Most of us craft because, well it just feels damn good! But craft also represents a whole bunch of things to different people and you may unwittingly be one of these folks!
I’m talking about Craftivism. Now in its most formal definition it is “a form of activism, typically incorporating elements of anti-capitalism, environmentalism or third-wave feminism, that is centred on practices of craft - or what can traditionally be referred to as ‘domestic arts’”. Thank you Wikipedia, that definition gave me a bit of a giggle the domestic arts sounding like some kind of dark arts and the whole definition sounding like the topic of someone’s PhD (I’m not knocking PhDs, I have one…that’s Dr Mrs Jones thanks!!).
But an explanation I found more useful was this one from the ‘godmother’ of Craftivism Betsy Greer “craft + activism = craftivism….[that] each time you participate in crafting you are making a difference, whether it’s fighting against useless materialism or making items for charity or something betwixt and between”.
And there my dears, is the thing. Even if you simply knit something because you want to craft something handmade and personal you are metaphorically ‘sticking it to the man’ by stepping off the mass produced merry-go-round that comes with a whole bunch of side debates about consumerism, sweatshops, impacts on the planet and so on. And while your materials may well belong in the mass produced category…the notion of making and making do are brewing within you and I think that is worth celebrating in itself!
Of course there are some far more powerful and direct messages coming from craft. This blog was, in fact, inspired by the Knitting Nannas Against Gas (KNAGs) here in Australia. I have been following these wonderful ladies (and gents…but mostly ladies) for a couple of years. They opitimise to me what the craftivism movement is about…gentle slow peaceful but dogmatic subversiveness!
The KNAGs stage the most peaceful of protests. Armed with deck chairs, a ball of yarn and a good cup of tea, these nannas have persisted for the long haul sitting (or rather knitting) in protest on a weekly basis at their local member’s offices. They attract little negativity (although a recent spate of hate mail is an exception) because, well, everyone respects their nanna!
And just today, my mum handed me a postcard that had come from the Australian Conservation Foundation. It featured another mob of Knitting Nannas who are campaigning for the creation of the Great Forests Park. A quick search of the internet reveals that there is a movement of knitters using peaceful (with the exception of needle clacking, laughter and the odd slurp of tea) protest and the symbolism of ‘quiet women’s work’ to say we need to be heard.
And it’s not just knitting. There are some badass cross stitchers out there too! Many of these cross stitchers take the idea that the cross-stitch was often the voice of the ‘feminine’ mantra. These mantra’s being stitched and displayed so everyone could rest assured the woman of the house knew her place…and they turn it on its head. This collection includes such calls to action as “Wake up kickass repeat” and “A woman’s place is in the White House” and possibly my favourite “Ovaries before Brovaries”
Then of course there is the rise of yarn bombing and guerrilla knitting. I was lucky enough to get involved with a local council organised yarn bombing exercise a few years ago with a bunch of friends and family - I knit Brisbane. Even though we had permission and the support of cherry pickers, there was a great sense of subversiveness in stitching mohair, sequined knitwear to kangaroo sculptures and giving a giant floral handbag to a statue of a judge. The city of Brisbane woke to a town dressed for the winter. The project was part of celebration of the ‘domestic arts’.
But why craft and subversiveness when craft seems to have a long history of defining women in a way that we have all struggled to escape? I guess crafting firstly and foremost is an expression of you! Even when you create a gift for someone, by making with your own little hands, with your attention and care for detail, you are gifting a little piece of yourself. The same with craftivism. When the world seems out of kilter and you are trying to make sense of an injustice, it can feel right to act from the heart and craft is one way to do that.
But craft is also a great way to bring people together. You can sit and quietly craft while discussing issues, working up protests or actions or simply interact face-to-face in a fast paced, social media world! I think of friendship quilts and how they have brought together crafters in the past. Working together to a common goal and purpose and craft as a tool for social change starts to make sense.