More than 750 knitted, crocheted and stitched flowers made an eye-catching focal point at the Craftivists #wellMAKING Garden exhibition on Tuesday, the culmination of a six month project that saw over 50 stitch-ins held across the UK.
Funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council and run jointly between Craftivist Collective, Falmouth University, Arts for Health and Voluntary Arts, the aim of the #wellMAKING project was to encourage people to think about the nature of wellbeing using craft as a reflective tool.
With the World Health Organisation including “contributing to society” as one of their paths to wellbeing, organisers encouraged people to think about how they could be the best version of themselves in order to make the world a better place.
Feedback gathered via a dedicated app and at events around the country was overwhelmingly positive, with participants reporting numerous benefits from their craftivism experience:
“This project has helped me to engage other people in crafting and with activism. It’s helpful to have a ‘thing’ to do whilst you talk. It gives you reflection time.”
“Creating gave me confidence to make change in myself and society around me.”
“Crafting encourages me not to buy cheaply made sweatshop clothes because I value the time and effort that workers have put in more than the low prices charged for some fashion goods.”
“Before this project I didn’t think about how crafting contributes to society. Now I realise the many different levels that it can impact on and how we communicate with each other through craft. Crafting, art and making can break down social barriers.”
“While I was making the flower I thought a lot about the connection between flowers or plants and human development. We’ll only realise our potential if we are in the right soil type.”
More than 70 people attended Tuesday’s sold out event in Aldgate East, London, to see the floral exhibition and hear talks from project supporters including John McMahon, Head of Learning & Talent at Crafts Council, and George McKay, professor of media studies at East Anglia University.
The evening ended with a group discussion where many of those gathered expressed an interest in seeing the project continue. A number of events have already been planned, which will see the floral installation tour the UK, as well as groups creating their own versions.
Organiser Sarah Corbett, founder of Craftivist Collective, said: “Craftivism brings people together and gives us purpose. We’ve had all sorts of people involved, young, old, male, female, bloggers, crafters, activists, NGOs, galleries, community groups. It shows that people really want craft with meaning and purpose. They love craft, but they also love to use craft as a tool to reflect critically on how they can contribute to making the world a better place. People took up the project in their own way but still with that ethos of critical thinking. It will be exciting, now that people have the tools, to see how they continue to grow and develop what we’ve started.”