Illustration By Ali Haines
As far as combinations go, craft and activism is a particularly thrilling one for me; akin to jeggings (jeans and leggings) coatigans (coat and cardigan) and discovering that Nutella goes really well with dark Ryvita’s (try it). So it was with excitement that I stumbled across the Craftivist Collective. They are a group combining craft and activism and particularly seek to engage people who haven’t previously had much involvement or interest in politics and activism. I was intrigued and decided to attend a meeting. I set out with trepidation as previous experience dictates that political activism meetings can sometimes be awkward, occasionally frightening, probably attended by bonkers people or all of the above.
But my fears were quickly allayed. The group meets every third Thursday of the month in the Royal Festival hall cafe to plan events, projects and campaigns. Sarah, the founder of the group welcomed me warmly and I settled easily in to the group discussion, which was focussed on ideas to encourage people to vote in the elections. The group is large and varied; some members are there for the craft and others are there for the activism but the mix is easy and it’s sweetened by tea and cake from the cafe. The Craftivist Collective encourage everyone to get involved, regardless of political awareness or craft ability. So whether you are a sewing and politics aficionado, or you don’t know your ballot paper from your by-election or your scissors from your selvedge, everyone is welcome. You might find the craftivists at events like United Underground at the Southbank centre, manning a craft corner and encouraging young people to think about the impact of conflict around the world by making speech bubble badges with provocative slogans about conflict. Or you might see them setting up a public wish tree dedicated to the Sudanese people with messages written on biodegradable paper. (see photos here) Or, if you’re quick, you might catch them hanging cross stitched banners outside Topshop highlighting the inequality in the fashion industry supply chain.
They have also recently attended an Oxfam event where people were invited to decorate plant pots on the theme of ‘Beautiful Environment’, a little reminder to encourage the owner to look after the world and the growing things within it. Participants could then choose to take their plants home, give it to a friend or leave it somewhere for a passer by to take. The Craftivists have also just been involved in their first exhibition at Ink-d in Brighton.
Sarah doesn’t claim that Craftivism will change the world, or cause a major revolution in politics; the group remains refreshingly grounded. She told me her aim is to plant seeds in people and encourage them to form their own views on injustice. She told me she also wants to prove that anyone can get involved with activism and it doesn’t have to be stressful, violent or elitist. The group targets the non-typical activist and aims to create events that promote issues in a non-violent, non-threatening way.
I don’t know about you, but I am willing to roll up my sleeves and flex my less than perfect crochet and embroidery muscles to give it a go. If your interest is piqued, you can check them out for yourself this coming bank holiday Monday. Sketchbook, the fashion illustration magazine, is hosting a pop up shop near Carnaby street between March 31-April 18 2010. On the 8th April between 12-1pm the craftivists will also be running a workshop on the theme of ethical fashion. The workshop is focussed on the work of the War on Want campaign www.lovefashionhatesweatshops.org campaign. Join them if you like the idea of cross stitching and sewing mini protest banners, which may find a temporary home to put up around Oxford street. Some craftivist banner kits and postcards will also be sold in the shop too.
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