For this interview, I asked Lisa Hallden of @stitchforus about her beautiful work. Read on to learn about why she does what she does, how she keeps her work so darn neat, and more!
1. What does craftivism mean to you?
Craftivism is punk. It’s do-it-yourself, use what you have (in my case cut-off jeans and the rags from an old rug) and lean by doing. It’s to use (the inherently human) creativeness to make other people feel good, impact change or better the world. I find craftivism really liberating. With focus on creativity rather than talent I could join in without actually being very good at it. So much fun, and so free.
2. How did you come up with stitching signs as reactions to real-world events?
I started to stitch messages as the refugee crisis unfolded in Europe, in the autumn of 2015. I was filled with frustration over how European politics failed humanity and I wanted to scream from the rooftops that humanity was larger and worthier and more beautiful than what we saw of it. But I also felt frustrated with how easily words are spewed out into the public spare, in a debate where many scream and few listen. Words are rattled out so fast and lightly on a keyboard and I wanted to slow myself down. Stitching the words became the way to do that, to give the messages a slower pace and a denser weight. I feel that the time and touch that is ploughed into the pieces, in combination with the softness of the cloth and the thread, that gentleness of materials, strengthen the political power of the stitched words.
3. How do you cross stitch so neatly? (All your pieces are so darn neat! I’m jealous!)
You wouldn’t believe how happy, as well as hugely surprised, I am to hear that you find my stitches neat. Their wonkiness is very apparent to me! To make them less wonky I use a sort of canvas that I pull out thread by thread from under the stitches, when I am finished. I’m not sure what the proper terminology for it is, but I’ve picked it up in my local charity shop (along with all the thread – it’s an amazing charity shop for craft!) and it works for me.
4. How do you choose what you stitch with the news being full of less-than-positive things?
The slowness of the stitching gives a lot of time to think about the words, what connotations they contain and how they may be received. I find it a difficult balancing act, to say something positive when the world looks like it does. I am senselessly angry about the politics of Europe and the death and devastation that comes in its wake, but I want my stitches to stay away from blinding anger. When I tag the stitched words on the street I want them to become little peace offerings or prayer flags, calling for freedom and love, equality and solidarity and all the beauty of humanity.
5. What is your mission with these pieces?
I hope to remind people of the goodness that lives in us all. To remind people that fear blinds us, but that the otherness out there is part of the same wonderful humanness. I hope that my pieces in a small way may help to build a bit of spirit to stand up to injustices and fight for the best of humanity. That sounds really pretentious. Oh well – I guess it has to be sometimes.