Book review: Craftivism

We all make things for different reasons. Some people make because they want things that they can’t otherwise get, some people make because they enjoy the act of making, and some people make because it gives them a place to express their frustration with politics, consumerism, oppression, or some other force. In Craftivism: The Art of Craft and Activism, Betsy Greer explores people who fall into that latter category.

Betsy explains that craft is actually a natural outlet for these frustrations: “The creation of things with our hands leads us to a better understanding of democracy because it reminds us that we have power”.

The book is an anthology of articles and interviews by and with different crafters that Betsy has come into contact with through running craftivism.com. It’s stories of how craft and activism have come together, rather than an instruction manual for how to do it yourself – though if you’re anything like us, once you’ve read Craftivism, you’ll be brimming with ideas for how to express your frustrations with politics through handmade items. Of course, the idea isn’t just to express frustration, but to engage in the process of change.

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Take, for example, Gabriel Craig, a jeweller who (amongst other things) took his craft to the streets. He works with people to create rings, then gives them to them for free. His goal was to encourage people to think about the work that goes into an object, and to value objects for that reason. Or, perhaps you’d rather consider Clare Thomas, a craftivist who wears red, superhero pants while crafting with rubbish found on beaches. These, and many more, are stories of people who are looking to improve the status quo.

This book focuses on more traditional crafts – sewing, knitting, mosaicking, etc. – but the message, that handmade things can be used as part of a conversation about improving society, could equally apply to more tech-y based makes.

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