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To stitch is to start 

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Simply put, the act of stitching gives us agency. That’s why I’ve been making hats for the pussy hat project. I’ve been knitting my way back into action one step at a time. Too often I make to-do lists that are grand and have massive goals, like “be more productive,” which, while aspirational, don’t help much at all, really.

What does help is the act of creating something from two sticks and string. I can watch it grow in my hands, I can see it take shape, I can literally track my production.

Textiles (along with other crafts) give us time to process. We can rip out what is not working, in both our hands and our heads. We can be inspired by the actions of others. We can join the others that came before us, stitching along with them.

Textiles are catalysts for action. They show us that action isn’t taking one massive step, it’s taking lots of little steps and stitches from which to build on. Like the stitches our hands make, one stitch becomes two stitches becomes two thousand. And in this way, textiles show us how to move forward.

I’m going to the march in DC because when I interviewed some of Australia’s knitting nannas, one of them (Louise Somerville!) told me they started showing up at mining sites to let the companies know they were watching. (Apparently that was boring so they brought their knitting- and the badassery only grew!) I am going to the march not in anger or rage, there will be no yelling for me.

Because when I’m angry, I lose my capacity to make the world a better place. That’s my focus, seeing what craftivist-type work people make, maybe passing out some #yasvb signs and taking some photographs to share with you.

Do I hope our next president makes the world a better place? Yes. Despite all my feelings, I still have hope that there will be some good done. But I will watch. I will not yell, I will not scream, I will not rage. I will continue to work quietly towards making the world better stitch by stitch, the more that want to stitch along, the better.

And that’s just my reason. There are 200K other reasons. And we don’t have to agree on why we’re going. We just have to agree that showing up in our hats is a mark of resistance. A handmade notation that “this is not okay.”

That we sat down and made hats in our own time means that we care enough to take tiny action steps. For some, we may make out of anger, chomping at the bit, but, for others, we may be stitching to embolden ourselves to speak our truths on the matter.

These stitches we make we make to remind ourselves we have agency, our voice matters, we are not alone. They can help us stitch our ways into being activists of whatever sort of activist we wish to be. What matters is that we make these stitches, that we show ourselves that we are strong enough to make something from nothing.

And, along the way, if we meet others with the same hats or wishes or stitches, we can meet their strength with our own and stand together.

Our stitches do more than just make hats, they jolt us into being and becoming agents of change. They show us what is possible. They show us we are powerful. They are the sparks that remind us that change only happens when we take the first step, take the first stitch.

With them we join a legacy of makers, a thread extending both into the past and present, who have our backs too. And in both directions, we can make our voices heard loud and clear, we just need to be brave enough to listen to our hands and our hearts first.

So, if you’re not sure where to start or what to feel or what to do, first, stitch. Then the rest will come.

Interview with Kathleen Morris (@textilewarrior)!

Next up in this interview series is Kathleen Morris (@textilewarrior) who runs Seeds for Bees! She also mentions the work of @stitchforus. You can see an interview with Lisa Hallden here. I’ve included the photos after the text because Kathleen wrote such lovely captions!

1. What does craftivism mean to you?  

I feel very strongly about many issues, but I’m not keen on confrontation. Craftivism is a way for me to make a gentle protest, often in a fun or beautiful way that can raise awareness and influence people in small ways without making them (or me!) feel uncomfortable or threatened. There’s also a lot of community and personal engagement in craftivism whether it’s remotely by Guerrilla Kindness, directly in groups with community art projects or individually when an exhibited piece prompts a conversation. 

 

2. What is Seeds for Bees?

Seeds for Bees is a guerrilla kindness craftivism project aimed at increasing habitat for the bees and to encourage seed saving and sharing.

My accomplices and I leave handmade packets of bee-attracting flower seeds (usually a mix of marigold, alyssum and sunflowers) on the streets for anyone to find and take home to plant in their garden. It’s a little bit of happy for them and quite a lot for the bees. A good seed drop is in a great location, where likeminded people will find it like street art lanes, eco festivals, organic cafes, community gardens, markets and public transport corridors. 

 

3. How did it get started?

I have always been a keen gardener and when my husband and I moved into the house we live in now, there was nothing but lawn and three old fruit trees. The soil was tired and didn’t have much life in it so I decided to renew it with organic methods, composting, worm farms and no-dig. I self-studied permaculture and over the next ten years our backyard has been rejuvenated without the use of commercial fertilisers or pesticides. I began to get a feel for the earth, planting sacrificial broccoli and spinach for the caterpillars and not spraying the aphids. With this came the return of birdlife, the ladybugs, butterflies and bees.  

Over time my love of nature turned into a respect for it, to not mess with it, to give back what I take and do what I can on my patch to restore balance. 

I had recently learned about the “Doomsday Vault” in Norway and it scared the hell out of me. I also realised the importance of seed, that just about every living thing on our planet depends on it for food and the air we breathe, then my fear turned into annoyance about massive corporations owning seed rights. This was the catalyst for seeds for bees. 

At the end of Autumn, 2015 (that’s around May here in Australia) instead of composting spent plants, I let my vegie patch go to seed and flower, and saved thousands of heirloom marigold seeds (which had been handed down through three generations from my grandmother) with the intention of giving them away. Broccoli, parsley, spinach, Boc Choy and radish in flower really is a sight to behold and I was amazed at the number of bees buzzing around my garden. It was a hive of industry and I was fascinated and thoroughly entertained watching their overloaded pollen bodies trying to fly away. It now seemed I had a thing for bees and I knew as a species they were in trouble. I wanted to help.

I tore and stitched pages from the (1000+) pages of a Dinosauria I found in a box of deleted library books waiting for me to make something out of to enter into a repurposed book art exhibition, stamped them with “seeds for bees” and collaged them with pretty recycled papers. To date I’ve done this another 1890 times since (give or take a few).

 

4. How long have you been doing it? How big do you want to grow it? 

My first seed drop was in August 2015 at tram stop 8 on the street where I live in Adelaide, South Australia. I was pretty nervous and self conscious but they were snaffled up by the time the next tram arrived. So I made more and pegged them up at other stops along the tram corridor and posted photos to social media with the #seedsforbees hashtag.

That very day I was approached by public artist and craftivist Sayraphim Lothian from Melbourne, Australia. She loved the idea and offered to peg some up around her city. Since then I have been inundated with requests and now nearly 2000 packets have been pegged up by more than 30 collaborators all over Australia (Adelaide, Melbourne, Newcastle, Brisbane, Townsville, Hobart) and more recently in Stockholm, the capital of Sweden. Quarantine restrictions in some Australian states and also in Sweden have given me the opportunity to collaborate with other seed savers in these places. Seeds for Bees have also been used as bonbonnieres at three weddings, as corporate gifts for not for profit organisations and a few offshoot seed drop projects have begun in Hobart, Brisbane and Germany.

 I will keep growing the seeds and making packets for as long as people will take them but it’s getting to the point now where I need help to keep up with the demand. I’m always trying to connect with more local, national and international seed savers who practice organic gardening methods, crafty folk to help me with the stamping, stitching and stuffing, and of course accomplices to perform seed drops.

If you’d like to get involved, visit textilewarrior.com and send me a message, or you can follow Seeds For Bees on Instagram: @textilewarrior and Facebook: textilewarrior.

Stamp, Stitch, Stuff, Repeat.

Stamp, Stitch, Stuff, Repeat.

 

No borders

Collaboration with @stitchforus - human rights activist/craftivist in Sweden. Lisa has made guerrilla stitches to accompany nearly all seed drops in Stockholm. Collaborating with Lisa has probably been one of the most personally enjoyable aspects of the project, she invested so much time and I’ve loved seeing her images come up in my instagram feed.

Collaboration with @stitchforus – human rights activist/craftivist in Sweden. Lisa has made guerrilla stitches to accompany nearly all seed drops in Stockholm. Collaborating with Lisa has probably been one of the most personally enjoyable aspects of the project, she invested so much time and I’ve loved seeing her images come up in my Instagram feed.

 

“Daisy Chains” - Little Rundle Street, Adelaide. The big arse wall of flowers I made as part of the Adelaide Fringe Festival Street Art project drawing attention to the fact that bees need flowers. It accompanied a seed drop of 200 packets.  This piece measured 3 metres x 1.8 metres and was made from woven and crocheted plastic bags.  I made the kids too :)

“Daisy Chains” – Little Rundle Street, Adelaide. The big arse wall of flowers I made as part of the Adelaide Fringe Festival Street Art project drawing attention to the fact that bees need flowers. It accompanied a seed drop of 200 packets. This piece measured 3 metres x 1.8 metres and was made from woven and crocheted plastic bags. I made the kids too :)

 

Seed drop in Hosier Lane (street art precinct)  in Melbourne by @sayraphim

Seed drop in Hosier Lane (street art precinct) in Melbourne by @sayraphim

 

Seed drop at Flinders Street Markets in Adelaide (South Australia).

Seed drop at Flinders Street Markets in Adelaide (South Australia).

 

Interview with Krista Barmer (@pendrops)!

Today’s interview is with Krista Barmer, @pendrops! These bi-weekly interviews are a place to learn more about what craftivists are up to around the world, and I find people and their work by searching #craftivism over at Instagram. If you’d like to be interviewed (or know someone who I should interview), please drop me a line!

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1. What does craftivism mean to you?

For me, craftivism is three-fold. Practically, it means using creative techniques and mediums to draw attention to social issues. Secondly, if that art piece is sold, it means giving some percentage or all profits from the sale of that art piece to organizations that do work in that line of social justice. And lastly, it’s about telling a story. Because social issues are so vast, stories must help us connect to them. Whether it’s a literal or abstract expression, a story must be expressed in order to connect and inspire.

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2. Tell me about the Freedom Collection stitched pieces. What are they? How did they come to be?

The Freedom Collection is a series of textile art pieces that came to me in such a beautiful, unpredictable way! As an artist, I am always seeking to be present to everything around me and then channel what I’m observing and learning into a piece of textile art. My passion is always to connect something in my story to someone else’s story.

So this past spring, I watched a documentary called “The True Cost” about fast fashion and the sweatshop workers who pay a high price – sometimes with their lives – for consumerism and greed. I was already on board with the action points that the documentary talked about: I don’t buy clothing from foreign or domestic sweatshops and I have a minimalist closet. I began wondering what more I could do.

In the days after I watched the documentary, the first Freedom Collection piece started coming together. This issue of forced labor and slavery was so heavy on my heart and mind after the documentary and was tied so closely to a cause I’ve united with for more than a decade, it was inevitable that this collection emerged.

I stitch every day no matter what and I don’t really plan my projects, so the Freedom Collection just started pouring out of me. The design, the upcycled scraps of linen, the vintage threads and antique embellishments, the organically grown cotton fibers. Each material had a purpose, every stitch meant something, even the tatters and fragments spoke something to me about the precious lives caught in forced labor and slavery. I have always believed that the stitch is not a means to an end…it is the end. I love every stitch, just for its own sake. Even the ones that get tangled or snagged. I leave them as is because they introduce dimension and interest and beauty. That’s how I feel about all lives and, in this case, the lives of women and girls, mothers and daughters and sisters, in slavery and forced labor. They are not just a means to an end, something to be used and thrown out after we get what we want. Their lives matter, they have value and worth and belonging. So these meticulous, countless stitches represent their lives and their inherent value.

So the Freedom Collection was born very organically, an abstract textile representation of the lives of women and girls in forced labor within the global textile industry.

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3. Your work is about slavery and forced labor. Has making it changed you in any way? If so, how?

Making these pieces has absolutely changed me. Learning more about the issue of modern day slavery and forced labor in the global textile industry has challenged me to speak boldly in order to bring awareness to this issue. Hearing stories of individual women and girls in slavery and forced labor has stirred an even deeper compassion and empathy in me. And understanding the necessary steps to combat fast fashion, forced labor, modern slavery, systemic poverty, and consumerism has increased my commitment to this cause.

But even beyond that, the meditation of my heart and mind each time I sit down to work on a Freedom Collection piece has changed. I think of my sisters around the world. My fingers may ache after a couple hours of stitching, but I am in a comfortable chair, in an air conditioned room, in a clean, safe building, and get to be with my family while I stitch. These women often have to send their children away to live in better conditions while they work in big cities for 16-hour days, in dangerous, filthy buildings. I now think of these women with every stitch.

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4. You donate the proceeds of your work to the International Justice Mission (IJM). Why did you choose to donate to them specifically?

There are so many fantastic organizations who are working to end modern slavery. For me, I support IJM because of their effective model. They don’t just recover victims of slavery from traffickers, they also restore survivors of slavery to their communities, they work with local police to restrain criminals, and they represent survivors in court while working with local prosecutors. IJM has a track record of getting at the root of slavery and forced labor, to strengthen local justice systems around the globe, and prevent violence against the poor. They have a deep, tireless commitment to seeing slavery end in our lifetime. That’s why I have supported their work for over a decade.

 

5. What are your craftivist-related plans for the future? Where do you want to take this project? Is there a next craftivism-related project you’d like to do?

My craftivist plans are to continue making the Freedom Collection pieces for a long time. I’ve been overwhelmed by the support these pieces have received and am thrilled at the funds I’ve been able to donate to IJM the past few months.

I also plan to create more small-scale pieces that most anyone would be able to afford. My first few Freedom Collection pieces were larger, upwards of $100 USD. I’m now creating exceptional-quality, smaller pieces that are in the range of $25-$35 USD. This allows almost anyone to purchase a one-of-a-kind, artisan-crafted textile art piece while also donating to a worthy cause, all for the price of a new shirt.

I don’t usually plan out projects, but I have a project in the works creating pieces that raise awareness about depression and anxiety disorders. I plan to start focusing on those later this year.

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Thanks, Krista!

You can check out more of Krista’s work over on Instagram, @pendrops.

She can also be found via her Etsy shop, PendropsCouture.

Interview with Shannon Downey (@badasscrossstitch)!

For a long time now, I’ve been wanting to interview people about their craftivism projects. Because I couldn’t fit everyone into my book and there are so many great projects out there to share!

Therefore, here’s an interview with Shannon Downey (@badasscrossstitch) about her current craftivism project!

Shannon’s accepting pieces until August 15th. Find out how to participate here!


1. How do you define craftivism and what does it mean for you?

I suppose my technical definition of craftivism would be something to the effect of: the subversive use of craft to activate conversation and awareness around a topic of social or environmental injustice. My less technical definition might be: using whatever crafty talents you have to shake shit up, call out injustice, inspire thought + hopefully cause some serious discomfort.
2. You started stitching guns and then turned it into a community project, what make you open up the project to a larger audience?

True. I live in Chicago and gun violence plagues this city. When I first started stitching the guns I did it as a form of personal therapy. I was trying to process the complacency that seems to exist among large swaths of our community and public officials. I was just trying to give myself time and space to really think about it. Allow myself to feel it versus think of it as something happening around me.

The pieces started to lead to some incredible conversations. Folks really responded to the dissonance between embroidery and the image of a gun. Everyone is dealing with the collective trauma of gun violence. That is when I decided to turn it into an open project and encourage others to join me.

That said, I’m all about action. I am tired of prayers and thoughts and art and thinking without action. That is when I decided that this project needed to have action behind it. The pieces that are being created and sent to me from all over the world will be displayed but they will also be sold, with every penny going to support Project FIRE. These guns can become a symbol but also a tool to support young people injured by gun violence with their recovery.

Project FIRE (Fearless Initiative for Recovery and Empowerment) is an artist development employment program that offers healing through glass blowing to youth injured by gun violence in Chicago. Project FIRE* combines glass arts education, mentoring and trauma psycho-education in order to support trauma recovery and create employment opportunities for young people who have been shot or witnessed the homicide of a loved one.

* You can follow them on Instagram here.

3. Why guns? 

Guns are the tools that are currently being used to release the hate and rage and anger and sadness and fear and frustration that is growing in our world. They are both the object and the symbol.

4. How have your efforts been to share word of the project? What has been your most effective strategy?

Pretty solid. Instagram and my blog have been the most successful thus far. The thing that makes me the happiest though are the folks who are getting together groups of stitchers to eat, drink, stitch guns and discuss gun violence. I’m also loving the artists reaching out asking if they can participate through a medium other than embroidery or even fiber. To that I say, Hellz yes! If you are inspired to participate I want you involved!

5. Why did you choose cross stitch as your medium for craftivism? Have you tried any other medium for craftivism? And if so, was it as effective?

It’s not necessarily limited to cross stitch. I actually started with embroidery and blackwork and then moved on to cross stitch because I wanted to slow the process down more. We all know how painfully slow cross stitch can be. I wanted it to move slower and really create some space to think. I released the cross stitch pattern on my blog for anyone to download and use because cross stitch is so accessible. I am excited that fiber artists and non fiber artists are getting involved. I want everyone to participate however they feel comfortable and inspired. This is my first craftivism project.


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Thanks, Shannon!!

If anyone would like to be interviewed about their craftivism project, please let me know (betsy@craftivism.com) and I’ll send some questions your way!

xx

Craftivism’s Cover Story in Australia!

This happened today, which has made my weekend! It’s a cover story about craftivism in Australia, complete with interviews with Sayraphim Lothian, Casey Jenkins, and Tal Fitzpatrick!


Also, I’ve been lucky enough to have been asked to participate in a show at the Fuller Craft Museum this May! For my piece, I’m going to be sending in YASVB signs that will be displayed during the show then given away to the community for free when it is over.

Here are some shots by my dear friend Cynthia to get you thinking…

Cynthia 1

Cynthia 2

 

And since this is in a museum show about the DIY craft community, I want to spread the word as far as I can within it. Therefore, I would love it if *YOU* helped spread the word! How can you do so? By clicking either over here (how the project came together, with a link to details) or here (just the details themselves_, which share project information, then clicking on one of the share buttons on the side of your screen!

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