This article appeared on the Craft Guerrilla Zine, issue nr.8 (Winter Zine), which you
can must buy here.
You can get it either as pdf or hard copy. It is a monthly issue which features articles, fantastic illustrations and tutorials. All about crafts.
I wrote about the craft scene in Berlin.
Even before I knew how to orient myself in Berlin, before I could properly go shopping without buying ten of everything because I could not remember the gender of “zucchini”, I had one established conviction about this city (read: the most common idea about Berlin): this is where creative people assemble. With so much energy circulating, one would think that the crafting community was thriving. However, things are slowly developing: even though the first sewing café, Linkle Stitch and Bitch, opened its doors in 2006 – and a new one inaugurated recently – crafting events and get-togethers are a relatively new thing, and crafting itself is gaining recognition.
Among the places at the forefront in the crafting community, the one-year-old “La Bastellerie” is well worth a visit.
This crafting lounge in Berlin Kreuzberg is a three-room crafting paradise, offering various workshops – from bookbinding, to embroidery, to restyling old clothing -, hosting the newly opened exhibition “The Wunderkabinett” [Closet of wonders], and a small open studio where, for five euros per hour, you can use a sewing machine and various other tools.
While making pin buttons and drinking tea, Ina Göllmann recounted the beginnings of the crafting lounge. “We started a couple of years ago with crafting parties, an idea that I got while researching on the web. I read about craft events in the Unites States and in London and thought it was a great idea. I wondered why there were no such events in Berlin”.
The parties proved successful, so they decided to take the project one step further and opened La Bastellerie, at first an open workspace only. Activism and community-building are also at the heart of La Bastellerie’s mission. “We observed that people who had never even met before, all of the sudden created something together and sort of got to know each other in a different way. This is a good basis to make ideas circulate and motivate people to do stuff together”.
Independent craft and DIY are slowly taking root in Germany, and whereas this is the city where this sort of movements are more likely to emerge, the explanation seems to rest in the historical and cultural tradition of German artisanry. “Germany is the only country where, in order to found a business as a carpenter, you need to have a Master craftsman’s diploma [in German Meisterbrief].
So, the focus has not been on DIY, and even the word “basteln” [the German equivalent of “to tinker”] is not really highly thought of. It mainly refers to activities for children or “aunties” and it is relegated to the hobby area”, said Ina. La Bastellerie wants to help change the perception of craft, which is also why they chose to keep the word “basteln” in the name, “in order to give it a good connotation, to send the message that this is something that adults do as well, also as a hobby, of course, but not only”.
La Bastellerie is also home to the Wunderkabinett, an ever changing exhibition of very unique handmade products. It was founded by Leah Buckareff, a Canadian bookbinder and musician currently living in Berlin – and co-founder of the Torontian City of Craft -, who had dreamt about creating the Wunderkabinett for some time, and wanted to keep herself engaged in the craft scene.
When comparing the local crafting community to its Canadian counterpart, Leah Buckareff also sees the smaller importance of consumer culture in Germany as a factor: “North America’s long history of consumer culture encouraged a lot of us to start making our own stuff and altering our own clothes to make it unique at a very young age. A lot of today’s craft scene is born out of that DIY culture. Consumption wasn’t as big a part of German life so today’s craft scene also feels like they’ve taken or mimicked the already developed craft world (via Etsy) and applied it to the community here”.
The interest in crafting among young adults is undoubtedly growing and the many craft fairs and designer markets offer a great showcase. More and more groups are forming, such as the Stricken Bar, a collective created by some of the members of the “Collectif France Tricot”, who regularly organize very successful knitting events in downtown Berlin’s bars. With places such as La Bastellerie and groups that showcase crafters’ work and bring the know-hows to the masses, crafting is well on its way to becoming an important aspect of this vibrant city’s cultural and artistic reality.