Crafty Magazine blog tour: Sarah Corbett’s A Little Book of Craftivism

5th December 2013 by

Crafty-template-for-main-imagesWe were pleased as punch to be approached by Crafty Magazine to review A Little Book of Craftivism as part of their blog tour.  We’re the last stop this week and thrilled!

For those of you new to Sarah and craftivism, be sure to check out our Q&A and the fun had with our Patron Josie Long.

The Review: A Little Book of Craftivism

For someone who appreciates physical books, small things, clear and concise info, how-to create craft project instructions and social activism, A Little Book of Craftivism is a small piece of brilliance in your hand.

What’s even better is that for those who have no idea what the Craftivist Collective is all about, it’s an essential read.  It lays the concepts out very simply:

‘…craftivism is ‘slow activism’.  It gave me an opportunity to reflect in a way that I hadn’t really made time for before.’

‘…projects are small, attractive and unthreatening.  Our mini protest banners or cross-stiched masks catch the attention of passers-by in a respectful and thought-provoking way without forcing our views on them.’

‘With craftivism, we encourage people to meet up in small numbers to create craftivist projects in public places or on their own on public transport.’

Some of you may also be thinking - I have never picked up a sewing needle… help!    You’re in luck as the book lays out small projects you can follow carefully.  Also, an integral element at the heart of the Craftivist Collective is to join other crafters, find a group near you or better yet – create one.

A few final wise words from the author herself:

‘Craftivism isn’t the answer to everything: there is no quick fix.  But we can all be part of the solution and craftivism allows us to express ourselves, and to create safe spaces for honest, open conversations… Justice isn’t soemething we wait for, it’s something we MAKE.’ – Sarah Corbett

Pros: Clear, concise, exciting how-to’s, an easy read, informative and interesting! An excellent stocking stuffer so why wait?! Click here to purchase the lovely book.

Cons: none that our eye can see.

And don’t forget to check out all the reviews by various bloggers this past week:

Crafty Magazine
Mancunian Vintage
Tom of Holland

The Craftivism Q&A

23rd March 2012 by

We’ve had a hankering recently to know all about this thing called craftivism, so we’ve kidnapped Sarah Corbett, founder of the Craftivist Collective, locked her in the Otesha dungeon and turned our interrogation lamp on her. Here’s what we learned… [Thanks, Sarah!]

Oh, and if you can’t get enough craftivism, watch what happened when Otesha patron and comedian Josie Long got crafty with the collective.

Alright, then. What’s craftivism when it’s at home?

Craftivism is activism through using craft methods: provoking people to think about global injustices in a non threatening, non preachy way, normally as street art or as gifts to people, and through cross-stitch (like mini protest banners left in public), hand-embroidery (like our Don’t Blow It hankies to give to MPs, teachers, bankers etc) and other craft methods (bunting, shrink plastic gifts etc).

What’s this collective, and what led you to get involved in craftivism?

The Craftivist Collective came about in 2008 when I came to live in London for a job. I felt like a burnt-out activist like many do, going on lots of marches, signing lots of petitions, going to activism meetings and not feeling like we were getting anywhere.

Plus I’m not a natural extrovert, so didn’t like doing stunts, dressing up, talking to strangers, asking them to sign petitions, going on marches, and I don’t like some forms of activism that are aggressive and demonise people. Craftivism was also a reaction to clicktivism and slacktivism and not feeling I fitted into some groups – I’m too scared to ride a bike, I’m not vegan and I love fashion and reading Vogue.

I also got really into cross-stitch because I’m naturally creative and didn’t have space to paint, plus I could do cross-stitch in my room, on public transport and to calm me down after a stressful day at work.

You also get time to reflect and think when crafting and it feels achievable, so I wanted to craft items with social justice messages in them that I could think about whilst stitching – but then leave them in public places for other people to think about the issue.

So I went to see my nan in Shetland in August 2008 with a bag of craft and a burning desire to be an activist again but in a sustainable and fun way, and in Shetland I came up with the idea for Mini Protest Banners to make and put up in public. I googled craft and activism groups and the term craftivism popped up. I contacted Betsy Greer, who coined the terms, and asked if there were groups I could join but there weren’t, so I just started doing it alone.

The banners wouldn’t tell people what to do or be negative but would be quotes or facts to provoke people to think about our global neighbours. I cable-tied them to places linked to the issue (e.g. flagship unethical stores if the fact was about sweatshops; outside financial districts talking about extreme, unbridled capitalism etc).

People started commenting on my blog asking if they could do it too, so I set up the collective for people to email me their banners, or join me in London to do craftivism, and its snowballed from there. We now sell kits, create instruction videos, workshops, events and people around the world deliver our projects, which is amazing! :) I’ve gone part-time in my job to have more time to give to it.

The ‘collective’ is a loose term for people who get involved, whether they are abroad or meet us at our monthly stitch-ins in London. We want everyone to feel part of our collective and encourage people to email us a photo and blog about their craftivism piece for us to put on the website, tweet, fb etc.

What’s the nicest public reaction you’ve ever had to your craftivism?

So many to count! :) People often ask us what we are doing when we are in public in a group or as individuals. When we explain it, most of the time people are really interested, ask more and then leave telling us to keep doing it. Some people take photos to send to friends or take a flyer to give to someone they know who is crafty and would love to hear more about us.

The reaction I am most proud of is from a banker who is quite high up in Goldman Sachs. He was given one of our prints by his long-term friend from uni. He emailed her to thank her and said it prompted him and his wife to have a thoughtful long conversation about what they can do in their position to help the most vulnerable. = amazing! :)
And have you ever had a very bad reaction to the craftivism you’ve done?

Sometimes, very rarely, we get comments from more hardcore activists saying we are too positive, too cute, too fuzzy to make a difference. We try and have a dialogue with these people to say we are not campaigners but rather there to provoke people to think about an issue in a non-threatening way We also see our value in reaching new audiences who might be nervous of activism and don’t feel they belong to other groups that might be louder, more extrovert or just into different things.

We are passionate about engaging shy, creative types into activism and being that stepping stone. Plus we reel through the list of benefits of craftivism. Normally that ends in the other person understanding our benefit in the activism world. But you can’t please everyone.
There seems to be a bit of a craft revival – knitting, bodging, cross-stitch, sewing – they all seem pretty zeitgeisty right now. What do you put that down to?

There is always a resurgence of craft in a recession- mostly it links to the Make Do and Mend ethos. But I also put it down to people feeling stressed, disempowered and wanting to do something. Crafting really helps people’s confidence, helps them feel valued, helps reflection, creativity and feeling you have achieved something.

I think I’m a bit rubbish at making things. Shall I not bother?

I didn’t go to art school and was never taught any formal craft skills. I learnt by doing and watching YouTube videos and still get lots wrong (my nan always tuts when she sees the back of my messy cross-stitched pieces). I make sure that all of the projects I create are accessible to all regardless of craft skill or political experience.

We create instruction videos for people to learn from, kits people can buy with instruction sheets and suggested content and we offer talks and workshops. If you really don’t want to stitch with us you can be an honorary ‘Craptivist’ who buys our postcards, gift cards, prints, ‘Craptivist’ badge (our mentor Sam Roddick came up with that name!) and spread the word through giving these gifts to people.

What’s the collective got planned – anything coming up you’d like to shout about?

Lots! :) All our events are on our website and Facebook and tweeted. We do monthly free Stitch-Ins at Royal Festival Hall every 3rd Thursday of the month, 7-9pm, where people can come and bring their own craftivism project do to, buy one of our kits and get a free tutorial from one of our experienced craftivists or just come and have a look, chat and see if they want to get involved.

We also do paid workshops that have more structure where you learn about the history of crafitivism, the benefits, some craft skills and can discuss justice issues with other attendees (for our June and September Sunday workshops 2-4:30pm email to find out more).

Plus I get booked in to do talks and workshops for organisations (in the past they have been with Southbank, Tate Gallery, Hayward Gallery and others) so I’m looking to book more this year (if any one knows anywhere that might want a craftivism talk or workshop please get in touch!).

I’m off to Berlin in May to do a talk and workshop at an event have asked me to do; some craftivists in Glasgow are planning on getting me up in October to deliver a workshop and teach them how to deliver them; I’m working with St Fagan’s museum outside Cardiff to deliver a workshop to complement an exhibition they are doing in June; and Ink-d Gallery, Brighton, have asked for more artwork and prints from me to show – I’m looking to book a workshop in the Gallery with them and stitch on my own underneath my craftivism work and tweet people to join me.

What’s your big dream? If craftivism achieved what it’s setting out to do, in its entirety, what would a craftivist utopia look like?

So many dreams: to be featured in Vogue, to deliver a TED talk, to have our products selling in lots of shops and e-shops across the world especially non-political shops, to deliver talks around the world on the power of craftivism, have more exhibitions, get funding to do Craftivism Bootcamps to train people up to deliver projects, workshops and talks so it’s not just me (I would make them a certificate at the end to prove they are a craftivist!).

My dream is that everyone knows the benefits of craftivism and it is seen as another great tool to encourage people to be the best people they can whilst they are on this planet. Encourage people to fulfil the world’s potential to be a just, fair and sustainable, beautiful place. Oh and I would, selfishly, like to be a full-time craftivist rather than have a part time job to pay my rent!

Guerrilla Knitting

20th May 2011 by

In case you didn’t know I am a knitter, a knitist even. I love knitting because you can do it  everywhere, except I believe on airplanes these days, which is fine by me since I’d rather be on the train clicking my needles anyway. So if, like me, you have an slightly obsessive compulsive desire to make things constantly, I recommend counseling. Or knitting.

All of my nearest and dearest are proud owners of surprisingly shaped hats. I once bought a cardigan from a charity shop, unraveled it and knitted it back into a jumper – and yes, believe it or not, it was worth it. One day I hope to only wear socks of my own creation. So far I have 3. I would love to knit and wear this jumper.

Real wool is expensive, but it is lovely and luxurious and comes in beautiful colours. I have tried to ban myself from wool shops but I occasionally go in and stroke the shelves. Recently I met a man who spins undyed wool from his own sheep, it takes him a day to make a hat, the result is beautiful, warm and waterproof (the oil in untreated wool gives it water resistant properties). He gave me some, it still smells of sheep.

Luckily I was bequeathed several bin bags of wool that a friend bought at a car boot sale. This matched with my penchant for unraveling second hand jumpers means that my wool habit should be forever satiated. This much wool in the cupboard is a constant race against the clothes moths, but I do like to live dangerously.

Anyway, imagine my excitement at discovering that June 11th is International Yarn Bombing Day (it’s also Worldwide Knit in Public Day, what a coincidence). Stitch and Bitch London will be marking the occasion with a Stitch Crawl through the Royal Parks.

Yarn bombing for those not in the know, is the process of decorating the streets with knitted or crocheted graffiti. Yarn bombing (also know as guerrilla knitting and yarn storming) is practised in cities all over the world. Past targets have included a London phone box, a bus in Mexico City, street furniture, trees and a subway carriage in Berlin.

Wikipedia, the source of all random knowledge, says:
The practice is believed to have originated in the U.S. with Texas knitters trying to find a creative way to use their leftover and unfinished knitting projects, but it has since spread worldwide.

While other forms of graffiti may be expressive, decorative, territorial, socio-political commentary, advertising or vandalism, yarn bombing was initially almost exclusively about reclaiming and personalizing sterile or cold public places. It has since developed with groups graffiti knitting worldwide each with their own agendas.

The movement has been said to be “changing the face of craft” as stitchers are more and more frequently being viewed as fibre artists.

So get your needles out and improve the urban landscape one stitch at a time. Does that seem a bit wooly?

Josie Long & Otesha meet the craftivist collective

30th September 2010 by

Following last months inaugural video with our patron, Josie Long & Otesha meet the craftivist collective, this month we decided to sew our way to social justice.

Josie Long and Otesha met Sarah Corbett from the Craftivist Collective! The Craftivist Collective use the power of craft and art to highlight issues of social injustice, like global poverty, human rights abuses and climate change impacts. So, during October, we’re challenging you to get involved, pick up your needle and thread and make your very own mini protest banner (you can make your own or buy one from the Craftivist Collective website). Remember to send us photos and the best banner wins a bar of fairtrade chocolate.

there is no point to a globalisation that reduces the prices of a child's shoes but costs the father his job...

Search Blog

Get Social