I’m currently reading a book by Sarah Corbett of the Craftivist Collective.
The Craftivist Collective, founded by Corbett, is
“an inclusive group of people committed to using thoughtful, beautiful crafted works to help themselves and encourage others be the positive change they wish to see in the world.”https://craftivist-collective.com/our-story/
In her book How to be a Craftivist: The art of gentle protest, Corbett walks through definitions of craft (noun, verb and metaphor), activism (“the policy or action of using vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change”), and how to marry the two into craftivism.
In 2003, Betsey Greer coined the word craftivism and defined it as
“…a way of looking at life where voicing opinions through creativity makes your voice stronger, your compassion deeper & your quest for justice more infinite.”https://craftivism.com/definition/
What I love about Corbett’s book is her focus on gentle protest.
By her definition, gentle protest is not passive or weak, but instead it is kind, empathetic, supportive, compassionate and thoughtful.
Much of the book emphasizes the importance of doing your research: not just on the issue that you are tackling, but also truly getting to know the people you are trying to reach out to.
Corbett’s method of protesting is revolutionary because it puts the focus not on anger (though a measure of anger is needed to spark action), but on positive relationship-building.
She writes that instead of being enemies to those we disagree with, we should be “critical friends.”
How I Can Use Craftivism
I’m not going to do a full write-up of the book here. It’s easy enough to get a hold of a copy if you’re interested, or poke around more on the Craftivist Collective website.
But reading this book, a couple of ideas have struck me about how I can use craftivism to try and make small positive changes in our neighborhood.
Starting with some new neighbors we have.
We live in a townhouse, tightly sandwiched between our neighbors. The walls are about as thin as cardboard, and we hear a lot of what goes on next door (as do, I imagine, our neighbors!).
The house immediately next to ours on one side is a rental property, and we have already seen three different tenants come and go. The owner does the bare minimum to keep the house up and has proved himself to be a terrible landlord to previous tenants.
The current renters don’t seem to care too much about the state of the house. They’re a group of truck drivers who share the rent (probably against zoning laws…) and use the place as a crash pad. They didn’t even move furniture in for a couple of weeks!
Needless to say, these are not ideal neighbors for a family with small children. The first encounter we had with them was to ask them firmly but politely not to throw their cigarette butts in the shared public spaces. We’ve had to ask them to quiet down numerous times, including last night when they woke us up at 1am because they were out on their back terrace smoking and laughing.
There is definitely tension between us, and it makes for passive-aggressive behavior like loud music late at night and carelessly slamming doors.
Inspired by Craftivism
Corbett writes how the unexpectedly friendly nature of craftivism is part of its efficacy. Its basis in kindness and empathy disarms people and opens up avenues of positive, constructive interaction.
So I figured, why not try a similar approach with these neighbors?
Instead of allowing tension to build, why not adopt Corbett’s approach to try and difuse it?
After all, there is nothing we can do about these neighbors. We can’t get them evicted, and we don’t want to keep treading on each other’s toes.
I may not incorporate cross-stitching or knitting, but my idea was as simple as baking a batch of cookies and putting it in a tin with a nice hand-written note with the following quote:
“No one is rich enough to do without a neighbor.”Danish Proverb
I may give this a try. I’ll let you know how it goes.
If it goes well, I have a further idea of how to use craftivism to tackle a problem in our neighborhood: littering.
I’ll keep you posted.