Craftivism is a form of activism, typically incorporating elements of anti-capitalism, environmentalism, solidarity, or third-wave feminism, that is centered on practices of craft – or what can traditionally be referred to as “domestic arts”. Wikipedia
“We believe craft can be a tool for gentle activism. Join us, together we can change our world, one stitch at a time…” Craftism-Collective.com
I found out about Craftivism a few weeks ago. I have described myself as an activist for several years, working within the system and without it to improve the care and support provided for people living with dementia.
I was diagnosed six years ago, and had already become engaged locally to work with NHS Trusts and CCGs as a patient volunteer or representative. I did loads of meetings and saw very little change for the better.
Then dementia found me, and I found DEEP. This was eye opening. I regard myself as a disruptor, as I don’t like following the traditional, controlling rules of engagement, governance, status quo, and publicly supporting organisations I fundamentally disagree with.
So I have been a disruptor, blogger, activist, whatever, for a decade. And what have I achieved? Some raising of awareness of dementia and other patient care issues. And very little change. And I have had enough of most of it.
So along comes Craftivism. As I understand it, though I may not be right on target, craftivism is about creating crafty things, making, painting, printing, drawing, sculpting, carving, and using these things to speak for you. To gently promote what it is you want people to know or understand or do.
Great example: the old fashioned Banners made by a number of DEEP groups up North (duck) which illustrate an aspect of dementia, but are just beautiful artistic creations. They don’t shout, or stamp, or sit in meetings. They just exist for their own sake. And they speak louder than many words do.
I suppose they ought to sit in meetings actually, all around the walls, to remind decision makers that we exist!
So some of us crafty people in DEEP got together, or rather were brought together, to see if we might become craftivists ourselves.
One of us paints beautifully. Another is just ridiculously good at crafty things like card making, embroidery, carving, bookmarks, and making fairy houses/villages from largely found materials. I have taught myself to whittle and carve whistles of all sorts and sizes, with personalised designs or images.
We are starting to make artistic or crafty creations to give to people, to publicise our message. We may leave things in public places, libraries, shops, on benches, in parks. And we will add a label or inscription that says something like…
‘You’ve found a gift made by a person living with dementia. Enjoy it or pass it on to a friend.’
Simple as that. Nudge theory perhaps, though Dom has nothing at all to do with it. Gently letting people know that dementia does not incapacitate you suddenly. We can still learn skills, make lovely things, and give and have pleasure. We do not all sit and stare at a TV or the wallpaper, dribbling, immediately after our diagnosis. Or probably ever.
So I am thinking of making some simple whistles to give to a local primary school class. I could establish a real rapport and understanding on and with these children, and they would take the whistles home, show parents, friends, neighbours.
Gail, near Blackpool, is making bookmarks and leaving them in places around her area, such as on the steps leading down to the sea.
I have a project at the moment making a large group of people (can’t say who as they might possibly read this), for a celebration event. Each whistle is personalised to a person’s interests, job role, or some funny event. And they will all know their whistles were made by a person living with dementia.
Now, I started whittling at the start of lockdown, four months ago, and I am learning the skills needed to make whistles, chess pieces, all sorts, with little carvings on them. I am 69 and have dementia.
You can teach an old dog new tricks!
The act of creating is a wonderful way to focus the mind, to block out all those annoying thoughts and anxieties, the calendar to do list, and the what ifs. I just focus on turning a piece of wood that I found on a walk into a whistle and/or a carving.
It’s tiring, mind. That sort or concentration (and standing) can leave me drained. Time flies by. Lupin barks after a while to let me know she wants attention.
So Craftivism has several wonderful benefits. It can also be a group activity, either face to face, like making a rag rug, or each person remotely making part of a finished thing. Like the squares being made by DEEP people to go into a massive blanket. That will be a wonderful craftivism creation.
Craftivism is a sort of social movement, in which the personal narrative is in the artistic creation, which speaks for itself. It’s gentle, beautiful (usually), and a great communicator.
When we get back to face to face meetings we should all lay our creative skills on the table and make things to share in our communities, including those decision makers.