At last month’s Heritage Crafts Awards Winners’ Reception at the College of St George, Windsor Castle, bursary recipient Hannah Girvan made this speech, which resonated with many of us there:
“I burnt out in an office job during the pandemic, as Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Lead, when I realised my role was tickboxing and that nothing would change. It broke my heart. To deal with the burnout I spent time in the forest as a Ranger and that was the first time I used power tools. Learning more about wood as a material and a living part of the habitat became integral to my existence. It became part of who I was. I shifted everything to make it my focus.
“During the pandemic I also came out to my family, friends and to myself as bi. Because once you start stepping into who you are it’s impossible to turn back.
“As an apprentice joiner I had to show up as myself because at this point there was no other form of being. It meant fighting back when sexism or racism happened. Questioning why that was allowed. Why no-one was calling it out as inappropriate or demeaning. I just wanted to go to work to do my craft and learn. I ended up changing workshops and it’s been a lot better for my health. It means I can show up to work and crack on without first having to defend parts of myself others might not have to. The white noise began to fade.
“I think I can get through pretty much anything as long as I am a maker. It helps me process life and helps me know myself better, which in itself is a powerful thing. Not everyone will be able to live their life as themselves or to know what their voice is or what creativity means to them. We are able to speak without needing words and show these parts of ourselves through the things we make. There’s something incredible in that.
“Life is hard at the minute. Cost of living is insane and I’m currently trying to find somewhere to live in Devon and that’s really stressful. Those day-to-day stresses and things like seeing the EDL on the news and what’s going on around the world really put you into survival mode and gives everything a bleak quality.
“But then we make. Knowing that what we make is truly ours and a part of us went into each piece. That we’re adding to the world not detracting from it. When we make we own our voice and share it, becoming a part of living history and heritage.
“I’m grateful for this bursary. It means permission to be creative and allocated time to do so. It means a part of my brain can be unlocked that would otherwise be in survival mode and dormant. It means I can bring friends into my craft and share it with them and it means meeting other makers like you. I’d like other people to experience this sense of quiet power. The feeling of being in a workshop, making, connected to your body, mind and material. I’d also like to hear from voices less heard and see more black and brown role models because I know I’ve got a lot to learn from differing perspectives. We all do.
“I’m grateful for the grant and I’m grateful to meet you guys today. I love sharing food so if anyone wants to eat together and hang just give me a shout.”
Hannah’s bursary was supported by the City & Guilds Foundation. Photos by Stefan Jakubowski.