Material Grrrlz Club Craft, Bracelet Making, 2023. Photo: Alexa Kari.

Crafting Connection: Alexa Kari’s Material Grrrlz Revolution by Grace Cline

I recently had the pleasure of attending the May session of the Material Grrrlz Club, a monthly gathering of fibre artists in Brixton, London. Within the conference room of Brixton’s 3Space International House, the atmosphere buzzed with creativity and camaraderie. Workshop participants eagerly reconnected with one another, sharing details about their current projects, which yarn they are using, and their latest one-night stands. After the workshop, I sat down with the artist behind it all, Alexa Kari, to discuss her artistic practice, the community she has built, and the broader implications of her work.

The First 3 Issues of Material Grrrlz Magazine, 2023. Photo: Alexa Kari.

“This isn’t your grandma’s knitting circle,” Alexa tells me with a smile, echoing the tagline that has drawn in thousands of followers. Material Grrrlz, now in its second year, is a vibrant community dedicated to celebrating the craftwork of young women and queer people. The project has amassed over 200,000 social media followers, purely through organic growth. “This artistic practice and community has been built through shared passion and creativity, without spending a dime on advertising.”

Material Grrrlz Club Christmas Meetup, 2023. Photo: Alexa Kari.

A Digital Phenomenon

Her initial Instagram posts, featuring humorous and relatable memes about fibre art, quickly gained traction. “People soon began connecting over the niche humour of posts about dropped stitches, wrist stretches, but also their desires for their craft practices to be taken seriously, and to uplift the craft practices of others,” Alexa says. These posts also touched on more profound themes like anti-capitalism, the history of fibre art as a women-dominated field, sustainability, and queer expression.

The “Hot Grrrl Summer”, Material Grrrlz Magazine, 2023, July/Aug Issue. Photo: Alexa Kari.

Craft as Protest

“Craft and politics have always been intertwined for me,” Alexa explains. With a background in gender and sexuality studies, she has always seen connections between craft and broader social issues. “Fibre art, which has historically been undervalued compared to fine art, requires immense skill and dedication. Yet, it doesn’t get the same respect or financial value.”

Material Grrrlz Club Craft, Bracelet Making, 2023. Photo: Alexa Kari.

This hierarchy, often drawn along gender lines, still exists today, and Alexa’s work seeks to challenge it. “Fibre arts take tremendous skill and dedication, but they’re not often recognised as fine art in major museums. There’s a lot to unpack and discuss there, but this is part of what makes the project of Material Grrrlz so impactful: It creates space for craft practices to be celebrated, taken seriously, and developed.” 

Building a Community

Seeing the enthusiasm for her posts, Alexa created a group chat to facilitate deeper connections. “I started a group chat using the Geneva app. It’s a space where everyone can share and see each other’s contributions,” she says. This digital community soon expanded into real-world interactions with the launch of the Material Grrrlz zine in March 2023. Featuring a Y2K aesthetic, each issue includes interviews with young women and queer designers, project advice, and original knitting, sewing and crochet patterns designed and made by Alexa.

One Year of Material Grrrlz, Wine Bar Knitting Party, 2024. Photo: Alexa Kari.

A Multi-Disciplinary Artist and Designer

Alexa is not only a community builder but also a dedicated artist. With a degree in Studio Art from St. Olaf College, Alexa has explored textiles and self-publishing since 2021, during which time her practice was primarily concerned with textile installations and museum interventions. Material Grrrlz as Alexa’s latest artistic project cements her status as a multi-disciplinary artist in the London creative space. Alexa designs the Material Grrrlz magazine entirely herself, handling everything from the writing and graphic design to the knitwear patterns and publishing. “I wanted the magazine to reflect the vibrant and diverse nature of our community,” she says. 

Material Grrrlz Magazine, 2024, Jan/March Issue. Photo: Alexa Kari.

Alexa is also a community artist, actively engaging the London community through workshops and events. “There’s not really a better artistic space than London,” says Alexa, reflecting on her journey from suburban Minnesota, U.S.A.  to the heart of Brixton. Her efforts go beyond simply teaching fibre art techniques; she aims to foster connections and create a supportive space for creativity. “It is incredible when members of the Material Grrrls community tell me that they made friends through our workshops, that the zine has inspired them to try a new project, or that they have gained a newfound respect for craft by engaging with the history and politic of craft through our book club and community spaces. I think Material Grrrlz, as an artistic project, shows that the most important thing craft has to offer is connection.” Through her work, Alexa Kari demonstrates that fibre arts are not only a form of creative expression but a powerful means of building community and challenging societal norms. 

Table of Contents, Material Grrrlz Magazine, 2023, Nov/Dec Issue. Photo: Alexa Kari.

Crafting a New Legacy

Material Grrrlz workshops are not just about learning new skills; they are about fostering sustainability and community. Upcoming sessions will cover using leftover yarn scraps to weave on cardboard looms and crochet for beginners. Details for these can be found here. | @materialgrrrlz

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