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Craftivism: the art of craft and activism (book thoughts)

Have you ever wondered how other people globally are practicing craftivism (craft+activism)? Although you can find many examples online, you often don’t get the background behind a project or sometimes projects come to an end and the documentation is taken off-line. This is why books are so indispensable and why I really appreciate Betsy Greer’s latest book Craftivism: The Art of Craft and Activism. Greer has compiled a contemporary history of activist projects worldwide.

the art of craft and activism

The essays and interviews compiled in this book are truly inspiring and informative. Through these readings we are able to grasp at the variety of ways in which craftivism is practiced. As art jeweller Gabriel Craig says in his interview, “the more kinds of craft-based activism there are, the better. However, I do recognize a difference in their conception, implementation, audience, and effectiveness as advocacy tools. Part of being a successful craft activist today is having a big toolbox.”

Essays and interviews in the book fall within four categories: Personal Threads, Refashioning Craft, Craft as Political Mouthpiece, and Activating Communities.

Craftivism for some is more personal and is practiced in isolation, such as in one’s own home, but is then taken outside. Take for example, Sayraphim Lothian who in her essay, Guerrilla Kindness, talks about how her motivation is to bring some joy to people’s lives. She has done does this by crafting small artworks such as cupcakes and leaving them around her city for strangers to stumble upon. A tag that says “For You Stranger / @sayraphim” accompanies the item. @sayraphim is her twitter handle and offers people an opportunity to find more about the project. This idea of leaving a twitter handle made me think of how I could also continue the conversation online with passersby that see my craftivist project in the streets of Vancouver.

While for some the intention behind a project can be explained in relatively simple terms, others are grounded in deep political and theoretical thought. This is exemplified in Otto von Busch’s essay Crafting Resistance. Von Busch’s essay offers much food for thought as he contemplates Thoreau and Ghandi’s actions and philosophy in examining today’s acts of craft within the world of fashion and how these acts stand for forms of resistance. We can react to the oppressive effects of fashion by “crafting alternative forms of togetherness through fashion” and thus begin to work towards solutions to consumerism and peer pressure.

This idea of togetherness, working together towards a common goal, is something I have started to experience during my new practice in craftivism. The potential of creating community and spaces for discussion is one of the things that attracts me to craftivist-based actions. While I get great satisfaction both from reacting by creating my message banners and from putting them out in the community for others to contemplate, creating community and discussion feels like a logical extension to many craftivist actions.

Many of the essays and interviews in this book fuelled my commitment to further explore the potential of craftivism and to also commit to a more thoughtful lifestyle, such as mending my own clothes and being proud to show patches. JP Flintoff’s essay On Gold Joinery and Mending was inspiring.

As Catherine West says in her essay Giving Voice Through Craftivism, “craftivism is most powerful when it directly affects a community.” But needless to say, all craftivist actions affect somebody, not just the creator, and as Gabriel Craig said above, the effectiveness of these actions varies. Ultimately though, it all starts with taking action which will have the effect of transforming your life or how you see yourself in the world. How will taking action change you for a better world change you?

Be sure to check your local independent book seller before purchasing from a big chain store. Vancouver Public Library already has a copy of this book on their shelves.

Join me August 24 2014 for Stitching with Purpose in Vancouver, a free drop-in workshop. More info here

Why I’m involved in craftivism

Cross-stitched messages that will be hung in my neighbourhood. I'll show you how to do this at the workshop.

Cross-stitched messages that will be hung in my neighbourhood. I’ll show you how to do this at the workshop.

Head on over to Vancouver Mini Maker Faire’s blog to read my post on why I’m involved in craftivism.

This is the first time I’m participating in the faire. On June 8th, I’ll be leading a 1-hour making workshop on craftivism. Only 10 spots are available. Some seats will be available for online registration. Head on over to the Workshop Series page for more info and to register.

Slowing down at Joshua Tree

I’m on the road in Southern California. It’s been busy getting down here but we’re finally slowing down at Joshua Tree National Park. I’m hoping to do some drawing during this trip–drawing the environment around me. I find drawing really helps you focus on the details . It’s a study of what’s in front of you.
There is no reception at the park ( that’s where we’re camping ) so I’m writing this note while we’re parked at Big 5 as I wait for my partner (in the town of Joshua Tree). The desert is beautiful here!

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A World of Textures at Vancouver Draw Down

I am super happy to announce that I am leading a different kind of workshop this coming June! While all previous workshops have been craft based, this one is art based.

I’ll be leading a 2-hour drop-in drawing activity at Thunderbird Community Centre. Here are the details:

Workshop Description:

Discover the multitude of textures available to you in your neighbourhood. With paper and drawing materials you will explore the textures you can make from different surfaces, then cut them into shapes to create a collaborative image of your neighbourhood. Facilitated by artist Laura Bucci. Free drop-in.

When: Saturday, June 14 2014, 11:30 – 1:30, Draw Down workshop page

Where: Thunderbird Community Centre, 2311 Cassiar Street, Vancouver, map

Who is this for? Anyone, any age.

What is Vancouver Draw Down?

Now in its 5th year, Vancouver Draw Down is an annual celebration of drawing in everyday life that challenges preconceptions about drawing and works to reconnect everyone with the power and creative pleasure of making marks

Bird Inspiration 12: sad story

As I continue  to work with birds (after a big pause), I am noticing a change in how the project is going. There is something unsatisfying in just drawing pretty birds. I need depth. Or I need to say something.

In my most recent exercise, I re-used a bird I had drawn before. The leg of the collage paper accidentally tore off and I decided to go with it. Using the bird this way, with one leg, opened up the possibility of saying something about the environment. The bird leans over to look for food in a pretty field with flowers. But above it is a big X, as in do not use, do not eat, do not drink. But the warning is lost on the bird as it does not speak our language.

People are changing nature, the victims are not only us and our future generations but also all that makes up nature.

Sad story. Mixed-media on paper.

Sad story. Mixed-media on paper.

Inspiration from other artists in the art journal

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Part of what makes it to my daily visual journal are things that other artists have said that resonate with me. I often watch artist interviews or art programs online while I work on my art. Sometimes I’ll quickly jot what I hear in my journal and later or the next day I’ll ponder the words further sometimes writing and rewriting the words in order to process their significance.

In the page above, I was thinking about something that Kiki Smith said:

I don’t try to set my work on any path or any direction. I really try to follow it. . . I don’t question my impetus. I just do it and see what happens.

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And in the page above, I liked what one of the Boyd Family artists said (I think it was the guy), he said:

To be totally immersed in something is glorious.

Yes, I agree.  Visual journaling for me is not about making art, it is instead where I massage my brain to help me process thoughts and life. There are visual elements yes, but these function as writing. Visual elements in my journal are like a vocabulary of states of feeling.

Stitching with Purpose at Vancouver Mini Maker Faire

Craftivist flag

Stitching with Purpose

I am happy to announce that I will be leading my Stitching with Purpose workshop at Maker Faire Vancouver coming up in June.

Workshop Description

What matters to you? Find out what ‘craftivism’ is all about and learn to stitch your message on a fabric flag that can be hung around your neighbourhood. Facilitated by artist Laura Bucci. All materials provided.

Workshop @ Vancouver Mini Maker Faire

When:  Sunday, June 8th, 2014,  4  6 pm

Where: PNE Forum, 2901 East Hastings, Vancouver

Cost: TBD, Tickets sold through the Event, please not that the workshop not included in your Entrance Ticket but it will be very fairly priced. Info coming soon.

What is Maker Faire?

Maker Faire is the Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth—a family-friendly showcase of invention, creativity and resourcefulness, and a celebration of the Maker movement. It’s a place where people show what they are making, and share what they are learning.
Makers range from tech enthusiasts to crafters to homesteaders to scientists to garage tinkerers. They are of all ages and backgrounds. The aim of Maker Faire is to entertain, inform, connect and grow this community.

a poetry of place that defines Vancouver

. . . a poetry of place that defines Vancouver

is a phrase taken from a talk on Public Art organized by CARFAC BC at the Vancouver Public Library downtown (April 9 2014). Karen Henry, the Public Art Planner of Cultural Services for the City of Vancouver had these words on her power point presentation. The phrase refers to or was a definition of public art–this is from memory so I may be slightly off here.

This was a stimulating talk. It was great to hear from Richard Tetrault, visual artist and muralist, who has worked with several local communities on mural projects.  Also, Elisa Yon, the Public Art Project Coordinator from the City of Richmond was there and Cameron Cartiere, the Dean of Graduate Studies of Emily Carr. Each talked about different projects. Henry and Yon somewhat demystified the process/bureaucracy behind city projects.

Here are a few interesting things that I was able to capture in my notes:

  • There is a difference between a studio practice and a public practice; with a public practice you have to ask yourself “what do you want the work to do?” (Cartiere) (I’m thinking wouldn’t you ask yourself that question with a studio practice too?)
  • What is the difference between public art and community art? (from the audience I think)
  • How do you make the general public more interested in public art? How do you make them care? (from the audience)
  • There is a power to seeing public art in places you don’t expect to see it. (Tetrault)

Elisa Yon talked about how some public art is very short-lived, so it needs to be documented. This can include stills, video, talks, and tours. Also, at the talk there were some great pamphlets on individual works produced by the City of Vancouver.

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Pamphlets with information on the works and the artist. The pamphlets open up into small posters of the work. Published by the City of Vancouver Public Art Program.

Someone from the audience remarked that some public art seems to be way more popular than other work. For example, the laughing statues at English Bay. This is the work of Yue Minjun from China titled A-maze-ing Laughter (a project that came out of 2009-2011 Vancouver Biennale). Although the large bronze sculptures are still, they are very successful in engaging the public (as you’ll see in the picture through the link above). The audience member had said that people take selfies of themselves with the art while other public art does not get anything close to this reaction. This work had social media engagement. It was unclear what point he was trying to make. It sounded like he was saying that some public art is more successful because people want to photograph it with themselves in it. Argh! I think some work, figurative/representational, is easier to relate to when you don’t have an arts background or an inquiring mind or are not used to looking at art.

Anyway, you may want to check out one of the artworks Elisa Yon talked about was Nicole Dextras, StoreFront: objects of desire. You can see a video of this performance public art work.

stitching with purpose drop-in workshop

I plan to offer at least two events this year. There may be one in June but the one for August has been confirmed, so please mark your calendars if you want to learn some stitching or talk craftivism.

Craftivist flag

Stitching with Purpose

What matters to you? Find out what ‘craftivism’ is all about and learn to stitch your message on a fabric flag that can be hung around your neighbourhood. Facilitated by artist Laura Bucci. All materials provided. Free to participate. Drop-in 12 – 5pm.

When: Sunday, August 24th 2014, 12 – 5pm

Where: Artful Sundays - The walkway at 1661 Napier Street, Britannia Community Centre site, Vancouver

Artful Sundays is an outdoor, visual arts market featuring local artists, live music, special events, artist demonstrations and workshops, tea leaf reading and more!

how do you experience creative flow?

How do you experience creative flow? Lisa Sonora Beam asks this on her blog. When I think about the projects I’ve been wanting to work on, I have to say I’ve been feeling really stuck. It seems they’re all in my head, the ideas, the execution, the final product. Product. There’s that word that I think is the cause of all problems. It stops me from starting. Envisioning a finished piece is a desire but also an expectation that does not outline how you’ll go about it. So I know I have to focus on process, doing the work. In Sense and Non-Sense, Maurice Merleau-Ponty said:

“Conception cannot precede execution.”

Kit White expanded on that by saying:

“Art is a process of discovery through making, and our ability to discover is generally greater than our ability to invent. Think of your work process as a form of travel. Look for the things you don’t know, the things that are revealed or inadvertently uncovered. It is easier to find a world than to make one.” (from the book 101 Things to Learn in Art School)

To discover you have to do, you can’t just stay in your head all the time. Luckily, I’ve had a little breakthrough lately. I’ve realized that in my art journal I was thinking and talking about what I wanted to do. I was doing it too much. And while through the art journaling process I’ve come to realizations, I’ve also realized I needed to move beyond the page.  Finally though I was able to just start working on actual paintings.

Below is a painting I started several months ago and that went really wrong.  I didn’t know what to do about it. So I put it on a top shelf, out of sight.

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I dusted it off a few days ago and I’m now taking another go at it, this time allowing myself to experiment or to travel with it as Kit White says. I’ve already painted over areas I didn’t like and re-painted them over again. I’m trying to go with the flow and think of paint as an eraser as well as a colour medium.

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So for me, creative flow has been a struggle between doing and not doing, getting out of my head and allowing my hand to follow. I can make myself think I am creating just because I am working in my visual journal. But I’ve been using my art journal as an excuse  from moving onto new territory.