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Craftivism: Make a difference

Feb 13, 2014

by Antje Wolter

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

To fight the work-alone-loneliness this year, we just launched our newest educational program for Etsy Teams and sellers: The Etsy School. This program will consist of 4 educational modules and 4 Team projects, the so called Labs. We have already seen some nice activities across the globe in January and February. A lot of Teams hosted a “New Year Resolution Team Party” or are currently working through our first educational module “The Total Shop Review” in February.

Get crafty in March?

The Etsy School Project Labs are meant to be the fun part of the program. They are social meet-ups or practical hands-on workshops, which will be organized by your Etsy Team and yourself. The original idea grew out of the successful Craft Night and “Meet & Make” program that began at the Etsy Labs in Brooklyn, NY in 2007 and the spin-off program “Etsy Labs” in Berlin, Germany in 2010. The German version of the Etsy Labs was a community led monthly event schedule where Teams could organise both educational workshops and craft nights. It has always been a great team building activity!

To put even sweeter icing on that cake, this month’s Etsy School Lab will not just be about crafting together, you will also do something good with your creative power! Come along to a team meet-up in your region and learn about Craftivism. Craftivism is basically the outcome when you pair CRAFT and ACTIVISM, meaning you will be doing something good like informing others of social shortcomings or environmental problems by a little crafted something.

>>> Check your Team page now to see, if your Captain is planning to host this Lab in your Team or if there is a call for helpers to organize a meet-up. If you can’t find anything there, get in touch with the Captain or the Leader(s) of your team. <<<

To find out more about this amazing and world changing combination of craft and activism we met with Sarah Corbett who founded the UK based group “The Craftivists Collective”.

Sarah-Corbett-author-pic

Sarah, in your own words, what is Craftivism?
Very simply, craftivism is activism that uses craft! Betsy Greer coined the term in 2003. For me, activism is the priority and craft is the tool. Craftivism is a form of ‘slow activism’, a reflective action which changes the participant as much as it does the world. It is passionate but polite, provocative but patient, drawing people to engage in discussion and debate rather than forcing it down people’s throat. Unlike some of the more traditional, extrovert forms of activism, craftivism is quietly beautiful, it is individual and it is effective.

How did you end up being a Craftivist?
By accident! I have always been an activist, but 5 years ago I was a burnt out activist and was wondering whether I would have to give up fighting for a better world. I have always been passionate about challenging injustices. Growing up in a low-income area of Liverpool in the 1980s, my parents raised me in the world of activism.
However, in 2008, I found myself feeling discouraged, exhausted and actually doubting my effectiveness as an activist. Shouting and marching drained me; I did not like demonising people and telling them what to do. I did not feel that I fitted into some activist groups and I am more of an introvert – so being around so many people zapped me of energy. Around the same time I started to cross-stitch as a hobby, which I loved – it gave me time to reflect and to be creative in a meditative way. Then something clicked and I saw how through craft I could engage myself and others in global issues in a non-threatening and engaging way. I googled ‘Craft & Activism’ and this word ‘craftivism’ popped up. I put my craft and activism together and became a craftivist.
I contacted Betsy Greer, the founder of the Craftivism movement, to see if there were any projects I could do or groups I could join which there werent, and so, with Betsy’s blessing, I started creating my own projects and documenting them under my blog, ‘A Lonely Craftivist’.

How was the Craftivist Collective born?
Within six months of doing my craftivism under my blog ‘A Lonely Craftivist’, I got lots of emails and comments from people asking to join in. Other burnt out activists liked that my work was always hopeful and positive and gave them motivation to keep going. So I founded the Craftivist Collective in January 2009. The Collective now has thousands of members all over the world working on projects on their own or in groups using our kits and our book for help.

Etsy-School-March-Craftivist-Collective

What exactly is the Collective doing?
We are here to support people to engage in social justice and politics in a thoughtful way through ‘mindful craft’ and effective craftivism. We focus on personal transformation rather than quick transactional campaign actions. I see our strength in helping people understand and engage more deeply with global issues and how we can be our best selves as global citizens to help and not harm the world buy using our talents, passions and every day actions.
That is why we provide timeless craftivism products and services for people around the world to do alone or in a group anytime of year. At key times each year we have campaigns we need craftivists help with such as our Valentines Project and Mini Fashion Protest (in the lead up to September’s London Fashion Week). Sometimes we will focus on a particular campaign such as our ‘I’m a Piece! Craftivist Jigsaw project with ‘Save the Children’ last year.

What is success for you?
I get emails every day from people saying how beneficial our kits and projects are to engage or re-engage them with fighting for a better world and their role within the world. That is what keeps me going and inspires me daily. I see our success in helping people understanding global injustices better, inspiring them to make small changes in their every day life that have big repercussions such as buying more ethical products, meeting their local politician or joining a campaign group.

What was the most inspiring project so far?
As I’ve said before our work is about supporting and encouraging personal positive changes. My mini protest banners, for example, were put out to engage people where they were and in a non-threatening, respectful and thought-provoking way: catching the attention of passers-by without forcing our views on them. They are mini because I believe that small and beautiful pieces can often be more powerful than big and brash messages.
My hope was that people would find them, be provoked by the banners and go on the blog for more info on what it’s about and share it on social media or with their friends. And we all know that if a friend shares something the receiver is more likely to connect with it.

Do you think that Craftivism can change the world?
I always say that craftivism is part of the activism toolkit rather than there to replace other forms of activism. Craft really is a great tool for reflection, a way to engage others in issues and a sustainable and attractive stepping stone for some into the world of activism.
Craftivism has changed my world. I’m happy to say that I no longer feel burnt out or discouraged and am now a happy and healthy Craftivist where activism is threaded through everything I do. I believe that the benefits of craftivism make it a valid form of activism both personally and politically as a transformative tool, and a form that can be a permanent part of the activism tool kit. Have I convinced you? I hope so!

Is there something you already changed or achieved?
I work with arts and crafts organisations as well as charities and universities and even retailers. We get sympathetic organisations who want to collaborate with us. Our approach reaches out beyond the normal bounds of activism. In the words of our manifesto,

we aim to “expose the scandal of global poverty and human rights injustices through the power of craft and public art”.

We have received media attention not just from political publications but mostly from arts and culture magazines and websites engaging their readers in an attractive way with our visuals and hopeful communication style. Bloggers use our images to talk honestly and openly about what they mean to them. I have been asked by Crafty Magazine to be their craftivism columnist, so every month craft-lovers around the world will be reading about the benefits and examples of craftivism. 🙂 In October 2013 we published ‘A Little Book of Craftivism’ which hopefully will be next to craft and creative books in people’s shelves soon.

Craftivist-Collective-Stitch-in

Is there a difference in being on your own than crafting in a collective? What is it?
I always encourage craftivists to do at least some of their stitching alone so they can really exercise their inner-monologue and reflect on injustices and their role within the problem and the solution to them. Crafting in a group is beneficial in other ways: it’s a great safe space to discuss issues we are confused about or struggling with, a great place to understand different points of view and how we can all work together to solve problems, we can learn craft skills from each other and be reminded that solidarity and community is a beautiful thing we should always aim for.

How can I become a Craftivist myself?
With our help! 🙂

Why not start with one of our kits and stitch in a public place on your own or in a group and see if any passerby asks what you are doing – then you can tell them what mesasge you are stitching and why and create a conversation about social justice!

Can you name 3 ways to motivate people to come together to craft for a good reason?

  1. It may seem daunting at first but I can guarantee that crafting together for a good cause will provoke thoughtful and loving conversations and remind you that. In the words of Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

  2. Craft is good for mental health – it should help you feel more relaxed, reflective and creative. You will feel proud for achieving your little piece of craftivism

  3. We are all global citizens so have an effect on the world and therefore a responsibility to each other to support everyone on this planet as well as protect the planet. You’re life will feel far more fulfilled knowing that you tried to be a part of the solutions to injustices not part of the problem.

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Make a difference with your crafting – today!

And get your Team involved with this

Etsy School Craftivism Lab.

Contact your Team Captain to show your interest in helping put on a Craftivist event in your Team during the month of March.

Team Captains, watch your inbox for details on how you can sign up for our guide to hosting a Craftivist event.

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Etsy School Schedule 2014:

Upcoming Educational Modules: Upcoming Project Labs:
April: Newbie Month – Introduce new people and your local community to your Team by holding a workshop for new folks. March: Craftivism Month – do a craft project with your Team to speak out for a cause you believe in.
May: SEO – Work through activities and lessons with a partner in your Team to help target weak titles and tags and replace them with keywords that will help your items get found. June: Craft Party + Marketing Team Project – Work together as a Team to learn new ways to promote your own shop and your Team.
July: Photography – Review your images with a partner and discover how to improve your item photography with our quiz. This will go together with a Lab where you can host a hands-on workshop or photo shoot. July: Photo shoot – Take what you learned in the July educational module and apply it by setting up a photo shoot for the whole Team. Work together to model for one another, find and share props, and even hire a photographer.
September: Social Media – Learn how to use social media to really boost your shop alongside a partner with whom you can cross promote all your hard work! November: Pop-Up Market – A physical store is a lot of work, but much easier when you have your Teammates to help you! Use this Team Project to help you organize and host your very own Pop- Up for the holidays.

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