The Craftivist Collective – making the world a better place one stitch at a time
When I catch up with Sarah Corbett, founder of the London-based Craftivist Collective – a friendly bunch of political activists who spread their message using nothing but the contents of a sewing basket and a lot of ingenuity – she’s elbow-deep in felt, canvas and fabric paint. Certainly no stranger to either politics or crafting, having set up her first blog on the subject back in 2007, right now Corbett is working tirelessly on her latest creation, a rather large love letter commissioned by the Hayward Gallery at London’s Southbank Centre as a response to Tracey Emin’s Love is What You Want exhibition that is due to be made available to the public on Thursday (August 25th).
A02 in size – as big as a dining table, according to Corbett – this giant love letter will be hung up as part of a two-hour workshop run by the Collective, with people encouraged to embroider their signatures on the canvas and attach a handwritten tag to their names, detailing just how they intend to show their love to wider society in the future.
Judging from Corbett’s tweets this last week, the letter has proved to be both a delight and a bit of a millstone around her neck. As she says, she originally set aside two days to complete it but it’s now been four and she’s still going strong, with her needle still darting in and out at as the sun went down last night. “Luckily, I’m on holiday at the moment,” she observes, “so it’s not been that bad”.
Discussing the inspiration for the project, the 27-year-old – who works as a campaigner for Oxfam by day but pulls on her craftivism cloak once the clock strikes five – notes that while the Collective loves Emin’s work it does struggle with her politics and how self-involved her work can be, always relating back to her and her own personal difficulties.
On until August 29th, Love is What You Want features sculptures, video, photographs, drawings and paintings, exploring the theme of love through the artist’s own experiences of sex, relationships and abortion which, while no doubt interesting and compelling material, is perhaps less important than the trials faced by other people around the world.
“The letter isn’t slating Tracey,” Corbett explains. “We respect her and her art but we hope that it makes her think. She has commented in the press before that people should just work hard like her and then they’d be successful like her. Love shouldn’t always be about loving yourself or your friends and family first, but should be about the wider world and society as well.”
Corbett and her Collective hope that people will rush to take up the invitation to prove their love, whether it’s simply joining local community groups or meeting with politicians to discuss the global food crisis. And she believes that this particular project can definitely help inspire the great British public, with people able to think long and hard about what to write on their tags as they stitch their names onto the canvas.
Certainly, making the letter has afforded Corbett lots of time to ponder about what she will scribble down. “I’ve been thinking of so many things I could write on my tag,” she says, as her needle and thread work double-time. “I’ve already set up a chat with my MP to discuss the Robin Hood tax, another issue the Craftivism Collective is focusing on. Stitching really is something that allows people to reflect on what they’re doing and why.”
The workshop itself will take place between 19:00 and 21:00 on Thursday and Corbett expects up to 50 people to come and sew their names onto the pledge, with ten members of the group available to discuss the initiative with visitors and lend a helping hand where necessary. She also hopes that Emin will come along and sign the letter herself, saying that the Collective “always tries to challenge people in a loving way”.
Even if the artist doesn’t pop on over to show her support, the event promises to be a success, helping to raise awareness of the plight of some of the most vulnerable people in the world. All hail Corbett and her Collective of craftivists.
Here’s a sneak peak at some of the other projects the Craftivist Collective has on the go right now.
Mini protest banners
These hand-embroidered patches bear political messages and inspirational slogans like Trains Not Planes and Forget Making Poverty History, Climate Change Will Make Poverty Permanent.
Don’t blow it handkerchiefs
This summer project calls on craftivists to embroider personal messages on hankies and then deliver them to their local MPs on September 6th when they return to the office, intended to motivate politicians to show some love for the local environment and their global neighbours.
Check back after Thursday to see how the exhibition went down, complete with a few choice pics of the finished love letter!