“Craftivism” Meets Art Therapy at Lesley University

A “Craft and Chat: ‘Craftivism’” workshop exploring the issue of women’s sexuality was held on Thursday, Feb. 18, at Lesley University’s Women’s Center, led by Art Therapy faculty Michaela Kirby and Lauren Leone. Craftivism is using hand-made art to express opinions or to support a movement, a combination of craft and activism or crafts for activism.

“I learned about craftivism at a workshop at the American Art Therapy Association Conference a couple of years ago,” said Lauren Leone, Art Therapist and professor at the Lesley University Applied Therapy Programs. “And then Michaela and I decided to start some workshops on campus, so we started about one year ago. We’ve had one workshop last spring and one last fall, and we are doing 3-5 this spring; it is kind of growing now!”

The techniques used were felting, embroidering, drawing or sculpting to address the issue of sexual health. The current project, widely known as “Draw the Line: 5.4 million and counting” was started by a craftivist in New York, Chi Ngyuen, who is focusing on reproductive justice. The idea behind it is to produce stitch-ins to make physical the number of women whose right to safe and legal abortion is currently at risk. The U.S. Supreme Court hearing on March 2 may impact women in Texas by causing most of the clinics in that state to close, which will limit their access to abortion.

Michaela Kirby, Art Faculty at the Graduate School at Lesley University, who is also one of the initiators, said, “This workshop is providing a place for students to come and learn and feel personally empowered. I really hope that this spreads. The question really is that how do we tell women and empower them to be the subject of their own desire rather than just the object of someone else’s desire. Craftivism is creating a space for people to just relax and get comfortable, to begin to notice and think about what the cultural layers are and question those. My sense about crafts is that crafts that women have made have mostly been devalued; reclaiming it is empowerment.”

The Women’s Center located on the main campus is adjacent to the dining hall where students hang out regularly. This project attracted the attention of many students, most of them curious to see the colorful yarns, threads and pieces of fabric laying in the table with a small group of women chatting while simultaneously engaged in creating colorful pieces with needles.

Of future projects, Lauren said, “The idea of craftivism is using crafts for activism. We will be covering the issue of consent in an April workshop, which is also ‘sexual assault awareness’ month. So we will be talking about consent, while providing a platform for debate and discussion on campus.”

She said that craftivism, is also known as quiet activism. “A lot of times, it makes its statement through imagery and the object created. Someone has labored over it and invested a lot of time in it. [That’s why] it’s mindful activism.”

LesleyWomensCenter

1 Response »

  1. What a novel idea! women showing solidarity for a cause. It is so apropos using “needles” as the tool of choice to craft the pieces considering that before abortion was legal woman used all sorts of wire implements to terminate pregnancies.

    In the summer of 1987, I went to visit with the woman who cared for me when I was a child, at her retirement home in Exmore, VA. She had Type II Diabetes and very poor eye sight. She asked that I thread a needle for her, so that she could mend her husband’s trousers. When I opened her sewing kit I found some unusual looking tools, of a medical nature inside. She explained, that back in the day when she and her friends found themselves in “the family way”, they went to the drug store and bought a tool kit and performed abortions on one another. I was mortified! It must have been gut wrenching for those women.

    I knew the women of whom she spoke. Most did not complete their high school education, much less, have training to perform such a procedure. One woman in the cohort was never able to have children; I surmise this may have played a role as to why. The fact that my caregiver held onto the implements long after they were of use speaks volumes! Maybe, she was waiting for the day when she could talk, openly, about it with someone like me.

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