Susanna Wallis craft, part of the talks programme at CraftWorks

Introducing: Susanna Wallis

I’m excited to be amongst the diverse cohort of makers at Craftworks where I’m exhibiting Textiles, Feltmaking & mixed media.

I’m passionate about creativity and making. I believe the activity of participating in Craft holds many benefits, fulfillment, creative outlet, usefulness, cultural connection, tradition, historical relevance, well-being and more. I believe within the diverse range of world crafts that there is a craft out there for each and every person to enjoy.
My social background and experience allows a unique perspective on crafts participation, appreciation, education and to the barriers faced by those on a low income and living in areas of creative & social deprivation.

I’ve followed an unconventional route gathering experience and industry knowledge by regularly attending events, classes, talks and craft shows even at times I was not actively involved in making / exhibiting. I’m from a working class family in an Outer London borough that had very little creative, cultural offer, or craft education. I did not do the normal route to an art / design degree. I showed promise at school but was discouraged to contemplate a creative career. However I continued to be creative, gradually gaining more craft skills & experience though I was not always able to focus full time on making / exhibiting. However I’ve written craft books, taught hundreds of craft workshops, exhibited at well known craft events and led community art projects.

In 2014-2018 I participated in local creative focus meetings where project leaders noted my expertise and experience in craft and in 2018 I was commissioned to write a report The Role Of Craft in Barking & Dagenham.

Looking at the program of talks at Craft Works I noticed that there are common themes and discussion topics that tie in within my 2018 report. I was intrigued by the content of the event program at Craftworks and Jay’s invitation to look at the positives about the industry, but also to face the challenges and look ahead.

My report includes a detailed breakdown of the then current situation affecting Craft in an Outer London borough: facilities, venues, classes, teachers, events, retail, opportunities, or the lack of! It looks at the reasons for low crafts participation and appreciation of craft. It discusses when craft appears, even in small pockets, that the benefits glow and take seed, how these seemingly insignificant interactions create community cohesion, break down social barriers, give pride and a sense of achievement, harness entrepreneurial ambitions, and make small positive transformations. The report discusses the lack of crafts in schools, social prescribing, Men’s Sheds, craft activity in cultural groups and how to encourage young people to become creative and entrepreneurial, to run Youth markets etc. It mentions Craftivism, and how craft has become trendy again as part of looking back to our social history and traditions, how crafting can be positive for the environment as in upcycling and ‘Make Do and Mend’. It describes how some crafts are becoming less known and are in danger of disappearing and suggests ideas on how to address this. We all saw how lockdown created an upsurge in crafting at home. So many new participants even at a kitchen table level. We need to encourage this. Crafts are for everyone! Craftworks is the pinnacle but the seed has to start somewhere….