I learned a new word the other day: Craftivisim, a combination of the words craft and activism. I was on the website Etsy, which is a social commerce website that focuses on handmade or vintage items when I came across the word. Crafting and selling handmade goods is a huge industry now. Just the Etsy site alone has tens of thousands of sellers on it. Having your own personal website to sell your homemade crafts is easier these days and as popular as ever. Just look at me, I’ve done it.
So what about this craftivisim stuff and what does it have to do with crafts? The term craftivism was coined in 2003 by writer Betsy Greer in order to join the separate spheres of craft and activism. Her favorite self-created definition of the term states, “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.” When dealing with craft, there is an awareness and appreciation for where a thing came from, how it was made, what materials were used to make it, and who labored over it. Through this awareness, a relationship forms between the maker and the user, narrowing the huge gap between the producer and the consumer fostered by our mass-production globalized economy. Craftivism is a form of activism, typically incorporating elements of anti-capitalism, enviromentalism or third-wave feminism.
Consumers want more for less. Today there is less emphasis on the time and skill expended to create an object and more importance on making it available to the masses as inexpensively as possible. Some craftivists believe that either sewing one’s own clothing or by making other handmade crafts is the best way to protest unfair labor practices around the globe. I’ve looked at the mass produced jewelry that’s available in the big chain stores. It’s cheap, not that well made and it’s not going to last. Wouldn’t it be better to buy quality goods handmade from someone you know rather than continuing to support the sweatshops that pay the producers of those items very low salaries along with horrible working conditions.
Craftivism is also centered around ideas of environmentalism and sustainability. When buying new materials, many craftivists choose organic fabrics, fairly-traded products and repurposed materials. This display of resourcefulness acknowledges the limited resources on Earth, and the value of quality over quantity. I use mostly recycled glass and other found objects for my mosaics. I’ve also been recycling old jewelry and turning it into something new and beautiful.
Most forms of craftivism also identify strongly with the Third-Wave Feminism movement. They use the freedom to pursue whatever life interest they desire. Unlike their mothers’ generation of Second-Wave feminism,(1960’s-1970) who rejected all things associated with the home, Third-Wave feminists are reclaiming knitting, sewing, and other crafting activities traditionally feminized and associated with the private sphere. My mother was from the second wave. She was a feminist and far more progressive thinking than most of the women from the small town I grew up in. When we were little she sewed a lot of the clothes we wore. I don’t think she enjoyed it much but rather did it out of necessity and lack of money to buy new ones. I learned to sew from her which is probably where my urge to create things came from.
Craftivism fights to replace some of the mass-produced things in our daily lives with the personal by promoting the idea that people can use their own creativity to improve the world.