“Strong, Visionary and Activist Women. Contemporary Artisan Women in Action” - a summary of the event and the project "Creative Waves - Baltic Sisterhood for Change".
The first days of autumn were marked by sisterhood, craft and action for us, our expert guests and the women participating in the event. Together with our partner organisations, on 25-27 September 2022, the Baltic Sea Cultural Centre in Gdańsk held a series of meetings, presentations, fairs and workshops entitled “Strong, Visionary and Activist Women. Contemporary Artisan Women in Action”. The event was designed as a safe space for creative women to exchange ideas and experiences. We wanted it to ignite the spirit of creative work and collaboration among women. What conclusions, opinions and discoveries did it bring? We invite you to read this short summary of the project.
The event “Strong, Visionary and Activist Women. Contemporary Artisan Women in Action” concluded the international project “'Creative Waves - Baltic Sisterhood for Change” .
This slogan has been with us from the very beginning. The project "Creative Waves - Baltic Sisterhood for Change" was brought to life by a group of women from the Baltic Sea Region. It was developed to support women's creative and social activities, making it easier for them to find their way in the digital world. The project helped the participating women to build a network of connections, become more entrepreneurial and made it easier for them to present their activities online.
We believe that empowerment of women can (and should!) be discussed in many ways. Our starting point was sisterhood, understood in this project very broadly: as a friendly and safe space – physical, digital and mental – which inspires, opens up and activates women. We have far too few such spaces in our everyday lives - and perhaps that is why we still do not fully understand their importance as incubators for professional, creative and personal development.
During the event, the word “sisterhood” appeared repeatedly in the definitions and references of our experts. Karolina Pisz (Laboratorium Zmiany /Laboratory for Change) defined it as a 'shared experience' - the feeling of being in a group that does not undermine women's experiences, does not belittle or reject them. Sisterhood is about finding each other that results from having similar experiences. Iwona Preis (Intercult) sees sisterhood as an area of women’s mutual support. A space with a motivating and understanding energy that encourages common work. Marion Rundal (ENUT) supported this view emphasising the importance of emotions in sisterhood - being able to freely experience and share feelings which then do not become an argument against women, but a source of motivation and inspiration.
It is worth mentioning that the entry “sisterhood” (siostrzeństwo) was added to Polish Wikipedia on 16 September this year so it is a very contemporary definition indeed. See the entry here.
STRONG, VISIONARY AND ACTIVIST WOMEN
We were fortunate that both “Creative Waves” project as a whole and the September series of meetings were co-created by wonderful women. Experts in various fields, craftswomen, organisers, participants in workshop activities.... Without them, this project would have not made sense. We are immensely grateful to each of the experts and participants for their contribution, for sharing their knowledge and experience.
If you would like to learn more about the experts we met during the project, see what they do on a daily basis and what kind of projects they run, click here: https://www.nck.org.pl/sites/default/files/media/documents/2022/bios_talks-to-emopwer.pdf
“Creative Waves” project was created, among others, to bring craftswomen closer to the digital world, thus enabling them to expand their activities and visibility. This, in turn, strengthens women's impact on communities to which they belong and which they co-create. During the meetings, workshops and webinars, participants from different countries met with new media experts to talk about the opportunities that those modern tools offer. "The “digital output” of the Polish part of the project will be a mobile application developed at the Kwidzyn Cultural Centre (KCK), which will help to promote and explain the basics of local Powisle embroidery and facilitate its use.
The programme of the meeting on September 27th was largely devoted to the opportunities new technologies offer to creative women. An important aspect of “modernising” women's handicraft work is to see it as a business possibility. And this is where the digital world plays a huge role: promotion, expanding the offer, establishing links are all important pieces of the business puzzle. New media make it much easier to build each of these business pillars.
Talking about handicraft as a business Agnieszka Gaczkowska (oplotki.pl) drew attention to the issue of product pricing. She encouraged participants to calculate carefully all the time spent on creating a given item or service. Is 150 PLN a lot in the context of, for example, one-hour tutoring or a visit to a massage parlour? Is PLN 300 a lot in the context of a product that took several hours or days to create?
Katarzyna Magierowska, a master embroiderer, participating in the Polish part of the project, noticed how important it was to her to be able to become better acquainted with new technologies thanks to the project. For her, what was crucial was not only the cooperation with Dorota Madej (an expert) and the KCK while creating an application to promote Powiśle embroidery, but also the ability to better navigate the Internet, search for products and expert information. And – what is worth noting - the visibility that Katarzyna gained thanks to the project has directly resulted in the expansion of her activities as a workshop leader.
CRAFTSWOMEN IN ACTION
"Women often take part in craft workshops. They feel that this is their world, their domain, which makes them participate more courageously in the activities" (Agnieszka Gaczkowska, oplotki.pl).
"You could feel the entrepreneurial spirit during our creative activities held by women" (Iwona Preis, Intercult).
During the September event, we talked a lot about female entrepreneurship. Women have enough motivation and leadership skills to prove themselves in business, that's clear. But is our - women's - way of understanding business any different from that proposed by today's world?
And here sisterhood proved to be an important point of reference. Our experts emphasised the role of collaboration, which they value far more than competition which drives many existing business models. Together you can do so much more - collaboration helps to learn, develop, broaden horizons and networks. It is more sensitive to the environment. This is the view of Sylwia Piechowska, a herbalist who runs various workshops such as “wild cuisine”, for instance.
The notion of process, of continuity, came up again and again in our discussions - developing craft skills is a process, creating is a process. Business is also a process which is not just about achieving established goals, but also about building a space around you that encourages relationships based on authentic engagement. Michalina Pączkowska, a biologist and creator of the website “Underwater – under water, above water” combining environmental education with creative activities, emphasised that the intimate project she started out of passion opened the way for her to bigger ventures. "It's a smooth collaboration that evolves on its own, often surprising me," she said.
Social change is possible and women are already driving it. The issue of women's visibility, their inner consent to share their opinions is hugely important. Women creators, women entrepreneurs play a hugely important role in this process. By sharing their world with others, they foster a sense of power and agency among other women.
At this point, it is worth quoting some 'anchor' recommendations for girls from the study 'Anchor for the future', presented by Karolina Pisz ((Laboratorium Zmiany /Laboratory for Change). Each of these 'anchors' can be useful for us, adult women, too.
- Let’s remember our sense of agency - we can do more, we are not powerless;
- Let's try to deepen our awareness of our own resources - you know what you are weak in, but do you know what your strengths are? Act, try, find out;
- Asking for help is not a weakness! Interaction creates strength which ensures you won't be affected by burnout;
- Look for alliances, allies. Create a space for yourself that makes it easier for you to live and act;
- Think critically, ask questions, ponder, question. Have your own opinions;
- You have your own opinions? Make your own decisions!;
- Make mistakes, don't be perfect! Mistakes teach and develop, perfection kills creativity and the will to act.
Read more here http://anchorsforfuture.eu/project/
THE BALTIC SEA
"Creative Waves" was an international project - we created it with partners from the Baltic Sea region: Sweden, Estonia, Euroregion Baltic network and a Kaliningrad team (in the first part of the project) and with the financial support of the Council of the Baltic Sea States Project Support Facility.
During our project, and especially February and September events, together with our experts, we tried to define what creates a Baltic identity. As our expert Agnieszka Jacobson – Cielecka noticed: “sharing the same views, landscapes, colours in the surroundings and jobs, crafts and materials results in surprisingly unified aesthetics, similar patterns in crafts, artistic expressions, etc... The topics of ecology or sustainable development or circular economy were very important during our discussions and activities, too.
In the context of the project, it is worth noting that the Baltic is a great metaphor: it brings us together and at the same time defines what divides us. Each of us is different, separate, an individual. And when we have the opportunity to meet in a safe space and understand each other better as the result of similar experiences, we tend to accept each other more. We become more open to interaction, co-feeling, co-creating. Sisterhood spaces make it easier for us to be ourselves, to give ourselves to others, but also to be with others, to take from others. We need more of this in our lives and in society - so let's build sisterhood! And the Baltic identity in stronger Baltic Sea region.