Brighton art activist Dani Ahrens, Rebel Yarns answered our questions. See below.
1. Is this the first time you’ve taken part AOH and why did you decide to do it?
Yes, this is my first open house. I always enjoy going round the open houses local to me in Hanover. Last year, I noticed knitted and crocheted pieces in a few of the houses I visited, and realised that the work I was doing might actually be good enough to exhibit!
2. Your Open Houses is called Rebel Yarns. Can you tell us about this name and also about your work, both the medium you use and about the ideas behind the work?
Rebel Yarns is the name of my blog, where I write occasionally about political issues. As well as blogging, I use knitting and crochet to express political and mathematical ideas, so the name brings both those things together quite nicely.
I believe the world is in a very dark place at the moment, but there are millions of people persisting in working together for a collaborative, sustainable future. My work celebrates that tradition of resistance and solidarity. For me, the process of knitting echoes the long, complex process of creating change. I find it somehow comforting to have a long project on the go, especially in such volatile times.
I’ve just finished a large piece which focuses on the deliberate decision by European governments to prevent people from using legal means to flee when their homes are ravaged by war and poverty. Thousands have drowned in the Mediterranean, and children are sleeping rough in the woods around Calais as a direct result of this heartless policy. However, at the same time, thousands of ordinary citizens have organised an extraordinary network of solidarity and support, from providing food and shelter in camps across Europe, to funding phone credit so that displaced people can communicate with their loved ones. I will be collecting donations at the Open House for the Phone Credit for Refugees Facebook group.
Crochet is much faster, so it’s ideal for a quick placard or a bit of yarn bombing. Traditional crocheted ‘granny square’ blankets are great for making collaborative pieces, such as the Brighton Welcome Blanket I am working on this spring.
3. Can you tell us a bit about the Make it Happen: Homes for Refugees project that you will be hosting?
The Welcome Blanket is my contribution to the Make it Happen project, which is being led by the University of Brighton and the Hummingbird Project. They have been holding workshops around the city, bringing people together to create art and have conversations about what it means to have a home – or to be without a home – and to share their knowledge and perspectives about the migration crisis that is currently unfolding.
4. What do people need to bring to the workshop with them on 13th of May?
They don’t need to bring anything –all materials will be provided. It’s not necessarily a knitting or crochet workshop, though visitors to the house are always welcome to make a square for the Welcome Blanket if they want to. The workshop will be facilitated by Louise Purbrick from Brighton University and will give people an opportunity to create whatever they choose in response to the theme of Homes for Refugees. All the workshops are being filmed and the finished result will be shown in the Brighton Fringe Festival on 26th May.
5. Can you tell us about the Welcome Blanket project and where can people see the project when completed?
Everyone is welcome to contribute a fabric square – 10 x 10cm, any colour, any pattern – and I will put them all together to make a warm and welcoming blanket, incorporating the lovely verse that is carved on the Patcham Pylons at the entrance to Brighton & Hove:
Hail Guest. We ask not what thou art
If friend, we greet thee, hand & heart
If stranger, such no longer be
If foe, our love shall conquer thee
I am making the lettering and gathering squares from other people throughout May. When the blanket is finished, I will donate it to the Thousand for a Thousand project, run by Brighton Migrant Solidarity, which provides homes for people made destitute by the UK government’s immigration system. I’ll be sure to put a photo on my website first, though!
6. What are the main benefits you hope to gain by taking part in the Artists Open Houses?
I’d like to meet people who are interested in the kind of technical knitting I do. I hope the exhibition will be of interest to knitting geeks as well as those who want to engage with the political stuff. It will be nice to get all the finished pieces out of the loft and see them all displayed. And it’s already made us decorate our hallway, which really needed doing!
Blog words and images by:
Idil C. Bozkurt
Freelance Video and Multimedia Producer
Twitter: @ic_image @bozkurtidl