We are a group of people who marry activism with craft.
Our Manifesto is:
"To expose the scandal of global poverty, and human rights injustices though the power of craft and public art. This will be done through provocative, non-violent creative actions."
We do craftivism projects as individuals and groups all over the world and would love you to join in on the fun that trys to have a positive effect on the world.
All events are open to all, anyone can take on one of our projects we just ask for photo evidence and your thougths for our blog. If you feel you need more support to deliver a project just ask! :)
To become who we are, let’s be subversive in 2015. A rebel with a cause! So much of our culture pushes the view ‘a new year, a new me’ a time for personal reinvention, often focusing on our external looks not the beauty within us and of course steering us to buying our way to happiness (sneaky!). The other default is often to focus too much on trying to change the world ourselves, be a hero & ‘save’ people. Yikes that’s a big challenge! Neither offers sit well with us.
We believe in striving to be the best version of ourselves in 2015: In solidarity with people, speaking out with courage and kindness where there is oppression, asking how we can be helpful using our power, position & passion and continuing to use craft as a tool for critical thinking: grappling with why there is still poverty & suffering in the world when we’ve proven what awesome things we can achieve in other areas. Let’s not accept the status quo but continue to be proud craftivists contributing to making our world can be even more just, kind & beautiful one stitch at a time yeah?:)
Sounds like a tiring challenge I know but I found this poem recently & thought it was perfect for this first monthly newsletter of 2015 (now called “Craftivist Journal”- like it?)
Poem by an unknown Monk 1100 A.D: “I wanted to change the world’
When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world.
I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation.
When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family.
Now, as an old man, I realise the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realised that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact in our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.
(Or be part of changing the world aye mr humble monk?;p)
We’ve found these 4 things below useful on our journey so far in the Craftivist Collective & thought you might find them useful too. Let us know what you think by tweeting us @craftivists
Watch Karen Armstrong’s 20min talk about her Charter for Compassion in the morning & begin your day with hope & excitement.
Read 50 stories from changemakers across nations, eras, wars & movements who made a difference despite the odds.
Share this list of 21 inspirational quotes about how we change the world. Pick up your needle & thread & let’s start the year as change-makers together
Follow Whole Larder Love by inspiring & funny guy, Rohan on eating real food. Encouraging us to get our hands dirty, minds thinking & bellies & hearts full.
It’s been a fun & fulfilling 2014 with this lovely community & I feel very privileged to be in this growing collective with you all. Seriously. Happy 2015 & I can’t wait to hear what you think of our new adventures coming up in the next 12 months (eek!)
P.S. Don’t you think this quote by the legendary Desmond Tutu is a brilliant challenge for 2015? “There comes a point when we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.” Let us know x
We ♥ your tweets/feedback. Here is our pick for Journal 1 by @llenander
“Really interesting reflecting about how we communicate important messages about social justice effectively @Craftivists #CQ2014”
If you enjoy this newsletter, why not share it with people?
It is the season for slowing down and reflection. With the quiet after Christmas (we hope you had a lovely one btw) & before the buzz of a new year (can you believe it’s going to be 2015 in a few days?!) it’s the perfect time to look over what we’ve done in 2014. Our priority in the Craftivist Collective is to help people engage with social justice in a thoughtful, hopeful, deeply engaging & often holistic way in their own time using craft as a tool for contemplation & connection; figure out how we can all be part of the change we wish to see in the world in all that we do from how we think, how we use our money & power, how we treat our neighbours down the street to our global neighbours around the world. It’s more fun & fulfilling than it sounds if you haven’t tried it before I promise!:)
Craftivism = craft + activism so we focus on activism & solidarity; asking WHY there are behaviours, attitudes, structures and systems stopping some of our fellow human beings from being able to live dignified life whilst other neighbours have more than enough money & resources but don’t seem fulfilled or happy & our role within that. The legendary Desmond Tutu says it better than I ever could when he said:
“There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.”
But this makes it difficult for us to tangibly see, hear, know if we are actually doing what we hope and whether we are useful for people, groups & organisations around the world we support. I worry about whether what we do is making a difference but I know we contribute to long term change not short term solutions & others are doing other great work too that we try to complement rather than compete with (like charities and issue-led campaigning organisations). It’s a good healthy concern. This is why we don’t give you all questionnaires to fill in but rather encourage you to use our kits, book and other resources & our community in the way that helps you on your journey as a global citizen and see what happens. It’s been great seeing & hearing about the positive impact our community, products & services have on people around the world & it really keeps us striving to survive to continue our contribution to make the world a more just, kind & beautiful place for all, one stitch at a time.
Have a look through our photos below and you’ll see our collective is growing around the world and we’ve been lucky to meet & connect offline this year in Germany, Sweden, Norway & Finland as well as Scotland & Wales & hear what craftivists love about being part of the Craftivist Collective. I love getting the letters & emails sent saying how a kit helped people grapple with big issues they had felt overwhelmed by and had helped them think critically about their role and helped them also feel empowered to keep striving to live more intentionally and ethically. It’s so fab watching craftivists online around the world share personal crafterthoughts & reflections, as well as connect, chat & encourage each other. Thanks to all of you for your social media likes, sharing & commenting on each others Craftivist Collective projects, taking part all over the world using our DIY craftivism kits & A Little Book of Craftivism (we’ve sold 4000 in 12 months) to introduce & encourage more people in joining our loving collective of craftivists.
I have to also admit though: sometimes it’s been stressful, nerve-wracking and pretty scary. It’s a challenge to continue to exist & keep supporting people in their craftivism journey if we don’t increase support & sales (I hate how money makes the world go round grrr!). We get lots of requests from groups and individuals we don’t want to stop supporting so in 2015 we will be working hard to find ways to be a sustainable social enterprise. It’s exciting & we can’t wait to share our progress with you guys before anyone else (keep an eye out!). Advice is always welcome of course too. I personally don’t regret any of what we’ve done in 2014, even the super-scary stuff and hope you don’t too (feedback always welcome obvs!).
So, sit back, grab a cuppa tea & have a scroll down some of our highlights in images & videos to see what we’ve done & what we can build on in 2015. We hope it makes you smile & remember what Margaret Mead’s says so beautifully:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Join us next year to keep making the change we wish to see in the world with courage, care & a craftivism kit! There’s still lots of inner activism, gentle activism & joyful activism to do in 2015 don’t you think?
We started the year with:
We had a lovely Italian TV presenter Gloria interview us for the national TV channel in Italy RAI reaching Italian shores and encourage viewers there to get involved the collective. You can see us from 4mins in and many of you will recognise the inspiring and pioneering Guerrilla Gardener Richard Reynolds at the beginning of the show too.
On a monday morning in January the lovely Lauren Laverne tweeted to her 341,000 followers the above 3 times! She is a lovely English radio DJ, television presenter, author & singer & owner of our book!;p It was a lovely surprise we didn’t ask for, we thanked her and kept in touch. Since then she has tweeted, DMd and activitely follows us on Instagram liking a few things once in a while. It’s always great to build up support from influential people. We also really appreciate our champions such as Lucy Siegle , Livia Firth, James Victore & Lara Watson of Mollie Makes amongst others for their continuous support.
Love is a verb so every year craftivists around the world make keyrings (designed by Tatty Devine) to include as gifts in their alternative Valentines Day cards encouraging people to show their love for their global neighbour through what they do, say, buy etc
Our #imapiece exhibition is still touring around the UK & being well used. Teacher Karen Rowe hired some of our #imapiece jigsaw pieces to exhibit in Wolfson College, Oxfordshire to inspire the students & teachers. The feedback was brilliant with comments such as “so many beautiful images we should all be taking note of”, “what a fresh and wonderful idea”, “very thought provoking indeed”, “A lovely group effect” and “an inspiring exhibition, thank you” where amongst comments from students and staff. “As a teacher of Textiles the craftivism projects are a really good way of introducing social issues to my pupils, without being all ‘preachy’” said Karen. Hear more from Karen about her use of #imapiece exhibition in the blog she wrote for our “My Craftivism” series here.
We are always so grateful for the media attention & support we receive around the world. This year we have been featured in the gorgeous Uppercase magazine (Canadian), Knitting magazine, Mollie Makes amongst others.
Sold out & intimate craftivist footprint workshop in Glasgow March 2014
We’ve travelled around Europe in 2014 delivering our structured intimate craftivism workshops in cafe’s, universities and art galleries. They always start with our craftivism methodology (using craft as a tool to do slow, gentle & joyful activism), discussing what messages we are going to stitch and why, using instrumental music to help us silently meditate and then discuss our critical thinking. It’s fascinating hearing what people get out of our workshops. We really value your feedback. We’ve been to Glasgow, Bristol, Manchester, Liverpool, Berlin, Gran (Norway), Borås & Gothenburg (Sweden) & Falmouth amongst other places this year with our trusty #popupcraftivist suitcase!
We were asked to deliver a series of free drop-in workshops for Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) from Sept 2013 to Sept 2014 sponsored by Coats Crafts. On average we had 150 people attend each event between 11am-4pm. Many staying for hours & coming to the next sessions with friends & family. We always had 10 craftivist volunteers who were always so amazing, caring and thoughtful
It seems to fit that we are found working with schools, art institutions, charities, universities, and festivals but I bet you didn’t imagine us being at re:publica : a festival in Europe that deals with the Web 2.0! (especially blogs, social media and information society). Well we got the invite to Berlin and got a great turn out and feedback. It turns out lots of tech people really want to do offline work & see how our offline work has ripple effects online. Two attendees even came to our V&A workshop in London the following September & lots of people asked to buy our A Little Book of Craftivism (which I didn’t bring because I didn’t want people feeling I just wanted to flog books but people where actually frustrated I didn’t bring any so I’ve learnt from this mistake)!
Festival season started in May and ended in August for us. Our little craftivism suitcase is not quite broken from the travel and weather but it is battered :s
We went to 7 festivals summer of 2014 across Europe (including Also Festival, Anxiety Festival, Wilderness Festival, Shambala, Greenbelt Festival, Så festival in Norway & Re:publica in Germany) delivering large, small and sold out workshops, talks up to 500 people, panel discussions and where even recorded for podcasts played on headphones in a wooden meditation pod for Now Events Live (true story!): 9 NOW experts offering their own perspectives on how and why it is effective to be more rooted in the present moment, leading you to greater overall wellbeing. Each speaker offers a few different angles and approaches, with tools and suggestions to anchor you more in the here and NOW. Listen to them all here.
It makes me smile everytime I see this photo by Charlotte Pearson
We created & delivered our first children’s craftivism project at Also Festival this summer & it went…. really well!:) The young craftivistas were brilliant, hardworking and proudly wore their bunting around the festival for the rest of the day (or forced their parents to) which created great conversations on what ‘solidarity’ means – a new word for some of the children and some of the adults said they had forgot too! House of Fairy Tales asked us to deliver the same workshop 3 times at Winterville this year too.
(see me second to right next to Doug Richards of Dragans Den fame. I was scared to get on the stage to say my opinion but I did it – 3 times!)
The gig above was the most nerve-wracking event I personally did in 2014, to the point where I was going to cancel because I was so scared. I was asked to be a panelist on ‘State of the Nation’ event at Wilderness Festival. The host Jolyon Rubenstein (presenter of BBC3′s The Revolution will be Televised) was really great at putting me at ease & encouraging me to get up & give my views. Other panelists included George Monbiot, 38 Degrees Director, journalist Zoe Williams, philosopher Robert Rowland Smith, Dragons Den entrepreneur Doug Richard, &… a craftivist *gulp* – see why I was scared now? Feedback was great from fellow panelists, the host and audience throughout the festival & I was asked to be part of the same line-up at Shoreditch House in October 2014.
Photo by Tom Price. Artwork by Matt Withers.
We build on our years of doing craftivism (5 years now eek!) and worked in a new way but still fitting our ethos and purpose of engaging people in social justice in a deep and meaningful way. We were honoured to be asked by Falmouth University to lead their second stage of their AHRC-funded Connected Communities project, building on their research with neuroscientists & clinicians who gathered evidence on how handicraft helps with stress, depression and chronic pain. We worked together to go ‘beyond craft’ and focus on how craft can help with critical thinking. We focused on the complex issue of wellbeing & inner activism to challenge ourselves to be more intentional and ethical in our lives. We came up with the concept of Craftivists Garden #wellmaking (get it?!) project to focus on using craft to help us grapple with what wellbeing is and how our own wellbeing is improved if we focus on the wellbeing of society and how we can all flourish together if we stop, think, connect & grow in our knowledge and understanding of wellbeing and society. We had over 50 stitch-ins in 5 months across the UK plus media attention, the awesome blogging community writing about it, individuals taking part too & sharing online using #wellmaking. The handbook, manifesto poster & installation (with over 500 flowers so far) will be showcased at the end of January in our Garden party here (all welcome!). The handbook will also be online to hopefully be of use to craftivists and others around the world
We connected to an awesome community of Do-ers by being invited to speak at Do Lectures 2014. A 100 people, a farm, tents over 3 days and with 14 speakers. Set up with the honest motivation of helping ”the DO-ers of the world together – the movers and shakers, the disrupters and the change-makers – and ask them to tell their stories. Under star lit skies, in a bind with nature, they would inspire others to go out into the world and DO, too.” It massively inspired me hearing from incredible doers who where honest, vulnerable and give the audience no excuses not to just have a go and do. I recommend watching their videos. Really inspired me in our plans for 2015, we got lots of supporters from those 3 days, some new friends and a handful who we can call on for advice and feedback
We are heavily covered in the lovely Frida Frida Arnqvist Engström’s swedish language book “Gerillaslöjd” released August 2014. Meaning “guerrilla craft”
The author & journalist Frida came to London Dec 2013 to find out more about our approach to craftivism for her book Gerillaslöjd and come along to some of our events. We connected her to a few other people also in the book now too such as Moose; reverse street artist & Lauren O’Farrell wool artist (yay!). The book is selling well in Sweden, Frida mentions the collective a lot in interviews (including TV interviews) and we’ve had more sales in Sweden from our Etsy shop suggesting that more swedish craftivist activity is happening woop woop & our collective is getting pretty eclectic!
We went to Sweden!:) Here I am delivering an open lecture hosted by the publishing house Hemslöjden and Beckmans College of Design, Stockholm attended by approximately 90 people
Soooo many swedish people totally ‘get’ what we our approach to craftivism is (gentle activism in solidarity not charity, provocative not preachy, transformational not transactional etc) and support it yay! We had around 90 people at our open lecture hosted by Hemslöjdens who published the swedish language Gerillaslöjd book we are featured in, and hosted also by the Principle of the prestigious Beckmans College of Design in Stockholm (the Principle gave me her “Slow Art’ book as a gift for coming & then had to sneak off at the end of the lecture to help her son with his homework) including students, academics, journalists, craft lovers and craftivists. The questions where thoughtful and lots of people where keen to get involved. Staff & students from HV Studios came too after inviting us on a lovely tour around their textile rooms and gallery.
Another great time in Sweden (same trip to help cut down our CO2 emissions) this time in Borås for 2 days at the Textil Museet as part of Textile Sounds delivering a workshop, talk and performance collaboration with the curators linked to theme of Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh. For the collaboration we came up with the idea together of stitching a Mini Protest Banner under a camera that was projected on to the screen behind us for the audience to see each letter I was stitching. Lisa, the opera singer sang the words in a really emotive way for people to slowly see the statement that “1127 garment workers had died in the Rana Plaza disaster. This should never happen again”. Stefan the electronic improvisation musician & exhibition curator, used Lisa’s sound, the sound of stitching and other craft sounds to give the performance even more power. It was an emotional time for both performers and the audience and we had good chats afterwards about buying more ethically, intentionally and not letting sweatshops be the norm. This was our second theatrical performance (first was Secret Cinema in 2013) & another new experience that showed that craft and activism can be used with music, performance and the power of words to engage people on the issue of sweatshops. Lots to learn from this project. Plus Lisa & Stefan are keen to work with us again in the near future.
We are working a lot with different academic institutions including in Gothenburg (Sweden) and Royal School of Needlework (England) amongst others
This year we’ve been working more and more with academic institutions not just delivering talks at academic symposiums (we’ve done a few of them again this year) but also more guest lectures and even been given a full day with students to do lectures, seminars & workshops all bespoke to their courses. The feedback has been great from both staff and students thanking us for helping them be more critical thinkers and using craft as a comforting tool to help them challenge themselves and their views on creative activism and citizenship. Amongst them were a day teaching Royal School of Needlework first year students linked to the V&A Disobedient Objects exhibition. Plus a day with students on the Craft Leadership course in University of Gothenburg, Sweden on the strengths and weaknesses of using craft in activism and in participatory learning.
We continue to work with charities such as World Aims creating the above project for them for young people to support the Climate Coalition ‘For the Love of‘ campaign in an online and offline way of deep engagement. We also continue to deliver workshops for volunteers at Latitude charity helping them to learn about creative campaigning including craftivism but also other create ways to express injustice issues and engage people deeply. And other charities (such as Comic Relief): helping staff and volunteers confidence in using creativity, gentleness & quietness as powerful tools for change-making. We were also invited by the inspiring creative agency Bold Creative to deliver a day with their staff. The Director wrote afterwards: “We had the pleasure of a uniquely design workshop with Sarah just for the team at Bold Creative. She was a pleasure to hear talking and the Craftivism activities had us all enthralled. I’d recommend it for anyone who has a purpose driven team who wants to reconnect and re-energise.”
In November we were asked to go to Helsinki, Finland to deliver an open lecture in Helsinki University Think Corner. The talk, interview & Q&A where all live streamed with great challenging questions coming in from Finland and surrounding countries. We had around 50 people that filled the room (we couldn’t fit more in and I was warned that Finnish people often don’t go out in November evenings because it’s so dark, cold and wet so we were very grateful) & sold 40 books. An edited version was made for their YouTube channel here too.
Russell Brand & his mum came to our last V&A workshop for a chat & hear more about what we do
Yep that’s world famous comedian Russell Brand reading our little book who came to our V&A workshop as part of the Disobedient Objects exhibition and stayed for 20minutes with his mum to ask what we were doing, more info on our approach and get a copy of our little book and a Mini Protest Banner kit to take home with him (he asked if it had everything in the kit he needed and was impressed that included needle and thread). His mum asked some great questions about her concern for people sending western designed and poorly made clothes to the developing world as a quick solution but not asking if local people want the clothes or would rather make their own beautiful clothing. We spoke about charities like Christian Aid who provide sewing machines to communities to support local people to help themselves create income and empowerment. What a progressive lady Mrs Brand is!:)
We’ve started vlogging and they will be up in 2015…
We always think how can we connect more to our collective members and create content and conversations to help everyone do the best craftivism they can do that helps not harms the world. We suggested some short vlogs to cover our methodology and answer recuring questions. We’ve made 4 and will start posting them out on our YouTube Channel and more in 2015. If you have any questions you want answered in the vlogs do email sarah [ at] craftivist-collective DOT com.
Kim Smith, owner of Alterknit Universe Wool Shop, Cleeve, UK
Our book, kits, gift cards and badges are being homed in lovely independent shops around the world including the newly opened Alterknit Universe in Cleeve. We are in good company since everything in store is hand-picked or hand-made with these four criteria in mind: NATURAL, RECYCLED, LOCAL and ETHICAL. Go Kim! You can also spot our book in V&A book shop, Somerset House shop, Prick Your Finger, Fabrications as well as leading bookshops Waterstones etc. If there is anywhere you know that fits our ethos please do let them know of our stuff yeah?:)
There is so much more we haven’t mentioned so do check out our blog for more info. The best thing is to follow us on social media channels to keep up to date. The final 2014 highlight is the TEDxBedford talk I did in November that went live last week:
You made it to the end! So what do you think? What do you think we should do next year to continue to support and encourage craftivists around the world but in a way that doesn’t burn us out (that would be ironic wouldn’t it!?). What would you find helpful? What did you like the most out of our 2014 shenanigans? Don’t forget to comment below or we will never know and please do share this post with people you think it might excite to get involved too.
Have a lovely new year and look out for our new years newsletter in your inbox 1st Jan 2015. If you aren’t signed up to our newsletter then sign up at the top right of this page xxx
Here is our December newsletter, received by craftivists around the world. If you want the January issue in your inbox, sign up on the right-hand side of this page.
Ok so I admit it, I was tempted by all of those ‘Black Friday’ bargains last week (who wasn’t!?). I’ve never seen such discounts in newsletters from companies sitting in my inbox & shops tempting me in. I admit that shopping can make me happy, there are so many beautiful things in the world I could buy(!) & I know it only brings short-term happiness and is a guilty pleasure but I can always find an excuse why I NEED that thing.
However…. I also can’t and don’t want to ignore that part of me that niggles away, reminding me that this way of life isn’t sustainable and sometimes it can be harmful to people & planet.
So I’m confused! I want to boycott presents and buy them too. And at the same time I also want to shout off the rooftops that I truly believe our Craftivism products (book, kits, etc) are brilliant & everyone should have them in their Christmas stockings and use them over the holidays to help us all be our best selves to help not harm the world & people in it. That’s why we made them & you can check out the wonderful reviews of people who have bought our stuff here. But isn’t that a contradiction? Am I a hypocrite? Argh being a craftivist is tough, the world is complex and often there are no answers, just more questions…
William Morris said:
“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful”
So here are 4 things we think are useful, beautiful or both:
Activism tool: Be an Amnesty International’s Pocket Protester. It is easy to join and has real impact. Its a little text one in a while (not too often). I use it a lot.
Perfect holiday film: Mr Smith Goes to Washington is a warmhearted film about a humble man standing up to his corrupt peers in politics.
Why not ask for an Ethical Consumer subscription for Christmas? It’s super useful when we actually need to buy stuff & want to be as ethical as possible.
This is a very inspiring book: Beautiful Trouble. Showcasing social movements blurring the boundaries between artist and activist, hacker and dreamer.
Whether you love Christmas or struggle with it, don’t forget to look after yourself and others over this holiday season.
PS. Thanks for all of the replies to whether I should do vlogs. The answer was a resounding yes you would find them useful. I’ve made 4 so far and will upload them from January – It would be ace to hear if they are helpful and if you want particular questions answered in the next ones. For those who prefer reading our blogs to vlogs don’t worry Crafivist Alice C is going to summarise them in blogs for you x
Many of our craftivists around the world prefer to read our blogs rather than watch our videos (and vice versa!) so I thought it might be useful for those lovely craftivistas to have my filmed TEDxBedford talk script to read & reflect on. It’s a new talk I haven’t done before. The 15minute filmed talk will be on YouTube TEDxTalks channel in the next few weeks eek! I didn’t say the script word for word (I learnt from memorising a script for my TEDxBrixton talk last year that it leaves little room for personality and engaging with the crowd & just made me super nervous) but it does cover my main points and probably in more detail than my talk. Please do comment below – I’m always so keen to learn from your feedback on what is useful, not useful and if there is anything I haven’t covered that you have questions about.
Ok so here goes…
I think the world is boss! Every time I scroll through Instagram I see stunning images taken of this world, I read about incredible project happening around the world in a quiet small way but making big differences in people’s hearts and minds. I can’t get over how much we can do with our smartphones!
All of this wonder, means I find it even harder to give up on the injustices I see in the world. I refuse to give up fighting for a world whether sweatshops no longer exist, and a world where the default is putting people before profit not vice versa.
I have been an activist for most of my life. I have always been passionate about fighting for a better world & looking at how we change the root causes of poverty and injustice so we don’t needcharity in the world. In our area people we would have outsiders wanting to give out children’s shoes. Great intentions but we didn’t want them- we wanted government and business structures changed so we could afford to buy our own shoes for our children. I grew up in an activist family: here is a photo of me with local campaigners as a 3 year old,
slide 1 of my powerpoint slides for TEDxBedford. A photo from our local newspaper in Liverpool – the Echo showing local people squatting in local housing to save them from demolition and winning!
I was voted Head Girl by my peers at school and won lockers for the pupils, I’ve always been part of activist groups in university & I’ve also been lucky enough to be a campaigner in my work life too.
Working for the charity Christian Aid I was privileged to go to Kenya to visit our partners and beneficiaries doing incredible work to access healthcare amongst other things. At Oxfam I saw how UK campaigners helped Coca-cola commit to a ‘zero tolerance’ of land grabs- a big win for small-scale farmers worldwide. I’ve seen where campaigns have helped change the way the world works for the better but I’ve also seen passion, good intentions and energy used that sadly hasn’t led to positive change.
So I want to talk to you today about 3 current worries I have with the activism world today and I want to talk about a tool that I use to try and tackle these concerns . Can you guess what that tool is? It’s… craft (of course!;p)- by craft I’m mostly talking about cross-stitch and hand-embroidery.
Cross Stitching photo of my hand stitching by Robin Prime for Craftivist Collective
My first worry I want to share with you is that some forms of activism don’t encourage us to look at ourselves and our role within some of these harmful structures or cultures first. Our human instinct often includes looking for others to blame for injustices in the world. Some activism is signing petitions, going on marches, holding placards telling people, business or governments what to do, lots of quick external transactions. But surely if we want to make the world a better place in the longterm we need to start with looking at whether we are part of the change we wish to see in the world or whether we are actually part of the problem. Now I know that’s not something that’s easy to ask of people & it’s not a very attractive fun thing to do but I think it’s vital we critique our own thoughts and actions as part of our activism in this world.
Photo by Robin Prime of my embroidered roots of a tree I stitched to represent and remind me of my values and values we need in activism
Needlework is incredible as a form of INNER ACTIVISM.
The first of 3 elements of my approach to craftivism is Inner Activism
Hand-embroidery and cross-stitch is a slow process and involve repetitive hand actions which means they are naturally very meditative. They exercise our inner monologue which we often down make time for & they’re a great tool for critical thinking. So they are perfect to help us tackle injustices & ask ourselves those uncomfortable questions about the role we play in injustices but in a safe space on our own or in small groups. So if I want no sweatshops in the world do I need to buy more ethically, do I need to ask the shop manager about how much money the garment workers are paid for that top I’m going to buy and do I need to ask myself whether I actually need this top?. You’re not going to stitch words you don’t believe in and by stitching those words in your craft piece you are committing yourself to being part of the solution to the problems you are looking at.
What’s so brilliant about craft is that you are connecting your hands, heart and head and when you link that to injustice issues it can be world changing personally and politically.
Photo of our Craftivist Footprints by Garry McClennan to help us with our inner activism using craftivism
This is a photo of a shoeprint I embroidered and framed. It sits on my bookshelf by my bedroom door. When I leave my room each day I spot it in the corner of my eye and it reminds me to make a positive mark on the world and think about my journey as a good global citizen.
The second concern I currently have is that some activism is aggressive & confrontational. We often look for a scapegoat to demonise and blame. But most injustices are complex and there isn’t one person to blame for all of it. Demonising people and trying to bully them into submission isn’t going to lead to long term positive change. It also doesn’t fit in with the values of treating people as we want to be treated. I think we need to include GENTLE ACTIVISM into our toolkit alongside the other forms.
The second approach to craftivism is always making our activism gentle in it’s approach. Strong but humble and respectful
We need to empathise with perpetrators to try and understand their roles in injustices and how we can gently challenge people to make a positive change. My mum knows it’s much more powerful when she says to me ‘I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed”. Because it reminds me she loves me and sees that I can do great things but I did something wrong. Teachers are good at using this sneaky tool now too aren’t they?! But we often don’t in activism. We forget that people are people.
All of the craftivism (activism through craft) I do is small & beautiful not big and brash so people are intrigued & excited that they have found my mini protest banners and have chosen to go up to them to read the message.
Images of some of our gentle activism: mini protest banners, cross stitched masks & a cross-stitched chair all to provoke not preach, intrigue people by being small and beautiful not big and brash. Always off eye level so it’s not asking for attention…
They could see someone had spent a long time making them so they cared about the issue rather than doing it for fame and attention. All my activism messages are provocative not preachy.. I put labels on them all so people can google for more info on the issue but in their own time. I’m trying to gently nudge people to think about their role within society and injustices and connect to these issues more deeply. People often share images of my work online with friends or followers and it causes conversations about issues that we should be having but often avoid. We’ve had positive media attention and been published in a number of books because our messages are timeless , universal and unusual but not too depressing or judging so that people want to read about and share our images and work.
Often I craft alone or in a small group in public spaces like cafes, train stations and on public transport. And it means people are naturally curious & come up to you and say “what are you doing?” and you can say “I’m stitching this issue about inequality – what do you think?” And you engage people that way. So you are getting out into the world of non activism bubbles but still talking to people about those issues. . Because craft is involved, it’s not scary: people naturally come to us and ask us what we are doing, they tweet pictures of us, stick it on instagram, pinterest etc.
Examples of some of the media attention we have had in different publications. We’ve had even more (amazing huh?!:) but didn’t want to overwhelm people ;p x
I embroidered my MP a hanky as a gift because she told me to stop emailing her petitions because it wasn’t going to make any difference. I wanted to show her that I truly cared about these issues and wasnt a clicktivist or slacktivist. And I wanted to see how I could be part of the change I wish to see in the world.
Photos by Robin Prime of the actual hanky I gave my MP to gently engage her in a more deep and meaningful way. Using craft as a catalyst for building a relationship with her and being critical friends not aggressive enemies
It said… To my MP [her name],
As my MP I’m asking you to please use your powerful position to challenge injustices, change structures keeping people poor & fight for a more just and fair world. I know that being an MP is a tough and big job but please DONT” BLOW IT, this is your chance to make a real and positive difference [smiley face].
Your’s in hope, Sarah. With my postcode so she knew I was a constituent.
It built a relationship with her because I showed I respected her, wanted to work together where possible and understand each others positions and be open to change my mind if she convinced me. She opened up to me more which helped me see where we could work together : I was a good critical friend rather than an aggressive enemy. I sell them in kits now and people have made them around the world for other influential people like teachers, senators, journalists, police, to encourage them to use their power and influence to support the most vulnerable in the world
Imagine if we gently challenged and encouraged people & worked with people for social change based on our values and morals, our world could grow into a much more fruitful & healthy place don’t you think?
The third & final concern I have is that some activism isn’t very attractive to engage in. We focus on the problems we need to fix rather than the brilliant goal we want to achieve. To sustain ourselves as activists and encourage others in surely we need to be hopeful & even joyful.
The 3rd approach to our craftivism I’m going to focus on today is, what I’m calling joyful activism
I’m calling this JOYFUL ACTIVISM because I can’t think of another way to say it & I did a workshop last weekend in Cardiff where I tested out this title ‘joyful activism’ and one participant Emma said she really liked that it was a joyful and fulfilling activity to do. I don’t mean it’s just about fun doing activism because activism is about acknowledging & understanding that there are structures harming people and the planet & we want social change & to support people which means we want to serve others – if we are just having fun we are focusing on ourselves not others and that can discredit our work. But we do need to be hopeful, loving, gentle. We need to remember all the gorgeous cool stuff in the world and believe that we can make it an even more awesome place for people which in the end also helps our own wellbeing. We should feel empowered in what we do, excited, in solidarity with others & part of a global village.
I started doing craftivism in 2008 on my own as a reaction to some forms of activism I didn’t think were effective and because I was feeling like a burnout activist. I didn’t feel I fitted into activism groups but I didn’t want to give up striving for a better world. It helped me continue to stay hopeful and engaged and to try and get activism messages across outside of the activism bubble. Within 6 months of documenting my craftivism work online people around the world asked to join in.
Examples of some of the aways we reach outside of the activism public to engage new audiences or people who don’t want to do more traditional forms of activism. Not only does our approach reach these audiences but also it’s a great way for conversations with the public that the public initiate
And now I run the Craftivist Collective as a social enterprise supporting individuals groups and organisations around the world to do effective craftivism. – people tacking part in Nowray, Sweden, America, Australia, Thailand, all over the place. I sell kits and do events, projects and workshop & teach in universities. I work with charities as well as large art institutions and even have a book now & there is much more to do! I’ve been able to do all of this because people have seen my work and want to put some joy back into activism. Some people joined because they are burnt out or disillusioned activists, some because they are crafty introverts who are nervous of traditional activism that’s extrovert. The feedback I get is that people feel inspired, invigorated, hopeful and even enjoyed doing or hearing about my approach to craftivism. People leave feeling confident to gently challenge themselves and others to improve or speak out on injustice issues. And people feel part of a movement making the world a better place one stitch at a time through inner activism, gentle activism and joyful activism.
examples of some of the organisations we have worked with as the Craftivist Collective. I could add on many more like Helskinki University, House of Fairytales, Oxfam, Greenbelt Festival, Wilderness Festival, Textil Museet in Sweden, Gothenburg University….
Activism should’nt be something we opt into once in a while. I believe it should be threaded throughout all that we do if we want the world to be awesome and if we want to reach our potential to be our best selves.
I always like to end with this image of bunting I made (that’s me on the left!:s) photographed by Robin Prime. It’s a call to action for all of us to think about how we can be our best selfs to help not harm the world
So…. what do you think? Do you think I’ve covered everything? Have I overwhelmed people with info? Have I made it clear what our approach and vision is? Do you disagree with any of it?
Please do share with people you think might find it useful, and please do comment below if you have time – I’m always so keen to learn from your feedback on what is useful, not useful and if there is anything I haven’t covered that you have questions about.
Join our Founder Sarah Corbett, delivering a Craftivists Garden #wellmaking Workshop in Bristol:
Tuesday 18th November, 6pm-8pm, Alterknit Universe ‘the WOOL SHOP’, 39 Main Road, Cleeve, Bristol, North Somerset, BS49 4NS
£4 each (Ages 12 and over only). BOOK HERE. We only have 10 tickets available.
Craftivists Garden #wellmaking logo by www.mattwithers.co.uk
Craftivists Garden #wellmaking workshop with Craftivist Collective Founder, Sarah Corbett
Join me in Bristol leading a #wellmaking Craftivists Garden project workshop that will show how craft activities can help improve wellbeing by involving participants like you and me in the fun, connected, sensory and mindful process of making things. What you will make: You will create an embroidered flower to add to a national installation of flowers in January 2015 in London. Your flower is invited to be part of the installation, you can, if you wish, have it back after being part of the installation in January. If you don’t finish the flower in this session you can take it home to finish and post it to Craftivist Collective. The choice is yours!
All materials will be provided.
£4 (Ages 12 and over)
Did you spot our Founder Sarah Corbett in Issue 45 of Mollie Makes? The issue came on sale 22nd September. We love Mollie Makes & Mollie Makes readers. MM have been so so supportive of our work over the last few years and have featured our projects and images numerous times. Editor Lara has attended our events too and we feel very much part of the MM community so we feel very honoured to be in issue 45. What do you think of the interesting feature?
Have a look at the sample issue HERE if you haven’t got a copy. Be warned – it will definitely tempt you to buy their lovely magazine!;p
Cover of issue 45 or Mollie Makes which has a feature we are covered in.
Article our Founder Sarah Corbett was interviewed for. Read what she says. Do you agree?
All images for this article in Mollie Makes are ours- we are honoured that they chose them. What do you think?
Mollie Makes is a lifestyle magazine for those who live creatively. They bring you the latest crafting trends in easy-to-follow how-tos, encouraging you to adapt and share your own crafty spin on things. MM celebrate creative industries and give up-and-coming designers their first platform, discuss hot topics in the design world with lots of insider tips, and aim to inspire readers to live your best, artful life.
Creative endeavors are more than a day job for the Mollie Makesteam. From choosing gorgeous indie cushions and prints for their interiors pages to learning how to take beautiful photos for their website and Instagram feeds; customising clothes to making gifts for friends, they’re crafting along with you. MM love trying new things and being inspired by what crafters are creating, wearing and blogging about too.
The Mollie Makes community is supportive, lively and full of crafty knowledge and like-minded people.
We are honored to have our current project Craftivists Garden featured in the October issue of Women’s Institute (WI) magazine ‘WI Life‘. Many of the WI groups across the UK take part in our craftivism projects and we hope they will take part in this project too.
The Women’s Institute (WI) was formed in 1915 to revitalise rural communities and encourage women to become more involved in producing food during the First World War. Since then the organisation’s aims have broadened and the WI is now the largest voluntary women’s organisation in the UK. The WI will celebrate its centenary in 2015 and currently has 212,000 members in around 6,600 WIs. Wow!
The WI plays a unique role in providing women with educational opportunities and the chance to build new skills, to take part in a wide variety of activities and to campaign on issues that matter to them and their communities. You don’t want to mess with these classy campaigners.
See there feature here:
WI Life magazine Oct 2014 issue. This magazine is for all Women’s Institute members in the UK
WI Life magazine Oct 2014 issue. This magazine is for all Women’s Institute members in the UK
WI Life magazine Oct 2014 issue. This magazine is for all Women’s Institute members in the UK
WI Life magazine Oct 2014 issue. This magazine is for all Women’s Institute members in the UK
Thursday 13th November. Book your ticket for £4 here
Starting 7:30pm with a short introduction and then crafting in groups, this exciting collaborative venture will show how craft activities can help improve wellbeing by involving participants like me and you in the fun, connected, sensory and mindful process of making things.
This is a unique project that goes beyond seeing craft as a relaxing tool but seeing craft as an incredible tool to help us connect, challenge ourselves and help us grow and flourish in our lives in different ways and help us see how we can change the world one stitch at a time.
Join our London workshop to hand-embroider, knit or crochet a flower for our #wellMAKING Craftivists Garden, while reflecting on the importance of wellbeing and what we need in order to flourish as individuals and as a society. We want as many people here as possible. Please arrive just before 7:30pm to start at 7:30pm with a short talk and then crafting in groups around tables.
Many of us have read about or experienced first hand how craft helps people’s wellbeing, and we believe it is also a beautiful tool for us to reflect on how we can improve the wellbeing of those around us in our communities and in society.
Craft is a lovely way to keep us optimistic and striving for better things; it’s a great tool to think about challenging and sometime uncomfortable thoughts (like how we all impact each other and planet) with the comfort of craft to help us not go into despair or feel disempowered.
We want each flower to represent you as a flourishing flower in our garden (which itself represents society, obvs!) and the time you have taken to deeply think about wellbeing for you and others. We’ve also created an app to collect your private answers to our questions for us to provide evidence of the power craft has to improve our society. And we’d love you to join our #wellMAKING Garden Party in January when it is confirmed.
So let’s craft, connect, reflect, challenge so we can grow as individuals in society. Come join this unique project to think beyondcraft as a relaxing tool into a tool to help us strive and flourish in our lives in different ways and change the world one stitch at a time…. x
I’ve been a fan of the Do Lectures for the last few years so when I was asked to speak at this years Wales event I was super-excited but also terrified. The event is an intimate affair for around 100 people in a farm in Cardigan, Wales for 3 days. They hand pick 20 speakers from around the world to attend the 3 day event and talk about their journey of doing with the hope that they will inspire the attendees and people who watch the film online to DO good in our world using whatever talents and passions you have. I often watch their filmed talks online whilst I’m making our craftivism kits because the talks are so honest, show people’s journeys, passions, learning from mistakes, their fears & vulnerabilities but their stubbornness to keep striving to make the world a better place for everyone.
The Do Lectures was asked to give a talk in I’ve never done before so I decided to talk through my steps as a doer to show that anyone can make a difference.
You don’t have to be super-human, perfect, extrovert etc. If I can do it, you can too!:) My journey in the video here goes through my stages in doing in this order:
A reluctant doer - nervous to take hold of to the opportunity put in my way to represent my fellow school students as Head Girl but rising to the challenge.
An angry doer – angry that Primark was opening a massive store in Liverpool one summer but no one was going to be outside to remind people of the harm Primark do to the planet through fast fashion, not paying their garment workers a living wage etc so I felt I had to do something.
A busy doer – campaigning in my job as a professional campaigner and support activists, joining lots of activist groups in my spare time…
A doubting doer - doubting traditional campaign methods and new forms labelled as clicktivism and slacktivism.
Stubborn doer - not wanting to give up on fighting injustice and striving to help make the world a better place but not knowing what to do.
A quiet & gentle doer - quietly figuring out how I could use the meditative and aesthetic qualities of craft in activism and create activism methods that could be more engaging to people where traditional forms didn’t seem to work.
A accidental doer – lots of people wanted to join in my craftivism projects so I accidentally ended up creating and leading the Craftivist Collective.
A helpful doer – trying to be a person on this planet making the world better in my small way and trying to support other people to be helpful doers too
So here it is… I hope you find it useful to help you think about your own in your journey as a doer and how we are all human beings so all have the power to do good (and harm if we aren’t careful) so go on, do it, do what you can to remake this world into an awesome place, you know you can
My Do Lecture 2014 talk – I was soooo scared!
We are a social enterprise providing craftivism products and services for individuals and organisations to learn how to use craft to change the world for the better one stitch at a time. We hope you like this post, if you do please share it with people you think might also like it and do check out our little shop here to see what we offer and how you can help support us to continue to exist x
We are part of the Knitting & Stitching Shows again this year. It’s ace being surrounded by crafters excited to see how they can make the world a better place using their passion for craft. Our workshops have sold out quickly in the past feedback has been great. We’ve met some lovely people and heard their story of how they got in to craft, how they use it and afterwards, what they are thinking to do next knowing how craft can work well will activism in some situations. Come join us this year
We are doing 4 Mini Protest Banner workshops this year. 2 at London and 2 at Harrogate. All are 1 hour long and you will learn more about how craftivism can be used and useful. Plus you will receive a craftivism kit (worth £10) & extra resources you can take home to help you in your craftivism. Book before our limited spaces sell out
Saturday 22nd November 2:15-3:15pm,Harrogate International Centre, Kings Road Harrogate HG1 5LA. Workshop number C110 BOOK HERE
Sunday 23rd November 2:15pm-3:15pm, Harrogate International Centre, Kings Road Harrogate HG1 5LA. Workshop number C151. BOOK HERE
Mini Protest Banner on theme of home
You will learn how to make a Mini Protest Banner using cross-stitch & hand embroidery methods, explore & discuss the benefits of craftivism for the maker & viewers and how it can create change. All participants will receive a complete kit for you to work on during the workshop and take home in a small bag to continue your craftivism piece at home and become a craftivist Suitable for any level.
If you can’t come to an event. Don’t let that stop you from getting your crafty activism on. Our bookA Little Book of Craftivism if full of top tips and you can get our craftivism kits in our shop here.
@NorthWestNosh: #craftivism encourages craftsters to engage with activism in our own quiet way. Sometimes the quieter the revolution, the louder it is heard.
@PrickYourfinga: At tonight’s #craftivist stitch-in we talked about what it must be like to be a politician, and how to activate change in our busy lives.
@Rin Simpson: My small act of craftivism will, hopefully, go some small way towards changing the world. But more importantly, it has changed me.
@storyofmum: I love the project – it’s really inspiring&creative & has really got me excited about activism again in a way I haven’t been since my teens!
@tomofholland: @Craftivists shows, inspires and facilitates craftsters to unite their individual creative powers to raise awareness of social issues.