Craft as in… Social Responsibility

“Craft as in…” is a series of blog posts exploring the many strengths, roles, and impacts craft has in society at large. Expanding upon our upcoming definition of professional craft, the series inspires conversation about the value of craft: economic, cultural, social, and more.

Craft, at its core, is a community. Like a seed planted within the hearts and minds of any collective – what binds us together is the potential for action, and what grows from that seed are the fruits of our labour.

In times of great tragedy, craft can be a lifeline and a comfort. It can provide a means for positive, tangible impact in the face of critical harm… where something as simple as a blanket, or a bowl, can make all the difference in the world. Craft can provide shelter and a sense of security in the worst of times, and is a tactile statement of love and compassion when our sense of humanity may be strained.

This transformative power is seen in the actions of countless craftspeople around the world who are responding to the ongoing crisis of the Australian bushfires. Not only are professional craft artists banding together to donate funding to humanitarian organizations, but they are also organizing auctions and donating works to raise even more funds. Craft artists are giving what they can, by sharing the value of their skills to help those in need.  (For an ongoing list of events, see Craft Victoria’s list of fundraising efforts here, including a raffle by the Jam Factory, online sales coordinated by Clay for Australia, online auctions by Pieces of Eight gallery, etc.)

On an even broader scale, the general public has turned to craft in order to help. Tapping into basic textile techniques, people are banding together to sew, knit, and crochet pouches and nests for countless animals orphaned by these fires. With an estimated half a billion animals already lost, animal rescue missions are receiving critical support through these acts of making. The Animal Rescue Craft Guild has grown exponentially since the news broke of the extensive nature of these fires, with their international following rising over 100k in a matter of days. The Canadian branch, created on January 5th, grew to over 8,000 members in just four days. By utilizing the skills they already have, learning new skills, and teaching others, people are creating a palpable difference in the face of extreme loss. The objects made have a direct impact on the care of the animals affected, and the making of these objects has an emotional impact on those who create them. This is the power of craft.

Craft as a source of positive change has been seen worldwide through countless campaigns such as the Days for Girls program, where volunteer sewers create sustainable menstrual cycle kits for women and girls that shatter stigmas and limitations. Craft has also been a source of memorial strength and collective symbolism, as with the long-standing AIDS memorial quilt project (which for over 30 years has brought healing, hope, and change to those affected – and continues to be added to and displayed) as well as the ubiquitous “pussyhats” of the Women’s March in 2017 (now in the collections of museums such as the Fuller Craft Museum and the Victoria & Albert). 

Whether functional, symbolic or both, craft can change the conversation. Why? Because it is accessible, teachable, and tangible. It empowers those who feel powerless through the strength and ability of their hands – to feel with their own fingertips that they are making a difference. The emotional impact of material creation can bring joy, peace, and clarity for those who struggle, and in times of great need.

The potential for good that is held within the craft community is formidable. No matter the medium, craft can be a source of great social good. Its creativity and skill paired with open hearts and the desire to make for change is powerful, and as a community, it is within all of us, to use this power for good. For Craft Year 2020, use your skills to better the world, and find your strength in craft.