Category: Story

Skillstourism — how this Australian couple is striving to put Mysore on the craft map of the world

Jubin Mehta posted on 26th September 2016

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“We’re not here to take over the world or create some dent in the universe,” Varis Lux tells me over a phone call we got on to discuss Slow Tech and his explorations with Skillstourism. An ex-navy personnel, Varis has travelled the world and had come to India as a traveller many years ago, marking the beginning of his fascination with the crafts that exist in the country.

Time flowed and a lot of water passed under the bridge. The navy takes a toll on the human body and mind, whichever country you represent. Varis moved on from the navy and there was a period of unemployment when he and his wife Catherine started thinking about life and the things they could do in the future. The idea of working with the body and nurturing the innate human desire of creating something with the hands resonated with them, planting the seed for Skillstourism.

Catherine’s longtime experience as a travel agent and her understanding of hospitality management helped the couple merge their skill sets to build the initiative. “Our combined dream is to provide an escape plan that is reproducible by happy dreamers everywhere, people wanting to leave their gridlocked lives behind and proceed towards their full potential as human beings, citizens of the planet, and in sync with their inner creator,” believe the duo. They say that one of the ways to make this happen is to start by making something with your hands and then make it a livelihood.

Tryst with India

“I started dreaming about a sort of skills training boot camp, where anybody could get away from it all and just for a short time have a break and concentrate on learning a skill — a holiday, actually,” says Varis. Accordingly, he came up with the motto Travel * Learn * Create. Meanwhile, Catherine was diligently working away as a travel agent, witnessing the rise of adventure tourism and the explosion of all kinds of niche holidays.

“People were asking for things like helping out in an elephant orphanage in Thailand, or travelling overland in home-stays in Mongolia. People wanted to have more connected, immersive, and conscious holidays. They were not satisfied just with sightseeing and taking photos; they wanted to become involved with their head and their heart,” says Catherine. This hunt led them to India in 2013 and here, they saw people making stuff on a daily basis. So much handwork was going on! “We were overwhelmed by the multitude of sincere and humble people taking pride in making things from the simplest bucket to the most ornate puja-mantap,” says Varis. This was when the realisation that this was the India they want to show their Western friends dawned upon them…

Another thrilling discovery was that upcycling is a part of life in India. “We saw that old oil cans were flattened and made into steel trunks, rebar was being made into horseshoes, waste wood was being cut into slivers and shapes and formed into beautiful paintings. So many people back home are interested in how to practically reduce consumption,” says Varis. The duo saw great opportunities in India and zeroed in on Mysore as their base owing to its rich heritage and good weather.

Skills + tourism = a more fulfilling holiday

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“All we have to do is connect the traveller with the artisan, and learning with leisure. The big thing was that this was something more than any instructable video on the net could deliver — this was real training in a real workshop, holding real tools, with a real instructor,” says Varis about their initiative.Be it yoga, cooking, metalworking, textiles or anything else, the duo started designing eight, 12, and 24-day packages of daily crafts in the morning and activities in the afternoons or evenings. Weekends would be free to do some sightseeing further afield or just relax.

Registered in Australia and in the process of formally setting up shop in India as well, Skillstourism has been operating since early 2016. Their philosophy is that creativity is the essence of being human. Everything falls into place when we are making beautiful things for the pleasure of others or our own selves, or practical things that help others, or even playful things to amuse others. This helps us to become balanced, personally as well as on a community level. In terms of the traction, the initiative is only picking up and travellers are coming onboard to see what Skillstourism has to offer.

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An outside perspective

Skillstourism is an interesting play on how the world of automation is shaping up. The world of manufacturing and other sectors as well are quickly moving towards centralisation. In a future where most things will be automated, what will humans do? For the core of humankind, work on the self is very important and initiatives like Skillstourism are thinking on these lines.

When we speak of India as a whole, an automated world seems like a distant possibility as even basic needs are not being taken care of. Cities are crumbling under the weight of urbanisation but capitalistic pressures still force India to move to make smarter cities instead of smarter villages. Amidst all the euphoria of ‘development’ in the traditional sense, it is good to have alternative voices.

As of now, there are a lot of foreigners from western countries coming to India to set up conscious initiatives, which is understandable considering they have seen the effects of rapid capitalism. A lot of Indians are also realising the flipside and are moving in a more conscious direction where we keep a check on growth at all times. Skillstourism is one of the representatives of this conscious voice which points towards taking things slow and being conscious of our actions.

Best Things to Do in Mysore

 

Mysore in Southern India stole a little piece of our hearts and sucked us into staying there an entire month. It’s not necessarily that there are so many places to see in Mysore but the relaxed vibes, amazing food and culture of this city that make you feel like you’re at home and discovering vibrant, new cultures all at the same time.

Mysore is famous for silk and sandalwood but there are many more exciting things to do in Mysore than avoiding the tourist scams at the silk markets. From the stunning Mysore Palace to creating crafts with local artisans you’ll want to spend weeks eating, discovering and exploring your way through Mysore.

But in case you only have a couple of days, here are the best things to do in Mysore during your visit

1.See the Mysore Palace

 Mysore Palace Karnataka, best things to see in Mysore

The is the reason most tourists visit Mysore and it’s one attraction that is truly deserving of its fame. The Mysore Palace was built in 1912 and for just 50 INR you can enjoy feeling like royalty and you wander through the ornately decorated halls and corridors. The palace is definitely one of the best places to visit in Mysore and should be top of you Mysore attractions list!

Opening times: 10.30 – 5:30pm

Cost: 50 INR plus 285 INR (foreigners) for the residential quarters. We didn’t do this part.

2. See the Mysore Palace by night

 Mysore Palace at night best things to see in Mysore Karnataka
Ok technically this is the same attraction as number one but it ‘s a whole different experience. Every Sunday evening from 7pm Mysore Palace is illuminated by nearly 100,000 lightbulbs creating a spectacularly magical feel. Join the crowds of tourists and locals to wander the grounds of the palace and see it in a new light… literally. Be there on time because the illumination only lasts about half an hour.

3. Visit the Markets

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The markets in Mysore lack a lot of the hustle and bustle of other Indian cities but this makes them a pleasant place to wander and look without being crushed in a throng of people. Deveraja market is popular for fruit/veg, spices and oils. The area nearby has a huge collection of silk shops but beware of tourist scams. Mandi market is also interesting to wander with flowers, fruit and some handicrafts. If you feel like going somewhere a little crazy have a look for the metal market which sells the most impressive array of used car parts, old gates, doors and metal poles.

 

4. Take a tour of the local artisans

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Mysore is known for its local artisans who specialise in everything from woodwork and marquetry to copper work and embroidery. Skillstourism offer a brilliant tour where you can see all the artisans at work and learn about their crafts. Watch the intricacy of a scene being created from tiny wooden pieces in the marquetry workshop or gaze in awe at the hundreds of hand-carved wooden blocks used for printing saris on the 16ft long table. What seems like an ordinary neighbourhood comes alive as you go behind the scenes and see the locals at work. If you’re into art or local life and are looking for some different places to see in Mysore this is definitely worth doing. You can read more details on the Skillstourism website.

 

5. Learn a craft

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If the artisans inspire you, Skillstourism also offer tailor-made workshops run by the local artisans. In a one-day workshop, you can block print your own fabric or learn the basics of jewellery making. If you have 2-3 days you can get stuck into stone carving, marquetry (wooden inlay work) or metal work and create your own piece of art to take home. The courses are professionally and personally run and offer something different to the usual tourist attractions. Max and I chose our own fabric and paint colours, block printed our own designs and then had it tailor-made into clothing. It was such a fun and rewarding experience!

The cost for hand-woven cotton, a day’s craft workshop for two including test cloth and tote bags to print and tailoring of 3 shirts and a dress (plus zip pouches made from leftovers)? €80

The feeling of wearing clothing we’ve printed and designed ourselves? Priceless!

Learn more about the craft workshops here.

 

6.  Have dinner in a Palace

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There are no less than seven palaces in Mysore so the feeling of royalty kind of rubs off. So don your best clothing, or dig your least dirty item out of the backpack and head to the Lalith Mahal Palace Restaurant for dinner. The dining room will make you feel like a king or queen for the evening and the food and service are great. Meals are more expensive than restaurants in town but still not ridiculous at about 350-450 INR per dish.

If you’re feeling extra fancy you can even book a room. But make sure you do so in advance as it is often booked out for weddings and formal visits. Click hereto check it out.

 

7. Wander the streets

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Of all the things to see in Mysore, the streets are the most interesting. As with everywhere in India, the local life, buildings and food are more mind-blowing than any tourist attraction. Meandering through the lanes of Mysore you’ll see all kinds of daily life, excited children, grandmas having tea, cows, colourful washing, tiny shops, houses fashioned in the remains of abandoned colonial buildings and all kinds of food being prepared and enjoyed. So spend some time getting lost and discovering a different side of Mysore.

8. Do Yoga

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Yoga is one of the most popular things to do in Mysore as world famous gurus reside and teach in the ashrams here during December and January. Even in the off-season when the Mysore weather heats up you can still find some drop in classes and teacher training courses. Gokulam is the yoga centre of Mysore so if you plan to yoga regularly then base yourself here.

9. Stay in a Mansion

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If you can’t afford to stay in a palace you will be able to afford to stay in a converted colonial mansion which is almost as cool. The Green Hotel has a range of private rooms, beautifully manicured gardens, a good restaurant and a café run by women from underprivileged backgrounds who have been trained by a French baker.  Delicious cakes, relaxed surroundings and there’s even a small library. Check out prices here.

For the more budget conscious check yourself in to one of the only hostels in Mysore, The Mansion 1907. This beautiful historic building houses several dorm rooms and a couple of spacious private rooms. There is free rooftop yoga in the mornings, amazing wall murals and a huge comfortable common area for hanging out. We made our home here for 4 weeks during our trip to India. Go there and you’ll see why. Book now.

 

10. Take a Cycle Tour

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Continuing our discoveries of more off-beat areas of Mysore we learnt about Mycycle Tours. Stephen runs really interesting bike tours around the beautiful island of Srirangapatnam about 12km from Mysore.  Over the course of 3-4 hours you’ll learn about the history of the area and get to soak in some amazing scenes of rural life. Make sure you bring a camera and some sunscreen!

 

 

11. Eat Masala Dosa

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The dosas in Mysore are some of the best in the country and a trip to Mysore wouldn’t be complete without indulging at least once a day. For anyone unfamiliar with this edible glory a dosa is a large, crispy pancake filled with various things. A masala dosa comes filled with a potato, onion and spice mix. Hotel Mylari is famed as being THE place to enjoy a dosa. We were staying a few minutes from here and while their dosas are good, we far preferred others on the same street which were crispier and tastier, but everyone has their own dosa preference!

 

Best restaurants in Mysore

If you’re looking for some more places to eat check out any of these for great food and decent prices.

Di Lemon – Great range of North and South Indian cuisine at really reasonable prices.

Parklane Hotel – Decent North and South Indian food and beer towers!

The Old House – Woodfire pizza for when you need a break from Indian food. A little more expensive but well worth it.

Om Shanti – Amazing North and South Indian thalis and a cold stone ice cream stand outside.

Hotel Guru – Authentic local thalis for just 50 INR. Absolutely delicious!

 

12. Drink real coffee

coffee mysore

Mysore is one of the few places in India where you can find real barista coffee. The mountain areas around Mysore are home to thousands of coffee plantations and the established yoga community means there is a good market for proper coffee.

Best cafes in Mysore

Depth ‘n’ Green – They have a full café with great food and an espresso bar for when you just need a caffeine fix.

Rasa Dhatu – Great range of organic food including vegan options. Organic supermarket attached.

Khushi Cafe – Service with a smile. Simple but delicious food, you can even earn your meal by volunteering for a couple of hours.

The Green Hotel – Social project cafe in an old colonial mansion. Beautiful gardens and great cake.

There are so many things to see in Mysore and the relaxed atmosphere of the city draws travellers in and a couple of days quickly turn into a couple of weeks here. So make sure you leave some time in your India to fall in love with Mysore and all it has to offer!

This post contains affiliate links. If you buy something through one of those links we will make a small commission. Thanks for the support! 

Exploring Traditional Skills in Mysore Part 1 – making flower garlands | Multimodal Me

My first trip to India, some 30 years ago, was a backpacking experience: three months that began with a few weeks on a houseboat in Kashmir, several bus trips across the north east to Manali, Dharamshala and Macleod Ganj, time in Delhi before a train trip to Nepal to trek the Annapurnas, returning for the Taj in Agra and a visit to Pushkar via Jaipur. Exciting and exasperating, India is a place of mystery and magic.

This time I spent an immersive two weeks in Karnataka: primarily in Mysore, but also visiting Hampi and Bangalore with Skillstourism, to learn traditional crafts. My main focus was block printing fabric, but I also took flower garland making and basket weaving lessons. Whilst the holiday and total tourist experience far exceeded my expectations, this post (first in a series of three) will focus on my time as a student and reflect on the different learning strategies used by my teachers.

My first Mysore morning began with a crisp red apple and cup of tea on a balcony of the Metropole. I watched a small squirrel scurry across tree limbs as the traffic horn chorus began. Later, Catherine, principal and host of Skilltourism, introduced our driver and we stopped to purchase flowers from a street stall on our way to the garlanding class.

I chose blooms for their colour and size, not understanding the process to be undertaken. ‘Be ready’ is an important strategy at Moss Vale High to prepare students for learning – this may involve a verbal link to previous lessons, sharing a model, and an outline of learning intentions.

We arrived at our teacher’s home, and Saraswati completed preparations for the lesson – woven floor mates, cushions, a small bowl of water, reels of cotton thread and flower scrutiny. Separate piles were made and some head shaking occurred: with limited English, we communicated through hand gestures and facial expressions, with an occasional translation from her busy daughter who was also staffing their clothing shop attached to the side of the house. Saraswati gestured for us to sit, and then her position opposing us.

I focused intently on her demonstration, and copied her movements by lining up flowers in my left palm, wetting thumb and forefinger of my right hand before dampening cotton then twisting and looping knots. It all seemed achievable, although tension became the key element that would hold the garland together.

It took many, many tries before I realised that Saraswati’s actions needed to be reversed, and I giggled. I recalled my adult tap dancing lessons where the instructor showed each step slowly, but also while facing us. It is much more difficult to learn a practical skill that is being demonstrated in this manner. This made me more cognisant of my own teaching practice: I demonstrate writing on the whiteboard (back to class) and begin on the left side and write to the right – as I expect students to copy. Moving among students and giving praise and suggestions also builds confidence.

Even with an improving practice, it became obvious that this method of garlanding is quite time consuming, so we switched to the use of needles that quickly progressed the length of garland achieved.

Saraswati also demonstrated another method,

and I stretched out my left leg and looped cotton around my big toe. 

Although I felt quite confident in the skill I was developing, the burgeoning garland fell apart once tension was released. Another hilarious moment. Obviously, much practice was needed, and Saraswati made it clear that she had learned this skill as a young child from her mother, and continued developing her abilities over many years.

My challenge as a teacher is to encourage and remind students that when writing, a first draft is not an end product, but rather a first step that requires practice and revision to be crafted into a satisfying final version.

 Exploring Traditional Skills in Mysore – Part 2 block printing fabric | Multimodal Me

The main focus during my Curious Artisan Tour with Skillstourism was fabric printing using traditional methods and wood blocks. I planned on spending four of my seven days on this activity, but through the skill and assistance of Ravitej who mixed colours, Khan who demonstrated the process and gave thoughtful advice on patterns, and Varsha who prepared delicious snacks and lunch on the first day, I actually finished a day early and chose to spend a rest day by the hotel pool.

I prepared for these workshops by purchasing and pre-washing fabrics in Australia, though I later found the Skilltourism personal shopping trips made fabric buying a delight. I also took two sewing patterns so I could print borders for specific dresses. This was an interesting process for Khan and Kanchana, who owned the studio space and operated a tailoring business nearby. It was a delight to discuss sewing with her, and I was fortunate to visit her workshops where traditional embroidery was being sewn on simple Singer machines, and watch the process of creating beautiful embroidered buttons being made.

Each day, I was met at my hotel by Catherine and our trusty auto-driver, Srinivas, at 9.30 to head toward the workshop. Sometimes we travelled directly, sometimes there were errands to run on the way and this added to my enjoyment of Mysore and the daily workings of this vibrant city. Arriving in an integrated suburb of Muslims and Hindus, we usually parked behind the painted pink police station and greeted locals who are often doing chores – sweeping and washing – on their doorsteps. The workshop itself was two large rooms, accessed up a set of narrow stairs. The Indian-style toilet was located downstairs, past a small room where Fairoz worked with dyes and bolts of fabric.

I shared my fabric printing experience with Karla, a fellow Australian, and Catherine was initially on hand to introduce us to our teachers and facilitate our understanding of the process and practice. This made the workshops fun as we discussed block choices and colours, each making selections for our first attempts at printing. Later in the week, I worked alone with Khan and Ravitej.

As a learning process, my teachers had varying levels of English, but made their instructions clear through demonstrations and simple phrases. Ravitej spoke English well, as did Kanchana and Varsha, but Khan made himself easily understood with words such as ‘push’, ‘here’ as he pointed and simple praises ‘good’ and expressions such as ‘ah’.

After mastering the basic technique of applying paint to a block and pressing, we moved onto the trick of printing around corners. It proved to be an easy method of printing over newspaper folded into a triangle.

We set about learning how to stretch and pin fabric onto the large padded table before printing on practice cloths, then moved to stamping tote bags and later decorated scarf length fabric – all supplied by Skilltourism. This means anyone attending even a one day workshop could complete and take home finished articles.

Next, I worked on a borders for a length of fabric to make into a simple princess line dress.

My next project was to trace patterns pieces onto stretched black cotton/linen fabric

before printing a border on the skirt, sleeves and collar

For my final project, a reversible wrap-around dress, I spent an enjoyable afternoon searching for lining fabric. This gave me the colour pallet to compliment my navy cotton. With colours mixed to match, and after tracing the pattern pieces, I again printed borders using an upturned cup as a spacer. 

Without realising, I had chosen leaf blocks to match the lining fabric that were ‘doubles’. This meant I could overprint the first colour with a contrast. This was, I thought, a next-level skill, but Khan assured me it was easy enough to master. I’m so pleased I took his advice! He also suggested the quicker method of transferring the pattern pieces by simply chalking a dashed line – quick and effective.

After drying, the fabrics were ready to fold neatly and pack away in my luggage. Back at home, it was a simple process to iron the printed fabrics, wash and re-iron to cut out each piece and sew my frocks. 

I am very pleased with the finished garments, and have received many compliments. On my next trip, I plan to purchase locally produced khadi cotton fabric and create different outfits.

Usually, when we talk about tourism and taking vacations, people imagine idyllic destinations, luxurious conditions, and a lot of sitting around, doing nothing. Such is the profile of the typical tourist; they want to escape their familiar environment to go to a sunny island where they can be lazy and indulge themselves, and they are willing to pay a pretty penny for the experience. But however appealing that may sound, is it really that satisfying? Sure, it’s completely relaxing, but it’s also mind-numbing; you don’t come out with anything after this experience. You haven’t learned anything, you have not become a better person, you haven’t taken anything of value away from it.

To counteract the “lazy” tourism of rich people who travel to faraway lands only to hang out at the resort for the entire time, there is a new type of tourism that has emerged – a practical, valuable kind of experience known as skillstourism. The term was coined by a couple of Australian bloggers who came up with the concept and turned it into a business. Travel*Learn*Create is their motto and they were able to combine the artisan with the traveller. That sort of adventure allows people to visit fascinating places and immerse themselves in those cultures. It gives you the opportunity to escape your status as an outsider and step inside a new culture and live like a local. And how do you do that? You essentially become an apprentice, and you learn a new skill from a local. It’s a win-win-win: you get to see a new place, you learn about it first hand, and you acquire a new skill.

What can you learn and where?

Dancing in Cuba – South American lands is where you go for dancing. Spain, Brazil, Argentina, and yes – Cuba are all well-known for the sensual, elegant art of dancing. No one here has two left feet, and Cuba provides a fascinating look into a culture that does everything on musical rhythms. For all people say about Cuba is that they are truly unique in the world in that they always have the “buen humor” to dance. Learn how to move your body to the music that flows through you.

Cooking in Italy – If we’re talking about culinary artistry, we can’t ignore Italy. By far the country most well-known in Europe for its food culture, Italy offers a lot of opportunities for culinary tourism. This beautiful country is so much more than pasta and pizza, so if you are interested in learning how to make real food that is organic, delicious, and hearty, Italy is your next stop. In addition, you also have the chance to discover the world’s most famous wines and wineries while you learn from a local how to make tasty dishes.

Silversmithing in Vietnam – Working with silver is difficult, but it’s a valuable trade that is usually passed on from generation to generation, and it is no different in Vietnam. Learn this practical, but beautiful skill from a local with years of experience,while also taking this opportunity to live like a Vietnamese. Enjoy the food, the sights, and the incredible things you can learn.

Textiles in Morocco – Surely you are familiar with the Medina of Fes, Morocco. A gigantic marketplace that is complicated with winding paths and thousands upon thousands of vendors, this is the perfect place to observe the incredible diversity of fabrics, textiles, clothes, veils, carpets, etc. The colors and the craftsmanship are exquisite, and most of these pieces are dyed and made by hand. All the textiles are colored with natural dyes and left to dry in the sun, and the intricate beadwork of a beautiful dress or veil are also marks of unique talent. If you’re looking to learn how the process works, this is the place to do it.

Blacksmithing in the United States of America – You may think that this seemingly medieval practice is all gone. However, it’s not only still around, but you can also actually learn how to do it right in the States. Technical institutions provide some well-equipped workshops where you can pick up on the tricks of the trade and practice your blacksmithing skills. Whether you want to fashion yourself a mighty sword, or just see what your hands are capable of with a hammer, an anvil, and a piece of hot metal, blacksmithing is a fascinating skill to acquire.

Sculpture in Africa – Some of the most impressive sculptures in the world hail from Africa and a lot of tourists bring them home to decorate their homes and remember their incredible experience in Africa. But what if you could actually learn how to make them? What if wood carving were a skill you could acquire while visiting Africa in the meanwhile? Africa is so rich in culture, and its sculptures are truly unique. It’s amazing what can be achieved from a simple piece of wood with the talent and artistry of a master.

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Mysore painting in South India – One of the most beautiful and unique forms of art is Mysore painting, which is practiced in South India. Thus, to learn the techniques, you need to travel right to the source and become the temporary apprentice of an Indian artist. Learn the significance behind the paintings, their history, and the methods for obtaining vivid colors and combining them to create beautiful, impressive pieces of mural art with gold leaf. You also have the opportunity to explore the breathtaking beauty of India, in all of its visual, olfactory, and auditory glory. You won’t be disappointed by this trip.

All in all, skillstourism is becoming an incredibly popular way of exploring a new part of the world and really experiencing a new culture. If you’ve ever wanted to master a trade, craft or skill from a foreign country, this is your chance to learn directly from the original and talented artists and craftsmen.

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The suffix -ism might only be three letters, but it’s a powerful little one. It can totally change the meaning of a word. Add it to social and you have socialism, while feminine becomes feminism. When you add it to the mix of craft and active, you create craftivism: a form of activism carried out through the practice of craft. And yes it’s a thing! It’s a worldwide movement based on creativity and altruism (another -ism).

Betsy Greer, author of Craftivism: The Art of Craft and Activism, is considered by many to be the godmother of craftivism and she succinctly defines it as: “a way of looking at life where voicing opinions through creativity makes your voice stronger, your compassion deeper & your quest for justice more infinite.” [source]

Craftivism has also been covered academically. The Craftivism Manifesto 2014 was published by Kirsty Robertson, Associate Professor of Contemporary Art & Museum Studies, University of Western Ontario. It’s a series of essays covering the work, the history, the criticisms and the practices of craftivism.

“If we take control of production, we are taking that power back. This is a path for those of us who would nonviolently change society: change its commodities, its understanding of production, of distribution and exchange. Even the way we relate to things personally.” [From the Craftivism Manifesto 2014, Artist Statement, Common Goods, Travis Joseph Meinolf]

Bringing it to the masses, the V&A Museum in London held a 6-month exhibition, ‘Disobedient Objects’ in 2014. The focus was on grassroots movements and how they can affect social change. It was the first exhibition of its kind and displayed a wide-range of subversive works. The exhibition raised many societal issues and challenges, bringing awareness to the activism behind the exbitits.

Carrie Reichardt, a self-professed extreme craftivist, was one of the artists whose work was featured. The Tiki Love Truck was a piece dedicated to the memory of a death-row inmate. For the past 15 years, she has been using screen printing, mural and mosaic techniques to create intricate, highly politicised works of art. In addition to requests for her art installations, Carrie is often asked called upon to speak about the subject of art and craft as a form of protest.

Not all craftivist works involve extreme activism. London-base craftivist, Sarah Corbett, is a great example of one person who started small and is now enacting positive global change with her craft projects. Sarah was a discouraged and exhausted activist who was doubting her effectiveness. She was searching for a way to keep her passion alive and to fight for the change she wished to see in the world. After she discovered cross-stitching, Sarah found craftivism which she describes as slow and gentle activism where you start people thinking by involving their hands, heart and head. Sarah founded the Craftivist Collective in 2009 and now has a global following in the thousands.

At this point you may be wondering how you can change the world by practising a craft. Craftivism can start with one person at a time. It doesn’t have to be extreme. It can be as simple as you using your handcrafting skills for the greater good by starting an art or craft project in your local community, which might then spread to other communities throughout the world. Or if you‘d like to become involved with a ready-made project, take a look at the those that Betsy Greer at Craftivism and Sarah Corbett at the Craftivist Collective have happening at the moment.

A delightful one-man project that put the individual artisan firmly in the spotlight is Nick Hand’s Slowcoast. In 2009 this graphic designer decided to take the slow road and cycle around the British coast. Along the way he stopped to meet, record and post his conversations with local artisans. He followed this up in 2010 with a similar trip around the Irish coast. His collection of over 100 Soundslides document the making of useful and aesthetic objects that uplift people through their functionality and beauty. In the age of fast, it’s a celebration of slow. During the talk Nick gave at Do Lectures Wales in 2011, he talks about why we need to celebrate craftsmen and how we need to keep these skills alive.

An example of a grassroots movement that went global is yarn bombing. Aesthetically pleasing, it’s been used to brighten many a drab urban area. It makes a statement and is community driven. And it’s a project that has captured the imagination of knitters worldwide. Likewise knitting for charity projects have had great uptake worldwide.

Knitting is just one of many arts and crafts. Look around the world and you’ll see signs of a handmade revolution beginning. There’s a movement away from items mass production by big corporations to aesthetic works produced by artisans and traditional crafters.

From a humble start in 2003, Etsy has grown to be the world’s largest e-commerce platform for direct sales of handmade goods. Sales have risen dramatically since the early days with total sales in 2015 reaching over 2 billion USD. This would indicate that consumers have a strong interest in and appreciation for handcrafted products.

In 2012, BBC 2 produced and aired a 10-part series, Paul Martin’s Handmade Revolution. The aim was to put the British back in touch with their strong craft traditions. The crew travelled around the country to visit the various artisans featured in each episode. Pottery, weaving, silversmith, sculpting, master cutlers (scissor makers), and glass blowing were just some of the crafts portrayed. The show stimulated a lot of interest in the process of making products by hand and the show’s free Arts and Craft Handbook is still available to download.

In the States, the former motor city, Detroit, has long been a city in decline. Shinola is one Detroit-based business helping to buck that tread. Founded in 2011, the company’s tagline is: We’re building a tradition one thoughtfully crafted product at a time. The high-quality, handcrafted products – watches, bicycles, leather goods and journals – are made to last.

“We’re building a tradition one thoughtfully crafted product at a time.” – Shinola Detroit

Connecting the creative traveller with local artisans is Skillstourism (and there we go again, one more -ism!). They’re a niche tourism operator who believe in urban self-sufficiency, and creating a positive economic alternative through craftsmanship. Their tours offer an ideal way to combine your day job with learning a desired new skill. You’ll travel to exotic locations to learn handicrafts from traditional masters of the trade: wood, stone, metal, fabric, paint, music, dance, whatever takes your fancy.

And if your tastes veer more towards obtaining modern-day technical skills, Skillstourism has this area covered too. For the Maker / Inventor, they have tours which take place in Bangalore, the IT capital of  India, and offer you the chance to learn how to make a 3D printer, or a 60 cm quadcopter. Or maybe you’ve always wanted to learn to code? That’s an option as well.

Whatever you decide to do, it’s a vacation that promises to transform not only your life, but the life of the person passing on their skills. It’s a contribution to sustainable tourism and how you can tip your toe in the craftivism waters to start making a difference.

So what skill will you choose to craft a new future?

Written by Angela Eldering at A Scribing Hand ( www.scribinghand.com).