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Solidarity stitching and a jar full of hope

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 An inner-city meadow, a three piece band, jam sandwiches, a strawberry patch,  fifty stitchers, a barn of animals and my little toddler rampaging around.  It was a weird wee scene; both very local (I’m sorry, but East London is crazy. Everyone wears such silly clothes but I KNOW they are clothes that we will all be wearing in two years time. *gah* Those hipsters) and hugely global.

We were crafting up lids to fit on to jam jars, jars that would eventually be filled with a scrumptious tomato jam – based on a recipe from a Kenyan farmer, Christine.

In a way Christine is your typical farmer – but what makes her typical is pretty surprising. She is a woman, for starters (women are responsible for most of the world’s food production). And she also doesn’t have quite enough food to eat (small scale farmers like Christine make up 50% of the undernourished and women make up 80% of the world’s poorest.)

 But Christine’s jam oozes with bold, sticky hope.

A few years ago Christine was destitute, her husband had died of Aids and with no rights or access to power, Christine and her two kids were reliant on the kindness of strangers. Now, however, she chairs a small female cooperative group who grow tomatoes (one of those mega crops that is resilient to livelihood upheavaling drought) and they make this jam to sell at the market. The jam is BEYOND delectable and is a right old hit with the customers.

That is quite a story for one little jar to contain, don’t you reckon?

A jar of hope

I guess it was in an act of solidarity that we came together in one of London’s city farms to eat said jam on sandwiches, and to let our creative juices pour out over needle and thread.  We talked about hunger, the parts of our global food system that are utterly broken, the ways people can do something, who we were going to give our jar of jam to.

Stitching my first jam lid. I had to unpick it as it was properly ugly

We have masses of tomato plants in the garden and I can’t wait for the glut to hit *probably announced a bit to hopefully* –  I am going to fill my little jar up, pop my stitched up lid on and give it to my MP, Harriet Harman.  I will ask her to stand up on behalf of small-scale farmers like Christine, to fight the powerful tentacles of huge food corporations, and to promote local food systems in our urban village of Camberwell.

Freedom from hunger. (Bit rubbish eh, but you can understand how bad my first one was if I kept this one!)

Needless to say, Sunday was probably my ideal kind of day. Dreaming together of a future where everyone has enough to eat, crafting up world changey messages and letting Ramona frolick with the farm beasts (check out this little video of her encountering a rooster) combined all the things I love.

And I think it is here,  taking what you love and doing it for a more beautiful world, where change lies.  Hope doesn’t thrive when limited to certain behaviours,  and activists fizzle out after the one millionth petition signature. But if people can marry the thing that gives them energy – be it sewing, blogging, gardening, writing poetry, being a hipster-  with their passion for justice and fairness, change will come.

Solidarity Jam:

 Makes 6 jars

 Ingredients:

● 5 cups peeled and quartered tomatoes.

● Strips of the tomato skin

● 5 cups of sugar

● 1 lemon, sliced thinly and seeded

● 2 tablespoons butter

Method

Put tomatoes, sugar and sliced lemon in large, heavy pot and bring to slow boil over medium high heat, stirring occasionally. When foam rises to surface, add butter and continue stirring and simmering until preserves thicken, about 45 minutes. (To test, stick a fork in. When preserves cling to tines of fork, it should be thick enough to can). Pour preserves into sterilized jars, seal and process in hot water bath for 15 minutes.

This is your world. Shape it, or someone else will! 

Read about Oxfam’s GROW campaign and join the movement of people who share a vision of EVERYONE thriving and NOT A SOUL going hungry

It isn’t too late to join in. Perhaps you want to host your own lid stich-in and get solidarity jam making in autumn?

To get the full low-down on this beautiful project have a peep at Craftivist Collective founder (and the wonderful person I job share with here at Oxfam) Sarah, explain it in this AMAZE vid:

Have you found a way to do the thing you love for good?

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Power of Making: making makes you…

Once I sewed a weird but cute looking stuffed monster for a friend’s new born baby. As I tucked it into the envelope something pricked my finger. I had left the needle in the toy. A cuddley toy. For a NEW BORN BABY. The needle.  The things I make have charm but otherwise fail on so many levels. Yet I continue to make stuff. “Why do it, baby harmer???!”  I hear you cry. It is because I think crafting is important.

The value of craft has been given loads of air time lately – the upcoming “Power of Making” exhibition at the V and A has inspired the Craft debate at the British Museum and a brilliant article by craftivist Sarah Corbett. There is shed loads of evidence to suggest that craft has the power to challenge social injustice in an imaginative and beautiful way.

It is a topic I LOVE.  In fact just a few months ago some friends and I launched “the Make Collective” –  a group of people who make stuff together as a way to build community and explore spirituality. It is a pretty exciting time for us.

I love stories of how cross stitch has played a part in significant global campaigns, and how making your own clothes quietly subverts our damaging consumer society.

For me though, a massive and unexplored part of the “power of making” is it’s impact on the person who is doing the making. Creating (be it writing a poem, pouring paint on canvas, building an ark) puts people in touch with their soul.  When we create we reveal an often hidden part of ourselves, a side that is quite primitive the part of us that can’t fail to be overawed by a night sky jampacked with blazing stars. (As a person of faith I reckon this is because when we make stuff we are imitating God, the one who formed mountains and imagined the oceans into being. It is a deeply spiritual act.)

And when we experience that moment of connection, the satisfaction after an afternoon of making – it feels like having scratched a good itch- we are just that bit more whole.

And whole people are often the ones who feel more able to visit their neighbour, write a letter to their MP about a major issue, spend more time on the eco-ness of their homes. When I give enough time to make stuff (even terrible stuff- trousers that give Ramona  builders crack, wobbly pottery that can’t stand up let alone hold a brew) I feel things are more right, and my self efficacy goes through the roof.

Making stuff changes people on the inside for the better. And in turn this impacts society and the world.

So I think every one should get in touch with their makey selves; even people who say they are utterly unartsy leave our Make workshops after whipping up a tiny comic or piece of metalwork with a buzz. I’d go so far to say that making is as important a need as nutrition, fitness and seven hugs a day.

Some of the Make Collective creating a collaborative collage for Camberwell Arts Week

Sarah Corbett from the Craftivist Collective is leading our October Make Workshop at House Gallery and Cafe in Camberwell. Get in touch for more info.