The Slow Grind

Georgina Johnson’s first book, The Slow Grind: Finding Our Way Back to Creative Balance, addresses how our narrow definition of sustainability has created more inequality. Rebecca Fulleylove talks to the multi-disciplinary artist about what needs to change

In 2018, Georgina Johnson, creative polymath and the woman behind counter-culture platform The Laundry Arts, wrote a manifesto alongside mental health activist Sara Radin titled Slow Fashion to Save Minds. At a little over 200 words, it was succinct but packed with empowering sentiments that forced readers to rethink the way they approach their work and life.

Within it, Johnson touched upon a need to respect everyone’s (including your own) mental capacity, to push those at the back to the front, plus a need for transparency and fairness, the importance of community, and how sometimes it’s necessary to just slow down. Though it was geared towards the fashion industry, it resonated with people across the arts.

“It took on a life of its own and was picked up by everyone from DJs to chefs to graphic designers,” says Johnson. “I realised that people needed this light, candid, direct guide to help them feel like the industry isn’t super cold.”

Top and Above: Portraits of Georgina Johnson, by Campbell Addy

Johnson felt a manifesto was the perfect format to package her ideas, and it was a way for her to channel what she’d learned and experienced from working in the industry, first as a fashion designer, then later as an artist, curator, creative director, speaker, and commentator.

“I don’t really consider myself at the centre of this industry,” she says. “As a Black woman, I’m still on the periphery, but I’m constantly pushing to knock a few doors down and break the wall of silence that people like me are always facing when trying to get our foot into this industry. I try as best I can to carve out space because I am acutely aware that nobody is going to just give it to me.”

I guess my nature is that I just do things myself, because I haven’t got time to wait around for people to say, ‘OK, you’re worthy, we’ll listen’

The manifesto was a step towards creating the kind of space Johnson wanted to work within, but she didn’t want to leave it there. Two years on, Johnson has just released The Slow Grind: Finding Our Way Back to Creative Balance, an anthology of essays, think pieces, and conversations that build on the manifesto. On top of this, the book also attempts to explore creative, social and environmental sustainability by acknowledging the systems that have become the norm, and the ways in which they need to be changed.