How to be a Craftivist - the Art of Gentle Protest

We interview Sarah Corbett, the author of How to be a Craftivist: The Art of Gentle Protest, a new handbook is offering citizens the opportunity to take part in a quiet but powerful form of activism

If you pre-order the special edition of the book at Unbound before the deadline of 14th July, you'll get a limited edition copy. As an added bonus, if you pre-oder now, the book will arrive in September - before it is available in the bookshops.

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What's your background?

I'm the daughter of a politician and a vicar. I grew up in a low income area and have 30 years’ practical experience as an activist (since I was 3 years old!) with over 10 years working as a professional campaigner, most recently for Oxfam.

I set up the Craftivist Collective in 2009 after many marches and too much confrontation. Slactivism and clicktivism left me feeling burnt out. I've since delivered talks, workshops and events to over 12,000 people.

I've also worked with the likes of Unicef, Secret Cinema, Tate, Bauhaus University, and Helsinki Design Week, amongst others.

How did you get started as an activist?

I grew up in a low-income area of Liverpool, and aged just 3 I was joining my parents and community in their campaigning. I went on to become a professional campaigner but I’m an introvert, and so many traditional forms of activism drained me. And I didn’t like demonizing people or telling them what to do.

One day I picked up a craft kit for a long train journey. Stitching immediately calmed me down. It helped me think more clearly and it felt empowering. People asked me questions about what I was making.

I began to leave small pieces of provocative street art in my area, and those pieces started conversations on and offline. I embroidered a hanky as a gift for my local politician with a personal message. It felt much more respectful than shouting at her. We became critical friends rather than aggressive enemies.

What is Craftivism?

In these times of social, political and economic uncertainty, Craftivism gives citizens the opportunity to take part in a quiet but powerful form of activism that provokes collaboration and conversation in place of division and conflict.

Who is Craftivism for?

Craftivism is for everyone from skilled crafters to burnt out activists, and those people who want to challenge injustice in the world but don’t know what to do, where to start or how to prioritise their energies and time.

What is the concept for the Craftivists book?

How to be a Craftivist: The Art of Gentle Protest has been designed to help people use craftivism (craft + activism) to thread love, humility and beauty through their activism instead of hate, ugliness or aggression.

Gentle protest isn’t weak or passive, it’s about protesting against injustice carefully, courageous and with compassion. It’s a technique the best activists in the world use, from Gandhi to Martin Luther King and it’s the thread that I think should run through all craftivism and activism.

What can we expect to find in the book?

Good intentions are only the start. Craftivism is a skill we need to hone like any other. That’s why I’ve written a book to help people create strategic and loving pieces of craftivism that can genuinely help change our world.

With thoughtful principles, practical examples and honest stories from my own experience as a once burnt out activist, I want to show how activism through craft can produce long-lasting positive change.

You can expect to find a wide range of topics, including:

  • How to do slow and mindful activism using handicrafts
  • How to provoke rather than preach at people using street craft art
  • How to use thought provoking gifts to kindly challenge power holders
  • How to be a critical friend not an aggressive enemy
  • How to use personal craftivism as a tool to encourage us to practice what we preach
  • How to measure the success of your craftivism activities to hone your craft

What have other people said about the book?

The book has been endorsed by influencers ranging from Jon Ronson, Lucy Siegle and Jimmy McGovern, to representatives from Oxfam, the Victoria & Albert Museum, Tatty Devine and Goldsmiths University.

Journalist Lucy Siegle, of The Observer, has also lent the book her support:

“Sarah Corbett mixes an A grade mind with astonishing creativity and emotional awareness. In this book she examines and reframes activism in a way that makes for genuinely spirited, inclusive and effective intervention. Environmental and social justice campaigning typically favours the extrovert and those who self-identify (often rather loudly) as 'leaders'. I think Sarah's book changes that in a super intelligent, engaging way. More power to her!”

Where can we find out more?

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