Kelli Donovan of Pure Pod & Marie-Nicole Roberts Founder of Creators Nest joined forces to host and present a workshop contributing to Belinda Smith’s ‘Blue Jean Sisters’ project.
We transformed the workshop & meeting room area of Creators Nest into a mini factory production line and presented participants with stories about the reality of changes in the fashion industry with the evolution of fast fashion.
Belinda Smith‘s been working with Outland Denim – a social enterprise providing sustainable employment and training opportunities for women who’ve been rescued from human trafficking and sexual exploitation.
Blue Jean Sisters, is one of six art and social enterprise collaboration commission by new art and social justice centre, Adderton: house & heart of mercy and will be featured in their inaugural major exhibition ‘A Fierce Hope’ in August 2019.
Kathy Day attended our workshop, her account of the experience is exactly what we’d hoped it’d do.
Kathy penned this beautiful life changing account below.
As I put the finishing stitches in the last of six little blue dolls, made from repurposed denim jeans. Each doll faceless, featureless, anonymous, imperfect. They have been the product of the efforts of a number of women, each woman cutting or stitching or stuffing a part of each doll and passing their ‘bit’ on to the next woman to do their part.
Recently, I attended a workshop at Creators Nest in Yass NSW where a group of enthusiastic women cut and stitched and sewed, making denim dolls for The Blue Jean Sisters Project, a project run by Belinda Smith, artist, to raise awareness of the Fast Fashion industry and the devastating social and environmental impact of this global industry.
Belinda is collecting and will display up to 2000 of these denim dolls in Brisbane later this year. She aim’s to raise awareness of human trafficking, sexual & economic exploitation, appalling working conditions and poverty for up to 40 million workers, primarily women and children, in the poorest countries of the world.
Kelli Donovan from Pure Pod in Canberra presented the workshop, introduced us to the realities of the Fast Fashion industry, showed us how to make the dolls, and encouraged us to get to work! Members of the group cut out torsos and legs, pinned pattern pieces, stitched, struggled to turn miniature arms. There was lots of enthusiasm, chatter and laughter.
At the end of two and a half hours we had 1 completed doll!
Belinda wanted 2000 dolls – so 1 completed doll was not quite enough! So some of us took half created dolls home with us, with a promise to bring them back in 2 weeks to be shipped off together to Belinda in Brisbane.
Bringing home 6 incomplete dolls, bits of fabric and a pattern has been a real learning experience for me. I had a vague understanding of the Fast Fashion Industry before, but had no real understanding of what it really means, on a personal and global level. The first thing I learned was that making something ‘piece-meal’ was a difficult thing to do! I felt I had no control over the work of the previous sewer – and therefore no control over the finished product. To my dismay, I had limited sense of ownership of the finished product.
It occurred to me that women sewing in a factory setup may feel the same – endlessly sewing just one part of a garment with little sense of control or pride in the finished product. I learned that the workers in these factories had dreadful working conditions and long tedious hours. I had the luxury of taking a break when my back & fingers got tired and sore – I could go sit in the sun, have a cuppa or do something different. This was not my livelihood; my family does not depend on my ability to sew for hours on a pittance. I could stop whenever I wanted to.
In an attempt to find out more, I read articles on the internet about the Fast Fashion Industry, I watched “The True Cost” documentary on Netflix, which digs deep into the implications of the industry and exploitation of workers. I was appalled by what I read and saw. Such human suffering, such environmental impact, just so those of us who live in affluent societies can buy $4 t-shirts.
I watched a young woman in Bangladesh working & living in poverty, separated from her child and family, so she could support them financially. I learned about the dangerous conditions in which people slave and die, just to support the profits of the fashion industry. I learned about the supply chain, where cotton is picked by children because their smaller hands do not damage the cotton plants, where they’re constantly exposed to toxic chemicals. I learned about the environmental impact of disposing of unwanted clothing in land fill .
It’s comforting to read & hear about ethical fashion designers & creators who are working to change the system. But is too much, too little, too late? What responsibility do we, the consumers of fast, cheap, disposable clothing, have? How do we change it? How do we change our consumer habits? Is buying pre-loved clothing enough? What sort of measurable impact can I as a single consumer, have if I don’t buy that $4 t-shirt or that $12 pair of jeans?
So many questions and so few answers. I had no idea when I signed up for this doll making workshop that this could be a life changer for me. The 6 little dolls which I delivered over the weekend may look imperfect, but they represent so much. Each doll that Belinda Smith displays represents just a small percentage of the featureless, faceless women, men & children caught up in the fashion industry world wide, working, dying and suffering. Belinda’s display may just be a catalyst for change. I’m proud to be a small part of it. A Blue Jeans Sister.
27 March 2019
On Saturday March 30th, 2019 the final numbers of completed dolls as a result of this workshop was 66!!!
And there are still more being created & delivered.
So proud of the women from Yass & Canberra for their effort & dedication, creating these sweet dolls for the Blue Jean Sisters Project.
More info on ‘Blue Jean Sisters’ project & how you too can contribute click here.
To hear the inspiring story behind Outland Denim click here.