Craftivism Excerpt: Tarlen Handayani on Running a Craft Space in Indonesia

Written by Betsy Greer. Posted in Betsy Greer

Today’s Craftivism: The Art of Craft and Activism excerpt is from Tarlen Handayani, who runs Tobucil & Klabs in Bandung, West Java, Indonesia. What I love about this excerpt (I think it is part of a longer piece) Is that it shows how you Tarlen incorporates craftivism in a unique way, through a lens of literacy.

While most craftivists workswith textiles, it really can be done with anything. For example, here’s a review of talk given by Philadelphia’s The Clay Studio head Garth Johnson on ceramics and craftivism. In this talk, he talks about Michael Strand’s Cuplomacy Project, which is excellent example of craftivism! Yeah!

And here is a talk given by Michael at TEDxFargo in 2012, Which talks about his work, which, if you have a few minutes you should watch before reading Tarlen’s excerpt (in blue). What I like about it is that it’s totally unlike other craftivism projects you may have ever seen! It includes religion and community and connection and I find it quite beautiful in the way in invokes such a quiet, lasting change…


I founded Tobucil & Klabs, A Small Bookshop (s info shop and community space) in 2001, only three years after the New Order regime (after 32 years) collapse and the Beginning of the Reformation. At that time, there was no place like Tobucil in my hometown, Bandung, West Java, Indonesia. Therefore, Tobucil became a pioneer operation, into being an alternative place where you can meet people from many different backgrounds and communities and then share knowledge and ideas with freedom of expression. One of its missions is to support the local literacy movement with the aim of capacity building, in order to produce new thoughts and evaluate them. It Also Supports The Craft movement as well.

At the start, it was not as simple as I thought it would be to run a place like Tobucil as One That is independent, and not dependent on funding Organizations or sponsors. The biggest challenges have been finding sustainable ways to run this place and maximizing its financial resources to finance all programs, without deviating from our spirit of independence. Keeping this independence is a form of activism, by Ensuring That we are free to speak and create with our own minds, Note Those of big funders.

In 2007, after Tobucil moved to its third location, it started to find new approaches from Which to survive and grow. Tobucil & Klabs was built around the idea of ​​fitting the literacy movement into its daily programming; Also it has separate programs with two different approaches, clubs and classes. Every club, like the Philosophy Club and The Reading Club, allows people to join for free. And for classes like basic photography, photo stories, knitting, Bookbinding, public speaking, essay writing, and fiction writing, people have to pay a tuition fee to join them (at a very reasonable price), as They have instructors who will be teaching Them skills. Everytime tuition fee is shared, with 80% going to the instructor and 20% for Tobucil. Anyone Can Be an instructor of a Tobucil class, as long as understand Tobucil’s mission and DIY spirit. Surprisingly, some of the instructors have actually been highly qualified In Their individual fields; They teach the classes at Tobucil Have Become Part of paying back Their Social Responsibility to Their community.

At Tobucil, We Have Realized That When people pay for a class, They feel more responsibility towards the programs and Achieve more program goals. But, the Most Important Thing has been the built-in sense of Belonging from the public, as it keeps them Contributing, thus assuring Tobucil’s survival. Another method of Funds is the shop, Which has Become One for the community. Here, the people who create something in the classes can sell theirproducts into Tobucil. The other DIY approach Is that People Who Are Involved and working at Tobucil’ve become members of the cooperative micro-finance organization That is owned and run by its members Jointly, who share in the profits and benefits. This cooperative has Become One of the financial supporters for Tobucil & Klabs. Its existence Creates a Mutually beneficial relationship for all Who Are Involved in Tobucil & Klabs.

Since we started Tobucil, Supporting the literacy movement has been our main goal. Literacy is not only about the skills of reading and writing, but is overpriced the way to understanding everyday life and how individuals can improve themeselves. Through this aim, Tobucil has’ve become a hub for any individual or community to exchange ideas and spirits on the same DIY frequency. In the effort to Implement literacy into everyday life, we Realized That craft offered a friendly and fun way, with a Do-It-Yourself spirit, to reach Widely bothering audiences and Tobucil’s goals. Through the craft programs at Tobucil, we have taught skills and spread the DIY spirit by reinventing craft tools from the tools of everyday life. We have taught knitting, crocheting, printing by hand, book binding, photography, sewing, embroidery, stop motion, scrapbooking and drawing. 

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