Craftivism Ingredient #2: Activism for Introverts (and a little NYC story)

17 Jun Craftivism Ingredient #2: Activism for Introverts (and a little NYC story)

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We believe that there are lots of ingredients needed to create effective craftivism activities that benefit the maker as well as reciever/viewer of the final piece. Craftivism is a word being used more and more across the world. For us activism is the priority and craft is the tool to do this deeply engaging and transformative approach to campaigning to challenge unjust structures that harm people as well as challenge us as individuals to help and not harm others or the planet. We hope our approach to craftivism makes sense to you & we would love your comments on whether you agree or not :)

2. Activism for Introverts

I was recently in NYC for a month as a mix of a holiday but also meetings with people, organisations such as the awesome Etsy & media peeps like legendary Bust Magazine staff about our Little Book of Craftivism out mid Sept 2013 & I event delivered a guest lecture at the inspiring Parsons New School (gulp!) . I decided I should of course bring my #popupcraftivist craftivism suitcase to NYC with me and pop up for people to join me & bring our approach to craftivism to New Yorkers as well as make a Mini Protest Banner to leave up in NYC. Both activities completely stressed me out once I knew I had told myself I had to do it and it made me want to write this blog on my to do list with a real sense of urgency when I got home. So here it is:  

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Me sitting in NYC stitching, thinking and loving it whilst my friend had to entertain herself (hence this photo of me!)

A third to a half of the world are introverts. Everyone is a mix of introvert and extrovert but often one is more dominant than the other. Some introvert tendencies are that the person is more reserved, less outspoken in groups, prefers solitary behaviour (like reading, writing, hiking, painting) and their energy tends to expand through reflection and dwindle during interaction. Susan Cain recently did a brilliant TED talk on the power of introverts.

I’m definitely more of an introvert and always have been. I prefer to concentrate on a single activity at a time and like to observe situations before I participate. I like to analyze and think deeply before I speak or act on something. I like spending time alone, wandering and thinking, crafting and creating. I tend to get easily overwhelmed by too much stimulation from social gatherings and engagements. 

So although I’ve always had a burning passion to fight for justice, I’ve always found it hard to fit into traditional forms of activism such as joining large groups, dressing up for public stunts, going on large loud marches chanting and shouting with placards. I am always hesitant to sign a petition when someone asks because I want to have a long thoughtful discussion before I decide to sign it, and I get nervous asking others to join a campaign because I’m naturally shy (which is more to do with fear than introversion). I turned into a burnt out activist and believe that a lot of that stemmed from my feeling drained doing traditional activism.

 Craft is a great tool for me because I can do it alone with my thoughts, I can leave up my craftivism pieces in public for people to engage with without me being there. Solitude is a crucial ingredient to my productivity and creativity and crafting alone can help this process as well as create an environment for deep thought. Crafting on my own or in small groups makes me feel much more comfortable to talk about issues, to speak up, discuss issues and listen to other people’s thoughts on the issue. Because I’m naturally introverted and shy, people often could tell that I wasn’t crafting in public to gain attention or to show off but because I am driven to engage people in social justice issues in small interactions because I believe deeply that we should always be reminded to help others or at least not to harm them. This can sometimes have more power than extrovert activism in engaging people.  Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks and Gandhi all describe themselves as soft spoken, even shy and they all took the spotlight even though every bone in their body was telling them not to.

I believe that the Craftivist Collective has grown in to a global collective of people  and gained attention in the media because amongst other things it caters to introverts and everyone who has introverted tendencies. It’s activism for the introvert in all of us. 

So how did an activist cope in NYC? Well I freaked out a bit with my suitcase in Union Square NYC to the point where I wasn’t going to open it but then I decided I should open it and see if anyone wants to talk about craftivism and the footprint activity. I sat stitching which calmed me down and then a lovely older German gentle man (Raemer) sat near me, we smiled at each other and he read the label on my suitcase and then asked what I was stitching. I showed Raemer different examples of our craftivism projects & the crafitvist footrprint project instructions which was the activity of that day. He asked lots of questions about how I got into craftivism, what I do as a craftivist and how he is a retired teacher and would love to show his old school what the Craftivist Collective do. Raemer took a flyer & took photographs to show his son who lives in Berlin. We talked about our love of NYC but also the challenges of staying hopeful and fighting for a better world when it can feel overwhelming and too easy to give up. He stayed for 2 hours chatting to other craftivists who came to join in & even offered to take photos of the group on my camera and camera phone because he said it was important I was in the photographs. Raemer gave me a firm hand shake & a beaming smile when he left and told me to keep ‘shining’ and leaving ‘beautiful footprints on the earth’. You too Raemer! :) 

Raemer is in the middle on top row

Raemer is in the middle on top row

My mini protest banner in Strawberry Fields, Central Park, NYC.

My mini protest banner in Strawberry Fields, Central Park, NYC.

10 Comments
  • Disobedient Child
    Posted at 18:54h, 17 June Reply

    Great post, and well done for being brave! I remember seeing your invitation to get involved with the railway fares protest a couple of years ago, and thinking yeah, I’d love to do that. And then when it came to it thinking OMG, I can’t do that! That’s waaay too scary! And you were so helpful, and encouraging, that I just did it anyway. And yes, walking into the middle of a major railway station, and sitting on the floor and starting to sew, while people walked past, or stopped and stared, was one of the scariest/bravest things I think I’ve ever done. But thanks to you, I did it. And you know what, I’d do it again :) So hey, I guess that makes me one of your footprints – keep leaving them! xx

  • Disobedient Child
    Posted at 18:55h, 17 June Reply

    Great post, and well done for being brave! I remember seeing your invitation to get involved with the railway fares protest a couple of years ago, and thinking yeah, I’d love to do that. And then when it came to it thinking OMG, I can’t do that! That’s waaay too scary! And you were so helpful, and encouraging, that I just did it anyway. And yes, walking into the middle of a major railway station, and sitting on the floor and starting to sew, while people walked past, or stopped and stared, was one of the scariest/bravest things I think I’ve ever done. But thanks to you, I did it. And you know what, I’d do it again :) So hey, I guess that makes me one of your footprints – keep leaving them! xx

    • Craftivist Collective
      Posted at 18:58h, 17 June Reply

      wow what a comment! :) I never expected that but it’s really made my day. Thanks so so much for that honest comment luv. Craftivism is pretty cool isn’t it!?;p from now-smiling Sarah x

  • annjrippin
    Posted at 07:12h, 18 June Reply

    Reblogged this on Annjrippin's Blog and commented:
    A quick reblog, for extroverted introverts, like me, everywhere.

  • josiemakes
    Posted at 08:39h, 18 June Reply

    I watched that TED talk the other day and was thinking about this too! I am definitely an introvert and very shy but I work in charity and passionate about change and I’m so glad I found the craftivist collective! Craft personally helps me to feel calm and quiet but I was recently stitching my mini protest banner on the train to work and felt so self-conscious that everyone was looking at me or might talk to me, but I did it anyway, so that’s a big step! I think the internet has been massive in helping get people involved in activism these days without having to put yourself out there too much, like everyone joining the everyday sexism project by tweeting. And me being able to leave you this comment! Your NYC trip looks great, I’m glad you went for it in union sq! xxx

    • Craftivist Collective
      Posted at 08:19h, 24 June Reply

      Ooo please share your mini protest banner with us when it’s finished Josie :) it would be great if you could write a little blog about it for the site for people to see and especially for people who see it in situ so they can find out more info on our handmade creation :)

  • Stef
    Posted at 14:55h, 18 June Reply

    Hi Sarah, I just wanted to say I am always utterly inspired by what you do! I always thought that I wouldn’t be able to bring about change because I’m not a big extrovert. I think sometimes the shouty-shouty campaigners/activists can actually put people off becoming involved at times as they feel they have to be/act a certain way in order to create change. I personally volunteered at a campaigns organisation & I found the people working there to be brash, loud and actually not very friendly which kinda put me off wanting to get involved! I found it crazy that they expected people to be interested in their campaigns when they weren’t even interested in engaging in conversation regarding the issues with one of their own volunteers. So to cater for my own needs as an individual I have decided to start a small charity campaigning/fundraising group within my local area which I eventually would like to inject some craftivism into! Fingers crossed some crafty people come along! Keep up the great work. From one introvert to another, much respect to you lady x

    • Craftivist Collective
      Posted at 08:25h, 24 June Reply

      Thanks for your honesty Stef. Its sad isn’t it when some activists can put people off?:( good luck with your activities but remember that if you want crafty people to come to your events try & go to theirs first or contact them in a bespoke way if you can – don’t fall into the trap of just mass flying or online marketing to the masses- try & find key craftspeople to get to know and have a conversation with them about working together within both of your capacities. It’s better to have a few deeply engaged people you can build a relationship with & work in a mutually beneficial way than and build from that don’t you think? I’m sure you’re already thinkin that but it was a nice reminder for me writing it :) x

  • Stef
    Posted at 09:03h, 24 June Reply

    That’s really helpful, thank you! I’ve never started anything like this before so I am grateful for any advice I can get! Thanks again :) x

    • Craftivist Collective
      Posted at 10:54h, 24 June Reply

      No problem at all hun :) it’s easy in a rush just to push out events. For small events by individuals people don’t know, it’s easy to not go if people are scared or busy. The best way to encourage like-minded people and others to attend your event and not pick something else is to put yourself in their shoes & show them value & respect = find out if there are local craft lovers, craft bloggers, craft shops & others, find out a bit about those individuals (what they love doing, why, if you have anything in common like people you know, kids, pets, music fabric taste etc) and contact them with a personal invite asking if they could come, take part, feedback or just meet you for a coffee and get to know each other and see if/how you can support each other in making the world a better place. If people are too busy/stressed with other stuff don’t take offence but try and keep in touch but not pushy. Just put yourself in their shoes, show respect, emotional intelligence and a friendly smile :) good luck! Little plug: our Little Book of Craftivism is out mid Sept 2013 with top tips too you might find helpful hopefully:) Ill stop rambling now. X

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