How To Be A Craftivist: the art of gentle protest
By Sarah Corbett
Learn how to do activism in a slow, kind and beautiful way using craft
Publication date: October 2017Buy
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If we want our world to be more beautiful, kind and fair, then shouldn’t some of our activism be beautiful, kind and fair?
The word “activism” can conjure up connotations of quick signings of petitions, clicktivism, or loud and aggressive ways to demand justice. But activism can be different. I believe that Craftivism - activism through craft - can be an effective tool in the activism toolkit.
I’ve been a Craftivist since 2008. My approach to Craftivism is to tackle issues not with anger and shouting, but with gentle protest. Gentleness is not weak, it requires self-control in the face of anger, injustice and sadness. Gentle protest lets us have conversation instead of an argument, debate instead of shouting, and collaboration instead of opposition.
I became a Craftivist because I had become a burnt out activist. I grew up in a low-income area of Liverpool, and aged just 3 I was joining my parents and community in their campaigning. I went on to become a professional campaigner but I’m an introvert, and so many traditional forms of activism drained me. And I didn’t like demonizing people or telling them what to do.
One day I picked up a craft kit for a long train journey. Stitching immediately calmed me down. It helped me think more clearly and it felt empowering. People asked me questions about what I was making. I began to leave small pieces of provocative street art in my area, and those pieces started conversations on and offline. I embroidered a hanky as a gift for my local politician with a personal message. It felt much more respectful than shouting at her. We became critical friends rather than aggressive enemies.
In 2009, I set up the Craftivist Collective after much demand and to help people become effective Craftivists and good global citizens.
I don't want to create just another book of craftivism projects. I want my book to get to the heart of what Craftivism is about - the purpose, process and pitfalls.
In this book you will learn:
1. How to use the process of making to engage thoughtfully in the issues you care about.
2. How to see every detail of your creation as important: from the colour you use to the fonts, the size, the messaging....
3. How Craftivism can engage people on and offline around the world.
4. How Craftivism can create conversations and action in places where social justice isn’t often discussed.
5. How I’ve learnt from the challenges I’ve faced.
6. How, with some examples from case studies, you can transfer skills into other parts of your life.
Gentleness, conversation and collaboration can make our world a better place, and the road there less angry, aggressive and divisive.
Helping make this book happen and becoming a Craftivist taking the first steps down this path, one stitch at a time....
Sarah Corbett grew up in an activist family and has worked as a professional campaigner for 6 years most recently with Oxfam. She started doing craftivism (craft + activism) in 2008. Due to demand Sarah set up the global Craftivist Collective in 2009 providing projects, tools and services to individuals and organisations wanting to learn effective craftivism. She is now one of the leading spokespeople in the craftivism movement. Corbett has delivered over 300 workshops and events to over 11,000 people worldwide. She works with art institutions such as the Southbank & National Portrait Gallery as well as charities such as Save the Children & Unicef. She has collaborated with cult jewellers Tatty Devine & Secret Cinema amongst others and has just finished her first solo exhibition called ‘Gentle Protest’ in Stockholm. Corbett has taught her approach to craftivism at universities including Bauhaus University in Germany and Parsons New School in New York City*. Her first book “A Little Book of Craftivism” was published October 2013.
What people have said:
@LaurenLaverne: Want to do something positive with your Monday morning? Check out www.craftivist-collective.com Their book #ALittleBookofCraftivism is wonderful!
@RinHamburgh: @craftivists thank you for turning me from a cynical jaded ex-activist into a happy craftivist!:)
@Fablepatchtree: Watching Do Lectures @craftivists talk has made me (a quiet, anxious crafter) feel a little taller, louder and more forceful.
Chapter 3: Slow Activism
“Don’t forget to be the tortoise. Breathe. Slow down”
That’s what I often have to say at workshops I deliver. From New York to Norway, it’s the same. Slowing down seems to be the first challenge for people. They start things in the wrong order because they skip, or sometimes don’t even see, the instructions. People are surprised when embroidery thread knots or breaks after being separated too forcefully. You can feel the frustration in the room when it takes makers more than three times to thread their needle successfully. The projects aren’t difficult. I choose easily accessible craft techniques so that anyone can get involved, even if they have never picked up a needle and thread before. My approach to craftivism needs time and a steady hand to tackle injustices with care, thoughtfulness and sensitivity. You can’t rush these things. You’ve got to slow down.
It’s not surprising people struggle. I struggle. Perhaps you do at times. We live in such a fast-paced world, trying to keep up with our emails, the news, trends, our social media streams, our friends wherever they may be. It’s exhausting just thinking about it. But channelling your inner tortoise is a vital part of how to be an effective craftivist. Strategic planning, creative thinking and building relationships all take time and, if rushed, are impossible to deliver. Craftivism (and activism) needs all these things: slowness is vital. A slow pace should be threaded through all of your craftivism work so that your work is produced with care, courage and consideration.
It’s harder than it sounds. We live in a world where the average attention span of an adult has gone from 12 seconds in the year 2000 to 8 seconds in 2015. We have less concentration than a goldfish! Mobile phones have transformed the way many of us live. The average person spends more time each day on electrical devices than sleeping. Our culture seems to admire people more who are, or just look, busy.
For many, work absorbs most of our waking hours, with life coming second, fitted in around our schedules. The Industrial Revolution and modern technology were supposed to mean we could work less but.... oops, we are working more. I’m not saying that deadlines aren’t good - they can focus our minds and give us drive to perform great things. But we can only do this short-term: many of us feel stuck in a bottomless pit of permanent deadlines and it’s rewiring how we live.
How do we find time to rest, see family and friends, exercise, eat well, have a hobby, never mind find time to squeeze in campaigning to improve our world? It can feel impossible. We live in a culture where time is often seen as money. We treat time like another commodity and sometimes even feel we need to justify how we are spending our free time. Some struggle to just be. Some struggle to make time to think. Some are so overwhelmed they freeze. Some work, work and work some more. And then are forced to stop, by burnout, exhaustion, or an early retirement.
The free time we do find is often interrupted by our own FOMO (fear of missing out) so we fill it with socialising, weekend trips, courses, cultural events, or bingeing on entire TV series online. Some even use up precious time to set up an Instagram-able image of themselves on a day off chilling out and reading a book rather than just reading the book: I’ve been guilty of that!
Always being connected and busy can lead to depression and chronic fatigue. Slow activities like walking, meditation, yoga, gardening and handicraft are being prescribed increasingly by psychologists, therapists and even business consultants to promote health and wellbeing.
If you never stop doing, you will never recharge your batteries. A fast paced life stops us functioning to the best of our abilities: concentration starts to wander, information struggles to sink in, and “isn’t it ironic”, as Alanis Morrisette sings, that things then take longer than they should. You lose your temper more easily. The joy dissolves and everything feels like a chore. This fast-paced living is taking its toll on our health, community, and society.
There is a growing yearning from many of us, as well as a need, to slow down. And for the sake of our planet we need to slow down.
- 2nd February 2020 Together, let's make hope possible not despair convincing this 2020
Dearest Craftivists and friends
I'm excited for 2020! The solutions to climate crisis are so wonderful: clean air, more trees popping up all over cities, towns and as many places as possible, valuing our precious planet instead of taking it for granted...
Timing is everything. It's a vital year to campaign to solve the climate crisis especially for UK based campaigners…12th February 2019 I think I have the most unusual and changeMAKING gift you could give (to yourself or a loved one) this #ValentinesDay2019? Plus 5 positive reasons to choose it ;p
Dear #HowToBeACraftivist Backers :)
Love is such a short word to say but it is often such a difficult word to practice when it comes to protest...
When we see harm being afflicted onto vulnerable people or our beautiful planet it's easier to hate, dehumanise and blame others for all of the harm we see in structures and systems stopping people and our planet from fulfilling their wonderful…21st January 2019 Happy news on this Blue Monday
Dear #HowToBeACraftivist Supporters
Today is often called 'Blue Monday': the most depressing day of the year. So I wanted to share some good news with you about how the book that you helped to create is having a positive impact in our messy world. I hope this update brings a smile to your face, hope in your heart and a warm fuzzy feeling on these cold days and dark nights :)28th June 2018 The power of podcasts: some summer holiday suggestions (& a little request for please please)
I hope you are well, happy and have a holiday booked to enjoy this Summer. Thanks to the readers who have shared images with me @craftivists of themselves with their #HowToBeACraftivist book on holiday. I love recieving them, reading your thoughtful mini reviews and then seeing the comments underneath from your own followers keen to find out more about how to be a gentle protester…11th December 2017 Presents with a positive purpose and ethically made = win win win!:)
To my lovely pledgers
I hope you are well, warm and looking forward to a wonderful holiday on the horizon.
I just wanted to send a little email with three reasons why you can help yourself and loved ones have a very merry craftivism crafternoon alone or with others during our happy holidays coming up (and/or read my new book too obvs;p)
18th October 2017 Little by little we travel far...
- Make a difference: This gentle…
Wow! I can't believe our book is out and about now. It feels so surreal to see it sitting beautifully on bookshelves in stores and it feels even more surreal seeing people read #HowToBeACraftivist in coffee shops (I have sneakily snapped some photos of them doing so just for my private photo collection hehe) or readers sharing their images of the book in their homes around the globe. Isn't it…11th July 2017 THIS FRIDAY IS THE DEADLINE for the best christmas present for friends and family...
Midnight Friday 14th July (this week) is the deadline for ordering the special limited edition of the book you have kindly backed. It will not be avaialble after this date. Why am I telling you? You've already ordered your copy right? Well, because it's a lovely Christmas present for others and for the world.
The limited edition book will be a special gift in five ways with elements that…31st May 2017 Check out the awesome reviews for my book #humblebrag
The more our world seems to be divided, the more I think my book is really important to help us see that activism and protest can be beautiful, kind and fair. I'm on the final of three proof edits of my book checking for spelling and grammar etc and each time I read it I genuinely think "ooo I like that bit, did I write that?!" hehee. I've been nervous to say it's a…4th January 2017 A little extract from Chapter 9: Graceful Activism
To my lovely supporters and friends (that's you!),
I hope you are well, warm and had a happy Christmas :) To give hope for a happy 2017 when many of us are feeling despair, I thought you might like to read a very short extract from Chapter 9 of the book you are helping to create. I've called the chapter 'Graceful Activism' and the whole chapter focuses on a craftivist’s gentle protest approach…
These people are helping to fund How To Be A Craftivist: the art of gentle protest.
Elizabeth de Bona