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Selvedge - Issue 115: Pioneers

If you cant see it, you cant be it. The importance of role models cant be overestimated, especially for emerging makers. As a new graduate over thirty years ago, I was fortunate to benefit from talented teachers and advocates whose belief in my ability far outstretched my own; Chrissie White and Mary Schoeser are familiar names in the textile world, but our community is peppered with such pioneers whose vision and tenacity have impacted society beyond their immediate circle. In this issue, we spotlight these unsung heroes: Jenny Tiramani, the principal of the School of Historic Dress, whose force of personality galvanised a team of enthusiasts to create a world-leading institution. Dan Driscoll, the founder of The Anou, developed a computer system based on pictograms to give illiterate artisans in Morocco agency over selling their work to a global audience. The founders of NGOs in Kutch, India, who have worked tirelessly for decades to elevate and preserve the regions unique crafts and eliminate exploitation. Others, such as Her Majesty Queen Azizh of Malaysias Royal Pahang Weaving prison project, use their privileged platform to benefit others. We celebrate these individuals whose tenacity has turned their passion to good use.

Over the last decade, we have seen entrepreneurs and influencers take centre stage as the monetising of crafts has come to represent success in our community. Some early adopters have garnered a large following, as described by Beth Wingarder in her article Historic Clothing Come Back and we thank them for enriching our lives. It is a seductive ideology that declares anyone and everyone can achieve work-life balance by pumping their passion for profit. The trend exacerbated by the cost of living crisis, accessibility of platforms such as Etsy and Folksy, the romanticised version of the life of craftspeople portrayed on Instagram and the minimal financial outlay needed to initiate textile crafts. This is only part of the story. The labour innate to many textile crafts conflicts with the profit motive, killing the joy and leaving makers working long hours to fulfill orders for little remuneration.

I am inspired by Dr. Christine Millar, who states that sewing as a hobby allows her to engage in art on her terms. The idea that something beautiful only has value once sold makes me question the value our society places on making. I leave you with some food for thought can textile crafts have value solely because they give us pleasure, define our identity, and make us feel fulfilled, or do we have to register a domain name every time we start a new knitting project? With this issue, I grant our readers permission to potter.

Polly Leonard, Founder

Published 15 October

This issue went to press on 30 September, before the recent events in the Middle East.

Item Number: 55576623
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