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How to be a Craftivist

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Sarah Corbett published by Unbound

Reviewed for CraftCourses by Pat Dew

Have you ever sat watching the news and raged inside at social injustice – but felt powerless to effect change? This book may be just the antidote! ‘How to be a Craftivist - the art of gentle protest’ explains how bringing craft and activism into a true partnership can provoke powerful forces for change.

To be honest I greeted the ideas with scepticism – we live in a world driven by money and commerce and I frequently feel dismay at how we treat our planet and all the incredible life on it. I read further and began to feel inspired by the kind, decent voice that promotes a sense of ‘we can do it’ by planning and working together to enlighten and encourage decision-makers to think again. The term ‘Craftivism’ was coined by Betsy Greer in 2003 and she called it:

‘a way of looking at life where voicing opinions through creativity makes your voice stronger, your compassion deeper’.

Like many people I have knitted woolly blankets and jumpers for African babies and felt I was ‘doing my bit’ but this accepts poverty and inequality rather than challenges it.  

Can our craft help us do more? Corbett explores fully the difference between craft and craftivism and asks us to examine our motivation and goals. Craftivism is more about being ‘pro’ than ‘anti’, it is never aggressively dictatorial but rather engages and challenges with compassion and empathy. Corbett wants to change the negative idea of protest to be ‘for’ rather than ‘against’ – we can’t make something beautiful with our hands if our minds are full of anger.  She discusses group dynamics and bringing craftivists together on projects that educate and encourage mindfulness.  

There is ‘A Craftivist’s Manifesto’ which states,

‘connecting our hands, hearts and heads we can truly make a difference’.

Inspiring and thought-provoking messages illustrate her ideas. One of my favourites is a hand embroidered mask on a shop mannequin that states, 

‘There is no point to a globalisation that reduces the price of a child’s shoes but costs the father his job’.

The message is clear and unequivocal and made with care and beauty – who could possibly walk past and not pay attention?

If you have a desire to make positive change in mindful, non-aggressive action, a craftivist group could be a powerful force for personal and political empowerment. It reminds us that we do have a voice and we can make change happen. As one WI member said following a discussion, 

‘Doing small things is more productive than thinking big things.’

This book reminds us that we are not powerless. If we bring our minds, hearts and hands together we can make positive change and influence the decision- makers.  Margaret Mead said,

’Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.’  

It is good to be reminded that most people are actually good – it is just smaller actions of course but as a craftivist perhaps you too will become one of those citizens that makes a huge difference to our world. 

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