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.
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.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.
Written by Christine Colascione.