Craftivism, as you have may have guessed from the word, is the act of creative engagement in political and social issues; to make the world a better place through crafting and its beautiful output. I recently posted a photo of a small craftivist project I’d worked on – a surgical face mask with ‘Covid isn’t over just because you’re over it’ stitched on – on Instagram, and it blew up. I had a lot of supportive shares and a lot of anti-mask pro-conspiracy comments, but what it proved? The power of gentle protest.I discovered craftivism almost by accident, as I suspect many people do (and isn’t that fucking brilliant? It certainly grabs your attention!). Visiting wedding venues to choose one for my big day, I noticed that the bollards outside one of them had been beautifully yarn-bombed. As soon as I got home later I headed straight to Google and Facebook, and set about finding out more. From there, I was inspired… and I went on to discover the likes of the Craftivist Collective and set about reading and exploring more into it.
I’m not exactly a shrinking violet, as I’m sure is evident by the fact I run a company where one of the best-selling products proudly proclaims ‘CUNT’ across it! But I am an introvert, and whilst my ADHD can work brilliantly to focus me on occasion to learn about the ins and outs of social issues, it doesn’t always fit with joining a big crowd and protesting on the streets. Equally, I’m angry about shit and there’s shit I don’t believe in or agree with happening every day. Craftivism makes for the perfect protest outlet for me.
Women have long been associated with the industries of textile and fibre manufacture, for both professional and personal purposes. Indeed it’s still considered a gendered role and hobby, even today in 2020. The history of craftivism, although not by the same day, is long and varied. William Morris started a crafting movement back in the 1890s against the industrial revolution and framed it around four elements: unity in design, joy in labour, the individualism and imperfection of handmade goods and regionalism (the local sourcing of goods). It was over 100 years ago, sure, but there’s still lots we can learn from those elements today.
Why do I love craftivism? Aside from the fact that it gives me a good way to talk about the shit I think is wrong with the world in a way that I can properly articulate it and shape it the way I want to, I think there’s some magic in the art of gentle protest. Women are so often branded as hysterical, overly liberal and novelty when taking to the streets (hey, look at the Women’s Marches and those pink hats!), but craftivism gives the opportunity instead to produce, carefully curate and pour love and time into a considered protest piece that is respected and appreciated as more an art form than a hastily-scribbled cardboard placard.
What’s more, of course, crafting is something girls of all ages can access. Craftivism can help nurture girls along a path of agile thinking, expressing themselves and allowing their voices to be heard. Of course, there’s usually a little less swearing than my standard stitches but… that’s not always a bad thing. It doesn’t always take an angry word to be heard loud and clear.
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