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How to Be a Craftivist

Sophie Boobyer, a member of the Craft Council's Young People's Group, heard Sarah Corbett talking about How to Be a Craftivist at the Manchester Craft and Design Centre

When thinking of activism, giant posters, loud crowds or an abundance of flyers coming through our doors are probably the first things that come to mind. These can sometimes leave us feeling overwhelmed, pressured and even unmotivated to help the cause. What if there were another approach that felt far more creative and empowering? Enter the Craftivism Collective.

Founded by Sarah Corbett, an introvert from Everton, this organisation invites and intrigues others, rather than pushing issues upon them, allowing for an organic problem solving approach. Born into an activist family, is it innately within Sarah to fight towards resolving issues and challenges she sees in the world, ensuring they aren’t gone unnoticed. And her tool to do so? Cross stitch.

At her talk at Manchester Craft and Design Centre, Sarah spoke of the magic of this old-fashioned and beautiful craft. After realising how exhausted she was from working, cross stitch allowed her to calm her mind and lower her breath. Not only that, it engaged multiple senses, was accessible, affordable and personable, and always felt inoffensive and somewhat comforting. It was an ideal tool to adorn any protest! 

Over the last decade, Sarah has aided organisations as large as Unicef and M&S, and spoken at events like The Lost Lectures and Ted Talks; alongside numerous projects that feel inclusive to all. From tiny scrolls anyone can drop into pockets at fast fashion retailers, to a heart for your sleeve you can wear with pride at marches and more.

As Sarah read from her brilliant book, How To Be A Craftivist: The Art of Gentle Protesting, it became obvious how brilliant she was at the small details, and how these were at the very heart of her practice. Uplifting yellow accents dressed the room from the flowers on the tables, to the colour of her kits and stickers, and she told how she always sprays the air with calming lavender before her workshops. The psychological details that make up her projects and workshops are an invitation to engage, rather than force. Over the years she has utilised this small scale approach to create change and open discussion— “we are influenced quicker by smaller things”. Add in the kitsch stitching and occasional sequin, and it’s difficult not to feel positive about the issue at hand (and think of our epic grandmothers as well). 

Craftivism has really taken on momentum and created a beautiful community of creative and intrinsically optimistic activists. Through micro-actions, Sarah's influence aids the largest of associations, and the most powerful everyday individuals. Her delicate and sensitive approach has created the perfect balance of empowerment, aesthetic, and most importantly, change.