Craftivism – Making a Difference

In February 2021, BBC Four aired a programme hosted by Jenny Eclair about the art of Craftivism. We found this definition of Craftivism from craftivism.com:

“Craftivism is a way of looking at life where voicing opinions through creativity makes your voice stronger, your compassion deeper & your quest for justice more infinite.”

In the programme, it featured ‘craftivists’ like Sarah Corbett from the Craftivist Collective who describes it as a form of gentle protest. She has made many small banners that she then places in areas where it could be found by the general public. One example she gave was creating a small banner that has a message on it about climate change and the importance of the caring for the environment, and then placing it on a park bench so the person who finds it can connect the message to the place they are in. Other examples of craftivism in the programme included the UK Aids Memorial Quilt. It tells the stories of those who lost their lives due to HIV and Aids in the UK in the 1980s and 1990s and each piece was made to commemorate one person, made by their family and friends. It’s a reminder of those lost to the epidemic, but also a call for the work still to be done. You can find out more about it here; About – UK AIDS Memorial Quilt (aidsquiltuk.org)

This made us think about the objects we have in our collection that could be seen as craftivist – objects lovingly created that carry a message of peaceful activism. We have hundreds of banners, textiles, badges and placards that have been made as part of peaceful protest. We love the idea of gentle protest by Sarah Corbett and it really reminded us of the objects we are lucky enough to care for.

So, here’s some of the top Craftivist objects of our collection:

Greenham Common Banners

The women of Greenham Common crafted hundreds of incredible textile pieces, banners and placards that we can use today to remember the story of the Greenham Women’s Peace Camp. The camp was set up at RAF Greenham Common in Berkshire to protest against nuclear weapons and remained for over 20 years. In our collection, we have a series of beautiful banners designed by textile artist Thalia Campbell.

Credit: Thalia Campbell Design

Banners at Greenham would have been used in various ways. Some would have been attached to the fences of the base, carried at marches and held up at events, and some were used as actual quilts during cold nights at the camp. Today, they still have the purpose of spreading the anti-nuclear message, but also as a reminder of what the women of Greenham achieved.

The women of Greenham also undoubtedly had an impact on feminism. Women at the time were expected to be wives and mothers, but by living at Greenham and peacefully protesting, they were subverting the norms of society. Crafting may have been viewed as a traditional women’s task, yet the women of Greenham used this as a way to speak out against the patriarchal society that did not see women as having a political voice. This idea seems to span through the other objects in our collection that could be seen as craftivist.

 

The Pussy Hat

A pussy hat featured at the beginning of the BBC4 programme. The idea for a pussy hat was created by Krista Suh and Jayna Zweiman who were involved in organising the Women’s March in Washington DC on January 21st 2017, a day after the inauguration of President Donald Trump. Protests also took place around the world. A pink hat with pussycat ears was chosen as a symbol after Donald Trump had previously made derogatory references to the word ‘pussy’ in relation to women, so it was seen as a reclamation of the word.

Our pussy hat was donated by local woman Sarah Bradley. She found the pussy hat pattern free online and decided to wear it on January 21st 2017 at a protest in Shipley, Bradford. Shipley was a site of the women’s march in response to the local MPs comments about women in his constituency and voting record in relation to women’s issues.

Credit: Sarah Bradley

Wheelchair Banner

We also have another object crafted for the Women’s Marches in January 2017. This small banner was made by Anne Norton who attended the protest in York. It is a pink patterned handmade applique banner with a blue women’s logo on that was designed to cover the back of a wheelchair headrest.

Both of these objects show us the power of craftivism; the pussy hat has become an international symbol of women’s activism and there’s something quite special about the pattern being freely available for women everywhere to make their own.

Credit: Anne Norton

 

Peace Ribbons

 These peace ribbons were originally created to mark the 40th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. To make a statement, people converged on Washington in the US and encircled the Pentagon. Nearby avenues and boulevards were lined with people carrying 10 miles of ribbons sent from across the world. The theme was ‘what would you miss the most in the event of a nuclear war’ and they were either embroidered or painted. Most of the ribbons we care for were made in Chicago, Milwaukee, Vermont and Oregon.

Credit: N. Miller

We love this one that says ‘Knitting for Peace’. It demonstrates the importance of not only the end result and the way it is displayed, but the actual process of crafting it. It also reminds us of these Extinction Rebellion badges that were crocheted to be worn by the maker.

 

Credit: Hazel Dawe, Extinction Rebellion

 The peace ribbons reminded us of the UK Aids quilt featured in the programme, which also referenced the US Aids quilt that was once displayed in full in 1996 on the National Mall in Washington. Find out more about that here; History (aidsmemorial.org)

Art the Arms Fair Banners

In the programme, Sarah Corbett shows the mini banners she has crafted for different campaigns. These reminded us of this series of small banners we have in our collection made for the Art the Arms Fair in 2019. Art the Arms Fair is a protest against the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) arms fair which brings together artwork created by different artists, all with an anti-arms fair message. Some artwork is sold to support campaign groups.

These banners were created by Edinburgh Quakers and Quakers involved in the Roots of Resistance group. Like the Greenham Banners, they served an important purpose of peaceful protest on the day, but they are now part of our collection so we can use them as a record of peaceful protest, and to inspire others to think about peacemaking.

Credit: Roots to Resistance and Edinburgh Quakers

 

Drones Banner

Like some of the objects featured in the programme, many of our craftivist objects have been created collaboratively. This quilt was made by the Sheffield Creative Action for Peace and each segment was made by different people to commemorate a different person each killed by drones in Gaza.

 

Credit: Sheffield Creative Action for Peace

 

Black Lives Matter Stitch

Lastly, we wanted to share this piece that was made in Summer 2020 as part of our Creative Challenge. We worked with a local artist, Nancy-Haslam Chance, to put out a weekly creative challenge based on our collection for people to do during lockdown. One person who took part created this piece with the message of Black Lives Matter. The challenge was put out just after the killing of George Floyd by the police in the US, so this shows how you can channel your creativity into creating a powerful message.

Credit: Elnaz Yazdani Embroidery

 

We hope you enjoyed our blog! Share your craftivist items on social media with us! If you want to catch up on the programme, here’s the link: Craftivism Programme.

You can find out more about Creative Challenge and be inspired to craft your own objects here: Creative Challenge. 

You can follow Sarah Corbett the founder of Craftivists and Gentle Protest on twitter @SarahPCorbett and @Craftivists.