29 Dec My Craftivism*: by craftivist Sayraphim Lothian
Name: Sayraphim Lothian
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Craft of choice: As many as I can find the materials for!
How did you get into craftivism? My grandmother was a massive influence on me. She made toys for charity for as long as I can remember. After she passed away, I wanted to continue her legacy, using craft to change lives for the better.
My main body of work is guerrilla kindness, which involves leaving small handcrafted items out in the city for people to find and take home. It’s about making someone’s day brighter, a tiny gift of loveliness to remind people that sometimes life is magic.
Tell us about your craftivism project / event – what did you do, and how, and why? One of my most recent craftivism projects was a Minifashionprotest banner. I felt it was important to highlight the terrible conditions in the third world factories we get our clothes from. I stitched a little banner that read “Real slaves to fashion can’t afford to live on their third world factory wage” and I installed it just outside Melbourne’s busiest train station.
What response have you got / do you hope to get from your craftivism? I get loads of positive responses from my works. Each one has my name on it if people want to get in touch, and often they do, which is lovely. But for me, responses aren’t why I do it. I want to make people’s day nicer, I want to remind them that the world is an amazing place if only they remember to look around them and that for the most part, strangers aren’t scary, they’re just people you haven’t met.
What were you thinking about while you were stitching? The miniprotestbanner was an exciting challenge, because it was the first time I’d embroidered since I was in primary school. So partly, my concentration was taken up by the activity itself. I’d tried to draw it out in pencil first, but it hadn’t really worked, instead I was just winging it. Since I’d chosen such a long sentence, I was a bit worried I’d run out of space before I ran out of letters, but in the end it was fine and I was really proud of it.
It also gave me the time and space to think about the issues involved in the sweatshop industry, large retail chains and the clothing industry in general. I buy most of my clothes second hand from charity shops, but after this project, I felt I wanted to do more.
I started considering how to reuse/prolong the life of my clothes and other fabrics. I’d been talking to Rayna Fahey and she’d mentioned her thoughts on mending clothing. She uses patches of different colours, to show it has been patched, it’s like seeing little chapters in a item of clothing’s history.
So I’ve now got a personal ongoing project with the Jeans That Never End, attempting to see how long I can patch my favourite pairs of jeans so I can keep wearing them. Eventually they’ll be all patches and no jeans left, but I think that’s an excellent outcome. I’m using a method taught to me by my sister, who was taught it by my grandmother. It’s really affirming, to be patching my clothes the way my sister does, which is the same way my mum does and my grandmother did.
I’m also embarking on (my first) paper pieced quilt from my partner’s old flannelette shirts and my old pajamas. Our old clothes will be keeping us warm and snug next winter. There’s such a history in those fabrics, some of the items we’ve owned for over fifteen years, so it’s nice they can continue on in our lives rather than ending up as landfill somewhere.
How do you think that craftivism can change the world?
Craftivism gives people a platform from which to broadcast and discuss their thoughts on issues and their concern for the world. When people want to be heard, they turn to what they know, and for many crafters it’s a way to apply their skills to ideas they feel need to be part of the ongoing discourse around various issues.
Craftivism is also an excellent way to reclaim so called public space, which is becoming more and more governed by private corporations, local councils and marketing companies. Public space should be our space, but it’s often difficult to see it that way when there’s so many billboards, security guards and officials telling us to buy something or move on. Installing guerrilla works gives people a way to personalise the urban environment, reintroduce some humanity to the overwhelmingly corporate and ultimately, to signify the fact that you were here, wending your way between the concrete alleys and towering steel and glass buildings.
Thanks Sayraphim for your time and words. If you would like to write a guest post for the Craftivist Collective blog, please email us at Craftivist.email@example.com
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