On July 2nd, TSA hosted its first of many Affinity Group Conversations focused on the craft economy. I worked alongside Mimi Robinson, a textile designer and author, to launch this online group in an effort to bring together those involved both domestically and internationally as makers/artisans, businesses, and organizations. We hope to build an online community for anyone who is engaged with the promotion and work of handmade objects from around the world.
Our goal for this group is to create a forum where we can have conversations, exchange ideas, get to know one another, and generate support as we all navigate new directions in our practices and businesses. I think it goes without saying that 2020 has created challenges we could not anticipate and hearing from others is a wonderful way forward.
Our first meeting brought together 13 people involved in the craft economy, from academics, non-profits, small businesses, and makers. Hosting online allowed participants from Spain, India, and Netherlands to join those of us scattered across the US. As we made introductions and became familiar with each person’s background, the conversation moved back and forth across ideas, challenges, and how this group can bring learning and support. Participants are engaged in numerous ways from research focused on sustainable livelihoods, to a new business working with wool producers in India, and artisan research in Iran – just to name a few. We all found commonalities in our interests bridging technology, market access, e-commerce, and artisan support. For future meetings, we will be focusing on each topic, creating a platform to dig a little deeper while sharing stories of success, new research, and updates on our professional practices.
I want to take a moment to say thank you to each person who joined our first affinity group and your willingness to discover the best way forward. The images in this article are a small representation of the group and show the varied practices and work that we are all involved in. For anyone interested in joining, we are hosting our next meeting on August 6th!
Lesli Robertson is an interdisciplinary textile artist and project developer who partners with local and international organizations to develop impactful engagement through interactive programs. In 2018, she launched Mekeka Designs, creating bespoke textile collections with artisans in Uganda.