Do you make things? Or want to learn how to make things? Have you made objects or learned skills or strategies you’d like to share with others? Do you feel like your creativity is closely connected to your passion for social justice? Do you like to work on a project while enjoying snacks and long, rambling conversations about life, feminism and what’s going on in our community? Then maybe Craftivism at the Women’s Centre is for you!
A feminist craft program has been running somewhat informally out of the Women’s Centre since 2016, and more formally (with facilitated workshops and a small budget) since May 2022. However, craft and art have been part of our strategy for both engagement and messaging for many years!
The most recent wave began in early 2015 with a Valentine Craftivism drop-in where participants made Valentines asking then Prime Minister Stephen Harper to share the love by providing equal funding to Indigenous children. Between 2016 and 2019, we presented Honouring Our Stories and the Art of Resistance conference, two art-based initiatives funded by the Ontario Arts Council’s Creative Engagement Fund to Stop Sexual Violence and Harassment in Ontario. These initiatives focused on digital stories and other forms of visual, written and sound art by survivors.
On December 21, 2016, we invited the community to a Witchy Solstice Potluck: an afternoon of food, talk, tarot and craftivism to celebrate the Solstice, but also to respond to the results of the US election that November. Many of us felt an urgency to invent new superheroes and to invoke magic/creativity to inspire us in the fight against what we knew would be a rising tide of white supremacy, misogyny and right-wing backlash.
From that point, our core crafting group and drop-ins have worked to:
- Provide seed bombs and knit or crocheted items to the Local Garden and Gift fundraiser boxes
- Make and send postcards during elections, reminding candidates that women are watching their positions on issues important to us
- Create Red Scarves for Elevate NWO’s HIV awareness campaign
- Spark conversation about the need for a feminist book club, resulting in the Loud Women Collective
- Yarn-bomb public sculpture in the Bay/Algoma shopping district with #MeToo messages coinciding with Take Back the Night
- Contribute to arts educator Pam Cain’s Mending Hearts program which builds empathy, awareness and support for women and girls in the justice system (Elizabeth Fry Society NWO)
- Send hand-made hats and mittens out to adults and kids in the community
During the first COVID-19 lockdown, we engaged Pam Cain to present a virtual needle-felting workshop, and we published two “Summer Vibes” crochet blogs on the Women’s Centre website. Zoom enabled the Women’s Centre to stay connected with our community and observe events like Pride and International Women’s Day virtually. We beat the pandemic isolation through our love of craft and through so many good conversations, because something that happens when women get together to make things (food, crafts, signs for marches and awareness walks, etc.): THEY TALK. Women talk about their experiences and how their realities are shaped by the social and political environment around them. They not only make use of resources we provide, such as letter/email templates and contact information for elected representatives or political candidates, they also share resources and strategies they’ve discovered.
The social aspect of sharing skills and information has been central to our craftivism program throughout the pandemic and as we transition back to in-person sessions, with the intention of inviting women into our space, building community and membership, and introducing our services and resources to new people.
To find out about upcoming sessions at the Women’s Centre, subscribe to our monthly e-newsletter, Feminist Dispatch, keep an eye on our Upcoming Events, or email Lori at [email protected] to get on the Craftivism email list.
- CRAFTIVISM MANIFESTO
- How we define Craftivism: by Sophie Freeman
- Craftivism Offers an Alternative To Traditional Protests as a Powerful Means of Expression