Business of Craft Episode 67 Laura Bellows on Cultural Appropriation in Craft for Makers


My guest today is Laura Bellows, owner and founder of Jul Designs, an internationally collaborative company producing knitwear and body jewelry designs. Doctor Laura Bellows also happens to be a PhD trained cultural anthropologist, well-versed on the issues regarding cultural appropriation in business. She joins our show today to help crafty entrepreneurs understand cultural appropriation and what it means for their businesses.

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#1 Before we dive right in, give our listeners a little bit of background on your background and your origin story with Jul designs. [2:39]

#2 Let’s start with your definition of what is cultural appropriation. [5:36]

#3 Give our listeners an example of cultural appropriation that is clearly damaging. [7:50]

#4 In your article you also talk about the clothing company Zara being criticized for appropriation without attribution. What does that mean? [10:15] 

#5 How do you know when you are appropriating another culture? How would you advise a business like that who really wants to do the right thing and had no idea they were offending anyone? [12:55]

#6 You have so many great gems in this article and one of them is “I believe it’s possible, intentionally and consciously, to craft an ethical practice of fusion. I believe it is incumbent upon us all to foster a kind of creative freedom through exchange and incorporation as collaboration rather than appropriation as exploitation.” I think your own business Jul Designs is a shining example of this philosophy in action. Would you expand on that? [15:13]

#7 I know that you have a collaborative partner, Agus Astradhi. Tell us about his role in Jul Designs? [17:05]

#8 You write “I have identified five key concepts that I think can guide us in opening alternative and ethical spaces in which the great diversity of creatives can engage ideas, traditions, and techniques not indigenous to themselves: Acknowledgement, Collaboration, Compensation, Education, and Impact.” I really want to unpack this further… Walk us through your thinking here? [23:59]

#9 And what if a maker wants to name something –like a knitting pattern for example– inspired by another culture and they DON’T meet the criteria for all 5 concepts, do they need to choose another name and steer clear of offending anyone? Give us some practical tips for people struggling with direction here? [28:54]

#10 On your blog you have a fantastic entry called the “Biography of a shawl pin” and you go into a lot of depth explaining Jul’s fair trade practices. Can you share with our audience what that is and why it’s so important to you? [34:30]

#11 So I always ask my guests a quirky question and since you’re so heavily involved in the Balinese and Indonesian cultures I wonder if you can share something about their culture that American’s would find fascinating? [40:40]