On craft as non-violent direct action:

In the same way that Audre Lorde insists that “self-care is not self-indulgence, it is self preservation, and that is an act of political warfare,” craft to me is community preservation, and so it becomes a radical act. In a society which fosters isolation, consumerism, and hurriedness, crafting is a haven of connection, resourcefulness, and patience. Crafting is a very clever political act at that, as it uses those antitheses of its makeup, those components of our society crafters wish to change, against them. Take knit-ins, for example. This spin on sit-ins, this idea of a group of people (say, elderly women) knitting while partaking in civil disobedience and often getting arrested for it is not only a powerful statement in its perceived irony, it also has a strong historical context: the concept was taken from ‘Les Tricoteuses,’ the women who sat by the guillotine knitting while they watched the victims of the French Revolution being beheaded.

craftivism

This is a picture of Jane Palmer, one of five knitters arrested at the Vermont Gas Company in July 2014.

On craft and feminism:

I strongly identify as a feminist, and it is a huge part of my love of craft and fascination with craft activism. Craft has traditionally been an undervalued and marginalized feminine art in a patriarchal, product-driven society, keeping women away from the opportunity to be heard in high-art spheres and public arenas and thus being kept in subservient roles. When a marginalized group reclaims that which has historically been used for their oppression, an empowerment of patriarchy-shattering proportions arises.

Reclaiming craft as a feminist activity correlates with the third-wave striving for feminism being a part of the general cultural fabric rather than a necessarily reactive movement. This concept is still being debated and critiqued, however. For instance, because crafting is seen as a “lesser or applied” art associated with domesticity, it is often not included in feminist art discourse for fear of regression of the feminist cause. However, I wholeheartedly support craftivism because I see it as a subversive act which takes up space and has the unique opportunity to readily politicize its traditional associations and stereotypes in intentional and transformative ways.

An example is a 2006 project by Danish artist Marianne Jørgensen in which she stitched a giant pink “tank blanket” from handknit squares created by hundreds of supporters and placed it over a M24 Chafee combat tank to protest the Iraq war. This takes the authoritative and intimidating visual statement of a tank proudly displayed in public space, and completely disarms it, softens it, and powerfully refuses the propagandist nature of its original intention.

craftivism

“[In this piece], the ideological affiliation of knitting with the feminine is exploited rather than rejected.” – Jørgensen

On crafting in public:

Probably my favorite area of research so far has been in yarn-bombing, which is the art of fiber-based graffiti/street art. I feel yarn-bombing is a potent and transformative act that combines community-building and subversive activism beautifully. Street art is a way of reclaiming public space, reminding us that our communities are our own, whether it’s a light-post cozy, tree-sweater, or hand-embroidered protest sign. One of the benefits of craft street art is its impermanent nature meshed with the patience it takes to create handmade pieces. I put my first car antennae cozy up recently, and not knowing its future, whether it will stay on that unsuspecting car for a while, or be taken home as a pleasant surprise, is part of the thrill. Yarn-bombing renames craft as a worthy art form in the public arena, where it once was kept in the private home. The juxtaposition of yarn-bombing also adds an element of surrealism, making people think and getting them out of their comfort zone, an important goal of activism.

craftivism

2007 piece by Knitted Landscapes

Written by Christine Colascione.


Filed Under: Academics Blog Community Environmental Humanities Sterling Life Student Blog

Social Media

Connect with Sterling College