The democratic power of craftivism
Have you ever come across the term craftivism? It’s a topic we’re pretty interested in at MoAD. Basically, it means using craft as a form of activism, and it can take a range of different shapes. Helen Fraser is a Melbourne-based craftivist who participated in the #UDHRquilt Project and is one of the organisers of Yumi Olgeta: Crafting a more inclusive democracy, an inclusive craftivism workshop that took place at MoAD on Saturday, 17 August, 2019.
We spoke with Helen about what craftivism means to her and her advice on how to become a craftivist…
How would you explain ‘craftivism’?
To me, craftivism is a form of non-violent activism and a method to influence positive social and political change. It is a way of living and contributing meaningfully to our society and strengthening our voice.
Craftivism can help to transform and process anger about injustices in our world in a gentle and thoughtful way, using craft techniques to slowly create objects of meaning and value. These objects may share powerful or confronting messages, yet through the medium of craft, this information can be digested slowly and sensitively.
In our fast-paced, consumer-focused world, I think these handmade objects are particularly impactful. They have been made with great care, loads of time and thought, and are often very beautiful. If they are gifted, they can build trust between people.
By making and thinking deeply, our hearts can open and we can then work towards mending the wounds in ourselves and our society.
What impact would you say craftivism has had on your life?
I enjoy the space that craftivism projects offer me to reflect on issues that I am learning about or affected by, and to digest painful material at a manageable pace. It gives me a process to speak out about these issues in a way that others can then digest more easily too.
Craftivism is a way that I can grow my own mind further and hopefully inspire others to do so. My life-long love of psychology, community, human rights and politics can be combined with my art practice through craftivism, so I can utilise all of my skills at once. This is deeply satisfying.
Craftivism has impacted my life in many ways for which I am very grateful. It has empowered me to reach out and build relationships with strangers. It has helped me trust in my intuition, be more patient and give space and time for ideas and projects to grow. It has improved my knowledge of Australian history and my cultural sensitivity.
By initially contributing to a number of smaller projects, I have grown the confidence to undertake larger projects.
What advice would you give someone who was interested in craftivism but unsure how to get started?
To start, I recommend joining small craftivism projects via social media, or attending workshops with established craftivists to develop your skills and confidence. There are numerous books on the subject and many of these are outlined in Tal Fitzpatrick’s booklet titled ‘Craftivism; a Manifesto/Methodology.'
I’d also encourage attendance at exhibitions that feature craftivism, and most importantly, spend time slowly stitching, researching and reflecting on the issues that matter the most to you. By making and thinking deeply, our hearts can open and we can then work towards mending the wounds in ourselves and our society.