‘Change Makers’, our 2020 Sydney Craft Week Festival theme, is as much about making change as it is to the way we respond to changing circumstances, says Lisa Cahill.
In the past 12 months, the craft community has responded to the effects of climate change—the bushfires that ravaged South Eastern Australia destroying homes and livelihoods and the consequent thick smoke that blanketed cities affecting health and wellbeing—and COVID-19. All of us are affected in so many ways by the virus whether it is the illness itself, grieving for a loved one, anxiety about health, income, education or restrictions on travel that mean we are unable to physically be with friends and family. Our lives are markedly different from this time last year.
Many makers have put aside their practice to respond by making things to raise money for various causes, to celebrate those working on the front line or small individual actions that make lives better. Mask making, medals for medical staff, online auctions for fire-affected communities and countless other examples demonstrate how people are pivoting to meet the needs of the times. In Sydney, theatre designers and set builders are making home office furniture and sewers across the city can’t keep up with the demand for masks.
I was particularly touched by textile artist Vita Cochran using her material stash to make a heap of masks and offer to post them to people in Melbourne: she sent two beautiful masks to my family in lockdown. Makers make change. They transform materials by cutting, grinding, sewing, shaping, moulding, welding, drilling, weaving and thinking about how things can be made, why, what with and in what form: it’s all about change.
Sydney Craft Week Festival is a space for all of us to celebrate making, to help each other deal with change, to make new connections, friends and colleagues, and perhaps to forge new collaborations that speak to this constant change in our world. There are lots of opportunities to engage with makers and making in the festival in a physical way. This year some events have moved to an online format, changing it up for the times.
As I write these reflections, in August across Australia the situation changes daily. Our friends and families in Melbourne are in total lockdown and will be for several more weeks, tragically more and more people are losing their lives and their livelihoods and responding to change is a feature of our days. We are lucky here in Sydney that we have relative freedom to go about our daily lives although the virus is ever-present. It is my hope that our Festival will go ahead as planned and be a joyful experience in an otherwise difficult year, but all our changemakers stand ready to make the change as the circumstances require.
Lisa Cahill, CEO and Artistic Director, Australian Design Centre
Sasha Titchkosky is our Sydney Craft Week Festival chief change maker and we spoke about what change means to her in the context of her design business Koskela.
Lisa: Change Makers is the theme for this year’s Sydney Craft Week Festival. The creative mindset is to seek to make things better. How do you think we can encourage this mindset, particularly now when reinventing every part of how we live is a focus?
Sasha: I think the first step is to embrace change and see it as an opportunity for improvement rather than something which is to be feared. As frightening as things are at the moment, we need to remember to dwell on the positive things which can come out of moments like these and to start to imagine a different future—putting some energy into taking time to imagine a future that is better than the past not just our current circumstances. It isn’t always easy but sometimes it’s just one great conversation that creates the spark and the energy to shift a mindset.
Lisa: At Koskela, you champion local making and manufacture. How important is it that we work to grow our capacity for Australian made? Do you think Australians are embracing locally made design?
Sasha: I think it is critical for Australia to do this, primarily for our own independence as a nation and also for the environment. Our focus for the manufacturing sector should be one which can sustain high wages and is powered by renewables. It makes no sense to me that we have all the raw materials to make Lithium-Ion batteries for storing renewable energy in Australia but we ship all the raw materials off-shore to be made somewhere else and then import the finished goods! When it comes to making and craft there is so much of our identity and uniqueness embodied in these items that is of such value to us as a nation.
COVID has brought a sharp focus on weaknesses in our supply chain and a much bigger awareness on supporting local manufactured products, but there is still a lot of work to do in this area, starting with government procurement which doesn’t necessarily favour locally made products. We still see Australian embassies and offices filled with products that aren’t designed or made in Australia, which is such a wasted opportunity.
I believe there is a unique Australian design language that is slowly becoming stronger as our confidence grows and as we start to value design more. A strong manufacturing sector locally will also help to strengthen this as the relationship between design and manufacturing is critical. All too often our Industrial Design graduates end up in other careers as there aren’t enough jobs because we don’t manufacture enough here.
Lisa: From my observation, every aspect of your business is about driving change. Koskela recently became a BCorp. What is this and what does it mean for you?
Sasha: Koskela becoming a BCorp was a really proud moment for me. BCorp is a global certification that signifies that a company balances profit with purpose and looks at how the company positively impacts its team, customers, community and the environment. I am especially excited to be part of a group of BCorps that have signed up to a Net Zero pledge by 2030 and are going to be pushing out a whole lot of initiatives to help drive Australia’s move to renewables and for greater focus on the environment. It’s pretty exciting to be able to be part of a group of companies that includes Patagonia!
Lisa: What can we see at Koskela during Sydney Craft Week?
Sasha: Ngumpie Weaving’s Tegan Murdock will be teaching the art of Indigenous weaving online for Koskela during craft week. Tegan Murdock is a Barkindtji/Yorta Yorta woman who was taught weaving by her mother and is keen to share her culture and creativity.
Sydney Craft Week is on 9-18 October.
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