Stacks of Books

How readers can support Black, Indigenous, and other writers of colour

Want to enact change within the publishing industry? Here are some simple things that you can do as a reader to help change the system and the sales numbers of BIPOC writers

  1. Pre-order books from artists’ publishers BEFORE their publishing date, either directly from the publisher or from an independent bookstore. This will encourage the bookstore to make displays, hand-sell more books, and encourage the publisher to invest more in further promotions.
  2. Pay full price for the book. Don’t buy wait to buy it secondhand, don’t wait until it comes out in paperback, don’t order it from Amazon who trims cover prices. By paying the full cover price to an independent bookstore, you will guarantee that the author, the publisher and the bookseller all receive full value for their book. By buying local, you continue to support the whole publishing eco-system.
  3. Notice who the book is published by. Are they publishing diverse authors? No? Why not spend some time exploring small presses who do publish and support diverse writing. 
  4.  Gift books by BIPOC authors to everyone you know, particularly your white friends.
  5. Call up your local library or literary festival and nominate an author that you love to give a talk.
  6. Get your book club together and agree to all buy multiple copies of the book and read it together. Invite the author to visit your book club virtually, and pay them an honorarium for their appearance.
  7. Provide the author positive reviews on Goodreads, Amazon, and take an excellent Shelfie with the book
  8. Follow the author on social media.
  9. Write the author a thank you note for their work. Tell them how their words impacted you. Look forward to the next thing they write. Tell everyone you know that you are waiting for their next book.
  10. Be thankful for their work, but don’t overstep. Recognize that authors need fans to have boundaries and that their work, lives, and personal boundaries may keep them unable to engage the way that you expect them to. They don’t owe you anything.
  11. Seek out diverse forms of writing such as poetry, short fiction, stage plays, comics and novels by Black writers. Find literature that celebrates Black hopes, dreams, and futures. 
  12. Attend book readings (virtual or in person, when possible). Invite friends to attend with you.
  13. Support bookstores owned by BIPOC owners. (United States | Canada)
  14. Apply these principles to BIPOC artists, musicians, dancers and other creatives. 

What tips have I missed? Please share your ideas in the comments below.

A photo gallery of yarn bombing images
Books, Yarn Bombing

Find Your Co-Conspirators

On October 30th, Mandy Moore and I will be celebrating the launch of the fourth printing and tenth anniversary edition of our book Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti. For this special anniversary, we’ve added a new chapter featuring new yarn bombing works that delight us.

Yarn Bombing: The Art of Knit Graffiti was first published in 2009. In many ways, the book has become one of the most unanticipated yet joyous aspects of my life.

In 2007, I attended a graduate program in publishing with the hunch that I might hang up my long-unused creative writing and art history degrees, and instead pursue a career as a book designer. Little did I know that during the course of my studies, I would be ask to pitch a fictional book project that could be part of an art press. Yarn Bombing started as a silly school project that I pitched for fun – I had no idea that it would become a reality, much less something that would be out in the world being read and enjoyed a decade later.

Mandy and I yarn bombing in 2011

The inspiration for the book came from a couple of sources: a stitch and bitch that I’d started with some friends; the discovery of a handful of knit graffiti blogs through BlogSpot, an early blogging platform; and many of years of working as a programmer in community art council and art gallery settings, punctuated with the frustration that the so-called worlds of ‘high art’ and ‘low art’ never seemed to mix.

I threw the idea of a knit graffiti book out to my classmates, and they were encouraging. I took the idea to my instructors who informed me I had to pitch the book with a have a Canadian author, rather than best-selling knitting author Debbie Stoller. As luck would have it, Mandy and I had crossed paths at Knitting and Beer, a stitch and bitch that I used to run with some friends at a pub. She had been editing for and had just moved to Vancouver, and I immediately was awed by her knitting skills. I pitched Mandy as my ‘fake author’ for the project and never gave it another thought – until months later when Robert from Arsenal Pulp Press, who had attended my class’ pitch day to give us industry feedback, asked if I’d like to come in and discuss creating the book for them. A real book, with Mandy as my co-author.

And so, this is how Mandy and I really got to know each other – I sent her an email, asking her if she remembered me, and I asked her if she wanted to write a book with me. She was receptive, and through many late nights of writing, eating too much candy, and laughing hard through stress – we somehow wrote a book together.

Yarn Bombing Cover
Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti, 2009

Yarn Bombing continues to be a project where, somehow, as if by magic, synergies occurred. Beyond the collaborative efforts of Mandy and myself, the project was truly the culmination of many hands. Friends, classmates, and significant others put in long hours to help out with modeling and photographing projects. Artists from around the world contacted us and offered to participate. Favourite locations in the city opened their doors to us. My friends who worked in bookstores did a lot of hand-selling. Friends of friends wrote media stories on us, and shared knitting projects with their relatives. Yarn Bombing, both in 2009 and 2019, is truly a book made by a community.

The last decade has brought many changes. When we wrote the book in 2008, social media was new and existed through MySpace and blogs. The City of Vancouver was a quieter place then (prior to the boom of hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics) and most of the locations that we shot in no longer exist. Many of the friends who posed for photographs have since changed relationships, become parents, or moved to other locations. We’re different than we used to be, but that’s okay – the spirit of yarn bombing has taken on new forms. Society has become more conscious of the right for human dignity. Protest culture has grown. Sustainability is not a luxury, but a basic tenant to human and species survival. Anarchy, hand-making, and coming together as a community are now widely recognized as vital political acts. The issues that we addressed ten years ago are still being talked about, and addressing them has become a vital part of work in many communities of citizen-maker-activists.

Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti, 2009

Gathering with other people to make something out of the ordinary with a little bit of creativity and a whole lot of gumption is what remains true in the old and new editions of the book. I hope that Yarn Bombing continues to delight readers and that it encourages you to find your own creative projects, and your own co-conspirators. When you join forces and ideas with other people, there’s no limit to what can happen.

Join us for the:

Vancouver, Canada Yarn Bombing Book Launch Party:
October 30th, 2019 from 7pm-9pm
Broadway Book Warehouse

Book signing, free refreshments, and a BYOY stitch & bitch (bring your own yarn & needles and hooks)

RSVP and invite your friends via Facebook

Cover of Yarn Bombing book with a crocheted covered bull statue
Books, Yarn Bombing

Ten Years of Yarn Bombing

A new edition of yarnarchy launches this fall.

I’m pleased to announce that Mandy Moore and I have once again joined forces with Arsenal Pulp Press on Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti. (2009 and 2019)

  • A yarn bombed BMX bike
  • Stick Graffiti, Yarn Bombing translated into German
  • Leanne Prain (left) and Mandy Moore (right) at the Yarn Bombing book launch, 2009.
  • yarb bombing
  • Leanne Prain and Mandy Moore in Vancouver, BC
  • Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti book cover

In celebration of Yarn Bombing‘s 10th birthday and the fourth (!!!) printing of our book, Mandy and I have added a new foreword and chapter to the book in which we looked at what has transpired over the last ten years. You’ll find examples of work that we think demonstrates where the movement has gone, and interviews with new artists on where they think that the movement is going next. If you are a fan of the first edition, we hope that you’ll enjoy this second look at the movement.

The revised edition will be in bookstores on October 15, 2019. Ask your local indie bookstore to order it for you from our publisher, or if you can’t wait to see it and want to help us boost our pre-sales, you can pre-order from Amazon now.

For those of you in the Vancouver area, we’ll definitely be holding another party to celebrate! We hope that you’ll come knit, crochet and rejoice with us.

Craft, Podcast

Citizens of Craft

I’m honoured to be a guest speaker on Episode 1, Season 2 of Citizens of Craft podcast, between craft luminaries Leo Kowolik, editor of Studio Magazine, and Sage Paul, Indigenous fashion designer.

Between their interviews, I spoke with podcast host Maegen Black on my own craft history, my books, yarn bombing, and what we can learn about craft when we learn to use hand skills into our everyday lives.

Citizens of Craft brings together the voices of craft artists, curators, educators and collectors who speak off the cuff about craft practice and its role in their lives. Check out and become part of the movement by signing the Citizens of Craft Manifesto in solidarity.

An image of many women in pink
Events, Speaking Engagements, Writing

Turn It Up and Disrupt

Find me at UBC’s International Women’s Day Festival

On March 9th, I’ll be returning to The University of British Columbia to speak about creativity and art and social change. Strangely enough, I’ll be one of the classrooms that I once inhabited as an art history student. Little did I know that one day I’d be back for Turn It Up and Disrupt.

My first talk in the morning will be talk with Q&A on social change and creativity. In the afternoon, Laura Farina and I stage a participatory writing session under our artistic collective called The Imprint. Come write with us!

Fundamental Rights Photo by Angelo Wagan on Unsplash

Workshop | Using Your Creativity for Social Change | Frederic Lasserre 105 (LASR) | 11:15-12:15pm

Author Leanne Prain (Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit, Hoopla: The Art of Unexpected Embroidery, and Strange Material: Storytelling Through Textiles) will give a talk about how artists, designers, and other creatives can use their work to activate social or political change.

What can we do as designers, artists, and makers to incite positive change in our communities? How do we make space for creativity, while also expanding our practice to include other voices? How do we know if our work has made impact? How can we scale our practice and share it with others? How can we change history by documenting and unearthing artistic practices? Why does collaboration make us stronger?

Art & Writing Workshop | Invite Her to the Table | Lasserre 105 (LASR) | Drop in from 1:30-4:00pm

Inspired by Judy Chicago’s 1979 visual artwork The Dinner Party, which invited accomplished women from history to fictional dinner party; Invite Her to the Table asks participants to invite women and femmes, to tell us who they value. Through participatory writing, we will invite women that we admire to attend a contemporary dinner party in 2019. We will write on the tablecloths, napkins and place settings – and bring others to the table.

This project is presented by The Imprint, a literary collective in Vancouver that engages citizens through participatory writing projects.  

To find out more about the Festival, and to purchase tickets, visit their website.

Zine image
Creativity, Events, Writing

Art & Activism Talk at the CV Web Posse

I’ll be giving a talk about Activism through Art & Design at the Comox Valley Web Posse on June 28th. As I grew up in the valley, I’m really looking forward to meeting the new creative community there, as it has grown leaps and bounds since I left in the 1990’s.

This is a new talk that I’ve developed over the last year that I hope will spur creatives to think of how to responsibly tackle social justice issues through their creative work. Here is the official description of the event:

Activism Through Art & Design Talk

What can we do as designers, artists, and makers to incite positive change in our communities? How do we make space for creativity, while also expanding our practice to include other voices? How do we know if our work has made impact? How can we scale our practice and share it with others? How can we change history by documenting and unearthing artistic practices? Why does collaboration make us stronger?

Author Leanne Prain will take you on an exploratory tour of how artists and designers can use their work to activate social or political change. By sharing a wide variety of examples from around the world, Leanne will discuss how art can be used to implement civic collaborations, community co-creations, conversation-worthy street art, and covert storytelling. Learn how to implement your creative work in a way that will have true and long-lasting social impact.

This 45-minute talk will be accompanied by large-scale visuals, with a round-table discussion to follow.

NIC, Tyee Hall, Room 203
Cost: $10 includes door prizes
Students: free