Archive | crafters + makers.

People who make stuff, whether they call it art, craft, folk art, outsider art or something else entirely.

Hide a Hat and Fight Back Interview!

I found out about Catherine Hicks’ Hide a Hat and Fight Back over on Instagram via the #craftivism hashtag. If you have craftivism projects, please hashtag them so I can find them more easily!

Next week I’ll be sharing Gather’s “You Belong Here” project, which is needed now more than ever. They’re accepting signs until next week, so get to it!

You can also read more about what Catherine has to say about the project over on Medium.

 

1. What is your definition of craftivism?

Craftivism is the call for social change through what are considered typical women’s mediums.  Craftivism helps craftivists by providing a purposeful outlet for creative energies, which can be directed to increase awareness and encourage social and/or political change.

My Art Practice is primarily engaged in Hand Embroidery, and I saw a call last year asking for embroidered squares which were to be sewn together and held in front of the US Supreme Court in conjunction with the Court’s Ruling regarding the closing of Planned Parenthood Clinics in Texas. The project was spearheaded by Nguyen Chi (IG @whatchidid, whatchidid.com/) who was organizing in collaboration with TAC Brooklyn).  As a Texan, I was embarrassed and angry about my State’s Policy, so I felt like I had to participate.  So, I made a square (the embroidered hash marks represent Texas women who would lose health services)

What a thrill it was to see my contribution held up in front of the Court!

While working on my square, I did what I always do when starting a new project: I asked YouTube and Netflix to tell me everything that they knew about the subject.  I looked at many wonderful clips of videos and documentaries, and learned about the craftivist movement – I learned about Sarah Corbett (of the Craftivist Collective), and followed her internet rabbit trail, which led me to think about issues of social justice.

Because I had done a lot of research on the planned parenthood rulings, I looked up other issues affecting Texas women.  I was already particularly concerned about the open carry law, which had just been enacted in Texas.  I looked up some gun statistics in the state, and to my shock, I learned that (on average) just under one woman is killed by a domestic partner every day in the Lone Star State.  Not all of those deaths are by gunshot, but many women are killed simply because there is easy access to a gun in the house.   The enacting of the Open Carry Legislation was likely to exacerbate this situation.  (No Stats yet.)

I conceived and began embroidering the BLOWN AWAY project, hoping that I could get a solo show that would viscerally demonstrate what 277 (2013 statistics) dead women looked like.  The project was to be made up of a series of interconnected panels (in the manner of the Bayeux Tapestry) that viewers could walk past and think about the mothers, sisters, daughters and grandmothers lost in a single year.

(The photos above are of an individual dress [representing one victim] and a series of panels [representing one month of women murdered  in Texas.)

 The project was not accepted anywhere.

 So I have dabbled a bit in craftivism; I guess I engage when I get mad enough about something and I don’t feel like any one is listening (a common complaint with our utterly deaf Texas politicians). Even if I haven’t concretely accomplished anything in participating in any craftivist act, I feel better, because at least I am doing something!

 

 

2. What is Hide a Hat and Fight Back?

I was very excited about the Women’s March on Washington, and thrilled when I learned that there would be a march in nearby Austin, as well. Scrolling through social media to find more information, I happened upon a call for the Pussyhat Project, asking for hats to be made for Washington marchers. 

Yarn was immediately purchased.  The furious clacking on knitting needles every evening (as my husband and I both ate through miles of pink yarn) got us through the next few weeks, and we found that the knitting relaxed us and gave us a tangible sense of purpose. 

I got the idea for the Hide a Hat and Fight Back project when we got home on that Saturday night and there was nothing craftivist left to knit.  My hands were itching for something useful to do, and I figured that there were other knitters staring at empty needles just like me.  In times of trouble my Auntie Ro always said “The cure for anxiety is action!,” so I created an excuse for craftivists to keep knitting as a way of relieving political anxiety.

The tiny hat project in a nutshell:

(couldn’t help myself!)

Craftivists are asked to knit, crochet, sew, glue, etc. tiny (fingertip sized ) pink pussy hats.  Once completed, the hats will be attached to a printed or hand written card, and the craftivists will document them on social media, then “hide” the cards wherever they want – in a dressing or ladies room, on a public bulletin board, in a taxi or on a bus seat, etc.  Of course, they can also be given directly, or mailed to a legislator, or whatever method of distribution the maker favors.  

The cards will invite finders to post their finds on social media, and will encourage continued political engagement.  Finders will be encouraged to join the movement when they post.

 


3. Why hide them?

Living in a rural community in Texas, everyone almost always assumes I am a conservative.  I’m a Lutheran.  I sing in my church choir. My kids got good grades, so people make assumptions, thinking that I believe what they believe.  Of course I have liberal friends, but we lone star liberal ladies have learned that it is not a good idea to get in a shouting match in an open carry state.  We keep a low profile.  I know the liberals in my own circle, but I don’t know who the hidden liberals are. 

The march sort of changed that.  I was with 50,000 proudly progressive women, men and children, and we were in the middle of Texas!  I finally found my tribe, and it was thrilling! I had never been in a room with more than 50 Democrats, and, while marching with so many,  I have never had such an overwhelming experience of community. 

As I was conceiving what the project would be, I knew that it should reach out to my fellow progressives, particularly those living in deep red states.  I wanted to remind them (after the news of the march dies down and the hard work begins) that they are NOT alone, and we stand and resist together.  I wanted to give them the thrill of community I felt in Austin.  But unless I personally know them,  I don’t have any way to do that in an open way where I live.  I took a huge risk just putting up my Hillary yard sign, and I learned to quickly take off or hide my Hillary pin when going into certain restaurants or when running into one of my husband’s clients.  The project was my way to keep reminding progressives that, even though we are a shy people, there are a lot of us!

I am acutely aware that Trumpians will likely be offended to find the hats and may be unpleasant in their responses.  Inviting that negative energy into my life gave me pause to almost abandon the project, but then I thought it through:  If you go through life extremely confident that everyone around you thinks in exactly the same way that you do, it would certainly get your attention if you suddenly and unexpectedly encountered physical evidence that they do not.  A few encounters might be easy to dismiss, but what if you saw a dozen or dozens or even one hundred of these things?  Your unshakeable belief that you are in an unbeatable majority might start to waver.  Many Democrats in my state don’t bother voting because they feel it is hopeless – what if this project flipped that script?

Also, finding something cool is fun!

 


4. Why tiny hats and not bigger ones?

Because tiny hats are adorable.  They can be pinned to your blouse, or hung from your rear view mirror.  They can be thrown in a jewelry box or stuffed into your makeup drawer as a daily reminder that the fight isn’t over.  They fit on the end of your pencil, or can be slipped on a finger and waved.  The kids will want to use them to punctuate when they flip the bird.  They don’t have to fit a real head, so fitting issues are not issues.  Tiny hats can be made very quickly, so a lot of them can be distributed in a short amount of time.  They can fit in a craftivist’s purse or pocket, in case of travel into  an unfriendly area.  They can be made while waiting in a school pick up line, or while sitting at the doctor’s office, or while on public transit.  Big balls of yarn and needles are not required, as travel equipment is purse sized.  Tiny hats are a symbol of the larger hats, and, in turn, a symbol, a reminder, a requerdo of the larger movement.  And did I mention that they are adorable?  That said, if people want to make bigger hats, then make bigger hats.  If they want to make tinier hats, then God Bless them, and I wish I could see as well as they do.  The project is my gift to the community; what they do with that gift is up to them.

 


5. What is your goal for this project?

Right now, I just want to get the word out and get people mobilized, activated and engaged with the curative power of having something to do.  I want them to fill out the urgently needed political postcards, make the calls, and engage in the post march call to action, but I want them to also be able to do something where their focus shifts to the non thinking headspace of:  “needle behind, loop forward, correct tension, transfer the stitch, repeat.”  I want them to be able to turn their mind off and on through a radical act of crafting.  Selfishly, I want to see what they make.  Already I have been sent sketches, suggestions and sighs of relief.  That was my biggest thrill today. 

The secondary goal is:

What’s the reaction?  I have no idea if I have opened (as we say in Texas) a big can of whoop ass on myself.  If I have, then at least I have taken a stand.  Texas women used to do that, and I know a lot of us still carry that gene.  I want people to post about how they found their tiny hats and how it made them feel.  Did the hat meet them on a bad day?  Did the hat bring them hope?  Will Fox News be quoted?  Will Steve Bannon curse?

Like with my two boys just a few years ago, my job is to send the project out into the world.  What happens next is my concern, but it is not anything I really have control over.  That’s the risky part of Art Making.

 What is my dream result?

World Peace.  A Single Payer Health Care System.  Reversal of Climate Change.  A well supported public education system that continues through a Bachelor’s degree.  A legislature that is consistently 50 percent female.   The abolition of gerrymandering and Citizen’s United.  A complete rethink of the electoral college.  Passage of the ERA.   Justice for All regardless of skin color or ethnicity.  A modern energy system that is not dependent on oil.  Equal Pay.  An end to income inequality.  An engaged and factually informed electorate.  The Right to Marry and the Right to Choose.  Well funded arts programs.  A basic income for all.  Yada Yada Yada.  I would settle, though, for a progressive legislature and a President Warren.

A Hide a Hat and Fight Back call to arms.

 

Sewing together a tiny hat using a wooden spoon as a form.

 

Two tiny hats ready to go on cards.

 

A suggestion for writing Hide a Hat and Fight Back cards.

 

With my husband (in the hat he knitted) at the ATX march. And yes, I gave my heavy wool hat away for someone else to wear. It was 80 degrees, the sun was beating down on my menopausal head, so, a radical among radicals, I wore my back up summer headband and ears on my freshly blued hair.

Interview with Gugui Cebey!

I found out about Gugui Cebey’s work on Instagram and via the #craftivism hashtag. You can find her on Instagram at @guguicebey and on Facebook.

After seeing her work and reading her captions, I knew she’d be a wonderful person to interview. I was right – be prepared to fall in love.

 

Vomitopurgante: upcycled textile flowers, recycled stuffing, recycled wood base, thread

Vomitopurgante: upcycled textile flowers, recycled stuffing, recycled wood base, thread

1. What is your definition of craftivism?

For me craftivism is a form of expression and an art movement. But it’s also a means to an end. Craftivism is not only beautiful things made with love and usually by hand. It has a purpose. It’s an invitation to talk about certain things in the most beautiful way. We craftivists expose and talk about sometimes very difficult subjects and things people don’t particularly want to talk about. I feel most of us are trying to change the world. Even if that is an impossibility. We try. We make. We fight. We talk with no words.

I’ve been working under the craftivism ideas and terms, even before I knew what it was. After reading your book (Craftivism: The Art of Craft and Activism) I can finally put a name to what I do.

My usual subjects revolve around sustainability issues in the textile industry. I graduated in 2011 as a Textile Designer from University of Buenos Aires. During my studies I learned not only about the technical and creative part of my career, but also about all the parts that nobody knows like workers’ exploitation, water contamination and wasteful use of natural and manmade resources (just to name a few), that make this industry the second-most pollutant industry in the world.

I specialize in recycled and repurposed textiles. They are my language. That’s not the only material I use, but it’s the main one.

I combine them with embroidery and other technical means that are part of the contemporary (and not so contemporary) textile arts, with the idea of giving them a second chance of being things, when somebody said they didn’t have value anymore.

Just by using those textiles and not other ones (like new ones) I try to make the conversation gravitate to  issues of hyperproduction, consumerism, and upcycling of discarded human products and materials through an artistic view.

 

#Thewishproject: recycled textiles cranes

#Thewishproject: recycled textiles cranes

2. Tell me about the Wish Project. What is it and how did it get started?

The Wish Project is my first craftivist project. At least my first defined as craftivism. It started forming in my head after I read your book, actually. I was so inspired!

The Wish Project is born from a deep personal need of doing something for others. I got tired of walking by people on the street and seeing and feeling that they weren’t having a good day. And it made me really sad. I live in Buenos Aires, a big city in Argentina. And everybody is always running somewhere, preoccupied by something.  We are a third-world country, hoping and trying to grow every day. Economically, culturally and in terms of social justice.

So I thought, what can I do? To change those long faces. To give them something to smile for. To, at least for a moment, make their problems go away. Because I couldn’t tackle all of our issues by myself. So I wanted to do something small. But meaningful.

On the other hand, while talking with a friend I realized I always loved origami paper cranes. I find them gorgeous objects. Made with a purpose. Made for a wish. With love and care. You can’t do origami without your heart in it. It just doesn’t turn out right. 

So I combined those two things: my love for cranes and my wishes of happiness for others. 

But I made them in recycled textiles. After a process of finding the way to harden the fabric, so it would not crumble. I had to make my special means of expression do something it’s not meant to do. That is to technically work as paper.

So I made the 1,000 cranes, as the legend says to do. And started setting them loose on the street. And as I made them and set them free I wished for a beautiful day for whoever finds one on their way. Hoping for smiles and an energy shift on their day. 

It seems like a silly project. But those little objects made with love and care, set in a place where they don’t necessarily belong and crossing paths with unexpected people, really have a beautiful effect on people.

With #thewishproject I’m not particularly trying to change the world. I’m trying to change the immediate world of one person. Or better said, one thousand persons. But I’m happy with just one. And that’s the powerful effect of handmade objects on people. Handmade objects are made with, from and for love. Whoever finds one of my cranes knows that somebody out there is wishing them well. Even if they don’t know me. Even if they never will.

Vacío Emocional (in English: Emotional emptiness) upcycled denim textile, repurposed garment labels, thread

Vacío Emocional (in English: Emotional emptiness)
upcycled denim textile, repurposed garment labels, thread

3. Upcycling is often a part of your work, which features a criticism of fast fashion. Are the pieces from fast fashion themselves and is there a conflict there?

Yes. Some of them are from the fast fashion industry. Some of them aren’t. Some are vintage pieces.

I tend to use textiles without thinking where they come from. With this I mean that for me every textile has value. The good, the bad, and the ugly.  Even though I sometimes use them to criticize the industry that makes them. And even when you think its quality is the worst, they can always be used for something else. I hate seeing things being discarded just because somebody doesn’t want them anymore. Just think about all the people needed to make a pair of jeans. Think about all the resources needed to make them. All the energy used. It can’t just end up in the garbage can because its fit is not fashionable anymore.

But I do not think it is conflicting. If I use fast fashion textiles, they are never bought. I specifically use scraps, leftovers and donations. I never ever buy fast fashion textiles, not only because I don’t like to encourage bad quality textiles and the garments and products that they usually represent (with all of the other issues they also represent), but also, and most importantly, because I don’t need to. I mean, there’s so much material that is discarded and thrown away that it’s not difficult to attain it. And that gives more purpose to what I do. Somebody has to do something with all of those resources (good or bad) that still work, technically speaking.

Why not use their own materials, to let them know the things they do wrong, or the things they could do better? I think it’s its own irony.

With vintage materials there is a whole other conversation. They represent time and quality. I’ve had the pleasure of receiving textiles from the 60s and 70s. And only the fact that I could get my hands on them is incredible. That they could still be used. And somebody took the time (and space) to keep them safe. All of those things make me appreciate them even more. They survived time. They had emotional value for somebody. Vintage textiles make me think about our relationship with our objects, their connection with our history and people. Those textiles are extremely powerful in themselves. No matter what I do with them, they have history, which doesn’t usually happen with fast fashion garments.

Despilfarro (in English: "Squandering): recycled textiles, recycled wire, recycled wood base, thread. Currently on exhibition at the Quinquela Martin Museum in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Despilfarro (in English: “Squandering): recycled textiles, recycled wire, recycled wood base, thread. Currently on exhibition at the Quinquela Martin Museum in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

 

4. It looks like you’ve had your work in several shows this year. In a world where everything can be shared across the world in an instant on Instagram, what were the benefits of these in-person shows?

I feel like both means of communication has its values. 

Internet and virtual communication allows me to talk with people around the world. People with the same interests than me. It allows my art to touch more people. To make the conversation global. To experience different reactions that are based on local experiences and ways of living.

Also on Instagram I usually share a section of a work in progress. A small detail of a bigger work. I find it’s a good tool to zoom in on the craft part. I like sharing pictures where you can appreciate each stitch. Zooming in on a stitch is also my way of making the technique the center of attention, and not the whole piece. It’s like showing a stroke of an Impressionist painting.

On the other hand, art shows allow the viewers to interact with an art piece with time. They see, they watch, they feel in an environment that is made for that experience. And they see the whole piece. They can linger on a stitch if they want to.

Personally, on the opening day, I can experience their reactions live. Not by text or emoticons. I can see their faces, their expressions. It’s completely different. 

Being an artist and an activist, reactions from the public are a big part of my work. If my art doesn’t leave you thinking about some of the issues I try to talk about… I don’t want to say I did something wrong, but almost ha ha. I mean, if that doesn’t happen, my work is not done.

There is a message in my art. A message that should make you think and rethink. It should inspire you. But it is also true that sometimes the intertext is lost. Some of my work are seen as just textile works, when in fact they are textile works specifically made with recycled fabrics as a decision. That sometimes isn’t easy to see. But my artist heart tells me, that’s okay too. I couldn’t stop making, even if nobody gets it ha ha.

 

13206 Centímetros de Basura Textil (in English: "13206 Centimeters of Textile Trash"): upcycled textiles, recycled wood frame

13206 Centímetros de Basura Textil (in English:
“13206 Centimeters of Textile Trash”): upcycled textiles, recycled wood frame

5. Along with embroidering, you also weave, how did you come to connect your craft with activism? 

Knowing makes all the difference for me. I’m one of those people that once I know something I can’t unknow it. I can’t look the other way. I need to act on that knowledge.

Once I learned about the bad parts of the industry I was supposed to work for, I just couldn’t do it. Not with those rules. For me wasting resources is not a rule. Dyeing fabrics and polluting in the process do not go hand in hand. Making clothes and exploiting workers are not a rule, no matter the circumstances

So I decided to transmit what I learned to others, with the best tools I had, textiles and textile practices. I decided to help and encourage people doing things in this industry with new and better rules. I decided to try to make this subject a part of the conversations of people that do not necessarily talk about them.

I weave, embroider, knit, and sew trying each time to achieve several things: encourage the making with our hands as a mean of expression. Highlight issues about the fashion industry and its destructive practices. Allow my personal needs of making things to have a deeper and more valuable meaning than just my selfishness of making. Yes, and I do strive to change the world. Even if I can’t.

Weaving in particular is a practice so old and so precious. It can be a symbolic way of saying so much. How we connect with others, how we relate.  It’s a way of relating with ourselves, in the making. With others in the interconnections. And with our world as to what objects we leave behind. I weave fabric, I do not weave thread. I weave that fabric that doesn’t belong to anyone, that nobody wants. I weave from the idea that there is nothing there, because that fabric doesn’t exist because it’s trash. I give life back to what nobody wants. But it’s so transformed that it has value now. It IS again.

I think a lot about the things I make. Why do I make them? What is its purpose? What will happen to it? When I graduated from University I decided I would rather make art that inspires good changes, than products that enlist and encourage practices that are completely wrong for our world. 

Interview with Louise MacBean (of @rebel_women_embroidery)!

Sharing all of these interviews has been so exciting! And today’s interview is especially exciting to me because it talks about women from years past who made a difference, but aren’t necessarily household names!

brunhilda

 

1. What does craftivism mean to you?

For me, craftivism is a way to make the causes I care about feel more personal. I first heard the term from a friend who wrote her PhD thesis on the subject – I was interested at the time, but it was a few years before I even learnt to sew.

I use needlecraft to tell the stories of otherwise forgotten or marginalised women. I almost doubted that the term ‘craftivism’ didn’t apply to my own work as I feel like my portraits are a very ‘quiet’ form of activism. I don’t go out yarnbombing in my community or creating big, public displays (though I have nothing but admiration for those who do!) but do I find something very empowering in physically sewing every stitch, taking the time to meditate on each portrait and story. I spend so much of my day working in front of screens that it actually feels quite subversive to focus on making something with my hands.

 

2. How did you start embroidering images of rebel women?

It was really a combination of things. I’ve always been very interested in history, and people’s stories. As a feminist I was always aware that women’s stories had often been left out, but the first time I felt like doing something about it came when researching my local history.

I was browsing the doomsday book online (as you do) – the doomsday book was a national census of all the people, property and land in England taken in 1086. I’m originally from a small village in Middlesex, and was fascinated to find that the ‘Lord’ of the village in 1086 was a woman called Estrild the Nun. I couldn’t find any further information about Estrild other than that one little entry, but she fired my imagination.

Discovering Estrild led me to learn about Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party installation, which was also a huge inspiration for my project.

Around this time, I was also unhappily employed in a craft shop, where I’d been learning to sew to pass the time on the tills. I began with cross stitch, but before I was even competent I got bored of the patterns. I started going freehand and never looked back!

I don’t consider myself particularly accomplished as an embroiderer, but I’m enjoying improving my skill with each panel, and I think it shows from portrait to portrait.

 

uallachingen-muinechain

 

3. Who is a rebel woman to you? (I.e., what does it mean to you?)

I actually have quite a strict set of criteria! She must be a self-identified human woman who really lived (i.e. not fictional or mythological – no Lizzie Bennets or Aphrodites!), and she may have either made a notable contribution to society, worked in some way towards full equality for women, or have personally achieved something extraordinary for a woman of her time which makes her a positive role model.

I quite often have to make a quick judgement when ‘evaluating’ a historical woman’s life story – but I’m more likely to add her than not if I’m unsure. I try to judge the women within their own time – some of the warrior women like Tomyris have particularly gory stories attached to them, but were living in a very violent and brutal time period. I might not choose to include someone from the 21st Century who famously severed the head of her enemy and dunked it in a bucket of blood just to prove a point!

Essentially, the ‘rebel women’ on my list are women with interesting stories, who lived life on their own terms, sometimes even in the smallest of ways.

 

4. How do you find these women?

It actually took me about six months to compile my initial catalogue or ‘list’ of women (which you can access here) before I even began sewing what I’d hoped would be a quilt of about 100 portraits. The list currently includes over 1800 women from all over the world, from 3000 BCE to present day – and it’s still growing.

I asked around, I read books and kept my ears open. Any time I heard mention of a woman in history I scribbled it down and researched her later. Wikipedia has of course been invaluable – there are countless lists of suffragists by country, lists of women’s firsts, queen regents, women artists, athletes, balloonists etc.

I will never consider the list complete; I am still more than open to suggestions!

 

xun-guan

 

5. Is this a long term project or a gateway to something else?

It is absolutely a long term project in that I don’t have any plans to stop! I’m only about 150-ish embroideries in, so I have a very long way to go.

I also blog about each woman individually, which takes even more time, but my real hope is that others are inspired by stories. I love to access history through art, and it would be so incredible if more of these fascinating women had art, plays, films or novels written to bring them to life. If I could write 1800 screenplays, then I would!

 


 

Thanks, Louise! You can find all these images and more over at @rebel_women_embroidery at Instagram or on Facebook, Pinterest or Louise’s website.

 

agippina

Interview with Alyssa Arney and Liz Flynn of There Is a River Here!

Today’s interview is with Alyssa Arney (A) and Liz Flynn (L) of the awesome craftivist project There is a River Here!

There Is A River Here project sign created by Liz Flynn. Courtesy @thereisariverhere Instagram.

There Is A River Here project sign created by Liz Flynn. Courtesy @thereisariverhere Instagram.

1. How do you define craftivism? 

L: We define craftivism as any form of art production, action, or creative endeavor that aims to send a message through mediums not often seen as “fine art”. It’s an act of activism expressed through the medium of traditionally “feminine” and “interior” craft production, such as scrapbooking, sewing, or, in our case, crocheting. We feel that the act of bringing crochet out into the public eye is a form of craftivism itself, since its public display is subverting its original, unseen, place in the home and private lives of women. We feel that craftivism is a positive way to draw attention to social issues in a world full of aggression and white noise. 

2. What is the There Is A River Here project?

A & L: There Is A River Here is an environmental, site specific, public art installation in the Martha McClean-Anza Narrows Park in Riverside, CA. It’s curated by independent researcher and curator Carolyn Schutten and is being created by the two of us under the moniker ‘Threadwinners’. We are yarnbombing an outcropping of eight boulders that sit along the Santa Ana River, an environmental landmark that is oft ignored or unnoticed by visitors to the park. The yarnbombing of the boulders is being done in conjunction with a river cleanup event, as well as a dance performance piece, on November 12, 2016. 

The yarn bombing of the boulders will create an ephemeral river of blue in the natural desert landscape of Riverside, and will hopefully draw people’s attention to the site, the river, and issues of environmental conservation. We’re also hoping that our boulder installation will be able to have a second life. There’s a sizable homeless population that convenes in the area, so we hope that they will be able to deconstruct the installation and use our crochet pieces to keep warm during the cold winter months.

3. How did you come up with the idea and what have you learned while preparing?

A & L: Threadwinners had begun a working relationship with the Riverside Art Museum and Carolyn back in mid-May. We had a crochet piece, Comfort Food Blanket, hanging in the museum and we were hosting a free beginner’s crochet workshop as part of the museum’s Maker Series Saturdays art events. We all enjoyed working with each other so much that Carolyn approached us with her curatorial project, There Is A River Here. She gave us the general idea that she wanted a yarn bomb of the site, and the rest is history! Carolyn has given us free reign on the  aesthetics of the project, so we’ve come up with a variety of themes for each rock. One is all mandalas and circles, another all granny squares. Liz crocheted a blue ombre rock, and Alyssa is currently working on a glacier themed rock. We’re also trying to cover this massive 24-foot boulder with giant stripes, and potentially have a landscape-inspired piece on an enormous flat-faced boulder!

We’ve learned quite a bit in the process of creating this installation, but I think the most significant thing we’ve learned is how excited people are about public art of this nature. Through our calls for donations, as well as Community Crochet Circles we’ve hosted at the Riverside Art Museum, we’ve seen an outpouring of generosity and creativity from people who are excited by our project and want to contribute. We’ve gotten donations of yarn and beautiful needlework from people of various ages and backgrounds, and it’s so uplifting to see that the culture of craftivism and needlework is not limited to a certain niche group of people. We know that most craftivists believe in the accessibility of the movement in theory, and it’s nice to see it in action!

4. What has been the biggest surprise or lesson along the way? 

A: The biggest surprise is how incredibly generous the community has been with donating pieces and skeins of yarn to aid us in our project. The second biggest surprise is how much yarn we have used and how, just when you think the piece you’ve made is big enough, it still needs to be bigger. These boulders ARE MASSIVE! The biggest lessons are to plan ahead, leave room to alter the design to fit your work schedule and to never give up! Keep working hard and it all really does pay off in the end!

5. What is your dream craftivism project? 

A: We are in the works of making our dream project happen, but Threadwinners would love to be able to honestly bring the project from sheep to gallery/institution. It would be incredible to show the entirety of the yarn making process and wielding the material into a finished product. First off, sheep and alpacas are adorable, we both wouldn’t mind owning one of each, but I live in an apartment complex so that dream has to be stowed away in a lockbox for a while. We would love to be able to sheer the sheep, spin the wool, dye the yarn with natural dyes like woad, spinach, mushrooms, etc., and then teach people of all ages the importance of craft, art, expression, and eco-friendly and sustainable resources. They would be able to design their own project with all of the information and tools we’ve provided for them to go out in the world and share their art!

L: My dream craftivism project for Threadwinners is similar to Alyssa’s because I would also love to create a yarnbomb out of yarn that has been completely created by our hands, from sheep to skein! I would love to do something insanely large-scale, like covering an office building or a sidewalk block in yarn, with input from kids, veteran crocheters, and everyone in between! Literacy and reproductive rights are issues that I’m concerned with, so my dream craftivism project would probably address something along those lines. 

Find out more at @thereisariverhere on Instagram. For more about Alyssa Arney, she can be found on Instagram at @smashitupart and at her website. For more about Liz Flynn, she can be found on Instagram at @thelizflynn and at her website

Alyssa Arney (left) and Liz Flynn (right) with in-progress pieces for There Is A River Here. Courtesy Carolyn Schutten.

Alyssa Arney (left) and Liz Flynn (right) with in-progress pieces for There Is A River Here. Courtesy Carolyn Schutten.

 

Blue ombré boulder yarnbomb. Courtesy @thereisariverhere Instagram

Blue ombré boulder yarnbomb. Courtesy @thereisariverhere Instagram

 

Alyssa and Liz leading a Community Crochet Circle at the Riverside Art Museum. Courtesy Riverside Art Museum.

Alyssa and Liz leading a Community Crochet Circle at the Riverside Art Museum. Courtesy Riverside Art Museum.

 

Alyssa Arney on site at the Martha Mclean-Anza Narrows Park. Courtesy @thereisariverhere Instagram.

Alyssa Arney on site at the Martha Mclean-Anza Narrows Park. Courtesy @thereisariverhere Instagram.

Interview with Nina Elliott (@rock_vandal)!

This next craftivism interview is with Nina Elliott! To find out more about her work, check out @rock_vandal on Instagram and rockvandals.com.

1. What does craftivism mean to you?

Craftivism was a really exciting discovery for me. It allowed me to connect with my community socially and politically and to offer something unique and beautiful for everyone in the town. I find that it encourages patience, reflection and personal action and these are desirable attributes to me. 

 

A Pothole of Gold in Twillingate

 

2. Why yarnbombing?

I first read about yarnbombing online and didn’t understand the why. But when I saw one in real life my perspective shifted. I felt as if I had noticed something special amidst the hustle and bustle, a little expression of joy that beamed regardless of whether it was noticed or not.  I love the idea of being able to surprise and delight people while also encouraging present moment awareness and in my mind, yarnbombing facilitates this beautifully. 

All you Knit is Love tucked behind Tickle Point Mercantile in Twillingate

All you Knit is Love tucked behind Tickle Point Mercantile in Twillingate

 

3. What compelled you to do your first yarnbomb? What was surprising about the process? 

I was living in Twillingate, a really tiny, isolated town off the NE coast of Newfoundland with a long winter ahead and time on my hands. The fact that yarnbombs are temporary and easily removed made trying it out seem relatively risk free. I yarnbombed a tree on my route to work and felt a surge of joy each time I passed it. I didn’t tell anyone, but somehow people suspected that I was the Yarnbomber. Regardless, I denied involvement and kept on knitting, ultimately orchestrating a bit of a small town mystery-this added quite a lot to the fun to the whole process!  

The most surprising part was definitely how receptive and supportive the community was. This is something that continues to blow my mind the further down this path I venture, and it extends to the townsfolk, the crafting community at large and the virtual community as well. It seems everyone can love a Yarnbomb!

The Deadly Pipe Sucker is the only snake in Newfoundland was my first 3D Yarnbomb.

The Deadly Pipe Sucker is the only snake in Newfoundland was my first 3D Yarnbomb.

 

4. Tell us about Old Manolis and the Sea. How did it start? How did it grow? 

It all began with a friend asking me to join a committee to raise public concern over a sunken ship off the coast. The ship, the Manolis L., sank 30 years prior with over 500 tonnes of oil onboard and the Canadian government had made no effort to remove it, despite oiled birds washing ashore. There was quite a lot of concern about the issue locally and provincially and the community was rallying.

Old Manolis and the Sea began as an idea to knit black starfish for the main thoroughfare in town, with the starfish representing the potential environmental impact of an oil spill. This evolved to include a community Knit and Yoga event, creation of a zine by an artist in New Brunswick and woolly donations from crafters from as far away as Ontario. In the end, I was able to make three installations, one in Twillingate, one in St. John’s, the provincial capital and another in Ottawa, the national capital! 

While the ship still remains in place, there is some progress to report as the government has taken the very first step towards recovery by initiating a full assessment of the wreck just this summer. Hopefully, it won’t take another 30 years for the next step to be completed.

The Knit and Yoga retreat where Twillingaters helped knit starfish for Old Manolis and the Sea

The Knit and Yoga retreat where Twillingaters helped knit starfish for Old Manolis and the Sea

Twillingate's Old Manolis and The Sea installation

Twillingate’s Old Manolis and The Sea installation

5. What’s up next? What’s your dream craftivism project? 

This is a tough question! Right now I’m backpacking through SE Asia, yarnbombing each country I visit and I’ve got a few more stops before heading home. I see craftivism as a means to respond to community issues so will have to wait to see what inspiration comes from returning to the stability of life at home. Travelling has given great opportunity to open my eyes to global environment issues, to talk with people from all over the world and to subsequently see Canada with refreshed eyes; but I’ll probably need the solitude of a Twillingate winter to really conceptualize something and start to get crafty! 

Chillingate: another community knit project

Chillingate: another community knit project

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