Craft Without Borders

Craft Without Borders aims to connect refugee- and migrant-background people with the wider Ōtautahi community through creating and sharing traditions. CRS values this initiative, and many of its staff voluntarily attend the fortnightly sessions. CRS here interviews the group’s founder, Amber Johnson.

What motivated you to establish this craft group?

I am a craft enthusiast and I love meeting people of all different backgrounds. After working on a community project with former refugees in 2018, I learnt so much from then and gained insight into how isolating and confusing it can be in a different country/culture to your own. I also felt richer and fuller from spending time with them and getting to know such amazing people. I believe we can learn so much from other people’s stories and cultures. And through learning we can break down stigmas and stereotypes to create a more accepting and loving society. And I also believe that craft is a great way of connecting people together.

Why did you choose craft as a means of bringing people together?

For many reasons. Craft is international. People all over the world knit, crochet, sew, weave etc so it is something we can have in common as well as the fact that it is incredibly therapeutic and practical. But most of all, it is an easy way to bring people together of all types of cultures, skills etc. If you don’t speak English very well then you can come along and still work on something collectively or individually. You can be part of something without necessarily verbally engaging. So the idea was that there are no barriers to letting people join. And also, hopefully one day the participants can share crafts from their home countries.

What craft activities have you so far completed, and what others have you got lined up?

Complete baskets weaved out of Ti kōuka leaves

We have had knitting and crochet. We have sewn cushion cases for cushions. We have also made Japanese Kokedama plant holders, different styled hanging decorations and other afternoons where people just bring their own project. We have also had a food day in which people brought a dish to
share of food from their culture.

Coming up we have basket weaving, Māori harakeke flower weaving, card making, dreamcatcher making and many more.

What are some of your favourite moments from the craft group?

Learning to sew a cushion cover
Photo by Janneth Gill – Art and Photography

I really like the sharing of stories from people’s cultures and food. People are so proud of their food dishes and can share their culture with us all this way. But I would have to say my favourite moment is seeing participants complete a project like sewing a cushion cover when it is the first time they have used a sewing machine. The pride and excitement in their face is priceless.

For more information on Craft Without Borders activities, visit the group’s Facebook page.