Archive | April, 2014

Craftivism: How you can make a difference through craft

10 Apr

 

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Have you ever thought about crafting for a cause? I first met Sarah Corbett (founder of the Craftivist Collective) a couple of years ago when I attended one of her workshops, purely by chance, at the BUST Craftacular Christmas fair in 2011. I’d never heard of Craftivism and I was immediately drawn in by her passion and enthusiasm and was intrigued about the idea of protesting for a positive change through craft.

You may, yourself, be wondering what Craftivism is. In a nutshell, it simply means ‘activism through craft’. But I prefer the definition below (taken from the Craftivist Collective website.)

Craftivism is a form of ‘slow activism’, a reflective action, which changes the participant as much as it does the world. It is passionate but polite, provocative but patient, drawing people to engage in discussion and debate rather than forcing it down people’s throat. Unlike some of the more traditional, extrovert forms of activism, craftivism is quietly beautiful, it is individual and it is effective.

I’m excited to annouce that Sarah is holding her popular Protest Banner making workshop with us at the Handmade by You Studio at Alfies Antique Market at the end of the month which, will give you the opportunity to meet her yourself and take part in your own little craftivism project. You can find out more about the workshop here.

To give you a little more of an insight into Craftivism, I took the opportunity to ask Sarah a few questions about it.

Why did you start up the Craftivist Collective?

I started the Collective because people around the world wanted to join in my Craftivism projects and wanted support such as our Craftivism kits, products, workshops and other services. 

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How long have you been a Craftivist?

Since August 2008 when I did my first ever Craftivism project. 

Can anyone become a Craftivist?

Absolutely! I learnt how to craft through YouTube and never went to art school, so if I can do it, so can you. Plus all of our projects are accessible to anyone (super-skilled crafters can embellish them with their skills, newbies can do all of our projects) and we have instructional videos and sheets in our kits.Plus we do workshops, talks and joint projects, so there is no excuse! ;p

How can Craftivism make a difference in your local area?

We have different projects to cater for different elements of craftivism: personal reflection on global issues and our role in it, making craftivism pieces to build relationships with influential local people such as politicians and journalists as well as more street art projects for global awareness. For your local area you could make one of our Don’t Blow It hankies to get to know your local MP or Councillor and find out how you can work together on local issues & our Craftivist Footprint kits are a great start to think about what you can do locally and globally to make the world a better place such as think about what you are buying, where you are buying stuff, if you are treating people well in your local area etc. 

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Which Craftivism Campaign that you’ve led had the most impact and how did it make a difference where other forms of activism may not have?

Because we focus on ‘slow activism’ where people can meditate on their personal actions, global issues and how they can be part of the change they wish to see in the world, often it’s hard to see clearly what our successes are but I get emails every day from people saying how beneficial our kits and projects are to engage or re-engage them with fighting for a better world and their role within the world. That’s what keeps me going & inspires me daily. I see our success in helping people understand global injustices better, inspiring them to challenge structures of injustice, making small changes in their every day life that have big repercussions such as buying more ethical products, meeting their local politician & joining a campaign group. 

Personally as a craftivist, craftivism helped me succeed in becoming a better campaigner, engaging with my local MP in a more effective way than I have done in the past without using craft. 

Our work is about supporting and encouraging personal positive changes and how people should have activism threaded through everything they do to be their best selves and help fulfil the world’s potential to be an awesome place for everyone on it and the planet. 

Also craftivism is also a great tool to engage people more deeply in global issues that I don’t think other forms of activism have. As an activist, I always felt that I was asking people to come to activism activities rather than reaching out to people where they are. My mini protest banners were put out to engage people where they were and in a non-threatening, respectful and thought-provoking way, catching the attention of passers-by without forcing our views on them. They are mini because I believe that small and beautiful pieces can often be more powerful than big and brash messages. Nowadays we are all bombarded with information from every angle, what to buy, what to watch and including what to campaign on. We’ve all become pretty good at blocking it all out, ignoring the billboards, putting flyers from our post box in the bin before even looking at them. Shock tactics can pull at the heartstrings for a short time but may only engage us in a transactional way, not a transformative way. How do we engage people in injustice issues when they are not exactly happy messages and sometimes they are even deeply challenging our way of life, suggesting what we do might actually be harming others? 

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Craftivist mini protest banners are hung in a place relevant to the message (such as outside an unethical shop, in a banking district or like this image where gangs hang out] but always off eye level so people don’t feel preached at, feel more excited that they have found this little delicate creation someone has taken time to do but without doing it for fame or fortune. My hope was that people would find them, be provoked by the slogans, facts, questions stitched on them with love, maybe go on the blog for more info on what it’s about and click on the hyperlinks for a campaign action or more info on the issue and share it on social media or in the pub or cafe with their friends. I believe that this valuing of something small and beautiful can help engage some people in a deeper, more long-lasting waythan shouting at people with a giant banner. Link that to our messages being hopeful, positive, provocative and either statements, facts, or questions, never telling people what to do, it all can mean people want to share it and engage with it in their own way and in their own time, and we all know that if a friend shares something (rather than a faceless organisation) the receiver is more likely to connect with it. This has happened and people even ask for prints of the photographs taken to give to their friends and others to engage them in a loving thoughtful way with their role in society. One person asked for a print for her banker friend who then emailed her saying it caused a great conversation between him and his wife on New Year’s Day. 

What manifesto do you live by?

The Craftivist Collective manifesto is: “To expose the scandal of global poverty and human rights injustices through the power of craft and public art.”

I stitched the Dalai Lama’s quote on my phone case as a constant reminder to strive to be the best good global citizen I can be : “If you can, help others. If you can’t do that at least don’t harm them”

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Why should someone come along to your workshop?

It will give you a really good structured overview of how to do effective craftivism, go through the different benefits and how you can use different projects for different purposes. There will be different parts of the workshop to give you a taster of the different ways you can do craftivism. Plus you will get to spend an evening, meeting lovely, like minded people while you craft with a cup of tea and chilled out music 🙂

Make your own Mini Protest Banner with Sarah at her workshop on Tuesday 29th April from 6.30pm in Marylebone. It costs just £18. Book your place here.

To find out more about the Craftivist Collective and their work, please visit http://craftivist-collective.com/

Photo Credits: Use of photos with thanks to the Craftivist Collective and photographers Carl Byron Batson (photo of Sarah Corbett) Robin Prime (Protest Banner) other photographers undisclosed.

 

 

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