Jazz Domino Holly, founder of the Shoreditch Sisters WI, has just published her first craft book, Queen of Crafts (Fig Tree).
It’s a lipstick-pink treat crammed with techniques and projects from jam-making to patchwork, crochet to cake, make-your-own cosmetics and throw-your-own-crafternoon tips. We interrupted her busy schedule for a chat…
Hi Jazz! How are you feeling now Queen of Crafts is published?
It was quite a moment when I put the book onto my bookshelf, even more so than seeing it for the first time. I found that really exciting—it will be really exciting when I finally see it in Waterstone’s.
How and where did you write it?
The whole process took a year. I started writing it up here [in London] but it was too full of distraction, there was a party every night, I had a permanent hangover. I woke up one day thinking: “I’ve had enough, I’m leaving!”. So I decided to go to Hastings. I’d been on holiday there a few times and I’d fallen in love with the town. It was just me and the dog, in a little fisherman’s cottage by the sea. For half of the time I rented a studio to do my crafting in.
The book had been in my head for a couple of years before I got my deal—I used to write a domestic feminist zine called Period and I’d always wanted to expand it. When I was approached by the editor I had ideas I’d been putting together for years.
How linked are feminism and craft, for you?
It’s totally down to the individual: feminism is such a blanket term—it means different things to different people. For me it’s about reclaiming typically female pastimes for your own ends, such as using needlework to stitch political banners. I really admire Judy Chicago, an artist in the 70s who tried to bring back traditional craft skills. I also love Louise Bourgeois’ knitted installations.
You can’t get away from the fact that through the ages traditionally women were knitting and sewing, it’s a very female skill.
What crafting are you into these days?
I’m very faddy, but at the moment I cannot get enough of patchwork—it builds up so quickly. Knitting is so laborious, patchwork is like building blocks. I love picking the fabrics .
What’s your favourite crafting music?
Ohhhh that’s a good question. Entirely depends on what I’m making. If I’m making something on the sewing machine, then I like loud and fast pedal-to-the-metal type of music. For more intricate work where you have to concentrate or follow a pattern I prefer something more instrumental or better yet a bit of “Lark Rise to Candleford” on the box!
When you’re not crafting, what do you like to read?
I’ve recently discovered the world of domestic fiction and have been devouring the novels of Barbara Pym with gusto. Her novel Excellent Women has got to be on my top five favourites. I also just recently finished E M Delafield’s Diary of a Provincial Lady which is laugh-out-loud funny. I love anything that takes the ordinary and makes it extraordinary. Mrs Gaskell’s Cranford also has some very amusing and witty observations. I’ve also recently heard of a new genre of fiction called Knit Lit – seems to be a sort of Miss Marple meets Debbie Stoller whodunit round the knitting circle.
And finally . . . if you could pick out one woman to be a role model for yourself (or young women in general) who would it be and why?
Hmmmmm I think role models can be a troublesome idea. But generally I like people who just don’t give a fuck and stick to their own individualist ideas, never following the herd. I think Vivienne Westwood has quite an eccentric edgy DIY attitude. When the recession hit, she started telling everyone to wear tablecloths and handkerchiefs worn as knickers. I thought: yeah brilliant! You can’t get much cooler than that can you?