Tom Daley and crafts: why does representation matters?

During the 2021 Olympics, Tom Daley, a champion in synchronized jumping, arrived into the podium crying. Likewise, craft makers and people from all over the world who fight for the valorization of handicrafts were also touched.

For us it was an automatic recognition: one needle = crochet, two needles = knitting. We already knew what he was knitting in the first sight. Needles and the mixture of curiosity and estrangement in relation to our work are part of the everyday life of any artisan.

When we came across the photos of an Olympic athlete holding a needle and a ball of yarn, it was as if we were looking at ourselves in the mirror, since most people who produce crafts also develop some other profession.

Whether for hobby, mental health or to supplement family income, that image, which is a reflection of our reality, was the bridge for dialogue – or at least a little bit of curiosity – between society and crocheters or knitters.

1. What is representativeness?

First, we need to define what the term representativeness means. The definition present in the ‘Policy Dictionary of Norberto Bobbio’ is that this term means “the expression of the interests of a group”. Therefore, representativeness indicates the construction of the identity of a group or individuals in the group.

In summary, if you are part of a group (of artisans, for example) and feel empowered, valued or contemplated by someone’s victory or recognition (be it for who that person is or for the work they represent), there was representation.

2. But after all, why does representation matter?

Now that we know the definition of representativeness, we must question how important it is. Naturally, if there is great recognition of an individual, there is also greater visibility of what he is or represents.

Therefore, with representation, there is an empowerment in the self-esteem of each member who sees himself represented in that person. In the case of Tom Daley, for example, we noticed several proud speeches coming from various artisans and artisans about their profession.

Still, this knowledge and insertion in the daily life of what was previously seen as “exotic” brings more plurality and diversity to our society, making new practices recognized and standardized. In this sense, in the case of handicrafts, a greater search for the valorization and support of the artisanal technique is encouraged.

Therefore, the exercise of empathy is visible. If we are facing something or someone who escapes our “bubble”, it is common to try to understand better so that we can avoid judgment before understanding.

If you are one of the people interested in Tom Daley’s handicraft work and want to learn some practical actions that contribute to the appreciation of handicraft, Briselier has made a special publication for you. Just click here.

3. Representativeness is not the same as a standpoint/place of speech.

To conclude, it is necessary to make an observation so that there is no confusion, as there are still those who confuse representation with place of speech.

As we have already mentioned, representation means representing with a group aiming at empowerment, empathy and even recognition. The idea of the “place of speech”, on the other hand, represents the possibility of making visible the existence and discourses of people who are silenced and marginalized on a daily basis.

In this sense, although Tom Daley’s representation is significant for the world of handicraft, it should serve as a door for artisans who make a living from handicraft work on a daily basis to have their discourse expanded. Thus, the power of the word is passed on to the people who actually experience that reality.

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Given these points, it is easy to understand why the image of the Olympic athlete knitting was so significant for artisans and craftsman/woman. Congratulations to Tom Daley, not only for his medals and dedication, but also for rising a little visibility to the craftsmanship to the podium.

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