Firstly, I’m one artist’s story from finishing Handmade Nation by Faythe Levine and Cortney Heimerl which is really interesting. It’s got essays in the middle of it’s interviews by people like Andrew Wagner, the senior editor of American Craft magazine and Garth Johnson, who runs Extreme Craft and is a favourite of mine. Betsy Greer of Knitting for Good also wrote an essay in it, and honestly, that essay gives a better understanding of where she’s coming from than her own book did. She tells the story of how she started knitting, in a much more detailed form than in KfG, and she says “… I realized that right now… the act of craft is political. In a time of over-ease and overuse and overspending, I can take back the control over where my money goes, over what my outfit is, and over how my life is lived. I could knit my own clothes, thereby dictating my own fashion sence instead of following someone else’s… I could knit blankets and vests and scarves… for people who could really use them… I could stand up as activist without having to stand on a street corner with a sign.” (P90) and that really resonated with me. I love the idea of quietly going about a revolution.
When we were growing up, our mother was very political. I’ve been on protest marches too many to count. We were often given signs by people who thought we were damn cute, and thus cuter with signs, or something. Whatever the reason, we usually got given signs and we’d shout whatever the people around us were shouting. There was a lot of protests. And I remember covering a student protest for the student union magazine I worked on during uni, and seeing people with signs that screamed BRING BACK GOUGH!!! which struck me as just plain silly. (For those of you who don’t understand, Gough Witlam was an Australian Prime Minister in the 70s who was seen to do wonderful things for Universities, or at least that was the way these students saw it) But really, going around protesting that you want a man who got dismissed as PM 30ish years ago back as your leader just seems like a waste of breath. Cause it ain’t gunna happen, no matter how loud you shout about it. I really do think that if you’re going to protest, you need to protest about things that matter, that you actually want to happen.
One of my housemates at the time was one of the people protesting the loudest that day, and he was holding one of the biggest BRING BACK GOUGH signs, so I asked him later why the hell were they all screaming that? He came back with an answer that I’ve mostly forgotten now, but it was along the lines that they thought the government at the time (Howard) was too hard on universities and that they wanted a more liberal governmental attitude and this was how they were demanding it.
I still hold that appearing in the paper demanding that they reinstate a man who was PM 5 PMs ago just made the students look ridiculous. And I fear that for most protests, that people make placards, go shout on the street and then all go back home and nothing ever really changes. But to go about just Doing, seeing a wrong and setting about fixing it, I think that’s powerful.
That’s not to say that there isn’t room in life for protesting, it’s just that I prefer the subversive type. One of my favourites is from Rayna from Radical Cross Stitch who went out one night with other members of her Craft Cartel to “engage in some creative resistance against the rampant speculation which is wreaking havoc in the Melbourne suburb of Footscray.” So they went out with cloth, yarn, chocolate and torches and created things like this:
You can see the whole post here.
Anyway, so that whole thing is me saying that I like the hands on, quietly Doing form of protest rather than the type were everyone gathers to shout about things. And Besty Greer’s craftivism is all about that. Sign me up to the church of craftivism!
The other book I’m reading is It keeps me sane: Women, craft, wellbeing by Enza Gandolfo and Marty Grace, which a woman at Brown Owls was telling me about. It’s a Melbourne book by two university professors who interviewed a number of Melbourne craft hobbists and wrote a book about their findings. They also had an exhibition in Feb this year, so I only jsut missed it (damn!). I have to confess that I read all the interviews and have yet to read the essay that links it all together, even though I’m really interested in that bit and it’s at the start of the book. I’m not sure why I read it backwards, it might just be one of those things. But it seems a really interesting book, and I’m looking forward to reading the essay.
I’ve also got Radical Lace & Subversive Knittingby David Revere McFadden that I’ve been dipping in and out of, I’d love to sit down to read the whole thing, but I need to find more time dammit!
Which is the cry of all people everywhere, I guess.