It seems more important now that the tools and skills that we have at our disposal should be used as a force for good. Craft with activism have a long history as a way of harnessing a ‘traditional’ skill to provoke or communicate a message. So if you haven’t come across craftivism or would like to know more, let me introduce it along with the Craftivist Collective.
Craft is an outlet that can be so many things for so many people. Craft is a voice. You are physically bringing something into the world. It’s how you choose to use this voice which is important to craftivism. For some people craft is a process for themselves and the people close to them. It is a process that can be about the journey, about mindfulness or a way of challenging ones own skills. For others craft is an outlet, a place in which to engage with what matters to them. It’s a voice in an otherwise loud world. Where there is a space to share views and participate in a field where maybe confidence in other outlets, such as public speaking might be a no go.
Craftivsim as a term was coined in 2003 by writer Betsy Greer. She says of it: ‘Craftivism to me is way of looking at life where voicing opinions through creativity makes your voice stronger, your compassion deeper & your quest for justice more infinite.’1 Though craft and activism have been around for much longer than that. Sarah Corbett in her book ‘How to be a Craftivist’ talks about the origins of craftivism. Like for example Arpilleras in Chile. Which are brightly coloured patchwork pictures created by women during the military dictatorship of Chile (1973–1990). Depicted the harsh living conditions of life under the dictatorship which had a particular impact on women. These were distributed abroad and sold to provide a vital source of income.
The Craftivist Collective formed in 2009 by Sarah Corbett out of a need for an alternative to other forms of activism. With no projects or groups for her to join, she decided to have a go at creating her own craftivism projects. With an emphasis on a ‘Gentle Protest’ approach to craftivism. An activism that calls for a more respectful and contemplative approach, promoting conversation and collaboration. Using craft to engage, empower and encourage. Sarah uses craft to build connections with people by using a medium that is hand made, thoughtful and often softer than other forms of communication.
To provide people with the tools to tackle craftivism for themselves Sarah has produced Craftivist Kits. These little ideas give you the starting point for your own craftivist issues. Allowing you a medium to spread what matters to you. Like the Don’t Blow it hanky kit, inspired by Sarah’s frustration with the lack of communication with her local MP. After repeatedly contacting them with very little interest Sarah created a gift of a stitched hanky, asking her MP to stand up to and fight injustices. This thoughtful act bridged the gap between passive emails to active connections on a personal level.
Or Your Footprint kit which asks you to reflect on the imprint you leave in the world and is centred around this quote by Helen Keller: “I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; I will not refuse to do something I can do.”
If you feel inspired to do some craftivism yourself the Craftivist Collective kits are a great insight into this form of activism. Or if simply you want to learn how to be a craftivist and read Sara Corbett’s story the the ‘How to be a Craftivist’ is a great book. But at the end of it, craftivism is about choosing a craft that feels appropriate and comfortable for you and using that craft as your voice. Then use it to talk through, no matter how small or how big you are using craft to initiate a change and express good.
This seems a good place to remind ourselves of the power of craft in bringing the East London Knitters together for the trump rally.
1. Finn, Julie (April 4, 2009). “Crafting a Green World. What is Craftivism? Division over the Definition Explodes Etsy Team”. Crafting a Green World.