30 Dec Are we making a difference? Let’s look back on 2014 and see :s x
It is the season for slowing down and reflection. With the quiet after Christmas (we hope you had a lovely one btw) & before the buzz of a new year (can you believe it’s going to be 2015 in a few days?!) it’s the perfect time to look over what we’ve done in 2014. Our priority in the Craftivist Collective is to help people engage with social justice in a thoughtful, hopeful, deeply engaging & often holistic way in their own time using craft as a tool for contemplation & connection; figure out how we can all be part of the change we wish to see in the world in all that we do from how we think, how we use our money & power, how we treat our neighbours down the street to our global neighbours around the world. It’s more fun & fulfilling than it sounds if you haven’t tried it before I promise!:)
Craftivism = craft + activism so we focus on activism & solidarity; asking WHY there are behaviours, attitudes, structures and systems stopping some of our fellow human beings from being able to live dignified life whilst other neighbours have more than enough money & resources but don’t seem fulfilled or happy & our role within that. The legendary Desmond Tutu says it better than I ever could when he said:
“There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.”
But this makes it difficult for us to tangibly see, hear, know if we are actually doing what we hope and whether we are useful for people, groups & organisations around the world we support. I worry about whether what we do is making a difference but I know we contribute to long term change not short term solutions & others are doing other great work too that we try to complement rather than compete with (like charities and issue-led campaigning organisations). It’s a good healthy concern. This is why we don’t give you all questionnaires to fill in but rather encourage you to use our kits, book and other resources & our community in the way that helps you on your journey as a global citizen and see what happens. It’s been great seeing & hearing about the positive impact our community, products & services have on people around the world & it really keeps us striving to survive to continue our contribution to make the world a more just, kind & beautiful place for all, one stitch at a time.
Have a look through our photos below and you’ll see our collective is growing around the world and we’ve been lucky to meet & connect offline this year in Germany, Sweden, Norway & Finland as well as Scotland & Wales & hear what craftivists love about being part of the Craftivist Collective. I love getting the letters & emails sent saying how a kit helped people grapple with big issues they had felt overwhelmed by and had helped them think critically about their role and helped them also feel empowered to keep striving to live more intentionally and ethically. It’s so fab watching craftivists online around the world share personal crafterthoughts & reflections, as well as connect, chat & encourage each other. Thanks to all of you for your social media likes, sharing & commenting on each others Craftivist Collective projects, taking part all over the world using our DIY craftivism kits & A Little Book of Craftivism (we’ve sold 4000 in 12 months) to introduce & encourage more people in joining our loving collective of craftivists.
I have to also admit though: sometimes it’s been stressful, nerve-wracking and pretty scary. It’s a challenge to continue to exist & keep supporting people in their craftivism journey if we don’t increase support & sales (I hate how money makes the world go round grrr!). We get lots of requests from groups and individuals we don’t want to stop supporting so in 2015 we will be working hard to find ways to be a sustainable social enterprise. It’s exciting & we can’t wait to share our progress with you guys before anyone else (keep an eye out!). Advice is always welcome of course too. I personally don’t regret any of what we’ve done in 2014, even the super-scary stuff and hope you don’t too (feedback always welcome obvs!).
So, sit back, grab a cuppa tea & have a scroll down some of our highlights in images & videos to see what we’ve done & what we can build on in 2015. We hope it makes you smile & remember what Margaret Mead’s says so beautifully:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Join us next year to keep making the change we wish to see in the world with courage, care & a craftivism kit! There’s still lots of inner activism, gentle activism & joyful activism to do in 2015 don’t you think?
We started the year with:
We had a lovely Italian TV presenter Gloria interview us for the national TV channel in Italy RAI reaching Italian shores and encourage viewers there to get involved the collective. You can see us from 4mins in and many of you will recognise the inspiring and pioneering Guerrilla Gardener Richard Reynolds at the beginning of the show too.
On a monday morning in January the lovely Lauren Laverne tweeted to her 341,000 followers the above 3 times! She is a lovely English radio DJ, television presenter, author & singer & owner of our book!;p It was a lovely surprise we didn’t ask for, we thanked her and kept in touch. Since then she has tweeted, DMd and activitely follows us on Instagram liking a few things once in a while. It’s always great to build up support from influential people. We also really appreciate our champions such as Lucy Siegle , Livia Firth, James Victore & Lara Watson of Mollie Makes amongst others for their continuous support.
- Our #imapiece exhibition is still touring around the UK & being well used. Teacher Karen Rowe hired some of our #imapiece jigsaw pieces to exhibit in Wolfson College, Oxfordshire to inspire the students & teachers. The feedback was brilliant with comments such as “so many beautiful images we should all be taking note of”, “what a fresh and wonderful idea”, “very thought provoking indeed”, “A lovely group effect” and “an inspiring exhibition, thank you” where amongst comments from students and staff. “As a teacher of Textiles the craftivism projects are a really good way of introducing social issues to my pupils, without being all ‘preachy’” said Karen. Hear more from Karen about her use of #imapiece exhibition in the blog she wrote for our “My Craftivism” series here.
We will keep creating pieces and projects that are hopefully provoke thought, discussion and action on global issues large and small. Thanks to all the media peeps & bloggers who have covered us this year. See the double page spread in Uppercase and spot us in Mollie Makes, Knitting Magazine , The Knitter, Pom Pom magazine, and more in our blogs on Media Alerts here.
We’ve travelled around Europe in 2014 delivering our structured intimate craftivism workshops in cafe’s, universities and art galleries. They always start with our craftivism methodology (using craft as a tool to do slow, gentle & joyful activism), discussing what messages we are going to stitch and why, using instrumental music to help us silently meditate and then discuss our critical thinking. It’s fascinating hearing what people get out of our workshops. We really value your feedback. We’ve been to Glasgow, Bristol, Manchester, Liverpool, Berlin, Gran (Norway), Borås & Gothenburg (Sweden) & Falmouth amongst other places this year with our trusty #popupcraftivist suitcase!
As well as our intimate closed workshops we’ve enjoyed delivering open, free drop-in events for art organisations large and small such as the V&A, Southbank Centre’s Women of the World annual festival, National Portrait Gallery, House of Fairy Tales, and others this year engaging hundreds of people & families in creative & contemplative activism.
It seems to fit that we are found working with schools, art institutions, charities, universities, and festivals but I bet you didn’t imagine us being at re:publica : a festival in Europe that deals with the Web 2.0! (especially blogs, social media and information society). Well we got the invite to Berlin and got a great turn out and feedback. It turns out lots of tech people really want to do offline work & see how our offline work has ripple effects online. Two attendees even came to our V&A workshop in London the following September & lots of people asked to buy our A Little Book of Craftivism (which I didn’t bring because I didn’t want people feeling I just wanted to flog books but people where actually frustrated I didn’t bring any so I’ve learnt from this mistake)!
We went to 7 festivals summer of 2014 across Europe (including Also Festival, Anxiety Festival, Wilderness Festival, Shambala, Greenbelt Festival, Så festival in Norway & Re:publica in Germany) delivering large, small and sold out workshops, talks up to 500 people, panel discussions and where even recorded for podcasts played on headphones in a wooden meditation pod for Now Events Live (true story!): 9 NOW experts offering their own perspectives on how and why it is effective to be more rooted in the present moment, leading you to greater overall wellbeing. Each speaker offers a few different angles and approaches, with tools and suggestions to anchor you more in the here and NOW. Listen to them all here.
We created & delivered our first children’s craftivism project at Also Festival this summer & it went…. really well!:) The young craftivistas were brilliant, hardworking and proudly wore their bunting around the festival for the rest of the day (or forced their parents to) which created great conversations on what ‘solidarity’ means – a new word for some of the children and some of the adults said they had forgot too! House of Fairy Tales asked us to deliver the same workshop 3 times at Winterville this year too.
- The gig above was the most nerve-wracking event I personally did in 2014, to the point where I was going to cancel because I was so scared. I was asked to be a panelist on ‘State of the Nation’ event at Wilderness Festival. The host Jolyon Rubenstein (presenter of BBC3’s The Revolution will be Televised) was really great at putting me at ease & encouraging me to get up & give my views. Other panelists included George Monbiot, 38 Degrees Director, journalist Zoe Williams, philosopher Robert Rowland Smith, Dragons Den entrepreneur Doug Richard, &… a craftivist *gulp* – see why I was scared now? Feedback was great from fellow panelists, the host and audience throughout the festival & I was asked to be part of the same line-up at Shoreditch House in October 2014.
We build on our years of doing craftivism (5 years now eek!) and worked in a new way but still fitting our ethos and purpose of engaging people in social justice in a deep and meaningful way. We were honoured to be asked by Falmouth University to lead their second stage of their AHRC-funded Connected Communities project, building on their research with neuroscientists & clinicians who gathered evidence on how handicraft helps with stress, depression and chronic pain. We worked together to go ‘beyond craft’ and focus on how craft can help with critical thinking. We focused on the complex issue of wellbeing & inner activism to challenge ourselves to be more intentional and ethical in our lives. We came up with the concept of Craftivists Garden #wellmaking (get it?!) project to focus on using craft to help us grapple with what wellbeing is and how our own wellbeing is improved if we focus on the wellbeing of society and how we can all flourish together if we stop, think, connect & grow in our knowledge and understanding of wellbeing and society. We had over 50 stitch-ins in 5 months across the UK plus media attention, the awesome blogging community writing about it, individuals taking part too & sharing online using #wellmaking. The handbook, manifesto poster & installation (with over 500 flowers so far) will be showcased at the end of January in our Garden party here (all welcome!). The handbook will also be online to hopefully be of use to craftivists and others around the world
We connected to an awesome community of Do-ers by being invited to speak at Do Lectures 2014. A 100 people, a farm, tents over 3 days and with 14 speakers. Set up with the honest motivation of helping “the DO-ers of the world together – the movers and shakers, the disrupters and the change-makers – and ask them to tell their stories. Under star lit skies, in a bind with nature, they would inspire others to go out into the world and DO, too.” It massively inspired me hearing from incredible doers who where honest, vulnerable and give the audience no excuses not to just have a go and do. I recommend watching their videos. Really inspired me in our plans for 2015, we got lots of supporters from those 3 days, some new friends and a handful who we can call on for advice and feedback
The author & journalist Frida came to London Dec 2013 to find out more about our approach to craftivism for her book Gerillaslöjd and come along to some of our events. We connected her to a few other people also in the book now too such as Moose; reverse street artist & Lauren O’Farrell wool artist (yay!). The book is selling well in Sweden, Frida mentions the collective a lot in interviews (including TV interviews) and we’ve had more sales in Sweden from our Etsy shop suggesting that more swedish craftivist activity is happening woop woop & our collective is getting pretty eclectic!
Soooo many swedish people totally ‘get’ what we our approach to craftivism is (gentle activism in solidarity not charity, provocative not preachy, transformational not transactional etc) and support it yay! We had around 90 people at our open lecture hosted by Hemslöjdens who published the swedish language Gerillaslöjd book we are featured in, and hosted also by the Principle of the prestigious Beckmans College of Design in Stockholm (the Principle gave me her “Slow Art’ book as a gift for coming & then had to sneak off at the end of the lecture to help her son with his homework) including students, academics, journalists, craft lovers and craftivists. The questions where thoughtful and lots of people where keen to get involved. Staff & students from HV Studios came too after inviting us on a lovely tour around their textile rooms and gallery.
Another great time in Sweden (same trip to help cut down our CO2 emissions) this time in Borås for 2 days at the Textil Museet as part of Textile Sounds delivering a workshop, talk and performance collaboration with the curators linked to theme of Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh. For the collaboration we came up with the idea together of stitching a Mini Protest Banner under a camera that was projected on to the screen behind us for the audience to see each letter I was stitching. Lisa, the opera singer sang the words in a really emotive way for people to slowly see the statement that “1127 garment workers had died in the Rana Plaza disaster. This should never happen again”. Stefan the electronic improvisation musician & exhibition curator, used Lisa’s sound, the sound of stitching and other craft sounds to give the performance even more power. It was an emotional time for both performers and the audience and we had good chats afterwards about buying more ethically, intentionally and not letting sweatshops be the norm. This was our second theatrical performance (first was Secret Cinema in 2013) & another new experience that showed that craft and activism can be used with music, performance and the power of words to engage people on the issue of sweatshops. Lots to learn from this project. Plus Lisa & Stefan are keen to work with us again in the near future.
This year we’ve been working more and more with academic institutions not just delivering talks at academic symposiums (we’ve done a few of them again this year) but also more guest lectures and even been given a full day with students to do lectures, seminars & workshops all bespoke to their courses. The feedback has been great from both staff and students thanking us for helping them be more critical thinkers and using craft as a comforting tool to help them challenge themselves and their views on creative activism and citizenship. Amongst them were a day teaching Royal School of Needlework first year students linked to the V&A Disobedient Objects exhibition. Plus a day with students on the Craft Leadership course in University of Gothenburg, Sweden on the strengths and weaknesses of using craft in activism and in participatory learning.
We’ve been in 4 more books published this year, another great way to get our message across & provoke thought and discussion. There is an interview chapter in Betsy Greer’s Craftivism book on our work and lots of our images used throughout the book. We are also mentioned in chapters written by Deadly Knitshade, Mr X Stitch & Catherine West of Significant Seams as part of their craftivism journey. We are also featured in Strange Material by Leanne Prain with one of our images used in a canadian newspaper to promote the book & Gerillaslöjd mentioned above. Fourth book is Street Art: Contemporary Prints by Riikka Kuitinen.
- We continue to work with charities such as World Aims creating the above project for them for young people to support the Climate Coalition ‘For the Love of‘ campaign in an online and offline way of deep engagement. We also continue to deliver workshops for volunteers at Latitude charity helping them to learn about creative campaigning including craftivism but also other create ways to express injustice issues and engage people deeply. And other charities (such as Comic Relief): helping staff and volunteers confidence in using creativity, gentleness & quietness as powerful tools for change-making. We were also invited by the inspiring creative agency Bold Creative to deliver a day with their staff. The Director wrote afterwards: “We had the pleasure of a uniquely design workshop with Sarah just for the team at Bold Creative. She was a pleasure to hear talking and the Craftivism activities had us all enthralled. I’d recommend it for anyone who has a purpose driven team who wants to reconnect and re-energise.”
In November we were asked to go to Helsinki, Finland to deliver an open lecture in Helsinki University Think Corner. The talk, interview & Q&A where all live streamed with great challenging questions coming in from Finland and surrounding countries. We had around 50 people that filled the room (we couldn’t fit more in and I was warned that Finnish people often don’t go out in November evenings because it’s so dark, cold and wet so we were very grateful) & sold 40 books. An edited version was made for their YouTube channel here too.
Yep that’s world famous comedian Russell Brand reading our little book who came to our V&A workshop as part of the Disobedient Objects exhibition and stayed for 20minutes with his mum to ask what we were doing, more info on our approach and get a copy of our little book and a Mini Protest Banner kit to take home with him (he asked if it had everything in the kit he needed and was impressed that included needle and thread). His mum asked some great questions about her concern for people sending western designed and poorly made clothes to the developing world as a quick solution but not asking if local people want the clothes or would rather make their own beautiful clothing. We spoke about charities like Christian Aid who provide sewing machines to communities to support local people to help themselves create income and empowerment. What a progressive lady Mrs Brand is!:)
We always think how can we connect more to our collective members and create content and conversations to help everyone do the best craftivism they can do that helps not harms the world. We suggested some short vlogs to cover our methodology and answer recuring questions. We’ve made 4 and will start posting them out on our YouTube Channel and more in 2015. If you have any questions you want answered in the vlogs do email sarah [ at] craftivist-collective DOT com.
Our book, kits, gift cards and badges are being homed in lovely independent shops around the world including the newly opened Alterknit Universe in Cleeve. We are in good company since everything in store is hand-picked or hand-made with these four criteria in mind: NATURAL, RECYCLED, LOCAL and ETHICAL. Go Kim! You can also spot our book in V&A book shop, Somerset House shop, Prick Your Finger, Fabrications as well as leading bookshops Waterstones etc. If there is anywhere you know that fits our ethos please do let them know of our stuff yeah?:)
There is so much more we haven’t mentioned so do check out our blog for more info. The best thing is to follow us on social media channels to keep up to date. The final 2014 highlight is the TEDxBedford talk I did in November that went live last week:
You made it to the end! So what do you think? What do you think we should do next year to continue to support and encourage craftivists around the world but in a way that doesn’t burn us out (that would be ironic wouldn’t it!?). What would you find helpful? What did you like the most out of our 2014 shenanigans? Don’t forget to comment below or we will never know and please do share this post with people you think it might excite to get involved too.
Have a lovely new year and look out for our new years newsletter in your inbox 1st Jan 2015. If you aren’t signed up to our newsletter then sign up at the top right of this page xxx