A little while back we caught up with Tal Fitzpatrick, a Melbourne based craftivist. That’s right – craftivist! Tal uses craft to tackle the big issues. From gifting a quilt to the Prime Minister to engaging 120 craft artists to embroider the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, this lass has got bold things to say! …
What do you do and why do you do what you do? I am an artist, craftivist, feminist, research and community development worker. I was born in Israel in 1988, I grew up on the Gold Coast and in 2014 I moved to Melbourne to study. This year (2018) I will complete a practice-led PhD on the subject ‘Craftivism as DIY Citizenship: The Practice of Making Change’ at the Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne.
What is craftivism? In the simplest of terms craftivism can be understood as a practice that sits at the intersection of craft and activism. More accurately, craftivism sits at the intersection of craft, activism, feminism, participatory and socially-engaged art, community development, and social media. At its core, craftivism aims to bring about social and political change by inspiring people to ask questions about and engage directly with issues of social, political, economic and environmental justice.
Was there a specific moment in life where you realised you wanted to pursue this particular path? I realised I wanted to be a craftivist the very moment I first stumbled across Betsy Greer’s book ‘Craftivism: The Art of Craft and Activism’ (2014). It was a total lightbulb moment for me and I haven’t looked back since.
Can you share some details about your most recent project? The current project I’m working on is called the UDHR Quilt Project, which involves 120+ artists from over 22 countries around the world. As part of this project each artist is embroidering one article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) onto an A4 sized piece of upcycled material, and I am taking all of these embroidered blocks and making them into four big quilts, each featuring all 30 articles of the UDHR. This project is designed to celebrate the UDHR which really embodies the human spirit at its most egalitarian and aspirational, while also looking to raise awareness about current violations of this important document happening around the world. We will be donating all profits from this project to refugees and asylum seekers through UNHCR. You can read more about this project and follow our progress by visiting my website and following the hashtag #UDHRquilt.
Are there any projects (professional or personal) that you are especially proud of? One of the projects I’m most proud of is called the PM Please quilt project. The project was a socially engaged craftivism project that involved making a quilt adorned with 121 hand-stitched messages for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Each message began with the words “PM Please” and was written by an Australian citizen who wanted to convey a message to the (then) newly appointed PM. I gave this quilt to the Prime Minister as a gift by taking it into his electoral office in Sydney, but the quilt has now been formally accepted into the permanent collection of the Museum of Australian Democracy, Old Parliament House, Canberra. You can read more about this project and follow our progress by visiting my website and following the hashtag #PMplz
Do you have fingers in many pies, or are focused on one single project / goal? I have always been the kind of person to have many projects on the go at once, but currently as I’m in the final months of my PhD I’ve let everything else drop away… there is just no time to do anything other than get this PhD done!
Is your creative process rigid, fluid, sporadic? My creative process is a bit sporadic I guess. I’m more creative when I’m responding to some kind of specific issue or problem. Making art is a way of thinking for me – a way of problem solving – and I’ve discovered that I am much more creative when I’m working in collaboration with different artists, community groups and NGO’s around a specific issue or challenge than I am if I am left to my own devices. Having learned this I can now stay pretty creative at all times by just channelling whatever it is I’m thinking about or pissed off about or worried about through my art practice and turning that energy into something generative.
Do you have a ritual for getting in work mode? As a PhD student and as an artist you are totally self-directed and in charge of your own productivity and that can be really hard. My productivity tip is just turn up. Turn up at your studio. Turn up at your desk. Turn up wherever you make work and allocate solid amounts of time to just being there. Some days you will win, some days you will spend all your time scrolling Instagram… but that is okay, creativity is something that ebbs and flows. At the end of the day remind yourself that you’re your productivity is not the measure of your worth.
Which artists/thinkers/creatives are you obsessed with at the moment? I have so so many book recommendations for theory loving folks. I’m obsessed with the writing of physicist and feminist new-materialist author Karen Barad, particularly her book ‘Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum physics and the entanglement of matter and meaning’ (2007). I’m really enjoying the writing of political theorist Chantal Mouffe, particularly her book ‘Dimensions of Radical Democracy’ (1992). I loved Laura Portwood-Stacer’s book ‘Lifestyle Politics and Radical Activism’ (2013). I am obsessed with the new book ‘Tinkering: Australian Reinvent DIY Culture’ (2017) by Katherine Wilson. I also loved curator Nato Thompson’s book ‘Seeing Power: Art and Activism in the 21st Century’ (2015). There are so many more but I’m going to stop myself.
What’s the best or the worst advice you’ve ever received? Just be kind.
What tips can you share about being aware of your impacts on the world? As part of my creative practice I try, wherever possible to reuse and upcycle material. Textile waste and fast-fashion are a huge environmental problem, so using old clothes and unused materials and making them into art or into useful objects like quilts and pillows is something I can do that can make a real difference. Recently I’ve been gifted a few people’s unused craft-stashes, which is a really great way to collect fabrics and threads that would otherwise go unused. There must be heaps of us out there who have a collection of fabrics we are saving so we can ‘do something with them one day’ or have been given our grandmothers sewing material’s that she left behind that we are never going to use – giving those to textile artists is a great way to make sure they get used and loved and not end up in landfill one day.
Do you become disillusioned? And if so, how do you remedy that? As someone who identifies as a feminist and an activist it is almost impossible not to get disillusioned with the world. To remedy that I make sure that I get plenty of quality time with the fabulous people in my life – my partner, family, friends, and colleagues – all who inspire me and who, each in their own way, are doing their bit to make the world better. At my lowest points I also try and avoid watching any movies or shows that focus on humanities worst impulses… so no true crime, no war movies, no documentaries about climate change etc. I’ve learned that this really helps me not spiral into total despair.
What are you listening to? I listen to a lot of podcasts while I make my artwork, a few of my favourite include: The Guilty Feminist, 2 Dope Queens, Tell Me Something I Don’t Know, and of course Starving Artist.
Where can we find and follow you?