[Above, Sarah, with one of her craftivist creations]
This week shiftLabs (where I work) spoke with the inspirational Sarah Corbett, who has had a phenomenal rise from working alone under the name ‘A Lonely Craftivist’ to founding and running the Craftivist Collective. She is now seen as one of the leading spokespeople in the renaissance of the craftivism movement. Here are her thoughts:
What is craftivism?
Craft + Art = Craftivism
How did you get involved with craftivism?
I moved to London to work for the DFID funded Platform 2 project, which was set up for people who wouldn’t otherwise get the chance to volunteer abroad. I was recruiting and supporting volunteers and ended up with over 900 people in 2 years. But, I felt like a burnt-out activist, I needed to get out of the office and wanted to meet like-minded people.
I went to lots of different activist meetings but got bored by the overly institutional ones, and didn’t really fit in at the more radical ones. I am not a big extrovert, and found those meetings to be scary and too preachy. I missed paintingand my sewing machine – neither of which fit in my tiny flat. So, I started cross-stich, the grid system helped me to feel in control of something while the rest of my life was mad! I wanted to link this new hobby to activism, and went to visit my grandma in the Shetlands with a bag of cross-stitch and reading materials on issues that I care about. This is when I came up with mini-protest banners: as a reaction to bad clicktivism and angry activist groups.
“Our craftivism projects do not tell people what to do, think or demonise anyone. They are encouraging, positive and provoke people to strive for a better future and fulfill the potential of our world.”
[Above, a craftivist protest banner]
How have things progressed from your grandma’s house to now?
I researched online and found that there were no other groups combining art and activism. So, I set up a blog, and hyper-linked to lots of campaigning and inequality sites. Lots of people were interested, so we had our first meeting, came up with our manifesto and started brain-storming ideas.
Our manifesto: “to expose the scandal of global poverty, and human rights injustices through the power of craft and public art. This will be done through provocative, non-violent creative actions.” I also work part-time for Oxfam as an activism coordinator for the south-east, so things are pretty hectic! A key part of craftivism is that we always utilize public spaces: cafes, trains, tubes, parks and other places were people can ask questions and get involved.
My aim is not to preach to the converted. For example, I put up protest banners in Fulham, Chelsea and outside Topshop’s flagship store to reach people who normally wouldn’t be reached; to go to them and not make them come to us. Our pieces can work as conversation starters, allowing both sides to enter a conversation.
What are the three things that you’re most looking forward too?
1) Berlin. In May I’m going to give a talk and hold a workshop as part of a German blogging festival in conjunction with two other people on how creativity can help foster social change.
2) An exhibition in New York State in June. Unfortunately, I can’t go to this one but I will be sending the creative gallery materials that they can use.
3) To having more time to pro-actively strengthen the collective and tell more people about the benefits of craftivism. There are so many shy, creative people who find an outlet via craftivism – which is what we’re all about.
What is your top tip for campaigners today?
Whatever skills, passions and hobbies you have, use them to challenge unjust structures. If you love Maths, then you might enjoy campaigning on tax justice. If you love fashion, then use your expertise to campaign on sweatshops. Use anything you love doing to challenge injustice and make the world a better place!
My sister loves working with vulnerable and challenging young people, so she works with young people in care. My brother is training to be a journalist and communications bod, and wrote this blog about the emotional effects of unemployment: http://www.thecalmzone.net/2012/01/dole-ite-an-employable-person-who-happens-…
Do what you love to do good. Simple.
We had so many more questions for Sarah and could have easily spent all day chatting about her amazing craftivist exploits. Hopefully, she will drop by shiftLabs again soon; we are already dreaming about a collaboration.
For more information on Craftivist Collective, or to get involved, check out their website: http://craftivist-collective.com/
Follow them on Twitter: @craftivists
Like them on Facebook: Craftivist Collective