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
Activism for Introverts
This time last year I was 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:
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!
You can Join in our projects and connect with me & the Craftivist Collective at www.craftivist-collective.com , buy our products on our Etsy shop (to help sustain our existence) & you can find more top tips on how to be an effective craftivist in our new book A Little Book of Craftivism.
Sarah Corbett grew up as an activist and has worked in the charity sector for over 7 years in engaging people in global injustices working for Christian Aid, DFID and most recently Oxfam as a Community & Activism Campaigner before she became a full time Craftivist. She founded the Craftivist Collective in 2009 after craft-lovers around the world asked to join in her craftivism (activism through craft) as a way to make positive change and give introverts a voice outside of traditional extrovert forms of activism.