We are Commoners

A Craftspace national touring exhibition

A very long line of people walk along a road carrying a very long knitted white piece of fabric on their shoulders.

Claudia Rodriguez and Ana Joaquina Ramirez, REDES Project Procession (Photo: Metztli Cerda)

Touring exhibition (in development)
Launching at Oriel Davies Gallery, Wales

COVID-19 Update

Exhibition Launch – Oriel Davies Gallery, Newtown, Wales. Opening to the public on Friday 26 March 2021.
Residencies – replanned.
Crafting the Commons Research Network – continuing online.

We have been continuing to support artists with their commissions and liaising with venues to monitor the situation.

The artist’s residency in Balsall Heath Birmingham with Alinah Azadeh, in partnership with MAC, has now moved online into the resource Craft in Common. The residencies in St Helens in partnership with Heart of Glass and Newtown in partnership with Oriel Davies Gallery are underway with artists Kate Hodgson and Hefin Jones.

The Crafting the Commons Research Network is continuing via online connections between participants and blog posts will continue. The group are currently having themed group monthly discussions around Commons subjects, beginning with a presentation by We are Commoners exhibitors. Posts outlining these discussions will be added to the blog.

We are mapping activism, get in touch.
Some tour slots still available for venues.

“The commons means: Things we share/ Places we share/ Systems we share/ Ideas we share/ Culture we share”
Peter Barnes, On the Commons co-founder

Craft can join the campaign to make a powerful commentary on what society stands to gain from acting to protect and reclaim our global commons.

We are currently organising a national touring exhibition and festival on the theme of the commons. Through new commissions  makers can highlight the issues, contribute their thought leadership and participate in a call to action.

The exhibition will highlight acts of ‘commoning’ that are shaping the way communities are working together to share and steward commonly owned assets and resources. It will also investigate craft as a form of commons (through knowledge, materials, practice, heritage).


Loaned works from Ele Carpenter, curator and writer in politicised art and social networks of making; Claudia Rodrìguez  /Ana Joaquina Ramírez transforming social and political concepts into shapes and actions supported and supervised by Rosina Santana Castellón; Pinkie Maclure, a stained glass artist; Fourthland, a collaboration established by artists Isik Sayarer and Eva Knutsdotter; Alice McLean, a jewellery designer/maker and Justine Boussard a curator and creative producer who work together on projects such as Common Ground.

Commissioned works by Amy Twigger-Holroyd, designer, maker, researcher and writer; Deirdre Nelson, textile artist and artist facilitator; visual artist Linda Brothwell initiating a repair movement in the arts; Heidi Hinder an artist with a multi-disciplinary practice often incorporating emerging technology innovations; Blackwater Polytechnic a collaborative with Ben Coode-Adams and Freddie Robins; Jacky Oliver, working mainly in metal to bring together narratives from a range of contemporary and historic sources; Shane Waltener whose practice is rooted in ideas of ecology and reuse of materials; Lise Bjorne Linnert & Gelawesh Waledkhani with practices evolving around social, political and human rights issues; Rachael Colley creating jewellery, objects and sculpture using specific materials highlighting themes around consumption and sustainability.

Three site specific and socially engaged residencies will result in artworks made in response to or co-created with communities: Alinah Azadeh working with communities in Balsall Heath Birmingham in partnership with MAC and St Paul’s Community Development Trust, Kate Hodgson working with young women in St Helens in partnership with Heart of Glass and Hefin Jones working with young people in Newtown in partnership with Oriel Davies Gallery.

Research Network

Crafting the Commons is a Research Network led by Nottingham Trent University in partnership with Craftspace. Artists in the exhibition and academics from a range of disciplines are taking part in workshops, discussions and exchange. It is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Their thoughts from workshops and discussions will feed into a project blog.

Get involved: Mapping Your Activism

We are mapping local and national community based activism taking place around the theme of the commons for a new exhibition. For example, community led allotment activism, social farms and gardens, community building and, but not limited to, community run shops, libraries and parks.

If this is you, please download the form below for more info and to map your project. Please ignore deadline dates, we are still interested in hearing from you.

This research will become part of the touring exhibition in a variety of ways including showcasing three socially engaged residencies where we will match activists with artists.


Venues interested in hiring the exhibition can download the info sheet here.

Why the commons?

We are currently witnessing the increasing privatisation of publicly owned assets in the UK. Many areas are experiencing the erosion of local common resources (e.g. parks and

Some countercultural movements that have emerged in recent decades have begun to challenge corporate forms of enclosure. They champion the sharing economy, peer to peer economy, open source and social charters to reclaim the commons.

In ‘Mapping the New Commons’ Charlotte Hess suggests that divergent disciplines, political interests, and geographical regions are increasingly finding the term ‘commons’ crucial in addressing issues of social dilemmas, degradation, and sustainability of a wide variety of shared resources.

Historian Peter Linebaugh has popularised the term ‘commoning’ which in modern times is about activating the power of social cooperation to get things done. We are currently organising a national touring exhibition and festival on the theme of the commons through the lens of craft and making.

Commons leader Julie Ristau describes how “the act of commoning draws on a network of relationships made under the expectation that we will each take care of one another and with a shared understanding that some things belong to all of us. The practice of commoning demonstrates a shift in thinking from the prevailing ethic of “you’re on your own” to “we’re in this together.”

Further reading

If you’re interested in being part of this project or just want to find out more here are some links you may find useful:

Types of commons Useful intro, plus good short video introduction to knowledge commons.
Commons Thinking by Justin Kenrick
Article by Leila Dawney: Commoning and the production of common worlds
Article by Max Haiven: Creativity and the Commons
Article by Amy Twigger Holroyd: Why it’s important to be open


Where Next

Embroidered Digital Commons

Join artist Ele Carpenter online to create a collective artwork.

a row of 7 handmade fabric medals using various patterns and colours

Craft in Common

Craft in Common is a series of five creative online workshops with artist Alinah Azadeh.

the artist, Alinah Azedeh

Achates Philanthropy Prize

Craftspace in a place as part of the National Showcase.

The drag artist holds a bright fabric 'medal'.

Craft in Common for Black History Month 2020

We invited four early-career Black artists and one drag queen to make courage medals for a Black person they admire.


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