I found the work of Sayraphim Lothian via a Pozible campaign which I funded earlier this year. It was her ‘Journey: the Kakapo of Christchurch’ project to help bring 124 handmade kakapos (New Zealand’s native endangered parrots) to Christchurch as an act of Guerilla Kindness. I thought this was a fantastic and intriguing idea, and I followed the campaign through her newsletters as she held workshops to make Kakapos in Christchurch and left her crafted goodies around the city, to be discovered and have a life of their own. Some of them found homes and have had arty adventures of their own which made it back onto her facebook page. I received my Kakapo making kit recently and have yet to put it together. It’s waiting for a rainy weekend when I get my sewing machine out, then I’ll have to decide whether to keep it or leave it out in an act of Guerilla Kindness of my own.
Sayraphim is busy working on many interesting projects, I asked her a few questions about her work as a public artist and her Guerilla Kindness ethos.
What is Guerrilla Kindness?
Guerrilla Kindness is part street art, part craftivism, part random acts of kindness. There’s a number of people using the term in different ways, but for me, it’s about leaving small, handmade works of art around for people to find and take home. It’s about creating a beautiful moment when someone walking down the street spots something lovely that’s been left there, just for them. It’s like the art equivalent of finding fairies at the bottom of the garden, and the magic that’s associated with that. But basically, it all boils down to trying to make the world a better place, one handcrafted item at a time
How did you get involved in this movement/ethos?
It was really through the work of playful company The Agency of Coney from London. One of their co-directors, Tassos Stevens, came out a couple of years ago and was running workshops as part of their work The Loveliness Principle. As part of one exercise, we were asked to brainstorm sneaky ways to do nice things for people anonymously, and that was the spark that started it all. My world opened up, doing nice things for people could be a body of work, could be a way of life. So that workshop really changed my work, it changed my life! I started brainstorming ways, and then carrying them out, how I could do nice things for people through art. It started with a project called ‘For you, stranger’, in which I made fake cupcakes and left them out with a tag that read ‘For you, stranger’ and I got some really lovely feedback from some of the first finders, about how great it was to find the cupcakes and how much it made their day, so then I was hooked!
Tassos’ visit also prompted myself and a few other people to start a games and playful company of our own, called Pop Up Playground. We make games and playful situations for young and old. Play is very important to learning, to understanding yourself and others, to building and maintaining social and communication skills, but as adults we somehow forget to play. So Pop Up Playground is all about bring play and fun back for adults!
Can you tell me a bit about Craftivism?
At it’s very basic form, craftivism is using craft for activism purposes. So it’s about changing the world, changing minds or opening up discussions about issues through craft. That might be through a crafting group, though crafting in public where people can come and talk to you about what you’re doing and why, it could be making things for people in need, like blankets for homeless shelters or beanies for newborns in hospitals, it can be about producing items with political messages on them to display in public, banners, clothing, quilts etc. It can be making your own clothes, cross stitching radical messages or simply learning to patch your clothes to make them last longer. There’s many people making craftivist work in various ways both in the public and private sphere.
The term itself was coined by Betsy Greer in the US in 2003, although the idea of using what skills you have to make your voice heard is by no means a new one! The suffragettes, for example, made banners and stitched messages to their clothing, sewed petitions and created a wide range of what would now be called suffragette merchandise to sell in stores to get their message out there. Betsy had edited the first compendium of craftivism, called ‘Craftivism: the Art of Craft and Activism’ which has just been released in the US and will be released in Aus soon. I’m very excited about this book, it’s filled with essays and interviews from people working in craftivism from around the world and I was really honoured to be asked to write about Guerrilla Kindness as part of it!
What are some of your current projects you are working on?
Currently I’m reworking ‘For you, stranger’ to make it more environmentally friendly. I wanted to be able to make colourful and cheerful cupcakes out of more eco-friendly materials. I’ve got a couple of projects that can’t be talked about in public yet (ooo! I wish I could!) and with Pop Up Playground I’m working with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra on a playful workshop called Paper Orchestra which sees members of the public make fantastic paper instruments then sit in with the orchestra and be conducted by eminent conductor Richard Gill. We’re also working on a city wide game based on Julius Caesar with The Bell Shakespeare Company called #TrueRomansAll in which players run around the Melbourne CBD and either try to stop or help facilitate the murder of Caesar. #TrueRomansAll is about decisions and consequences, how will you decide which side you’re on, what deed will be done and what does that mean for the people of Melbourne and the players personally? I’m really excited about both these projects!
Your Kakapo project was funded through a Pozible campaign. Do you often use crowd funding to get a project off the ground?
‘Journey: the Kakapo of Christchurch’ was the first project I’ve crowdfunded. Usually my work is self funded, but because this was such a big one, I felt I needed help! The project plan was to make 124 kakapo, which is NZ’s critically endangered flightless parrot, and take them to Christchurch to leave around as acts of Guerrilla Kindness for people in a city that had gone through so much. I also wanted to run free crafting workshops for people to make their own simple felt kakapo which they could then leave out for other people or take home for themselves. Since there was flights, accommodation, materials for 124 kakapo and then 100 kakapo kits and everything else I needed, I couldn’t afford to do it on my own, so I turned to the community to help me fund that. It was a big job, promoting the campaign was a full time job for most of the month it ran, but we made the total with about a day to spare and that was amazing! It was such a great feeling that 150 people believed in my project enough to put their money down and help me bring joy to the people of Christchurch.
Anything else you’d like to add?
How to find out more about the work I do! You can find my previous projects at www.sayraphimlothian.com and www.popupplayground.com.au, or follow me on twitter and instagram@sayraphim and facebook at facebook.com/sayraphimlothian