Etsy Craft Party 2016

Coast in the Shell – The Morning After the Etsy Craft Party

On 17 and 18 June 2016, the Portsmouth and Southsea Consortium was proud to take part in its second Etsy Craft Party. With no set theme this year, this celebration of meeting, making, creativity and community ended up being influenced by our city’s coastal location, hence it’s beautiful pun of a nickname – Coast in the Shell.

What with Portsmouth being the UK’s only island city – and one that retains all the charm of the typical seaside town – we wanted to do something that celebrated this as well as highlighting how people may be able to contribute to the preservation of this unique area; this is why we decided to include an element of conservation and environmentalism in our work, with a focus on reducing, reusing and recycling the plastic waste in our oceans. You can read a little more about the whys in our previous post.

We asked everyone to raid their cupboards and drawers for old carrier bags and to bring them to the party to make plarn – yep, plastic yarn – with which we made a series of woven flowers, pom poms and crocheted jellyfish. We wanted to start people thinking about how they can use design thinking to interrupt the entry of plastic and other waste into our natural environment  – and how we can even reduce the amount of waste and recycling that needs to be processed at household level.

We’re so focused on ‘rubbish being rubbish’, and our ‘one-use’ and ‘disposable’ cultures, that we forget that much of what we throw away is simply a raw material from which something new can be made – and that this new thing exists in its own right, and doesn’t have to be labelled, or treated as, rubbish.

There’s still a lot of stigma surrounding the use of recycled and upcycled materials where its ‘previous life’ can easily be determined, perhaps because a brand’s logo can be seen easily on the side, or its original form hasn’t been altered in its entirety as this was unnecessary to accommodate a new function… People don’t want to be seen using something someone else has thrown away. We’re socialised to think that new things make us better people, that they make us look better to other people, and that old things – second hand items, recycled materials and things like that – make us look poor, and somehow ‘less than’ other people. Let’s get over that.

We were thrilled with the reactions of our Etsy Craft Party guests to the materials from which they were making their items; people hadn’t realised how versatile domestic plastics were, and we were soon inundated with ideas and suggestions on more functional items that might be made from what’s around their homes. If you made something at home after having come to our party, let us know on Instagram or Twitter! You can check out some of the photos we took below – what do you think? Would you rock a carrier bag corsage?

We loved seeing some familiar faces from the Consortium’s Etsy team at our party, too – thank you to Emma Nicol Illustration, Gingerthread House, Kim Styles Jewellery and Sprig Knitwear for some fantastic contributions! And a huge thumbs-up to Kate of Gingerthread House for having one of her photos featured on the Etsy Success Facebook page, and to our co-founder Roberta, also of The Fidorium, for having one of hers featured on the Etsy Success Instagram account.

Gingerthread House is also on board with one of our Etsy team‘s projects leading up to this year’s Etsy Made Local market in December – all we’ll say at the moment is ‘PLARNts’ and it will involve that big bottle o’ scraps you can see in our gallery up there, and let you scratch your head for the time being.

We were also joined by creative living blogger Hapiness Wherever, who took the time to sit through one of each of our workshops (and was very good at everything we taught her), and didn’t bat an eyelid when we all rushed outside to see why loads of emergency services vehicles had suddenly pulled up down the street – it turned out someone had driven through the window of a shop (no one was badly hurt). Such drama! And, a chance for us to stop their plastic incident tape from simply being thrown away afterwards. Does that count as ready-made plarn?

Last, but not least, the most incredible thank you to the lovely Alexsis of Seeded, for being the most wonderful host, welcoming us all to her fabulous haberdashery, vintage buttons and yarn shop, and supplying us with tea, coffee, biscuits, cookies, cakes, doughnuts and more people to confuse with plarn in the shape of her wonderful regulars, who’d popped in on the Saturday to take part in Worldwide Knit in Public Day. We all left with full stomachs and empty purses, having spent two days in her shop and not being able to resist buying something by the end of it.

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