Personal stories brought a unique quality to the events taking place at the grand finale in Moscow on the 24th of September. There were a number of vibrant characters taking part in the project, such as Panika and Vladimir, a couple of designers from Syberia. They grew up in a region where most people still had a hand in craftsmanship up until quite recently, from baking bread to carpentry and making clothing.
I, Culture Contemporary Craft Workshops in Moscow. Photo: Studio Panato
After stopovers in several European capitals, Monika Jakubiak led volunteers in the Russian capital for the Moscow leg of the I, CULTURE project - a series of workshops and activities meant to revive the traditions of cratfsmanship in today's world
As a designer and artist, Monika Jakubiak has extended her activities to explore the way contemporary culture views craftsmanship in everyday life. The I, CULTURE project seams together various concepts of design, construction, tradition, society and the legacy of handiwork through the ages. Much like Helen Storey, she uses her experience in fashion to create a new platform for human interaction and anthropological study. In each city, Jakubiak attracts a number of volunteers who participate in a three-day series of workshops and research on the topic of contemporary craft culture in today's world. Then the volunteers work with guests and passersby on the last day in each city to help them create their own projects and make the city's own square of the I, CULTURE quilt. In Moscow, participants created the top quarter of the letter C. The event took place at the Central House of Artists as part of the Newculture festival in late September.
Jakubiak sees her project as a sort of social movement. It is more than just a sewing workshop - participants consciously consider the role of crafts in today's world and the ways in which people come together in creating a collective crafts project. She compares her initiative to the group of parcours enthusiasts, who have created a global network of fans and imitators who all share a similar passion and goals. Similarly, each I, CULTURE installment broadens the network of socially-aware individuals interested in maintaining the traditions of handiwork and craftsmanship.
Three distinctive activities - education, parcours and fashion - which happen to have a great deal in common as they take place along the border between art and everyday life. What unites professors, parcourists and craftsman in today's world is a deep passion and will to understand the world and make it better. Each group also hopes to share their passions with others.
I believe our activities - sewing workshops in the public forum - are a form of skating on thin ice. Because for a person looking at it from the outside might see it as an advertisement for a crafts magazine or a sewing course. The situation is similar to that of parcourists, who describe their activity as a combination of culture and a way of life. It's tough to catalogue them and precisely detail what it is they do - ultimately, those on the outside would say that they simply jump along buildings, gates and ramps.
In the same way, fashion and the language of fashion is not only a series of collections that change every few months. Tony Rayan and Helen Storey's Cathalictic Clothing line is proof of this, developing a concept of clothing that cleans the air in major urban metropolises.
Volunteers and participants met in Moscow to launch the project. However, there were four weeks of research beforehand, examining whether people feel good in what they wear, if they think about who made their clothes, how much time and effort it took, if they know that most items of clothing are based on a prototype created by a craftsman, are they aware how long creating such a prototype takes?
- Monika Jakubiak in Moscow
Panika and Vladimir, photo: Studio PANATO
Volunteers also asked about each family's legacy of craftsmanship. These personal stories brought a unique quality to the events taking place at the grand finale in Moscow on the 24th of September. There were a number of vibrant characters taking part in the project, such as Panika and Vladimir, a couple of designers from Syberia. They grew up in a region where most people still had a hand in craftsmanship up until quite recently, from baking bread to carpentry and making clothing.
"Our grandmother had a garden with raspberries, blueberries, apples. As children we were very healthy. We also created small objects together, toys. Handiwork is not so popular anymore, but making something by hand is particularly satisfying", the pair remarked. They listed sewing, knitting and embroidery as some of their favourite activities and said that they hoped that a social movement like I, CULTURE would persevere so that people could come together and create something as a group, without competition, simply mutual inspiration. "Maybe this is a way for these traditions to endure. We have less time than before, but such initiatives are necessary. I'm so happy and creative here", added Panika.
Jannet Jabolani, fot. Studio PANATO
Other participants also spoke of the legacy of their grandparents, of their memories of how their grandmother used to embroider and fill the family home with beautiful things. Jannet Jabolani, originally from the North Caucasus, explained that she came from a family of silk embroiders. "My grandmother embroidered with gold thread, making uniforms for horse riders or delicate scarves for ladies. Cratsmanship was always a part of our lives", she shared. Her friend's father would create beautiful jewelry, without any technical training, along with a number of people from her community who would create beautiful things. Jabolani herself has hopes of becoming a designer and collaborating with craftsman to create a minimal, subtle collection.
Another I, CULTURE participant Tatiana Karateeva said that she considered herself an "anthropologist of life", fascinated by small, everyday things, explaining:
Everything has its own story. I discovered the story of my grandmother some time after her death, when my father showed me a bundle of napkins, tablecloths and lace made by her. In photographs, my grandmother is beautiful in her youth - elegant and happy. She loved to dress well, even though she only had a few dresses. Each of them was unique, because they were embellished by hand, with lace around the collar. I once wrote a story about the history of a button.
At the I, CULTURE meeting Tatiana sewed patchwork pieces and felt fulfilled thanks to the presence of the I, CULTURE community, explaining "I never would have met so many people and heard so many stories if it weren't for this project. Do you know the saying that each man is the blacksmith of his own fortune?"
I, CULTURE Moscow
Date: 23rd-24th of September, 2011
Venue: Central House of Artists, Krimsky Val 10, Moscow
Organised by: Central House of Artists, Soulstitch, Adam Mickiewicz Institute
I, CULTURE is a Flagship Project of the Polish Presidency of the EU Council. For more information, see: I, CULTURE
Source: Adam Mickiewicz Institute, Monika Jakubiak