Craft as radical?

Intro

I’ve split the article up into four sections- my criticisms of radical spaces and scenes I’ve known, of the fashion industry, and of the current commercial craft revival, and then at the end explaining the ways I think doing textile crafts can be radical. In writing the article, I was specifically thinking of crafts such as sewing and knitting, both because they are things I do, and also because they are stereotypically done by women and often dismissed as silly and frivolous, but a lot of the points can apply to any handicraft. As well as dealing with the topic of crafts, it’s really more of a kind of wander round my thoughts about “radical”. The section on crafts is actually the shortest, but I’ve used it as the overall framing device. I’ll probably manage to piss off both the cliquey punx and the craft blogger people with this, but never mind.

To make myself clearer, I’m specifically defining “radical” here as freeing people from the oppressions and inequalities of mainstream capitalist society. It’s no good claiming a place, group, behaviour or people are “radical” if they just continue the racist, sexist, homophobic, ableist or classist (and every other bad -ist) structures of the rest of society. It’s also no good calling something “anarchist” or “non-hierarchical” if there’s just a different unspoken hierarchy at play (that no-one is allowed to talk about).

The incredibly depressing political climate of the last few years, with its lurch to the extreme right and increased support for oppression and exploitation makes genuine radical spaces more important than ever, but also means that it’s important to not treat the whole thing as a silly status or fashion game.

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Okunoshima- Rabbit Island

You can see more photos from other places in the Japan category of this blog, and also read about the trip in the zine I wrote.

While I was in Japan we visited the island of Okunoshima. In the Second World War it was a top secret chemical weapons plant, but now is a nature reserve famous for its free-ranging tame rabbits, who are probably the descendants of the lab rabbits.

On the ferry out to the semi-tropical, fern-covered island, we joked about it being like Jurassic Park but with rabid fluffy bunnies. They turned out to be even tamer than I had expected, probably tamer than a lot of pet rabbits. They’ve never seen predators, and all their experience of humans is being petted and fed in return for being friendly, so if you even sit down, a load of rabbits will pile onto your lap.

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Low stress travel on the cheap

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I love to travel, but I don’t have much money. Although long-haul flights and luxury holidays are out of my reach at the moment I’ve managed to see a fair bit of the world for not very much, and perhaps my budget limitations have meant that I’ve seen some interesting places I might have otherwise missed out on.

I find online budget travel tips not that great though. They seem to swing from “save money by only eating ityereal bars and sleeping on trains on your trip” to “cram in thirty museums in one day with this special ticket” to “get this special Air Miles credit card only available in Florida, and book your flights at 3am on Thursdays Alaska time”. I want to eat nice food from the cuisine of the country in question; sleep in a clean, safe and comfortable hotel room in a convenient location; and get a chance to explore and see things properly, not treating sights like a tick list to complete as quickly as possible. I don’t want to be cold, hungry, exhausted, or put myself in danger; this is supposed to be fun. I just don’t have a lot of money to spend.

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Blogs -vs- zines

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People who don’t make or read them much themselves sometimes ask me why I still make zines, even though the internet exists, and the world is becoming more and more digitally-focused, and I have this blog. In short, the answer is for the same reason I still have hundreds of records and books, and develop black and white film at home, even though I have an ipod, spotify subscription, e-reader and two digital cameras, and I’m far from a luddite: I feel the physical medium offers me something that I don’t get from the digital version.

I always have the urge to document things. At home I have loads of scrapbooks with things like flyers, tickets, packaging etc (you can see one here) dating back to 2002. They’re not particularly private though, and friends are welcome to leaf through them when they visit. I’ve got some art/creative activity book type diaries where you have to draw things or do word association or whatever, which I fill out when I feel like. I use instagram a lot to take pictures of small details or objects (not so much for people, and I’m not sure why, I’d hope it’s because I’m enjoying their company more than fiddling with my phone- I’m very much a subscriber to phones away when you’re in company).

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Fanzine Ynfytyn

 

My zine, Fanzine Ynfytyn, is named after a song by Welsh language post-punk band Datblygu (“Develop”). The name could be construed as either “Fanzine Idiot”, “Idiot Fanzine” or “Idiot’s Fanzine”. People either look at the name with bafflement, go “uh, is it Welsh in some way?” or are pleased because they know the song (those people get a free copy). In some ways I regret giving it a name that so many people struggle to pronounce or understand, but I’m on issue 22 now, so they’ll just have to get used to it. When I started it, I only expected to give a few copies to some friends who were already familiar with the song, so it wasn’t really a concern (I also had a mini collage zine called “Pobble Eh Come?” like a really mis-spelt version of the soap opera). Seeing as one of those people was a fellow language student penfriend who I had a running joke with of us mangling Welsh and German together to make one überbendigedich language, I wasn’t too worried about the palatability of the name. I was never expecting to get to issue 22, and have sold or traded hundreds of copies of some of the back issues and have them in libraries and academic collections. I was surprised I got to more than a couple of issues to be honest.

I’m not Welsh, and didn’t go to school in Wales, but I have a fairly decent passive grasp of the language (I’d struggle to carry on a conversation). I have some relatives who are native Welsh speakers (they’re relatives by marriage, but their son is the same age as my sister’s son, so we used to see a fair bit of them), and more importantly, I spent my teenage years listening to the Super Furry Animals and Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, bands who did songs in both English and Welsh.

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Not gate-crashing a funeral

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(Christmas Steps in Bristol- the photos are all from my old phone, which turned out not to have the greatest camera)

I actually attended this funeral/memorial for children’s writer Diana Wynne Jones over 2 years ago. I had meant to write about it for a long time, but I didn’t want to write anything without having the programme of speakers from the event to hand, and it stubbornly disappeared until recently when I had a big clear out of papers (and faded with some print rubbed off after 2 years), so here it is.

Diana was my favourite writer growing up. A few years ago I made a zine about her books (you can see/order the zine here, and there will be a new reprinted/re-layed out edition very soon), and Diana was kind enough to answer my interview questions in great detail (you can read the interview in full here) and various people contributed essays. Sadly, I didn’t get the zine finished in time for Diana to see it, because she died of cancer. Terrible procrastinating.

The family had a private funeral, and then a year later had a public memorial in Bristol, where she had lived. An editor from one of Diana’s publishers named Sharyn November sent me an invitation, because she’d seen the zine, so I booked a cheap bus ticket and took myself off to Bristol. I considered inviting someone, but my then boyfriend had never read any of the books, and the two people I thought might be interested had both recently given birth (and one was living in Scotland). So I went alone.

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Toy Cameras in Brighton

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My flickr account has 370 albums on it, dating back to 2007, before I started this blog. A little while ago I dug out some pictures of Bracknell from the archives, and I thought I’d find some more things from the oldest albums.

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Here are some photos I took of Brighton Pier with cross-processed slide film in a 50s box camera I got in a junk shop. At one time I used to sell them as prints, and they were my most popular item. I think they actually managed to pay the rent alone a couple of times. I do miss living in Brighton, but my friends there have gradually left for the same reason I did, the difficulty of making a living there year-round. I do still miss being able to go down to the sea any time I want though.

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How to design and make a skirt in any size

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I wanted to learn how to make things for ipads, so I’ve rejigged an old zine of mine with improved instructions and colour diagrams. It has step by step instructions and diagrams for drafting a skirt pattern to your own personal size, whatever that may be, and then making the skirt. For anyone really who would like to have skirts, but struggles to find any they like or that fit, and who would like some help with sewing.

The instructions are distributed as Non-derivative creative commons, so are free to download, and may be distributed freely as long as you don’t charge for them or alter them, but derivative works or profit-making are not allowed.

Here is the ibooks version, which auto-rotates to have different landscape and portrait layouts, and is set up to work with the ipad’s accessibility settings.

Here is the pdf version, for printing and using on other devices.

DDR Museum

I’m fascinated by the history of the Cold War. Both the political side, and the social history of people’s everyday lives. I’ve always been extra fascinated by the former DDR, both because I can speak the language and because they tried so hard to be a “model” Iron Curtain society. You read about people being “internal emigrés”. Being a good comrade and worker on the surface, but internally escaping to their own world via drink or just plain daydreaming. I suppose that’s what I’d do in the situation. I have a lot of thoughts on the subject, but I’m currently writing a zine about the trip this summer, so I’ll save them for there.

While I was in Dresden, I went to the DDR Museum in nearby Radebeul with my work colleague Hazel. It advertises itself as a “time travel experience”- it’s basically a huge office block filled with everyday objects from the communist days. They have rooms set up as a typical office, school, shop, flat etc with information about the daily life. Unfortunately most of the information is only in German, and so I had to do a lot of translating for my friend, who doesn’t speak the language.

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Concrete wonderlands

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Flickr have massively changed their website recently, and I took the chance to go through all my old photos and re-organise them a bit, so I’ll be digging up various things from the archives over the next few weeks. Here’s some of Bracknell from 2005.

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