Belinda's Bash

by Belinda Naylor-Stables, MA Design

Life’s little luxuries…

If the world is a Christmas pudding how do you stick in a thumb and pull out a plum? And which plums do you prefer – home grown or more exotic?

What the Dickens…?

Christmas is coming and there are a few predictions for the season that we know are incontestable. There will be Christmas craft fairs, there will be large amounts of Christmas pudding eaten and some version of Dickens’ ‘Christmas Carol’ will appear on TV - possibly clashing with the Queen’s speech.

We’ve inherited many Christmas traditions from the Victorians. So perhaps it makes sense that Dickens features so regularly in our Christmas entertainment. I find Dickens a bit dismal, yet somehow I’ve absorbed the Scrooge story. You too, probably. After sharing his Ghosts and visions of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come I know he will burst into tears and beg for a chance to change. Then when he wakes up to a new Christmas day he has become a model of kindness. I know everyone will be happy for him and also his ill-used employee Bob Cratchit. The story has built-in feel-good factor when all Bob’s family benefit from Scrooge’s new-found generosity - and we find out that Tiny Tim will live happily ever after too.

The thing that strikes me about the story is not that Scrooge changes – but the choices he makes once he decides to change. He is a man who lives in London and his acts of goodwill flow to those who live in his locality. How different from the do-gooder Mrs Jellyby in Dickens’ story ‘Bleak House’ - she is so obsessed with misguided works in Africa that she totally neglects her own family…

Luxury and us…

Christmas is also about life’s little or not so little luxuries. For example, glass artists may be wowed by Jordan Askill’s small jewellery box selling for £3,000. I’ve also been interested to read that many Western luxury items – or the parts for them - are now produced through craft cooperatives in developing countries. In a Financial Times article, ‘Good luxe’, 18 November, Vanessa Friedman writes “From earrings made of AK47s to handbags that raise money for school meals – can high end fashion be used to help the developing world?”

UNITED NATIONS MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS

End poverty & hunger

Universal education

Gender equality

Child health

Maternal health

Combat HIV/AIDS

Environmental sustainability

Global partnership

In her article, Friedman sets out a story which I think started when the United Nations set out some millennium goals. It’s about the way the fashion industry took an interest in these goals and in 2008 the International Trade Centre launched the Ethical Fashion Programme. The result is that fashion names like Westwood, Fendi and many others started a large number of profit-making ethical fashion initiatives in developing countries such as India, Kenya, Uganda and Guatamala. The Maiyet brand website (artists, photographers, textile designers and web designers might be interested in the look and feel of this site) is one visual feast of a case-study illustrating how this works. They collaborate with Nest, an independent not-for-profit organisation which trains and develops artisan businesses – apparently only abroad.

References:

www.askillprojects.com

www.ft.com/companies/luxury-360

http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals

www.Maiyet.com

www.buildanest.com

Peoples of the world are interconnected perhaps in a more complex way than in Dickens’ time. Our own wellbeing is linked closely to our ability to help other people and vice versa. So I have two questions. Should we look closer to home and apply some of the lessons learned about collaborative working to create opportunity in our own arts and crafts communities? Or should we look beyond our own community to create collaborative ventures in other countries?

Wishing you good tidings of comfort and joy! Hope to see you next year…

Stretching money and networks for your art or craft business will be my theme for next year. If you think creating opportunity through collaboration is important – whether closer to home or on foreign shores let us know here…Season’s Greetings all!

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