Craftivism Offers An Alternative to Traditional Protests as a Powerful Means of Expression

“If we want our world to be more beautiful, kind, and fair, shouldn’t our activism be more beautiful, kind, and fair?”

This is the question posed by the UK-based organization Craftivist Collective, a social justice group committed to the art of “gentle protest.”

Craftivist Collective creates art in the hopes of changing policies and laws surrounding complex issues — by stitching messages about social and political issues such as climate change and the refugee crisis, for example, all to invite reflection and respectful conversation instead of division.

“Gentleness can be a great strength, and quiet action can sometimes speak as powerfully amid the noise as the loudest voice,” Craftivist Collective writes on their website.

Craftivism has become an unlikely social and political force. The word comes from the marriage of the words “craft” and “activism.”

Using creativity as a political tool, “craftivists” are creating meaningful change and engaging with activism through quiet, creative, and compassionate acts: knitting, crocheting, sewing, and other creations. 

Taking a look back in time, women embroidered banners during the suffrage movement. In war camps, women used quilting as a means to claim private space and personal expression.

suffragists sewing stars on suffrage flag / Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

Today, crafting is used to express anti-capitalist, feminist, and environmental opinions. American writer Betsy Greer coined the term “craftivism” in 2003, and it’s only grown since then.

Craftivism is for everyone who wants to make a difference: skilled artists, weary activists, introverts, people with anxiety, all who desire a better world but perhaps don’t know where to start or where and how to best prioritize their energy and time.

Craftivism is for everyone who wants to make a difference: skilled artists, weary activists, introverts, people with anxiety, all who desire a better world but perhaps don’t know where to start or where and how to best prioritize their energy and time.

Craftivist Collective, which Sarah Corbett founded in 2009, supports craftivists by providing tools, resources, events, and projects to support their endeavors. Even the iconic activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai attended a workshop.

Corbett even wrote a book “for quiet activism." In her book she “[shares her]  journey from burnt-out activist, tired of marching, confrontation and demonizing opposition, towards a more respectful activism: using craft to contemplate global issues, provoke thought and start conversations rather
than arguments.”

Encouraging more people to join the craftivist movement, the Craftivist Collective website reads:

"If there’s time for the loud, there’s also time for the quiet. If there’s time for the fast, there’s also a need for the slow. In everyone’s heart is a desire to change things for the better – it is essential that there is an activists toolkit that is as diverse as humanity."

"Our gentle craftivism is for everyone wherever you are in the world: from skilled crafters to burnt out activists, introverts, highly sensitive people, people struggling with anxiety and those people who want to challenge injustice in the world but don’t know what to do, where to start or how to prioritise their energies and time."

Their manifesto outlines the ten principles of craftivism, covering everything from taking slow steps towards progress to embracing positivity.

You can learn more and take steps to become a craftivist yourself by visiting the Craftivist Collective Projects page — and trying a new way to engage with issues you care about in a meaningful and strategic way.

Listen to Good Good Good's Conversation with Sarah Corbett:

In this conversation, Branden Harvey and Sarah Corbett discuss how craftivism can be for everyone. From skilled crafters to burnt out activists, gentle protest can be for those people who want to challenge injustice in the world but don’t know what to do, where to start or how to prioritize their energies and time.

Sarah also shares success stories of how the art of gentle protest has created meaningful change within governments and corporations.

A version of this story originally ran in The Unconventional Activism Edition of the Goodnewspaper in May 2020. The Goodnewspaper is our monthly print newspaper filled with good news.
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