In the Blog
Jen Anisef: Connoisseur of Craft
Every Thursday I profile a new incredible woman, each from a different walk of life. Different professions, causes, backgrounds, ethnicities, orientations, and anything/everything else!
So without further delay, let me introduce the craftastic Jen Anisef…
Creator of the Toronto Craft Alert, co-founder of City of Craft, and partner in goodEGG industries, Jen Anisef epitomizes the enthusiasm and tenacity of the current culture of craft. After witnessing the importance of handwork “in the lives of everyone from little kids to the elderly” during a year spent in rural Japan, Jen came back to Canada to bring that same kind of creative connection and community home.
Pausing from her many creative endeavors, Jen explains to us how craft and community can enrich your life, and why faking it till you make it can get you to where you really want to be.
What drives you to do what you do?
My motivation has changed with the evolution of my various projects. I initially got into all of this crafty business because I loved to make stuff, and I especially liked to engage with others who make stuff (I was a bit of a craft message board junky for a few years). Nowadays I spend more time facilitating other people’s crafty pursuits than sewing myself… and I am definitely stoked when I hear that my efforts have lead to someone else’s success or satisfaction.
What has remained constant is my love of information sharing, inherited from my dad, who will send me a half dozen links after a conversation. The Toronto Craft Alert was motivated by a need for a space to share crafty information & culture in Toronto. To see these connections happen on a daily basis is a dream come true.
How does being a woman empower / challenge you?
I think the most powerful thing about going through life as a woman is community. Because women tend to account for others in their actions and see each aspect of their lives (family, relationships, work, etc.) as intertwined, we move through our worlds with other people in our hearts and minds. I would not be able to achieve half of what I have (and what I will) without the input and support of those in my community. I think this is especially true in the craft community, which is a very strong network of mostly, you guessed it, women.
The flip side of this is caring too much what other people think of your actions, and how they will affect others at every turn. Sometimes you need to quiet that outside noise (much of it created by yourself!) and trust yourself totally. I am definitely still working on this challenge myself.
What advice would you give to young women who want to follow in your footsteps?
Put simply, fake it till you make it… don’t stop yourself from going after what you want because you aren’t qualified or don’t fit the mold. When I was younger I used to think along those lines: I needed to know everything about indie music in order to write reviews for the school paper, I couldn’t take art classes because I didn’t know how to draw properly, and I wouldn’t sit in on the women’s issues discussions at lunch because I didn’t identify as a hardcore feminist. Aside from being totally lame, this attitude stopped me from becoming engaged and from learning so many interesting things.
I got fed up with this state of affairs in my early 20s and just started going for it, and quickly learned that most people don’t know everything (or even half of everything), and that you pick things up as you go along - or at least get help from people who know more than you! So if you are hankering to do something, just start doing it before you have a chance to disqualify yourself.
Name one person, place, or thing every young woman should know about?
The Textile Museum of Canada. A totally inspiring & often drool-inducing material history of the world - much of it produced by women.
What is the most important thing we can do in order to change the world?
I tend to think along smaller lines… like committing to making lots of space in your life for stuff that you care about (be that art, nature, making good food, biking, etc.), and supporting others in their efforts to carry though stuff that they care about. This shifts the focus away from a lot of the empty junk that pervades our lives and brings us back to our essential humanness. The more we get in touch with ourselves and each other, the more hope we have for not repeating bad behaviour from our past.
Make sure to stop by Toronto Craft Alert for crafty tips, advice, news, and listings. And if you want to become more involved in Toronto’s crafty community, City of Craft has just put a call out for volunteers.