Craft in Mind

Young people talking about mental health and wellbeing through craft

Deirdre Buckley was at the Second International Youth Mental Health Conference
30th September 2013 – 2nd October 2013 talking about our project.
If you missed the conference, have a look at the  fantastic poster by Maeve Clancy describing the process.

Craft in Mind was a craftivist project that brought together young people aged 14 to 22, who both have and have not had experience of poor mental health to develop their understanding of mental health issues through guerrilla craft activities.

Facebook: Craft-in-mind

What were we interested in?

  • Introducing young people to the ideas that underpin Craftivism (craft + activism) and investigating how this could be used to explore mental health.
  • Exploring how engagement in making processes can help create non– threatening social spaces where conversations can happen and understanding and compassion can build.
  • Using guerrilla craft activities to present positive messages in new and engaging ways.

What did we do?

For 2 days a week during April and May 2013 the group worked with artists renegade potter Carrie Reichardt, comic illustrator and paper cut artist  Maeve Clancy and filmmaker Nicola Paton to explore some of the complex issues and misconceptions which surround mental health.  Young people did this through an active creative approach which included visits to exhibitions and events, making and drawing sessions and guerrilla craft missions.

Young people created a series of interventions at Six Eight Kafe and Irwin Mitchell Solicitors for Mental Health Awareness Week 2013 and delivered a mental health workshop using a craftivist approach to Year 7 pupils at Queensbridge School, Birmingham.

Where did we go?

  • Custard Factory, Digbeth, Birmingham
  • Djanogly Gallery Nottingham
  • Irwin Mitchell Solicitors, Birmingham
  • 6/8 Kafe, Birmingham
  • Quensbridge School Birmingham

What did we achieve?

  • Amazing commitment from young people.  At least 16 attended the project throughout.
  • Young people leading on the interventions at 6/8 Kafe and Irwin Mitchell solicitors and developed and ran the pilot for the schools workshop.
  • Six young people have developed their own portfolios and are soon to submit their arts award.
  • One young person went on to apply for money to develop an independent project around mental health and craft.
  • Increased social skills. All the young people taking part grew in confidence and were more able to explore their own experience.  At the end of the project they talked to camera about the process and how it had benefited them.

What did we learn?

  • By using guerrilla craft and craftivism activities young people were more able to explore difficult issues and ideas.
  • The making process helped them to relax and form friendships through a shared task and a common goal.
  • The act of craftivism was empowering and enabled young people to feel less hopeless about their future.

“I think that this is one of the most exciting and inspirational projects I have had the pleasure to work on. It is clearly demonstrating the power of craft and activism (craftivism) to empower and give a voice to young people. Over the last few weeks I have witnessed a growing sense of achievement and self-worth from all the participants involved on this project. The standard of craft work being made is really amazing and shows the creative talents that young people have that are not being properly utilized. The over whelming message that is coming out is that poverty, lack of opportunities and family stresses are the key factors in creating mental health problems.” Carrie Reichart, Project Artist

“I like coming here. It just works. It is a form of therapy. It got me out of bed this morning.” Natasha, Participant

“We are delighted to sponsor Craft in Mind as it is a pioneering initiative that will make a huge difference to youngsters in Birmingham who struggle with mental health issues or hope to understand what a loved one might be going through. We regularly work with people of all ages who develop mental health illness after falling victim to a serious injury or medical negligence, so we appreciate the need for greater education and communication about the issue.
The project is a pilot for a new way of working in youth mental health and if successful the workshop programme could be rolled out both regionally and nationally to make a huge difference to lives all over the country. Irwin Mitchell is committed to being a socially responsible organisation and encourages its staff to take part in a variety of projects as part of a comprehensive community programme, that includes raising attainment in schools, supporting vulnerable groups and offering pro bono support to those who need it the most.”
Stuart Henderson, Regional Managing Partner of Irwin Mitchell’s Birmingham office

What next?

Craftspace would like to work with young people to develop the youth led pilot workshop for Year 7 pupils using making as a mechanism for exploring difficult issues and ideas.  We are interested in working with young people who might be at risk of self-harm.

Craftspace  are currently developing ideas for a new piece of action research looking at care leavers and craft. We were inspired by young person Vicky Fowler who wanted to bring the worlds of mental health and craft together. We were influenced by Sara Corbett and the Craftivist Collective www.craftivist  who came up with the idea of the mini protest banner

Definition of Craftivism and Guerilla Craft

 What is craftivism?

In the words of two prominent craftivists Betsy Greer and Sarah Corbett.

The quickest explanation of craftivism is “craft + activism = craftivism”.

Craftivism is “a way at looking at life where voicing opinions through creativity makes your voice stronger and your compassion deeper.”

“Craft is our method of campaigning but it is the political and social change that is the most important part. We enjoy craft and creating but we’re passionate about working towards a fairer society for all.”

What is guerilla craft?

In the words of graffiti knitter “Deadly Knitshade”

“The artist creates an item using knitting or crochet (or other craft). They take the item into a public place. They install the piece in that public place. They run away giggling. It’s really as simple as that.”

Working with…

The project was funded by Birmingham City Council and supported by Irwin Mitchell and Youthspace.

Are you interested in working with us?

To discuss this project contact Deirdre Buckley, Learning and Engagement Manager (Monday and Friday),

Where Next?

Making for Change card and small badge with drawn stitch fist logo

Read about our current work with young people.

Find out how to get involved with our activities.