Young, diverse voices: my experience as a Young Craft Citizen
How can arts and culture organisations make sure internships and placements are meaningful for all involved? We hear from Yashika Munjal as she reflects on her experience as a Young Craft Citizen at the Craft Council.
I am a designer, maker and a recent graduate from Goldsmiths, University of London with my Masters in Design. I’m also a Young Craft Citizen, a collective of 16-30 year olds interested in shaping the future of craft, design and making in the UK, initiated by the Crafts Council. Through this, I landed an opportunity to work on a short-term paid placement (12 days) as a Research Assistant with the Crafts Council.
The research aimed to understand the experiences of makers of colour in the UK. My role in the project was to help conduct interviews, workshops, organise and attend steering group meetings with participants, especially women of colour, and help write reports for the organisation.
Gaining an insight into the research
My placement gave me valuable insight into the research space. Through the study, I realised that there are many obstacles for women of colour participating in the creative workspace, including communication barriers, lack of representation and personal choice.
The whole study gave me an opportunity to understand craft from various perspectives and the value it holds in different cultures. Through this research, I learned that we can only solve problems once we know how they came about and persist. To be able to facilitate marginalised groups, they need to be made a part of the conversation so we can disintegrate prejudices and misconceptions and create a more inclusive community of makers.
Bringing a new perspective and building confidence
Even though I joined the team in the fifth month of the project, I was well integrated in the study, first as an observer. My experience as a young maker of colour also brought a new perspective. I was asked to note my thoughts about the study, which was recorded as valuable feedback.
Through the placement, I gained research knowledge and learned new research methods. After attending my first steering group meeting, my feedback was integrated into the second meeting.
A key learning point has to been developing the skill of taking notes and keeping a record so I can always fall back on it for reference. My hardwork and enthusiasm were appreciated, and I also ended up extending my placement three more days.
Working in a professional setting where collaboration is valued over competition helped me build heaps of confidence and faith in myself.
Opening new possibilities
As a maker, I did not consider research as a career path for a young person. However, this opportunity has opened an expanse of career options I am now interested in.
Although I was on placement for a limited period, I was still welcomed and made to feel like an an integral member of the team. The placement was spread out across three months, i.e. one day a week. This allowed me to take on a whole new experience without interrupting my full-time work schedule. Although 12 days doesn’t sound very long, I was involved in all the meetings and workshops and had a chance to interact with people from so many different cultures. As a maker of color myself, I could completely relate to the issues the people of colour were facing in the craft sector.
What stood out to me was the number of people and organisations that were working on the study. Being able to connect and expand my contacts with other organisations like Birmingham City University, Glasgow Caledonian University, London, Centre for Cultural Value, Oitij-Jo and Legacy West Midland, opened up new doors for me. I am currently working on another independent project through those contacts.
Creating mutually beneficial opportunities
The Young Craft Citizens initiative is an incredible way to integrate and engage with young minds and bring voices from outside. While it made me feel heard and represented, it also left the organisation with a fresh perspective and more awareness of the problems young, especially marginalised people are facing in the creative industry.
I hope to see more organisations engaging with younger people in similar formats. Short-term experiences like this also help people, organisations and cultures grow and learn together and make better choices in the future.
I am not only leaving with experience, knowledge and new perspective but also an open mind towards various career paths that I didn’t know were open to me before.
You can delve deeper into the Collaborate funded research, which formed the basis of Yashika’s placement, by reading the full report, Wow, I did this! Making Meaning Through Craft, available via the Crafts Council website.
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Photo credit: Gene Kavanagh. Crafts Council and Glasgow Caledonian University (London) Living Lab with Legacy West Midlands featuring Yashika Munjal, funded by the Centre for Cultural Value, March 2023.