[This was originally posted on HandmadeInKc.com July 20, 2016.]
Amy (from X37Adventures) here, and I want to tell you about how craft can create change. Not just in the life of the creator and buyer. I'm talking about tangible social change, from big movements to small groups craft can change people and our way of seeing the world. I think we all Know and feel the benefits of creating something with our hands, that it can be a confidence boost, a way to relax and de-stress and as an outlet for expressing ourselves were other ways seem to fail. While there are many crafters and artists our their that give proceeds to various groups and charities, and that is amazing, I want to focus on craft with the intention to make change, or protest. Craftivism, as it is called, is one of those activist movements that seems to take people by surprise and gets them talking.
Fine Cell Work is a great example of this kind of craft. They teach those in prison needlework skills and then they create amazing pieces that are sold online. The skills they teach have lead to those in prison finding peace, purpose and value again.
Fine Cell Work trains prisoners in paid, skilled, creative needlework undertaken in the long hours spent in their cells to foster hope, discipline and self esteem. This helps them to connect to society and to leave prison with the confidence and financial means to stop offending. (mission and vision)
The amazing transformation that something as simple as teaching needlework can have on a person is astounding to me. The testimonials of the men and women that are apart of this program put into words things that I have felt yet never really took the time to put into words, the value, pride, and self confidence that comes from creating something, and hearing that people think its great and value the product is one of the most uplifting a fulling things that can happen to a person.
"for the first time in as long as I could remember I felt feelings of self-worth. I knew that I had to be focused on the project in hand and soon my drug use died out. I had focus and I started to feel valued." (tony)
The pieces made by the participants are really cool as well, these are not just run of the mill needlework designs, it is clear that though and care goes into the design given to the participants. This level of respect, thoughtfulness and value is given back with the participant becoming more dedicated to quality and skill,rather than caring about the pay they get. Check out some of the pillows that they have in their shop below, I love that,not only to they have traditionally masculine and feminine design but they also have some cheeky prison related ones. You can see more at on their online shop. Also they have Pineapples! love it!
The most widely recognised image and instance of Craftivism is that of a military tank covered in a pink crocheted quilt. The blanket is made of small differently shaded pink squares that were each made by individuals and then put together to cover, yet show that a tank is below. this was in protest to war and it was done to draw attention to this tank that was on display. the artist that organised that also crocheted the various types of landmines that are still peppered through out Asia and the Indo-Pacific area to draw attention to the damage done by landmines in these places. The cleverness of using crochet is that it takes a minute for people to process that the object is not in fact a plush toy but a weapon. It also draws a tie between the mine and its most common victim, children.
While craftivism can address big issues, that can grip your heart and be a bit hard to deal with. (which is another benefit of using craft to protest is that it can both soften and intensify the impact.) It can also address small and local issues, IE: yarn bombing is a growing activities and it can be used to draw attention to a neglected part of the city or town. For example if there are broken fences or benches yarn bombing can be used to fill those missing pieces, it doesn't fix the problem but people will notice it more and hopefully talk about it. Or say you think there should be more bike racks, or flowers, crochet those things and leave a little tag connecting the two things.
By far my favourite instance of craftivism is something that is so simple that anyone can do it, which is inspired by an activist embroidering a hanky with the words "don't blow it" and she gave it to her MP (the UK equivalent to a representative). The hanky stood out and made an impact on the MP because it was hand made, and she even delivered it in person. this act showed how much she cared about the topic, it emphasised how important it was to her that she took the time to make something to give to them.
It would be incredible if our group at Handmade in KC (go check them out if you haven't already! they are on facebook, so give 'em a like, and be sure to take a look at the events page on the website). If you think you cant make a difference with your creations, think again, not only it there power in handmade there is power in a group. If there is a topic you think craft would be amazing at helping solve or start a conversation around then let us now!