Interview with Debbie of the East London Craft Guerrilla

I promised more on Walthamstow's arts and crafts scene, so here's an interview with Debbie, founder of Walthamstow's East London Craft Guerrilla. Thanks Debbie!

Founders of the East London Craft Guerrilla

Do you feel there's something of a craft revival in Walthamstow, and the wider world, at present?
Definitely, it's been going on for quite a few years now.

Do you feel any connection with Walthamstow's craft history? (I'm thinking of William Morris in particular)
Very much so. I tend to think that if William Morris were around that he'd very much like and agree with our principals as we have based our manifesto on his campaign of making craft accessible to the masses. I think he'd fit in very well and be happy to associate with us....I'm sure he would have been one of the Craft Guerrilla founding members!

Walthamstow isn't exactly as hip as Hoxton or Shoreditch! Do you feel this is a hindrance or a help to your cause?

In a way it's a help as we get a captive audience.... there's not much to do out in the suburbs!

Crafters at a Craft Guerrilla night
 Although he is a very different craftsman to you, Grayson Perry's studio is in Walthamstow. Do you admire his work/is he an influence on you?
Actually we do have lots in common as I also am a ceramicist. I absolutely love his work....though I can't say it has influenced me.

Are you involved in the E17 Art Trail?
Usually yes. I have participated in pretty much all trails since the beginning as both an individual artist and/or under the Craft Guerrilla collective banner. The Art Trail is one of the events we look forward to participating in as we can organize larger scale events and really get the community involved.

Walthamstow is "sandwiched" between the two natural spaces of Epping Forest and the Lee Valley; does this influence show at all in your own work and/or that of the Craft Guerilla?

Though I love nature I'm pretty much a "city girl". My main influences come from the city, life in the capital and its people. I love nature but I find the hub bub and energy of the city more inspiring and relevant to my work with Craft Guerrilla as we work mainly with urban dwellers and the intention is to get them making so we need to offer projects/work which they can understand and relate to.
A finished cross stitch button brooch, one of the kits which was offered at a Craft Guerrilla night

What is your particular practise as part of the Craft Guerrilla?
I'm a dab hand at all sorts of craft disciplines, though my weaknesses are knitting and crocheting, but I'm willing and wanting to learn everything I can. I would say that my favourite craft disciplines are anything stitched based so cross stitching, embroidery, sewing and anything with fabrics. I am also the founding member and the main organizer so a lot of my time is spent doing the bulk of the work which can be anything from planning an event, doing the PR, making the craft kits to chosing the play list for our market event. But the main intention is to have Craft Guerrilla as not only a platform for designer makers to sell their wares but also to serve as an educator and to create a wider creative community.

A participant knitting at a Craft Guerrilla night

0Why did you set up the Craft Guerrilla?
To begin with it started as a back lash to not having adequate craft events in the area. I had participated in other fairs in Walthamstow, and all over London, and it always left me feeling that the organizers weren't really into this because they loved craft but were involved solely because they wanted either to make money off designer makers by renting over priced stalls or to massage their own ego. Also they were very poorly subscribed to as the majority of makers were of very low quality. There's nothing wrong with having plastic beads on a string but it's not craft! Having quality, well made, well designed products is really important as if you are offering people an alternative it needs to be as good or better then what is available on the High Street.

Even though there is a huge artistic and craft community in Walthamstow it's very insular and elitist so having participative craft events like our DIY craft nights which are open to the public is our way of bringing awareness to the importance and value of hand made goods. It's also a good excuse to socialise!


My friend Kat and myself at a Craft Guerrilla night
The word "Guerrilla" might imply that you are fighting against something; is there a political side to the Craft Guerrilla?
It's basically a tongue and cheek name and the "fighting" aspect is simply the call to arms against the inadequacies, unfairness and high price in terms of environment and human costs of mass production. We just wanted to show people that there is an alternative. Craft doesn't have to equal macaroni, glitter and glue! We're very aware of consumerism and so not to just offer more products to the market we also offer craft workshops were we share our skills and teach people to be more self sufficient. It's no good just selling products it's also important to educate people too.

Also we try to serve as a resource to our design makers and try to help them in finding their way to making their business a viable one.
A very elaborate piece of craft being sewn by a member of the Craft Guerrilla

I've been to several of your craft nights at the Rose and Crown, and must admit I've only seen women crafting; do you think more men should be encouraged to craft?
We offer so many different events that we hope men will want to come along! Not just dragged along by wives and girlfriends but also to come and make. I think it's something which should be embraced by all regardless of age, sex, colour, nationality, etc. Having the chance to sit down, create something with your hands should be part of people's lives as I strongly believe craft and making is both healing and an important vehicle in getting us in touch with our humanity.


A few of that elusive crafting breed, "men", at a Craft Guerrilla night!


Working with tools and your hands is something which sets humans apart from other animals and I think it's pretty important to be in touch with that basic creative side as most of us never get the chance to do so. With today's modern technologies and busy working life styles it's easy to lose that side of our nature! We do get the occassional man at our craft nights but it is a mostly female pursuit.
The next Craft Guerrilla night will be on Thursday 10th November at Ye Olde Rose and Crown. See you there!