Craftivism Is Creative Activism

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Turning crafting skills into support for causes we love (art by LR)

Gentle Yet Effective Activism

Over the years, I’ve written dozens of newspaper articles about native plants, with varying responses (of course). A recent one that compared a naturalistic approach to garden design and maintenance with a control oriented approach was deliberately crafted to promote understanding of folks who don’t connect their gardening habits with natural systems. Happily, it has stirred up a lot of conversations and I’ve been pleased to notice that these conversations tend to be less defensive and/or judgmental than is so often the case. Many years of environmental justice work taught me (eventually) that it’s a lot easier to be heard when we promote conversations rather than confrontations.

Among my earliest lessons was a very clear one: nobody wants to listen to an angry woman. Ouch, right? With our only planet home experiencing horrible, often senseless destruction every single day, whether from sheer obliviousness or in the name of making money through extractive industries, how can we not be angry? I’m so often furious and outraged!!!! Even so, it became extremely obvious that if we want our messages and information to be heard, we must learn to present ideas in ways that don’t trigger defensive shutdowns in our conversational partners. This goes for audiences as well, which are not often considered to be conversational partners, yet it’s also well documented that while a didactic approach can be effective in transferring information (accurate or not), a conversational one, with actual listening involved, can be far more effective at encouraging actual thinking. Lecturing has its place, yet asking for responses and listening thoughtfully to learn from them creates a very different experience for all concerned.

What’s Gentle Activism?

We don’t all have platforms where we can present our thoughts and concerns widely, but a rising movement offers a chance to support causes we hold dear using techniques that may affect people unreachable in any other ways. Craftivism is the term used for this gentle way of advocacy, which ranges from knitted pussy hats to painted posters on urban walls to exhibits of poignant artwork made from objects abandoned at the US/Mexican border and far beyond. The products of craftivism may be all the more effective for being seen apart from the maker; the viewer engages with the object without feeling any pressure to respond, so the result may be more responsive and less reactive.

My grandkids have been thinking about this with me and one project they picked involves sewing gift bags to eliminate paper and ribbon waste. We make the bags from cute but worn out clothing, or scraps leftover from sewing projects, or recycled fabric donated by friends, along with fabric ribbons and ties to sew onto the bags. When the kids give a gift to school friends, the reusable bag is part of the present to pass along in turn. Other home projects include drawings with slogans that can be posted on reader boards or handed out at the farmers market. Like what? Please Protect The Bees, Clean Up A Beach Today, Grow Your Own Bird Food, Recycle Everything, Pack A Plastic-Free Lunch, Shop Locally…

Handwork As Craftivism

Knitting has been a form of loving craftivism since the first pair of socks was knit for a soldier at war. Today, one friend knits hats with bold words; Love, Hope, Act Out, Peace, Comfort, Joy. If anyone admires the hat, she gives it to them to wear or pass along. Some of us knit baby clothing for unhoused families and make warm scarves, hats and mitts for people living in shelters, while others sew blankets and quilts for refugee families. One friend makes dozens of ‘knitted knockers’, soft, washable inserts that fit in bras, and sends them to a national nonprofit that distributes them to women who’ve had mastectomies. Others knit nests for baby birds at local wildlife shelters, using patterns developed by the Audubon Society. Some sew flags or banners, paint signs to post in windows, or embroider messages on clothing. Some hold sewing bees or knitting circles to make warm comforts for cancer patients and soft toys for children with long, painful illnesses.

Gardeners can share our craft with others too, from, yes!, growing our own bird food and planting for pollinators to taking bunches of fresh greens, herbs and flowers to food pantries. We can share and swap plant starts with other gardeners and help plant a vegetable garden for a local food bank. Most of us who love to grow edibles also enjoy cooking, and we can organize a soup brigade for a family in illness or grief, and fill recycled yogurt containers with small amounts of whatever we cook to stock the freezer of someone coming home after surgery. We can take extra cookies and baked yummies to our local Fire & Rescue station or the local VFW chapter. What else? Please do let me know. Onward, right?





This entry was posted in Birds In The Garden, Climate Change, Crafting With Children, Gardening With Children, Health & Wellbeing, Pollination Gardens, Seedling Swaps, Social Justice, Sustainable Gardening, Sustainable Living and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Craftivism Is Creative Activism

  1. L. Hazan says:

    I really liked this post, Ann. Thank you for the ideas about wrapping paper…I’ve been using newspaper for xmas and colorful ads from magazines and love the suggestion of using used clothing…imagine christmas morning, “Look! It’s Tom’s old pajamas!”

    • Ann Lovejoy says:

      Yes, it’s very fun to offer a bottle of wine wrapped in a former shirt sleeve (button up!) or turn treasured but worn baby clothes into a diaper bag full of little baby stuff…

  2. Sonia says:

    Thank you for reminding us of craftivism. For those of us who aren’t extroverts and put ourselves out there, we can instead put our messages in our knitting, sewing, and art.

    • Ann Lovejoy says:

      Sonia, exactly! We all have ways to promote and protect what we love and we can find gentler yet effectve ways to protest actions and behaviors we can’t tolerate. Onward!

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