10 Jul Craftivism Ingredient #3: Building Relationships Through Craft
2. Relationship Building
There is something about the aesthetics of craft that makes people warm to a craft piece. You see people go up to a piece of craft to touch it, to see how it’s made. People look intrigued: they value the unique craft piece in front of them that someone has spent time making. I have come to appreciate the use of craft as a way to engage people in global issues in a non-threatening, encouraging way that can provoke thought and action.
I felt that many traditional forms of activism annoyed the very people they were trying to influence. We tend not to change our views through people shouting or preaching at us: often that makes us more stubborn and less willing to listen. It’s hard for anyone to hear that they need to do what someone else says. A piece of craft doesn’t shout or preach: it can encourage, engage, sometimes build a respectful relationship, and be for many more effective.
When I moved house two years ago I would sign petitions addressed to my MP: the first correspondence I got back was to tell me to stop. She said it was wasting her time and my time. I was shocked. Then I thought she had a point. She didn’t know me. She didn’t know whether I genuinely cared about these issues I was signing petitions about or if I was a slacktivist, clicktivist or what another MP called a ‘zombie activist’ signing something I didn’t really care about. I decided to hand-embroider her a message on a handkerchief asking her to use her influence to support the vulnerable in society, to help people fullfill their potential, and not to blow her chance of making a positive difference in the world. I met her and gave her the hanky with a smile. It opened up a respectful conversation between the two of us. Now she knows I care about what I send her: the hanky is permanently on her constituency office desk to encourage her as an MP.
Our projects are attractive and unthreatening. Our messages try to be honest, loving, and to provoke people to think about how they can help eradicate injustice and be their best selves without harming others. We have heard back from many MPs that this way of activism has engaged them much more than petitions do: it’s memorable, novel and something the MP can keep in their office as a permanent reminder that a constituent is concerned. Some of our craftivists have also made hankies for bankers, lawyers, journalists and teachers.
Others have made jigsaws for our #imapiece Craftivist Jigsaw project asking their MP to be a piece of the solution to world hunger.If someone took the time to hand stitch me a piece of craft with a positive message I think I would listen to them and it would be a reminder to me to be part of the change I wish to see in the world.