- Indie Craft, and: Knit the City: Maschenhaft Seltsames, and: The Subversive Stitch: Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine, and: The Culture of Knitting, and: In the Loop: Knitting Now, and: Making Is Connecting: The Social Meaning of Creativity, from DIY and Knitting to YouTube and Web 2.0
Art cannot change the world, but it can contribute to changing the consciousness and drives of the men and women who could change the world.—Herbert Marcuse, The Aesthetic Dimension
Craftivism is a late capitalist phenomenon, part of a new activism currently inciting our world. Single-issue, counterculture DIY protest actions such as dumpster-diving/gleaning, rave parties, Freeganism, Temporary Autonomous Zones, the Reclaim the Streets movements, and the Social Sculpture network (see this issue) try, as George McKay has pointed out, to overcome the schism between art and life, art and political activism. 1 Where does Craftivism fit into this agenda? Since its formal description by Betsy Greer, attempts to define, redefine, and perhaps critique Craftivism in terms of its political agenda and artistic value indicate how important this movement has become. 2 Exhibitions in Europe and the United States at craft councils and art galleries and scores of publications and online blogs have mushroomed, providing a wealth of visual and theoretical material on this movement. In 2008, Faythe Levine made a documentary, Handmade Nation, on more than fifty craft artists in the United States to demonstrate how Craftivism and the new wave of craft forge a novel economy, lifestyle, and community based on creativity and artisanship. Underpinning these publications and documents is a critique of modernity, global capitalism, and postindustrial society that goes back to the Arts and Crafts movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, with its important vision at its core: a new ethic toward [End Page 397] life, work, and the environment. Philosophers such as Theodor Adorno and Walter Benjamin also have, if in different ways, underpinned this championing of the authenticity of manual, thus preindustrial, artistic production. For Adorno and Benjamin, tactile artistic practices were paradigms of experience (Erfahrung) and authentic memory, lost in the mechanical/industrial production of objects. Richard Sennet and John Lane more recently have identified how modernity and global capitalism have drawn fault lines between craft and art, maker and user, technique and expression, practice and theory, skill and work.
Jo Waterhouse’s Indie Craft continues the project of Faythe Levine to showcase examples of twenty-nine artists who work with traditional craft techniques such as embroidery, crochet, knitting, and cross-stitch but in a new, alternative, or subversive way—thus indie craft. The introduction to this colorful and informative book highlights the community-building, sustainable, emancipatory, and political objectives of indie craft. Groups and collectives such as the Church of Craft, Stitch ’n Bitch, Craft Mafia, Knitta Please, and Craft Guerilla reinsert democracy and (consumer) self-determination into the selfish-individualist and postindustrial society. The artists featured in Indie Craft often blur the boundaries between art and craft, choosing to “raise doubt in the traditional hierarchy of art, between what is usually called ‘high art’ and less valuable art” (Waterhouse, 8). This takes place on two levels; traditional techniques such as embroidery and knitting are used on nontraditional subjects and/or nontraditional spaces, such as communal knitting in public spaces or embroidering statistics of war victims (Knitta Please, Knit the City, Yarn Bombing). In...