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.