Young people talking about mental health and well-being through craft
A partnership between Craftspace and Birmingham City Council
Mini protest banner made by participants (Photo: Maeve Clancy)
“I like coming here. It just works. It is a form of therapy. It got me out of bed this morning.’ – Young person participating in the project
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.
With this project we aimed to:
- Introduce young people to the ideas that underpin ‘Craftivism’ (craft + activism) and investigating how this could be used to explore mental health.
- Explore how engagement in making can help create non-threatening social spaces where conversations can happen and where understanding and compassion can build.
- Use ‘guerrilla craft’ activities to present positive messages in new and engaging ways.
What is craftivism?
“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 Guerrilla 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.”
Over the months of April and May 2013, the group worked 2 days a week with artists Carrie Reichardt, a renegade potter, Maeve Clancy, a comic illustrator and paper cut artist, and Nicola Paton, a filmmaker. They explored some of the complex issues and misconceptions which surround mental health, doing this through an active creative approach which included visits to exhibitions and events, making and drawing sessions, and guerrilla craft missions.
The group created a series of interventions at 6/8 Kafe and at Irwin Mitchell Solicitors for Mental Health Awareness Week, and lead a mental health workshop using a craftivist approach to Year 7 pupils at Queensbridge School in Birmingham.
Overall the project was successful and increased the confidence of all the young people involved:
- There was an amazing commitment from young people, with at least 16 who attended the project throughout.
- Following this project, six participants went on to develop their own portfolios and submitted their arts award, and one participant went on to apply for funding to develop an independent project around mental health and craft.
- By using guerrilla craft and craftivism, all the young people who took part grew in confidence and were more able to explore and talk about their experience. The form was indeed empowering and enabled them to feel less hopeless about their future. The making process also helped them to relax and form friendships through a shared talk and a common goal.
Finally, artist Carrie Reichardt recorded her own experience of the project:
‘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 overwhelming message that is coming out is that poverty, lack of opportunities and family stresses are the key factors in creating mental health problems.’
The project was funded by Birmingham City Council and supported by Irwin Mitchell and Youthspace.