Resilient Craft- taking ‘craft night’ to the next level

If making stuff and hanging out with new fascinating people from all over the world sounds like fun, you’ll want to here about this project.

This morning my neighbor/former roomate/etc invited me over to a meeting of Resilient Craft, soemthing I’d been hearing and occassionally helping brainstorm about. Resilient Craft is a nonprofit in the making started by some ESL teachers at the refugee resettlement agency World Relief, where I used to teach, which faciliates art, artisan and craft projects by local refugees and helps market and sell the products, the sales of which go directly back to the refugee creators. We/They try to getskilled people both locals and refugees involved sharing techniques in informal workshop style settings so those who can do something can share and those who want to learn can learn. In addition thise collective creating settings spawn creativity and community. Many projects are also done at home and later shared.

Today, the primary craft was beading and jewelry making and since the intended meeting place got double booked the meeting was held in my friend’s living room, luckily for me that meant next door. So I headed over earlier today to see what was going on and who was there. I found about a dozen ladies and one man sitting on her floor huddled around various containers of brightly colored beads. Most of the crafters were Bhutanese refugees and one was an Iraqi refugee. Another of the teachers involved was there with her mother too.

My role today was both friend and learner as well as consultant. My brain runs too fast full of ideas in too many directions for me sometimes but it often helps others get fresh perspectives. I was able to help with a new possibly more effecient way of storing beads and was also able to teach about different tools such as round and needle nose pliers and a couple of things we could do with them. The neat thing about the situation was the learning by watching approach which is not impacted by a lack of mutual language.

Most of the crafters today seemed to currently have a fairly low level of working English proficiency. But, when your making things you don’t need language so much. I brought over some of my tools and supplies and I taught one of the ladies, an exquisitive knitter we discovered (meaning show her something and she can make it), how to use head pins and make loops on the top. This was done entirely through showing and then mimicking and then she tried some and showed me to approve. By the fourth one, she could consistently make them much better than I’ve ever been able to! After the meeting we went out and got some tools and headpins, eye pins and jump rings for the project so they’d be able to use the anytime.

It was a great afternoon and I hope I’ll be more involved in the future. It’s been neat looking at what people can do and helping with ideas that might make some of them more sellable as well as talking about packaging and marketing. The idea right now is probably to do moo cards or somethign similar for each individual that would include their name and story and would be included on each product that they made so you ar enot just buying a product but the story that went with it. I think it’s a really beautiful idea and I’m excited to see it launch.

Many of the beads being used were donated by a volunteer. Some of the other beads, such as the rolled recycled paper beads you see in many of the pictures above are from BeadsforLife, made by Ugandan women and sold through the nonprofit. Beyond the current beading (from a collection donated by a volunteer), they have done rug hooking and a bunch of kniting since they’ve fund there are an arra of talented knitters. I hop I’ll be able to link to a website or atleast give some contact info soon.

The first Resilient Craft sale is going to be at a local church next Saturday. If you’re in Illinois or the surrounding area and wantto sponsor a Resilient Crafte sale let me know and I’ll put you in touch with the right people :). The sales are a great way to support the project both monetarily and by interacting with the crafters face to face.

There’s a lot more I could say, and I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about this project soon :).

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