For Books’ Sake Talks To: Craftivist Collective

For Books' Sake Talks To: Craftivist Collective
Sarah Corbett founded The Craftivist Collective in 2009 in an effort to fuse craft and activism, allowing activists to stand up for justice through peaceful campaigning.

Betsy Greer coined the term as “a way of looking at life where voicing opinions through creativity makes your voice stronger, your compassion deeper.”

Corbett’s parents were immersed in the world of activism. At just three years old, she squatted in council homes to save them from demolition, and growing up in a low-income area under a Thatcher Government provided plenty of opportunities for activism.

She also campaigned on global issues throughout her time at university. However in 2008, Corbett found herself in need of fresh perspective.

“I’ve always been passionate about standing up for justice, so that people and the planet don’t suffer at our hands,” she says. “But I got to a point where I just felt burnt out.”

With Greer’s blessing, she threw herself into the world of craftivism. She started creating her own projects and documenting them under a blog entitled A Lonely Craftivist.

The blog proved successful. Like-minded activists from around the globe contacted Corbett, keen to share their experiences. This provided the impetus for her founding The Craftivist Collective.

Craftivist Collective

One popular project was a jigsaw supporting the Save The Children Race Against Hunger campaign; the project lasted six months and saw over 700 craftivists embroidering individual puzzle pieces with provocative messages.

“Our manifesto is simple,” Corbett explains. “We aim to expose the scandal of global poverty and human rights injustices through the power of craft and public art. We create projects, products and instruction videos, hold workshops around the country, as well as working in collaboration with other organisations.

“We try and demonstrate a valid form of activism that we believe should be a permanent part of the activism tool-kit alongside other forms of activism. It’s a growing movement of innovative, reflective campaigning; a type of ‘slow activism’ that is as much about changing individuals as it about changing the world.”

Corbett now writes a column for Crafty Magazine and her first publication A Little Book of Craftivism was released by Cicada Books this month.

The books discusses the power craft has in connecting hands, head and heart. Corbett says she found the repeated movements of hand embroidery helped her mediate on injustices.

“Before I started crafting, I hadn’t really found time to stop, think and reflect,” she explains. “Craft uses your hands, heart and head, and when you connect that to justice issues, it can be world-changing, both personally and politically.”

While she feels that craftivism should be a part of an activist’s tool-kit and not the whole, she believes craftivism does offer things that direct activism cannot.

Craftivist Collective Bunting

“Often when it comes to structural injustices, there isn’t a clear enemy or particular person to blame. Injustices are complex; often there isn’t one problem or one solution, but it’s tangled up in lots of issues, with lots of people involved in the chain. If we want long term change, we need to be in dialogue with others and not shouting at each other. We need to be hopeful, positive, optimistic.”

A Lonely Craftivist became a place for Corbett to openly question certain methods of activism and her experience of burning out. Here, she explored the value of ‘slow activism’ achieved through craft.

“Craft can help with personal transformation for the maker, as well as deeper engagement with the receiver,” she says. “There are testimonies which show how craft helps our mental health. Craft can really help build relationships.”

Craft uses your hands, heart and head, and when you connect that to justice issues, it can be world-changing, both personally and politically.Corbett says she feels hugely privileged to work with such a broad range of people, from refugee women in Manchester, customers of Secret Cinema in London, to visual communications students in NYC.

“People benefit from craftivism in so many different ways. For some people it’s the time to stop in their hectic life, turn off their phone and focus on one issue, exercising their inner-monologue. For some introverted people, it’s a stepping stone into activism in a friendly accessible and creative way. For some activists, it’s showing different ways we can campaign. Craftivism is just one tool to help people engage, reflect and help with personal transformation.”

The Craftivist Collective will be at The Upcyling Academy, Alexandra Palace, at The Knitting & Stitching Show from October 10-13th 2013, encouraging people to think about fast-fashion & its negative effects on people and the planet.

Corbett says she’s also really excited to be delivering a three-day Craftivism Bootcamp in Scotland later this year: “Hopefully people will come out as inspired, excited and effective craftivists! We have a great mix of campaigners, grassroots community workers, artists and craftspeople so it should be a fab melting pot for us to learn from each other.”

A Little Book of Craftivism is published by Cicada Books and is available now. 

Images via Craftivist Collective on Flickr