Craft imitates art

In April/May of this year, Sayraphim Lothian had her first exhibition in seven years.

Craffiti was a direct translation of street art, representing it in as many types of craft as possible.

The artists’ whose work she was inspired to pay homage to in this marrying of craft with street art, were all very supportive, collaborative and overwhelmingly positive about the project.

Sayraphim says of Craffiti, that it was an interesting and intellectual challenge to work out how to make something that’s 2D, in 3D. Street Art is “cool” but craft can be seen as “daggy”. So putting them together challenges assumptions and creates a new art form.

What she likes about street art, politics aside, is that it’s a very democratic style of art and is also participatory.  “I’m all for participatory!” she said.  “As street art allows you to personalise and add colour to a very grey space.”

There are many threads to this young women’s canvas. She moved to Melbourne from Canberra in 1999 and shortly after graduated with honours in fine art photography from LaTrobe University, Bendigo.

She has been a puppet maker, constructed sets for the theatre and a games designer. She’s worked with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra on Pop Up Playground for kids and the Bell Shakespeare Company.

With this move to Melbourne, she noticed and found it awesome to see women making art on the streets.

“This is one thing that I can do, even though I can’t paint or draw. I can be part of this female presence through craft,” she said.

She cites Suki’s work as an example that depicts women doing normal, everyday motherly things.

Sayraphim sees herself as a public artist, not a street one, and neither does she consider herself to be a yarn bomber. However, she feels that yarn bombing is a “valid low level entry into participation in the street art scene”.

“It can change our environment for the better, giving one a sense of pride. Not everyone can attain the levels of some artists but anyone can participate and leave their mark by sticking something on a wall,” she said.

“It’s important for humans to feel that they’ve made a difference. People need to know that they’ve been heard and made a ripple in the world.”

Sayraphim is an internationally-recognised exponent of Craftivism, a world-wide movement that uses craft as a tool for gentle activism, where one can be creative and altruistic at the same time, was motivated to translate Peter Drew’s poster Real Australians Say Welcome into a piece of knitting.

Placing it in the “very public” Hosier Lane, it lasted a fortnight before being stolen. She is quite philosophical about this: “Once you put art in a public place, you have to be ‘cool’ with what happens to it!”

If you wish to indulge in some DIY, the pattern can be found on Sayraphim’s Facebook page.

Peter Drew, an Adelaide street artist, spent three months traveling the country, visiting eight capital cities to paste up his silk-screened poster Real Australians Say Welcome. A thousand in total, this epic effort culminated in the last one being pasted on the wall of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection in Canberra, to coincide with National Refugee Day.

Peter was inspired by the second verse of Advance Australia Fair: “For those who’ve come across the seas; We’ve boundless plains to share; With courage let us all combine to Advance Australia Fair.”

It was a mostly-positive experience for him that met with little resistance. And some council’s, notably Dandenong, the most multi-cultural in Victoria, agreed with the message and went out of its way to preserve the poster.

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