Craft Guerrillas Spread the Word in Derry
Simon Fallaha visits the Craft Village to learn about the value of hand-made goods
It’s a pleasant August afternoon in Derry~Londonderry when I enter the cottage opposite Café Del Mondo in the Craft Village and encounter London-based crafts people, Louise Batten and Lisa Payne.
The two 'craft guerillas', as they like to call themselves, are excitably knitting away at their own unique hand-made pieces as August Craft Month draws to a close, and there are several other visitors keen to learn from the masters.
Batten and Payne are two of the founder members of Craft Guerilla, a craft collective set up to work with independent crafts people, artists and designers of hand-made goods. Based in east London, they have since set up groups in both Brighton and Edinburgh, and are evangelical about helping and supporting crafts people in other towns and cities across the UK.
When approached by Craft NI to help and promote other creatives in setting up events for August Craft Month, there was no way they could turn the invitation down. 'We want to spread the word about Craft Guerilla all over the country,' Batten explains. 'August Craft Month has given us the chance to start the ball rolling in Derry.
'A lot of people would love to get together with a group of people, then sit, craft and share their own techniques and ideas. We’re aiming to give them advice on how to start, where to start and what venues to use.'
It’s interesting to see just how much time and effort the duo have put into their crafts as they prepare for the afternoon’s classes. English pieced patchwork and Dorset buttons are among the various impressively crafted materials on show in the cottage, spread out on a table for all to see, touch and work with.
The buttons are noteworthy considering that the technique for creating them, which has been around since the 1600s, has become more obscure since the button-making machine was invented two centuries later.
It’s clear that clothes like these don’t come cheap, but, as Payne points out, the Guerillas aren’t looking to sell products. 'We want to teach people, through our classes and seminars, how to make these things themselves. To us, it’s a far more sustainable approach than buying a product.'
Payne adds that hand-made objects are lovingly and painstakingly created, and are more durable as a result. 'When you make something with your own hands, you have a stronger emotional connection with it,' Payne says.
On this particular afternoon, Batten teaches patchwork to beginners, while Payne helps attendees understand how to get to grips with crochet.
Batten is hopeful that her class will show people how easy and enjoyable it can be to make something from scratch. 'We want everyone to realize that the skills we learnt during childhood are really handy, and that you don’t have to spend a lot of money on a class to learn a new technique.'
Payne, meanwhile, is hopeful that the people she teaches will not only take away crochet skills but learn about the 'therapeutic' side of craft. 'It’s something, I believe, that they can take away themselves and pass on to everyone else.'
I have a go at crochet myself, but admit that my handy work leaves a lot to be desired. Still, if the urge to create something beautiful and new ever does take a hold, at least I know where to go. Find out more about Craft Guerilla at www.craftguerilla.com.