Is hurtling your milkshake at politicians a good way to get their attention? I think Craftivist Collective has a kinder, thoughtful and more strategic way…
Every five years in Bollington, the village near me in Macclesfield hold a festival which hosts music, films, walks, dancing, art exhibitions and talks. Tonight Sarah Corbett who started the Craftivist Collective came all the way from London to come and speak to us.
‘The Craftivist Collective is exactly that – a collective, an inclusive group of people committed to using thoughtful, beautiful crafted works to help themselves and encourage others be the positive change they wish to see in the world.’
@craftivists #gentleprotest #craftivist
Usually when I think of political and environmental activism I think of loud and in your face protests with banners and all sorts of ‘disobedient objects’ (oh how I loved that V&A exhibition in 2014). Or the images of punks with subversive messages scrawled on their clothes (biography of Vivienne Westwood in the 70s and 80s rocked my world as a teenager). Often the voice of this sort of activism shouts ‘WE OPPOSE YOU’. And as I write this, current trend for sharing photos and videos of Tommy Robinson and Nigel Farage lookin forlorn and understandiably pissed off after milkshakes have been hurled at them, are being shared on social media. While Sarah didn’t mention this in her talk she did ask us if we would engage with and listen to people throwing eggs at us? NO- it would only anger us as a knee jerk reaction! She believes it is important not to demonise the people you are trying to get to listen, even if it makes other people laugh momentarily. Craftivist Collective is about empowering people to be activists with methods that will be effective instead of only inflammatory. Activism should inspire positive action not aggression.
Craftivism Collective workshops
At these workshops people are invited to consider carefully the message they want to give to whoever they feel can make the change they want to see in the world. The way the craftivism is received is important as ‘everyone likes positive surprises’ which gives you a little dopamine hit. Sarah showed us examples of hankerchiefs with the words ‘Don’t blow it…’ neatly embroidered. If you receive a piece of intimate craft that has had very human time and care put into it, you are more likely to keep it and engage with it.
My favourite piece of activism Sarah discussed, and I have heard people talking about this before, is Shopdropping. People dropping their craftivism into the pockets of fast fashion in the shops. Imagine trying on clothes in a shop and finding a little message inside asking you to consider it’s ethical and environmental journey to you! You can hear more on Wardrobe Crisis podcast (incidentally one of my favourite podcasts about ethical and sustainable fashion).
As I have been so inspired by The Craftivist Collective subversive methods I have come straight from Sarah’s talk and written up this blog post quickly before I go to bed. But it has really thrown up a lot of questions for me and my own art. How am I inspiring empathy in my work? Does my work inspire action or leave people feeling down in the dumps? Is my work just about raising awareness or true activism? What is true activism? Should activism always be about the result or is the process important too? How can knowledge of psychology and neuroscience help us protest effectively? Does impact have to be LOUD? Or can it be kind, stitched and intimate?
Big thank you to Sarah for coming all the way to Bollington and to Josie Spinks (who was my A Level English Lit teacher! Woop!) for inviting Sarah to come and deliver this inspirational talk.
See more on Twitter and Instagram @craftivist. And of course the website .