I grew up with a mother who was a maker. She was always building things: weaving baskets, embroidery, sewing, painting… you name it I was witness to her exploring the material. She has been and still is a wonderful example of someone who enjoys creativity for the sake of doing it.
I’m sure that’s why, in addition to painting, I’ve returned to embroidery as an art form. It connects me to childhood as well as to a lineage of women who participate in this artform. But as I was creating, I kept having questions come up about the work. And much of that questioning was in dialogue about a notion of craft versus fine art.
Hi, my name is Carrie and today on Artist Strong we are discussing the book Craftivism by Betsy Greer.
My university did not have a kiln, I was told because that was a craft. And this isn’t the only circumstance I noticed people talking about craft as it was something separate from the arts, or it’s own genre of work. So I was happy to see some people engaging in this important dialogue and showcasing the powerful ways “craft” help people connect and make change in the world.
Enter the book Craftivism by Betsy Greer. I’m so happy I read this book. I literally was brought to tears by some of the work showcased in the pages of this work and I highly encourage you to read it.
Greer breaks down the book into chapters that speak to the personal connection to making and progressively moves to more and more consciously activist artwork. It’s a powerful testament to the importance of and value the arts can bring to our society. I’ll highlight a few of the art and essays showcased in this lovely book.
The first artist that grabbed me was Sayraphim Lothian, who talks about leaving mini sculptural creations out for people to find and collect. She makes the art, finds a place to share it with people, and then walks away. It reminds me of the Abandoned Art movement. I’m touched by the idea of making art and letting it go – releasing our expectations of what people do with it, or what should happen next to it.
Another project that spoke to my heart was how people can work together to showcase a belief in love and solidarity during difficult times. To Boston with Love was an art installation created by quilters all over the world, organized by Berene Campbell and Amy Friend. They filled the Museum of Fine Arts Boston with small quilted flags sent by people all over the world to share their sense of grief and love with others after the Boston Marathon bombings.
Craftivism does not only highlight stories that inspire and showcase the many ways craft empowers, but it takes back the word craft so it is less about de-elevating an art form and more about being an art form that is all about connection and communication.
Craft has a history of being work created by women. Craft has a history of being undervalued. But these qualities are exactly why it is less intimidating and allows more people to engage with it as art.
In fact, it can also be a way to leave people clueless but communicate super powerful messages with your art. This was made clear to me with the story of the Arpilleristas. These are women tapestry makes who would make “women’s craft” that documented the missing family and friends disappearing during Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet’s rule. During this time period, 3000 people or more were unaccounted for, who were likely murdered and additional 28000 suffered incarceration and torture.
Women were able to create these tapestries as a way to make some money for their families, as well as get the message out around the world about the atrocities happening in their home country. People from outside Chile would buy these works and customs officials took little to no note of the imagery because it was craft.
It is not only in dire situations that craft can be powerful. Sometimes, when we hear stories like the Arpilleristas we can feel our art is not doing “enough.” We create an impact on all kinds of scale. There is a ripple effect from all that we create and share.
This is apparent in the next project, NCAA Net Works was created by Maria Molteni. Men and women knit or crochet basketball nets for abandoned hoops. It is a way to showcase “neglected recreational space” and encourage community.
Craftivism is a wonderful book to remind you that your decision to be a maker is valuable, is important, and contributes to more than the object you create.
If you want stories of different kinds of makers, crafting inspiring and motivating art, I highly encourage you to purchase the book (I offer a link below my video) or take it out at your nearest library.
Greer does a great job engaging us in important conversations around the value of craft and how we can all change the world through the simple act of making.
Be Creatively Courageous: What feelings, thoughts, or experiences have you had around this separation of art and craft? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
Thank you to everyone who purchases the book through my link, at no additional cost to you this is one more way to help fund the work I do here on Artist Strong.
If you know someone who would enjoy this video, please share or tag them so they can also learn about this wonderful resource. Thanks for watching and see you next time. Bye!