I started the the POC Designers and Crafters list last August before the current wave of discussion over on Instagram about racism in the knitting / fibre community. It came about because I wanted to challenge the statement ‘black people don’t knit – they crochet’ which formed the basis of @lhamiltonbrown’s MA RCA dissertation ‘Myth: Black People Don’t Knit – the importance of art and oral histories for documenting the experiences of black knitters’. To find out more about Lorna click here.
For my part I simply asked the question ‘how many black knitwear designers can you name?’ because I genuinely couldn’t believe that I, as a black hand knit designer, could be one of so very few. The responses to my IG callout revealed many names of designers, makers, indie dyers, bloggers and podcasters working across knit. crochet, weave, embroidery and a host of other disciplines some of whom I knew and others of whom I wasn’t aware. The other thing I learnt, thanks to comments from the likes of Suraya Hussein @mahliqawire and Asian knitter and spinning teacher @su.krita was that as well as black talent being under represented; asian talents were too. So I chose to use the acronym POC in order to encompass all non white people hence people of colour. (Since then I’ve come to learn the BIPOC acronym for Black Indigenous People of Colour). At this point I feel I need to emphasise that this is the the only time I have or ever will make the type of definition that excludes a group on the basis of skin colour or ethnicity. Just in case you don’t know me well enough – and I’ve had quite a few new followers since this whole discussion took off again like a bat out of hell – I feel I need to state this quite plainly. I do not discriminate against white people, if I did I wouldn’t be married.
I’m not a bitter black woman with an axe to grind. I’ve been very fortunate to work with lots of good people none of whom gave a damn about whether or not I was black. They were simply interested in my talent. Unfortunately not every person of colour in this industry has had the same experience, opportunities or exposure which is why I started to compile and promote the POC designers and crafters list. It is something I have become more and more passionate about despite resolving at the beginning of this month to work less and practice more self care. That said I will continue to add to, update and publish it here on my blog. Back when I started this list no one else seemed to be interested in the work I’m currently doing, now interestingly enough they are. I know my motives for starting the list and have explained them above. If you’re thinking about starting something similar based on what I’ve been doing I’d like to ask to you do two things.
Firstly, what are your own motivations? Were you thinking about this the lack of racial representation and ethnic diversity in the crafting community 6 months ago? I know I was.
Secondly if you were why the need to ride on the back of the work I’ve done? (And it’s taken hours I’m not just reposting other people’s feeds though there’s nothing wrong with that on IG). If you think you need to cater for a group that’s under represented do your own work and start a new list.
If you know me at all you’ll know that I think long and hard before posting anything. Not just because of how my brain now works but also because I’m anxious not to hurt or offend and I use the word anxious deliberately because this is currently causing me to lose sleep. Another thing I’ve deliberated over is setting up a ko-fi page. More than one friend has been in contact telling me that I’m putting a lot of time, work and effort into this for which I deserve to be paid. One of them even sent me a link and nagged me to get started. So, thanks to Helda Panagary @heldap123 and Lorna Hamilton Brown @lhamiltonbrown I’ve now set one up and youll find it the end of this post if you feel you’d like to give your support by ‘buying me a coffee’. If not please continue to find, support and celebrate the designers and makers on the list. That’s why I created it.
Hoping this doesn’t sound like a rant. it wasn’t meant to.
You’ll find my ko-fi support page by clicking the image at the start of this post or by clicking here