the activity of using crafts (= sewing or making things yourself using your hands) to try to achieve political or social change.
In fact, craftivism is much more than this. It is a form of “gentle protest” proving that slow, thoughtful, quiet forms of action can still create change. It offers an opportunity for those of us who may not be able to, or want to, participate in more ‘traditional’ forms of activism, such as protest, to engage with issues and causes we feel strongly about. And it provides a safe space to channel feelings of anger, sadness, and despair, and turn these into a positive and cheerful force for change.
The act of using craft as a type of activism has existed for decades but the word ‘craftivism’ (a portmanteau of the terms ‘craft’ and ‘activism’) was first coined by Betsy Greer in 2003. Since then it has only gained in popularity, with increased awareness of environmental and social issues and more people engaging in activism in all shapes and forms.
“If we want our world to be more beautiful, kind and fair, can we make our activism be more beautiful, kind and fair?”– Sarah Corbett, Craftivist Collective
Now, more than ever it may seem that activism = burnout. You only have to look on social media to see examples of this (activists such as Michaela Loach and our own Curious.Earth-er Jessica Kleczka have talked about this recently). But activism doesn’t have to be stressful, serious, or sad. Craftivism offers a different way that means campaigners are taking part in activism on their terms, through a process that can in itself be calming, mindful, and even joyous.
Craftivism is not intended to be the solution to all the world’s problems, but rather another tool in the activist’s toolbox. It sits alongside protests, petitions, non-violent direct action, lobbying, and even criminal actions – just one more way to raise awareness and engage with decision makers.
Climate Craftivism in practice
#CanaryCraftivists: This project, organised by UK-based group Craftivist Collective, was designed to engage with MP’s either directly by sending them a handmade canary as a warning symbol encouraging them to act before it’s too late, and indirectly through small ‘crafty gatherings’ designed to gather interest from local press.
Stitches for Survival: Sewn, knitted, embroidered, and handmade panels from all over the UK were joined together in a 1.5 mile long display at the COP26 Climate Strike (to highlight the need to keep temperature increase to below 1.5°c). After the protest, some of the panels were kept for future campaigning whilst others were repurposed into blankets and mats for refugees, homeless people, and those in need.
Climate Coalition ‘Show the Love’: This annual Valentines day campaign asks people to display a homemade (painted, drawn, stitched, knitted – anything goes!) green heart in their window to raise awareness of the climate crisis, or send a green heart to their MP asking them to support climate action.
Listen to Sarah Corbett discuss the art of Gentle Protest on this BBC podcast.
Watch the BBC documentary ‘Craftivism: Making a Difference’ for more examples of some inspiring and extraordinary projects.
Get crafty! Have a go at doing some craftivism of your own – you can find lots of ideas and inspiration online and on social media.