Saturday, September 08, 2007

Craftivism, Viral Marketing and Grizzly Adams

An interesting topic came up on our Destroyers of Mass Production MySpace group. Someone brought up the desire to really destroy the establishment in more sweeping ways than just crafting. The thing is that crafting is a part of it. As much as it may seem that sewing your own clothes is just a means of self expression, it also sends a message to the clothing manufacturers.

Let me back up. I recently went with my family to see the 11th Hour, a movie about global warming produced by Leonardo DiCaprio. One of the women interviewed reminded us that one way to achieve change is to vote; not just by casting a ballot she said, but with our purchases or lack thereof. I agree with her. It was partly the decrease in revenue that made the boycotts of the ‘60s so effective and brought about the changes that were being sought (although many would argue that it was also the threat of a militant, armed alternative which forced the establishment towards reform) and it is the decrease in revenue that would ensue in a crafting revolution that could create real change today.

Grannies by Banksy

I’m not talking about macrame plant holders or crocheted doilies. I’m talking about the kind of crafting that uses recycled materials, transforming them into utilitarian goods that don’t create waste. I’m talking about learning skills that provide us with the ability to meet our own needs. Sewing, cooking, building, gardening - all these and many other skills used to be part of everyday life. Learning to do some of them doesn’t make us cuckoo extremists, it allows us the freedom to choose not to be completely dependent on mass produced clothes, furniture, food, etc.

It’s true that crafting is a drop in the bucket and that’s why I wanted to start a crafting group online - because lots of drops fill the bucket faster. Using the internet and especially the corporate owned and ad-filled MySpace to spread the idea of destroying mass production is delicious irony and, to use corporation-speak, viral marketing at its finest. Turn the tools of mass consumerism towards a new purpose. Even technophobe (and Unabomber) Ted Kaczynski wrote in his manifesto,

"It would be hopeless for revolutionaries to try to attack the system without using SOME modern technology. If nothing else they must use the communications media to spread their message."

This movement has even got a name and a Wikipedia entry - it's called Craftivism.

Few people want to build a log cabin in the wilderness, drop out of society and eat bark and berries. It’s fine if you do - it’s just not for me or for most people I know, but having a group of friends that teach each other new skills, discuss politics, art and music, inspire and challenge each other can produce meaningful change, even if it’s only one person at a time.

Here are just a few links I've found to other like minded crafters:

1 comment:

Jenny Lens said...

Although I'm known as one of the earliest punk photographers, I've been crafting since I could hold a crayon, glue, needle, scissors, etc. When I was about 3 or 4, my mother taught me how to embroider using newspaper, which is stiffer than cloth. I hemmed her clothes because you could never see my stitches. I grew flowers and carrots in the backyard. I was fascinated by my father’s drawer of tools and parts to fix things around the house.

I always made meals from scratch (my mother thought frozen foods were God’s gift to mankind, but I always preferred fresh food). I accompanied my father to buy produce from the farm stands that are now mini-malls and homes in the San Fernando Valley. That is why I go to my local farmer's market every week, buying directly from the farmers. As a raw foodist, I still make all my meals from scratch, no pre-washed, pre-packaged foods for me.

I made many of my own toys as a kid. I designed my own clothes, making the patterns, dying the cloth or applying with designs made from linoleum or erasers: block printing, silk screening, tie-dye and batik. I made jewelry from papier mache, copper enameling, beads, wire, to match designs I applied to the cloth, that I found in Dover clip art books at the library and art store.

If you could make it with your hands, I did it. Beads, cloth, yarns (which I dyed), wood, metal (silver, bronze, gold, copper), gems, plastic, resin, clay, anything. I made furniture (using band/table saws, lathes, etc), clothing, wall hangings (quilts, appliqué, macramé, knit, crochet, and especially hand-woven on looms, large and small, even had my own beautiful oak loom I had to dump due to lack of space in current apt), jewelry (lost wax casting and metal smithing, once in high school and college), sculpture (welding, clay) and more. I earned a BA from CSUN and MFA from Cal Arts. My work was in museums and galleries, and was displayed on school walls starting at 9.

I could have had any number of careers in the arts. But I didn't want to sit on my fat ass, working by myself in the cloistered art world, whether fine arts or crafts. Yes, there's a stupid distinction, far more during the pre-punk, pre-internet days.

I got a camera for my BA graduation gift, because my teachers said I need to photograph my work for my portfolio and to get into more museums and galleries. I had no idea I'd use that camera to photograph Alice and Alison Punk Bunny -- that's my shot of her and Shannon at the Masque [on Alice's myspace crafters' group page]. I should have taken photo classes, that's for sure! Cos I discovered Patti Smith, 'Horses,' Nov 1975, starting taking photos, and the rest is history.

I miss making things with my hands. I want to turn my photos into craft projects. But it takes money, something with this depressed economy is very hard to obtain, no matter how hard I work. My bedroom is full of my art, with many more boxes buried in the closet. No one knows that part of me. Someday I'll pull the slides and negs out, scan and post them of my college art. But I need a better slide/neg scanner.

I gain strength from knowing all I've done, and will continue to create. I love this revival of crafts. I always found so much meaning by making art, always exploring new ways of creating something and most of all, recycling discarded or donated materials.

I made so much with so little. That's another part of doing your own thing. Buy the left-over bits of cloth at the stores. Go through the discards at the hardware/lumber yards. Go to thrift shops, yard sales and swap meets.

You all know that, but I think people forget. We're so used to going to the crafts store, in your 'hood or online. Such a thrill to make something new from something old.

It’s so empowering to fix things rather than throw them out, fill up landfills, and buy something that’s going to break again soon. All of us who make things know what I’m saying. Although I don’t yet have the resources to devote to making art as much as I want.

Every day I shed many tears, praying I can figure out a means to enable making art. I have so many ideas, utilizing my photos!

It’s gratifying and inspiring reading what you all are doing. It’s great to see a revival of crafting. My mother always told me this happened during the Great Depression. People always turn to the arts in time of social struggles.

For me, it’s the one way of staying human. The other way is knowing no one is alone. Thanks to all of you and the net!