‘Making it’ as an activist: Craftivism as a form of protest

This thesis investigates the use of craft as a form of protest with in-depth research into understanding the process involved in the craftivism movement. The characteristics and language associated with craft, “slow”, “gentle”, “calming”, differ drastically to those associated with activism. In writing this thesis, I will attempt to solve the puzzle of how something as non-threatening as craft, can create social and political change. I will examine the process and labour involved and query if, at times, this process and creation of community can have more importance than the tangible finished product. The sense of community and support within these crafts are what lead to more widespread social and political change. It will be examined how crafts heavily gendered manner directly impacts the craftivist creations and the feminist overtones that are seen throughout the examples studied.

The craftivist movement also includes an ideology that is to approach indifference and injustice with compassion and warmth rather than shame and aggression. This may seem an idealistic vision but, the investigation of craftivist examples will explain how this has become a reality. At a time when the political landscape is ever-changing, it is essential now more than ever to assess both contemporary and traditional methods of protest. Social media and the internet provide a global platform for activists for organisation and campaigning, meaning political engagement is more accessible than ever. Craftivism uses these methods of communication, attracting groups who may not already be politically radicalised. Perceptions of craft as old fashioned are shifting to craft as a tool for social, cultural, and ideological influence. The stereotypes and associated demographic of both craft and protest are often opposed to each other. Craftivism allows a breakdown of this partition while reconsidering traditional values of craft. Craftivism enables individuals to use creativity for a personalised version of activism rather than just being a number in a crowd.

Core research questions will aid in leading this investigation which spans a variety of different visual examples, unfolding what can be said about the process of craftivism through each case. The methodology used for this thesis will be information collected from online archives, newspapers, published reports, and an interview with Nina Horan of Yarnbombing Mountmellick.