“Craftivism is a way of looking at life where voicing opinions through creativity makes your voice stronger, your compassion deeper & your quest for justice more infinite.” – Betsy Greer
While the term “craftivism” was coined in 2003, the act of using craft as a subversive tactic can be found throughout history. Craftivists use their skills as a way to take action, express themselves, and to create social discourse. More and more people are turning to crafts as a way to collaborate and express their activist views.
Background of Craftivism
Writer Betsy Greer is credited with coming up with the term “Craftivism”, and it is the name of her website, as well. She explains that everytime you participate in crafting to make a difference in the world you are engaging in craftivism. Crafts and creating can bring people together, and it can provide a gentle way for individuals to connect and deepen their understanding of issues.
Craftivism in History
There are multiple examples of women throughout history who used their handiwork as a means of expressing rebellion in subtle ways. In the novel A Tale of Two Cities, a worker secretly encodes the names of those soon to be executed in her knitting. The Madame Defarge character was no doubt based on the actions of women in real life. Her acts have even inspired “Craftivist DeFarge” groups across the world, where members use knitting as a way to promote change in their communities.
The Suffragettes in Great Britain and the United States are well known for using their handiwork skills to create banners, signs, sashes, and other items for protest. Their sewing and crafting skills were put to excellent use, and their crafted messages live on in historical photos and documents.
Madres de la Plaza de Mayo was a group formed in the 1970s in Argentina. They were protesting a military dictatorship that led to the disappearance of many young people. The mothers wore white headscarves which were embroidered with the names of the missing. The image of the white headscarf is still a symbol of this protest today.
Many crafters use their skills to assist others. Newborns in Need is a site that shares patterns for hats, booties, toys, and blankets for newborn babies. Craftivists can work alone or, better yet, invite friends to form a group and sew together. The handcrafted items can be sent to the group which will distribute them to hospitals across the US. The crafted gifts are a nurturing way to welcome a child to the community, especially when the parent is struggling with poverty or health issues.
Many craftivists place value on environmentalism and sustainability, which is becoming an overall trend in the craft world. Many participants opt for organic fabrics and fair trade items when shopping for supplies. The use of thrifted or repurposed items is also encouraged because it minimizes waste.
Social Justice Issues
One of the most recent high profile examples of craftivism is the Women’s March that was held in the United States and several cities around the world on January 21st, 2017. The knitted pink hat became such a defining symbol of this movement that it was featured on the cover of Time Magazine.
The “knit in” is one example of a craftivist protest. The Knitting Nanas Against Gas is a craftivist group in Australia. The group formed in 2012 to raise awareness of gas mining on agricultural lands. The group uses knitting as a tool for non-violent political activism. They calmly sit and knit in front of the entrances to many mining sites. Their long lengths of knitting can be placed across gates and roads. The group also makes cushions to protect protesters agains blisters when they are “locked on” to fences. Their use of yellow and black as well as their peaceful tactics has brought peaceful media attention to their concerns.
Guerilla kindness is possibly one of the hottest craftivist trends right now. Painted rocks are enormously popular. Kids and adults alike enjoy painting a simple rock, inscribing it with an encouraging message, and leaving this little handcrafted gem for a stranger to discover. This simple act of crafting brings joy to both the giver and the receiver.
Yarn bombing is another way that craftivists brighten their surroundings. The idea is to cover objects or structures in public places with decorative knitted material. Some opt to crochet instead. This form of street art is also an act of guerilla kindness, and just a fun way to use crafts to bring unity and joy to any space.
Are you a craftivist? What ways have you used your craft skills as part of your activism?
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Morena from MorenasCorner.com is the kind of girl who would rather have paint on her fingers than get a manicure. Morena’s passion is using thrifted and inexpensive finds to craft designer inspired creations, and she enjoys creating colorful, bold pieces of home decor. The Italian-American daughter of two DIYers, she and her husband strive to pass the tradition and value of handmade to their four children.