Päivi Kankaro is a Finnish graduate of the Doc Studies program, class of 2015.  Since graduation, she has been working as a video producer and project manager at Kollabora, a DIY fashion startup.  In February, with her friend Nora Abousteit, she also opened CraftJam, a Union Square craft workshop recently  profiled in The New York Post.  

CraftJam’s classes bring ‘on-trend’ funky new relevance to  the traditional hand crafts of embroidery and needlepoint, attracting a new generation to a contemporary version of the old-school analog sewing circle. The idea arose from Päivi and Nora’s experiences in film production, identifying a need, particularly among millennials – a craving for real-life social interaction outside their desk jobs.

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Päivi Kankaro (left) and Nora Abousteit, founders of CraftJam


How does being a filmmaker influence your work with crafters?

To be able to tell visual stories in our highly audio-visual world is definitely an advantage. Also, the skillset to produce, edit and distribute videos is an additional advantage, especially when working for a small company or start up. The documentary program at The New School helped me to reach a new level in multimedia production, storytelling and the aesthetic uses of small resources.

Has documentary filmmaking changed because of social media?

Advancements in technology have given us new opportunities to record the world around us. And online possibilities have radically changed distribution. Now anyone can upload and distribute content online. This has perhaps made filmmaking more ‘democratic’, offering voices never or rarely heard before. But still, on average, large mainstream companies continue to  rule, so I’m not sure if the economics of the media landscape have significantly changed.

What is the specific connection between online content and crafting? 

Everything you need to know about crafting already exists online, and it’s free. In fact, there’s a cornucopia of free content that might feel overwhelming to a beginner. The good thing is that you can learn new skills easily if you have the patience, but sourcing quality content and the right supplies can be difficult.  To go from building the perfect Pinterest board to building an actual project, is a big leap. We (Kollabora) definitely want to close that gap —  from aspiration to actual making by giving people the right tools and a little push towards creativity.

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Can you show a video you made and walk us through the process of making it?

I did a series of campaign videos for Jo-Ann Fabrics, one of the biggest craft retailers in the U.S.   I had been working as a digital craft agency with Kollabora, creating campaigns and content for similar craft companies. This specific video campaign was made to launch their new in-house brand Buttercream. The timeline was extremely tight, I had one week to plan, shoot and edit everything – including making the actual craft projects – and to create four campaign videos in stop-motion. This meant I was crammed in a small room for five days figuring it out, but through trial and error we managed to get these videos delivered happily on time.

I set up the camera (Canon 7D) on a tripod with an extra pole so the camera was shooting downwards on a table surface. I connected the camera to my laptop and used EOS Utility to have a live shoot mode on my computer to control the stop motion shooting while the craft project was being done.

The videos were released on Jo-Ann’s website with the product launch and also on our site (kollabora.com). One of the projects went viral –  a step-by-step collage on how to make a ‘no sew’ clutch purse which has been shared over 40k times on Pinterest and 13k times onYouTube. Not bad.

What are the next steps for you? 

Our plan is to make CraftJam grow, first in New York and then onto other cities. Now is the time to build our concept, and do all our testing, but then we plan to expand. We have already had great experiences, and returning customers. We know we are onto something, now is the time to build it.

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