Craftivism: An Interview with Betsy Greer
This week I had the pleasure of interviewing the Amazing Betsy Greer. Betsy, is the mastermind behind the book Craftivism and was also the person who coined the term Craftivism. So if like me, you’re wondering what it’s all about, keep on reading…
I’ve read CRAFTIVISM and discovered the many perspectives surrounding the topic. What is Craftivism and what does it mean to you?
To me, Craftivism basically means applied craft. As in, you are using your craft skills to make the world a better place. It’s allowing your craft skills to be of value and reminding you that these skills ARE of value. Often crafts are seen as just a nice hobby to have on the side, but they are useful in so many ways and I think people forget that.
How long have you been crafting and what do you like to make?
I learned to knit in 2000; however, as I am still a pretty basic knitter, I meet a lot of beginning stitchers who surpass my skill level quickly! The first craft I learned independently (i.e., not in Girl Scouts or summer camp) was cross stitch. When I was around 10 or 11, I was visiting my grandparents in rural Georgia, where there wasn’t much to do. So my grandmother, who is a wiz at all needlecraft, decided I was going to learn to cross stitch and took me to the craft store. She let me pick out my project myself, which was so exciting! I picked a bookmark with a cow on it. Although it was initially super frustrating to get my needle in the Aida cloth holes, I eventually finished it and gave it to my mom, if memory serves correct. I took up cross stitching again in 2004 when I started making cross stitch pieces of international anti-war graffiti. I like its Zen quality and the way the gridded stitches always look so neat and tidy!
What prompted you to follow through with the idea of Craftivism? Was there a particular social issue bothering you at the time?
When I started knitting, I realized that I could use it to help other people, in making things and donating them. From there, I realized that knitting things for donation was its own type of activism, as you were helping to make things better or at least one person warmer. When I started doing political cross stitch that began to be shown in books and galleries, I realized that that was its own, yet slightly different, form of activism. It was getting people to talk about the issue at hand, that war is decided by the few, yet hated by all, and that we often feel hopeless in the face of it, in the juxtaposition of needlecraft and graffiti.
Are there dangers concerning the interpretation of Craftivism?
I’m sure someone could do something unpleasant in the name of Craftivism, but, on the whole, I think it’s a definite force for good. To me, the biggest danger is not properly thinking through what could happen with your work, especially if it’s done in public. As if you yarn bomb, you should also be a custodian of it and make sure it’s not falling off and getting in people’s way or rotting or anything.
While she doesn’t identify as a craftivist, the artist Olek recently got negative feedback on some underwater crochet work done in Mexico at the Cancun Underwater Museum. She covered underwater museum items in crochet as an act of raising awareness about endangered species, yet in covering up these items, she destroyed the habitats of various marine life whose entire tiny ecosystem was on the pieces covered up.
How did you discover Significant Seams
Ha! You know I can’t remember if I discovered it via its work with the Craftivist Collective or if Catherine emailed me or if I got in touch with her about participating in the book! Crazy how we often can’t remember these things. At any rate, I’m so glad to have discovered Significant Seams as it is such a wonderful place to make and connect with others in a genuine way.
Congratulations on your new book, CRAFTIVISM, so whats next?
I think my next work is going to draw on PTSD and how needlework can be beneficial in treatment of it. I’m working on a way to work with refugee camps, to send mending kits to them, along with stitching kits, so people can use to tell their stories.