Craftivism. Might not be a word with which you're familiar, but it's quite the popular topic these days, whether you know it or not. So just what is it? Simply put, it's using your craft or art as a form of activism. Get it? craft + activism = craftivism. While craftivism is a fairly new word in our vocabulary, it's ideal isn't. Really, it's just "charity knitting" on steroids.
So why are we dedicating an entire blog to it on our website? Because today's political climate had brought craftivism to the forefront of many talented people, possibly even you.
Here at Darn Yarn, while I personally may have very strong political opinions and often support those of you who regularly create to express, donate, or protest (you know who you are), I try very purposefully to not use Darn Yarn as a place to express my own political and/or religious opinions and ideals. Sure, you talk to me long enough, you'll probably figure out what those are, but I try not to advertise Darn Yarn as "pro this" or "anti-that".
One opinion I will express, however, is that since I own a yarn shop, I will sell you yarn. I simply think my job as a business owner is to provide you whatever service my business offers, regardless of your gender, color, religious background, place of birth, or economic status. It's just yarn, for Pete's sake. Why should I care what you do with it? If I were a baker, I'd bake you a cake; a pizza joint, I'd sell you pizza; a book store, I'd sell you books; a cigar shop, I'd check your ID to verify your age, and then sell you a cigar... you get the idea.
That also means I wouldn't have started this business if it conflicted with my values. Again, it's just yarn. Sure someone somewhere could probably come up with a way to use yarn for evil; but if they do, they're likely stitching away in a poorly lit shed in the middle of nowhere using yarn they ordered from a large online company believing that their buying habits are going unnoticed, and their neighbors, if they have any, think of them as "eccentric".
For those of you who do want to participate in various craftivist movements, we applaud you and we will help you find the right color and yarn for your project. Pink? Yep, we've got a few great ones. Need a rainbow? As you may know, we try and stock rainbows anyway...what better way to choose new colors from a new line than to use ROYGBIV? If it offends you that we choose yarn colors based on the color wheel, we really don't know what to say.
Seriously though, if there are craftivism movements that irritate you or that you don't support, our response would simply be: don't participate. That may sound trivial, but it's another opinion we will express. No one's forcing you to be a craftivist. Don't agree with the Pussy Hat Project? Then don't make one. Don't want to support Pride Month? Then don't make a rainbow scarf for your LGBTQ niece. It's that simple. (Although really, your niece? She could probably use your support and a loving hug from her favorite Auntie/Uncle, just saying. Ok, I got sidetracked, and a bit political, sorry. I'll try not to let it happen again.)
Don't forget about the craftivist projects that are born out the charity stitching projects - chemo caps, knitted knockers, newborn hats, etc. Even though these are still often referred to as charity stitching, we're going to group them with craftivism because they are a more subtle form of craftivism - actually they're likely how craftivism first began. At their core, you make these items because you believe that somehow they will change or help a situation - and they usually do. These items are also often more utilitarian than symbolic and are just a popular as the more obviously politically charged items. And they're just as important.
But why is craftivism important? Because it allows us to use our creativity to voice our opinions in a nonviolent way. It offers a way to support others who share our views. It helps connect us to humanity. It unites us with others and it puts our hearts on our sleeves, so to speak, for all to see. It also gives us a reason to create (and use our stash) in a way that may benefit others.
That being said, posts about craftivism movements and projects frequently find their way into Darn Yarn's social media feed, and we frequently do nothing about it. Personally I often feel guilty about this, because while I may agree with the cause or movement, it's more important to me, as a shopkeeper to remain neutral and offer a safe space for those who are doing the actual craftivism. You have no idea how difficult this can be some days.
We will, from time to time, share posts of projects related to craftivist projects. Why? Because so many of you make absolutely stunning items! We don't care that it's in support of this or that - the care and artistry that your projects exhibit make them worthy of showing off! So please keep that in mind when you're viewing craftivist related items in your own feed. Regardless of the cause and your view of it, please consider what went into making that piece. As a fellow stitcher, you will likely understand and appreciate the labor of love that item represents.
We will also, on occasion have projects or collections of the craftivist nature. However, when we select them, we try to keep them local so that you can see and feel the results within your community or to pick causes that are very personal to us or our customers - like when we collected items for the "Have a Heart for Animals" fundraiser at the Bottlebrush Art Gallery. This was a fundraiser for a local organization, the Butler County Humane Society, and it was organized by a local member of our community here in Harmony. There are simply too many options out there and we can't jump on every cause, nor do we want to. Because again, we don't want the shop to become known as "pro-this" or "anti-that".
There is already to much discord in our community. We don't want anyone to be uncomfortable when visiting Darn Yarn because of their political views or religious beliefs. It's a yarn shop for cryin' out loud, not a political rally or a religious revival tent. Can't we all just stitch along from time to time? Please, if you're not sure how others will react to what you're about to say, don't say it - even if it's about the craftivist project you or someone else is working on. (We do, however, reserve the right to get snippity and ask you to leave if we feel that you're making others in the shop uncomfortable. The Paradox of Tolerance states that we must be intolerant of intolerance for society to remain tolerant. It's a tough concept to grasp - that's why it's a paradox - but it's why we won't tolerate hate speech.)
Some may tell me that "doing nothing is acceptance" and we believe that to be true too; and it may look like we're doing nothing when there are so many things we could be doing to help a cause. However, while it looks like we're doing nothing, we're actually quite busy. By simply being here, we're hoping to offer all of the craftivists out there the resources they need, when they need them, and hopefully, a safe space too. And we hope that somehow that helps make this world a better place.
Should you be looking for a place to donate some projects, check out this website for a long list of organizations that accept handmade items. You'll likely find one that tugs at your heartstrings. And if you want to do something locally ask at your local library, hospital, school, your place of worship, or even that family member who is always active in social and political movements. You might be surprised by the impact you can have locally.