Recently we’ve been involved with Craftivist Collective’s Craftivist’s Garden #wellMAKING project, exploring the link between craft and wellbeing. Using the World Health Organisation’s definition of wellbeing as having the ability to realise personal potential, cope with daily stress and contribute productively to society – it’s a very relatable starting point for many of us. The project aims to ‘show how craft activities can help improve wellbeing by involving participants like me and you in the fun, connected, sensory and mindful process of making things.’

Craftivist Collective Craftivists Garden Antiform & Margot May
Craftivist Collective Craftivists Garden Antiform & Margot May

Antiform’s own Craftivists Garden event took over Margot May, a cosy teashop on North Street in Bristol. We kicked off with a cream tea meet and greet and got chatting. Some of us had an arts background and were very used to making, whilst others had barely crafted since childhood. The whys and wherefores of handmaking things – or deciding early never to lift a needle again – led us to some really in depth discussion into where handmaking things fits into our lives and what we get out of it.

To a soundtrack of Kate Bush, First Aid Kit and Marvin Gaye we cut, embroidered and blanket stitched our fabrics. Lurex, wool, towelling, denim, felt, tweed and silk from our studio scrap bins were soon blooming into life.  Stories of craft were shared which ranged from mending ballet shoes and handmaking cards for friends to clothes to making being a rite of passage, an expected contribution to the family home. Everyone listened to each other, shared materials, helped with stitch techniques and passed the clotted cream.

At the end of 2 hours we each had a beautiful hand crafted flower that reflected the personality of the maker, amongst others we had, Malibu Barbie, Gangsta Bling and the Rainbow Extravaganza!

Craftivist Collective Craftivists Garden Antiform & Margot May
Craftivist Collective Craftivists Garden Antiform & Margot May

The space and time required for handmaking things seemed to be an important element of growth, rehabilitation or feeling a connection to ones surroundings. Themes of freedom and control were raised and we discovered the different ways peoples utilised craft. Some would never dream of crafting to a deadline, some would only ever make things to give away, some only used it as social time and thought it strange to craft alone, while others used it to work out problems.

Crafting whilst we talked created a peaceful and connected atmosphere, the self conscious affectations usually adopted for social interaction with strangers fell away and it seemed that talking without eye contact as we all concentrated on stitching, made people listen more intently, rather than distracting them from the conversation. No one paid attention to their phones or competed over the best flower. It was a fascinating 2 hours of thinking, storytelling and making a garden grow.

With crafting going on all over the country the Craftivists Collective will soon have a whole garden of handmade flowers to exhibit in London in 2015 – if you want to join in or even host a group then head over to craftivist-collective.com/wellmaking

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