There may be no better account of the profound impact that information and communication technology have had on contemporary crafting than a new book edited by Betsy Greer called Craftivism: The Art of Craft and Activism. Now that we can share the historically private process of creating handmade things with the public through social media, crafts can be more effective than ever at initiating social change. Greer concisely articulates this dynamic in her introduction to the book by explaining that, “The very essence of craftivism lies in creating something that gets people to ask questions; we invite others to join our conversation about the social and political intent of our creations.”
Although the term “craftivism” was originally coined by Greer, the contents of the book democratically define the concept using anecdotal examples written by an international group of artists, crafters, and intellectuals. This isn’t your average craft book; it has as many references to philosophy and art theory as it does to sewing machines.
I was already a big fan of some of the work featured in this book, since I’d previously posted it here on the Craft blog, such as Varvara Guljajeva and Mar Canet’s electronic knitting machine antics. There are also some other familiar names, like Jamie “Mr. X Stitch” Chalmers. Plenty of other impressive content was new to me as well, like an artist who leaves sculptures of cupcakes with little anonymous notes in public places for people to take, or a jeweler who works in public spaces and gives away the works he makes to spectators.
Despite the inherently political definition of the term “activism,” the concept of “craftivism” doesn’t advocate any specific political agenda, it simply accounts for the tangible influence that socially engaged crafting can have on the world. Nearly all the personal descriptions of craftivism in the book point out the humanitarian foundation of the movement.
Even those who are not especially crafty will find this book compelling because it doesn’t just focus on the craft projects themselves, but on the social impact that these projects have on others. For those who are of the crafty persuasion, this book may supply the necessary motivational fodder to mobilize your crafting efforts and make an impact on the world. So, if you or someone you know digs social engagement, crafting, or just offbeat tales of aspiration, Craftivism: The Art of Craft and Activism will make a solid addition to your reading list.