Friday, November 18, 2011

Craftivism: Creating Change Through Craft

Written by EtsyVeg member Julia Feliz of Etsy shop J F Illustrations. Find Julia on Facebook and Twitter. Follow her blogs at Project Craftivism and J F Illustrations!

Last year, a fellow EtsyVeg team member shared a news article highlighting the need for sweaters to keep featherless and beaten hens warm while they recuperated from barricaded lives inside abusive battery and “free-range” egg farms. The article featured one of the most adorable pictures I had ever seen - a rescued hen wearing one of the knitted sweaters. At that moment, I added “learn to knit” to my bucket list.

Six months ago, I finally learned to knit and last month, made my very first sweater for a hen. After mailing off my hen sweater to Little Hen Rescue (UK), I began searching other ways to help my local community and individuals that could use a helping hand – from orphans, homeless adults & children, wildlife rescues, animal shelters, to those suffering from illnesses, recuperating from abuse or a natural disaster – there are endless opportunities to get involved and create change through your craft.
Knitting one sweater or whatever item may not seem like much or immediately change all those important issues that need urgent attention in our world, but to the individual that receives my warm and cozy knit, it makes all the difference in the world. You see, someone cared enough to try to help them - they are not alone. Every little helps. I’ve realized that knitting, as well as other crafts, can be quite empowering when it comes to changing the world through the simple action of creation. As people that strive to create change and stand up for those forgotten and without a voice, we can continue to create change on our own terms through our own hands and creation. While some may be able to donate money to causes through fundraisers, others are better able to help those less fortunate through making and donating items like hen sweaters.

Although, as a vegan myself, I am passionate about non-human animals, I can’t help but also take an interest in helping the human animals that could use a bit of warm and cheer in their life. I can’t help thinking, “what if that was me?” As compassionate individuals, we should aspire to help all those in need. Our journey doesn’t just stop at what we eat, wear, or bathe with.

Sometimes we may feel like there’s so much wrong going on that we can’t fix at this moment or may be daunted with the fact that there are so many living beings that need help. We may even feel like we can’t do much for non-humans on our own or maybe feel that certain forms of activism are not our thing. Well, there’s another novel form of activism that you can take part in called “craftivism” – a term coined by Betsy Greer. Through craftivism, we can take a stand to make a difference in our own communities (and in foreign ones) and reach out to individuals in the here and now by using our craft. Craftivism is not limited to charity projects as it also encompasses ways to speak up against social injustices, peaceful protesting, and other forms of activism through visual displays or can be a way to get involved with your local community.

I started a blog, Project Craftivism, to write about my own path through vegan craftivism with a goal to help humans and non-humans. Vegan craftivism? Well, yes, I do not believe that you have to exploit non-human animals to help other human or non-human individuals. The patterns and posts that I comment on or take part in may not always be vegan oriented, but I always choose to veganize all my projects. I’m a fond knitter and have no problem acquiring synthetic or plant-based yarns or any other materials for my projects. At the moment, I am knitting for and collecting warm items (knitted, crocheted, or sewed) for a local homeless shelter that expects about 34 people on Christmas Eve. If you would like to help me with this project, have suggestions for future projects, or would like to share a story about your own craftivism or charity project, do get in touch!

This holiday season, why not pledge to learn to knit or use your craft to touch the life of someone in need?