After an oil spill off an Australian coast, the Phillip Island Nature Park asked knitters to make sweaters for penguins. Not only did the sweaters help to keep them warm, they also prevented the penguins from ingesting the poisonous oil. A knitting pattern was made available on line and knitters around the world participated including Alfie Date at the time 109 years old.
There are a number of charity groups that use plastic bags to make sleeping mats for the homeless. The bags that would normally wind up in a landfill are turned into plarn (yarn made from plastic bags) and crocheted into mats. The mats are then distributed to those not lucky enough to have a bed of their own.
A number of women use their sewing skills to make dresses from pillowcases to be sent to places such as Haiti and Africa so that little girls, victims of poverty and more, can at least have something decent and pretty to wear.
There’s an alternative form of ”graffiti” known as Yarn Bombing. Yarn is crocheted or knitted into large pieces that are subsequently installed in public spaces with the hope of giving a sense of joyfulness to cold and sterile urban areas.
So what do penguin sweaters, sleeping mats, pillow case dresses and Yarn Bombing have in common? They are all examples of “craftivism”.
Craftivism is a form of activism using craft. And by activism I mean actively trying to create a positive change.
The term “craftivism” was invented by Betsy Greer in 2003. She defines craftivism as «a way of looking at life where voicing opinions through creativity makes your voice stronger, your compassion deeper & your quest for justice more infinite».
Since the crafts involved have traditionally been known as “domestic arts”, craftivism is often identified with feminist movements. More than anything, craftivism implies an awareness that the world is not perfect and anything you can do to make it a better place will not only improve the world but will improve your feelings towards yourself as well. Expressing solidarity is the awareness that we are in this world together and thus interrelated.
The person who benefits most from craft is the maker. First of all, as mentioned on this blog in the past, working with your hands is a form of meditation. It forces you to focus your attention on one thing instead of letting your mind get caught up in the labyrinth of thought. Furthermore, hands make the world tangible by permitting us to interact with our surroundings. And by interacting, we prevent self-alienation.
Working with our hands also leads to the formation of neural pathways that can only be created via repetition. We know best what we do regularly. And this knowledge leads to experience.
Experience can’t be cloned. In the words of Heidegger, you best understand what a hammer is by using it.