Interview: Cherry Holahan from The Wellington Craftivism Collective

Interview: Cherry Holahan from The Wellington Craftivism Collective

Tell me a bit about yourself.
I’m originally from England but have lived in Australia (7 years) and New Zealand (1 year). I live with my partner Lauren (our logo designer and personal photographer) and our dog Jasper. For my day job I am a manager of costume hire and before that I worked for an Eco Clothing label. My interests other than craftivism include gardening on my veggie patch, traveling and road trips, sustainability, baking and nature.

I love the Buy Nothing cross stitch that’s featured as a page in your zine – where is it from?
The Buy Nothing cross stitch is my stitching work. It was inspired by an ad busters poster, but I changed the words to be things that I like doing more. I sometimes take it to events to display if I feel that the message fits. At the time I was working on it I didn’t have a car and had to take 2 buses to work, I was determined to stitch a lot of it on the bus (bumpy ride) as I felt that by stitching it in a public space for people to see it would spread the message. People always did seems quite interested to have a peek at what I was doing!

How did you become involved in craftivism?

I’m not sure really! I think it chose me. I have always made things since I can remember. At primary school I ran a club making pom poms and I was playing with my mum’s sewing machine as soon as I was old enough. Soon after leaving uni I opened my own shop called ‘Peep Show’ to promote emerging local designers, as well as my own. I’ve always like handmade pretty things. I have also always had very strong moral and political views. I chose to be a vegetarian due to animal rights reasons at the age of 10, a decision I still stand by today. By identifying as a gay woman, I’ve become more aware of prejudice not only against queer and transgender people, but also racism, sexism and people with disabilities. I feel that traveling the world has also opened my eyes to see the world in a different way – inequality and environmental issues
became more apparent to me. I feel that now they have been exposed to me, I can longer ignore them. I became aware of a few people and groups using craft as a means to convey these political messages and I thought it was such an awesome way to affect political and social change.

What is your take on craftivism?
I feel that by marrying craft and activism it is the perfect vehicle in which to effect change. The thing that I love the most about the idea of conveying strong political messages via the means of craft that it is so noninvasive and unthreatening. I also feel that people take that extra time to look at what you have created not only because it is a thing of beauty, but because of the time and energy invested into it. I consider myself to be a third wave feminist, so therefore craft for me is about being able to reclaim traditional women’s activities, free from the constraints of pre-prescribed binary gender roles. Giving the craft a political or ethical message, for me gives my craft meaning, I feel like I am doing something to start changing the way people think.

How & when did the The Wellington Craftivism Collective start? Tell me a bit about your members.
When I moved to Wellington New Zealand I felt inspired by the really great underground movement here. It’s very similar to Melbourne, as the capital of the country there is a certain political buzz. After looking around for a radical craft group and not finding anything here, I met Emily Strange who shared similar ideas. We decided to set up a new group and the Wellington Craftivism Collective was born. That was about 5 months ago and since then it has rapidly gathered steam! We have 142 members now on the Facebook group from all over the world. We have quite a number of members here in Wellington who have been involved in various projects. The main members (founders I suppose) are me and Emily Strange who have attended and arranged all of the events. We are now starting to have a handful of loyal and regular members which is amazing! Different people have brought different issues that they feel strongly about to the groups adding to the diversity. I know that some members are very concerned about Maori rights within New Zealand and some other members are particularly concerned with environmental issues and queer issues. It is fantastic to have a group where we can all work together towards a shared goal of a better world.

How did The Wellington Craftivism Collective become involved with the Occupy movement? What projects have you done with Occupy in mind?
I had been a follower of the Occupy movement from the beginning as I feel very strongly about injustice through corporate crime and capitalism. Emily had had an idea at one of our meetings that we should give away free cupcakes to people. When Occupy Wellington came into existence, we decided to take the free cupcake stall idea there. You would be amazed at the response you get from people when you give them free things, it’s amazing. We had such an amazingly positive response and the ideas for other projects as well as an enthusiastic membership have snowballed from there. We felt that in the same way as craftivism, that free cupcakes were a completely unthreatening form of protest and an excellent way in which to get people to engage. The first cupcake stall became such a success that we ended up going back nearly every weekend for over 2 months holding more. In addition to the cupcake stalls, we have also launched our giant ‘Occupy’ blanket project. We have held patchmaking workshops for this project, one of which was at the Occupy Wellington site. We are inviting world wide participation for the project – by doing this and having the blanket traveling and exhibited we hope to spread the messages the blanket conveys to a much wider community.

How did the idea for the Occupy blanket come about? How is that project going?
The original idea for the blanket was Emily’s. I was always keen to do a large scale group piece and this fit the bill perfectly. Emily has always been inspired by womens insitutions and such that make as a group patch work blankets that are then distributed to homeless people. The idea for the blanket to travel emerged from a brainstorming session. The project is going really well, the overseas patches are taking longer to come than we initially thought but we do know that some are on there way. Its hard getting people to be inspired and motivated from the other side of the world without something tactile and tangible for them to feel and see. I think that when the blanket travels, people will get excited to be involved. It was amazing today to see peoples response from us laying down the patches, to show the beginnings of the blanket and what it will look like. People thought it was really cool and then wanted to contribute as they could see for themselves what it was about. I think that now the momentum is going it will start to carry itself. The plan for where and how the blanket will travel is now unfolding. We will be announcing the locations it will visit very soon. We are really really excited that one of the locations will be Wall St too!

Can you tell me about your patch making workshops?
We have had 2 patch making workshops now. One was held at 128 Radical Social Centre where we were able to use their screen printing facilities. We had people on hand with different skills such as operating the screen printing equipment, cross stitching and knitting which enabled us to skill share. The second workshop was Saturday, December 10th at Occupy Wellington. We have received a lot of fabric donations for the project which means we are able to move towards our goal of being able to operate sustainably.

At the workshops, we have had many people come by who wanted to take part and were keen to learn new skills that they have never done before. I feel like we have had a really positive response and been able to offer a friendly, social and supportive space for people to create and discuss ideas. It has been very important to me that not only is the ‘Occupy’ blanket a collaborative piece, but that the project evolves from all of our ideas. Talking with people about how we can reach a wider audience in a creative way has been just as important as creating the blanket itself. People really like the social aspect of crafting together in a group, everyone bounces ideas off each other and it’s quite inspiring.

What was behind the process for the zine? Was it a collaborative effort?
We decided to put a zine together for the Wellington Zine fest only 2 weeks before it happened! It was a joint effort and think that there are about 9 different contributors to form the zine. We are really pleased with the outcome and the response we have received from it has been great. We sold quite a few copies (just to cover printing costs) and the remainder are being sold at our stalls and available to buy at Freedom Shop. We know that some of them have been bought by people who are bringing them or sending them overseas as well.

What are your future plans for the collective?
Oh we have so many ideas!! Well we will be tracking the blanket online and getting people to upload photos of themselves with it on our blog. We plan to have an exhibition with the blanket once it returns back to Wellington. We have talked about possibly displaying it in a public window space to give it a wider audience than a gallery. We hope to have another zine at some stage, we would like to talk about the people participating in the blanket project and the journeys behind the blanket patches as some have very cool stories! We hope to hold a vegan ‘pot luck’ dinner craft bombing workshop soon where we hope to go out after dark and yarnbomb the town, the inspiration for this is ‘Buy Nothing Xmas.’ I am keen to do several other projects including a ‘Kill Your TV’ project to highlight the misrepresentation of mainstream media. We also plan to start a regular monthly meetup in the new year.

There will be lots more to come so stay tuned!

Occupy Blanket Project

Wellington Craftivism Collective is creating a giant patchwork blanket to show support and solidarity for the Occupy Movement. We invite people from all over the world to submit patches to us by mail, these patches will then be lovingly crafted together to form our united blanket.

All patches need to be 20cm x 20cm’s (please leave a 1cm border blank around the edge to give us space to sew them together with out loosing any of your beautiful designs). The patch can be made in any fabric based medium: cross stitch, knitted, crocheted, embroidered, fabric paints, felt… Get creative!

This is your chance to make a statement, use your square to convey how you think the world could be a better place.

Send completed patches to:
7/b Blucher Ave, Newtown, Wellington, New Zealand.

Please invite your friends to take part!

Love the Wellington Craftivism Collective

Website: http://wellingtoncraftivism.blogspot.com

(all images from http://wellingtoncraftivism.blogspot.com)