How would you describe your creative relationship?
I am happiest when I am working with David. It's complete creativity. You just get sucked into this tunnel, and it's just the two of us. It just feels really good. We're on a special wavelength, and you don't have that with a lot of people.

As an actress, what kind of parts do you like to play?
When I was young, we had a cousin in a wheelchair. She had problems with her kidneys. I think that wheelchair stayed with me. I was fascinated. Anyone with any disability or deformity — I am just drawn to things that are different. I've been dying to do a commercial for tampons or for cramp medicine, where I am bent over, screaming in pain. When I was talking to my agent about it, she said people would never take me seriously and think that I am making fun of them. But I guess I'll always have that problem — even when I am trying to be serious.

What are some of your upcoming projects?
I have a movie, The Best and the Brightest, coming out this year with Neil Patrick Harris, who reminds me of Stephen Colbert. He's smart and funny in a similar way. It's about a man who's trying to get his daughter into a professional kindergarten. And I was asked to be the coach. I told the director, "No, you don't want me." Because I didn't think I had the chops. And I am also working on my new [still unnamed] show. It's going to be about homemakers. I will be treating them seriously, and I will definitely be a character.

You appear in your brother's books as a child wearing a fat suit, which you also donned on Strangers with Candy. Is life better inside or outside a fat suit?
If it's really cold outside, it feels really great to be in a fat suit. In the summer, it's awful. But you do lose a lot of weight, and you don't even know it. It feels so good to move around in a fat suit.