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Hand on Craft - Guest Blog post by Jordan Taylor Jones

So, having finished the 6-week taster period for the ‘Hand on Craft’ project, I definitely think I could give Kirsty Allsopp a run for her money. As a volunteer at the Bluecoat, I received an email mentioning the project and how its main aim is to get more people under 25 into traditional ways of being craft.

My initial enthusiasm for the bookbinding and printmaking sessions was completely crushed by the other crafts (embroidery, quilting, lace making and weaving) and my youthful experiences of these in primary school; feeling defeated by a piece of material I had managed to fold into thirds, tangle a line of thread around and knot it in more ways I could shake a stick at. However, Betty sent me a link to a fantastic 2004 project called ‘Boys Who Sew’ and I was both amazed and inspired, not only by some beautiful pieces of art, but also because the people who had created them were men! There is such a gender stereotype that pervades crafting and handmade products, but projects such as ‘Boys Who Sew’ and modern crafters such as Mr. X Stitch (if you haven’t heard of him, go check him out!) are challenging this and creating a refreshing way of looking at traditional crafts and the ‘Hand on Craft’ project has really allowed me to experiment with ways of creating that I would have never, ever considered.
Personally, my favourite sessions have been printmaking, bookbinding and embroidery and for many different reasons...
Printmaking is really emerging as a (dare I say it) ‘trendy’ art form in Liverpool and all across the UK, being heavily linked to the music scene. I have noticed some stunning gig posters dotted around Liverpool in various art venues and coffee shops, most of them from ‘Percy Gulliver’s Print Shop’, and because of this, I was intrigued as to how they were created. The session involved creating our own design, which we could potentially use if we opted to specialise in printmaking after Christmas and then individually printing a template piece onto canvas. Learning how the process worked was fascinating for me and something I would never had had the opportunity to do so without the project and as a gallery volunteer, it’s wonderfully linked with the current William Kentridge Exhibition (if you haven’t popped in for a look, make sure you do!).The only downside is the practicality of printmaking; unfortunately a studio (of sorts) wouldn’t fit well into the box room of a terrace!
Embroidery on the other hand was a craft that I had a love/hate relationship with during the session. As it is quite a delicate, fiddly craft, my man hands couldn’t cope with the threading and various stitches at first- resulting in some profanities and despair.  Once I got started I really began to enjoy it; tracing one of my tattoos and embroidering it onto a canvas square, and this is what I found so refreshing about the 6 weeks; being able to, and bearing witness to, people using modern and unconventional ways of tackling older crafts! Claire Bates (the owner of the stunning ‘Landbaby’ at the Bluecoat) and leader of the embroidery session, astonished all by showing her embroidery pieces she created using human hair, a fellow ‘crafter’ created a wonderful embroidered piece of an album- art image for a gift, whilst a volunteer in the lace making group told me of a lace version of the London underground map she completed (which I later ‘googled’ and was dumbstruck at the detail).
However, for me, the best was saved until last- bookbinding, like the third bowl of porridge for Goldilocks, was just right. It combined an element of creativity with the various ways of folding paper to create zines and flower shapes with a precision that I found excellent; having to level your card & papers and folding, tearing and stitching in exact places.
All in all, the past 6 weeks have been an eye opening, wonderful experience, having had the opportunity to partake in such a variety of crafts for not a single penny. But more importantly because I have met a variety of people from different age groups, who engage with crafts in their own unique way- which for me, has been truly inspiring to witness in such a creative hub of Liverpool.

Hand on Crafts is an inter-generational amateur crafts programme, initiated by Voluntary Arts and funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. It offers a two-way approach to improve interest and involvement in specific at-risk traditional crafts amongst young people, whilst developing the skills and abilities of older representatives of traditional crafts organisations to reach out across the age gap.


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Bluecoat is Liverpool’s centre for the contemporary arts, the oldest in the UK. Our landmark building, located in the ...

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