Tag Archives | craftivists

Interview with Louise MacBean (of @rebel_women_embroidery)!

Sharing all of these interviews has been so exciting! And today’s interview is especially exciting to me because it talks about women from years past who made a difference, but aren’t necessarily household names!



1. What does craftivism mean to you?

For me, craftivism is a way to make the causes I care about feel more personal. I first heard the term from a friend who wrote her PhD thesis on the subject – I was interested at the time, but it was a few years before I even learnt to sew.

I use needlecraft to tell the stories of otherwise forgotten or marginalised women. I almost doubted that the term ‘craftivism’ didn’t apply to my own work as I feel like my portraits are a very ‘quiet’ form of activism. I don’t go out yarnbombing in my community or creating big, public displays (though I have nothing but admiration for those who do!) but do I find something very empowering in physically sewing every stitch, taking the time to meditate on each portrait and story. I spend so much of my day working in front of screens that it actually feels quite subversive to focus on making something with my hands.


2. How did you start embroidering images of rebel women?

It was really a combination of things. I’ve always been very interested in history, and people’s stories. As a feminist I was always aware that women’s stories had often been left out, but the first time I felt like doing something about it came when researching my local history.

I was browsing the doomsday book online (as you do) – the doomsday book was a national census of all the people, property and land in England taken in 1086. I’m originally from a small village in Middlesex, and was fascinated to find that the ‘Lord’ of the village in 1086 was a woman called Estrild the Nun. I couldn’t find any further information about Estrild other than that one little entry, but she fired my imagination.

Discovering Estrild led me to learn about Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party installation, which was also a huge inspiration for my project.

Around this time, I was also unhappily employed in a craft shop, where I’d been learning to sew to pass the time on the tills. I began with cross stitch, but before I was even competent I got bored of the patterns. I started going freehand and never looked back!

I don’t consider myself particularly accomplished as an embroiderer, but I’m enjoying improving my skill with each panel, and I think it shows from portrait to portrait.




3. Who is a rebel woman to you? (I.e., what does it mean to you?)

I actually have quite a strict set of criteria! She must be a self-identified human woman who really lived (i.e. not fictional or mythological – no Lizzie Bennets or Aphrodites!), and she may have either made a notable contribution to society, worked in some way towards full equality for women, or have personally achieved something extraordinary for a woman of her time which makes her a positive role model.

I quite often have to make a quick judgement when ‘evaluating’ a historical woman’s life story – but I’m more likely to add her than not if I’m unsure. I try to judge the women within their own time – some of the warrior women like Tomyris have particularly gory stories attached to them, but were living in a very violent and brutal time period. I might not choose to include someone from the 21st Century who famously severed the head of her enemy and dunked it in a bucket of blood just to prove a point!

Essentially, the ‘rebel women’ on my list are women with interesting stories, who lived life on their own terms, sometimes even in the smallest of ways.


4. How do you find these women?

It actually took me about six months to compile my initial catalogue or ‘list’ of women (which you can access here) before I even began sewing what I’d hoped would be a quilt of about 100 portraits. The list currently includes over 1800 women from all over the world, from 3000 BCE to present day – and it’s still growing.

I asked around, I read books and kept my ears open. Any time I heard mention of a woman in history I scribbled it down and researched her later. Wikipedia has of course been invaluable – there are countless lists of suffragists by country, lists of women’s firsts, queen regents, women artists, athletes, balloonists etc.

I will never consider the list complete; I am still more than open to suggestions!




5. Is this a long term project or a gateway to something else?

It is absolutely a long term project in that I don’t have any plans to stop! I’m only about 150-ish embroideries in, so I have a very long way to go.

I also blog about each woman individually, which takes even more time, but my real hope is that others are inspired by stories. I love to access history through art, and it would be so incredible if more of these fascinating women had art, plays, films or novels written to bring them to life. If I could write 1800 screenplays, then I would!



Thanks, Louise! You can find all these images and more over at @rebel_women_embroidery at Instagram or on Facebook, Pinterest or Louise’s website.



Interview with Kathleen Morris (@textilewarrior)!

Next up in this interview series is Kathleen Morris (@textilewarrior) who runs Seeds for Bees! She also mentions the work of @stitchforus. You can see an interview with Lisa Hallden here. I’ve included the photos after the text because Kathleen wrote such lovely captions!

1. What does craftivism mean to you?  

I feel very strongly about many issues, but I’m not keen on confrontation. Craftivism is a way for me to make a gentle protest, often in a fun or beautiful way that can raise awareness and influence people in small ways without making them (or me!) feel uncomfortable or threatened. There’s also a lot of community and personal engagement in craftivism whether it’s remotely by Guerrilla Kindness, directly in groups with community art projects or individually when an exhibited piece prompts a conversation. 


2. What is Seeds for Bees?

Seeds for Bees is a guerrilla kindness craftivism project aimed at increasing habitat for the bees and to encourage seed saving and sharing.

My accomplices and I leave handmade packets of bee-attracting flower seeds (usually a mix of marigold, alyssum and sunflowers) on the streets for anyone to find and take home to plant in their garden. It’s a little bit of happy for them and quite a lot for the bees. A good seed drop is in a great location, where likeminded people will find it like street art lanes, eco festivals, organic cafes, community gardens, markets and public transport corridors. 


3. How did it get started?

I have always been a keen gardener and when my husband and I moved into the house we live in now, there was nothing but lawn and three old fruit trees. The soil was tired and didn’t have much life in it so I decided to renew it with organic methods, composting, worm farms and no-dig. I self-studied permaculture and over the next ten years our backyard has been rejuvenated without the use of commercial fertilisers or pesticides. I began to get a feel for the earth, planting sacrificial broccoli and spinach for the caterpillars and not spraying the aphids. With this came the return of birdlife, the ladybugs, butterflies and bees.  

Over time my love of nature turned into a respect for it, to not mess with it, to give back what I take and do what I can on my patch to restore balance. 

I had recently learned about the “Doomsday Vault” in Norway and it scared the hell out of me. I also realised the importance of seed, that just about every living thing on our planet depends on it for food and the air we breathe, then my fear turned into annoyance about massive corporations owning seed rights. This was the catalyst for seeds for bees. 

At the end of Autumn, 2015 (that’s around May here in Australia) instead of composting spent plants, I let my vegie patch go to seed and flower, and saved thousands of heirloom marigold seeds (which had been handed down through three generations from my grandmother) with the intention of giving them away. Broccoli, parsley, spinach, Boc Choy and radish in flower really is a sight to behold and I was amazed at the number of bees buzzing around my garden. It was a hive of industry and I was fascinated and thoroughly entertained watching their overloaded pollen bodies trying to fly away. It now seemed I had a thing for bees and I knew as a species they were in trouble. I wanted to help.

I tore and stitched pages from the (1000+) pages of a Dinosauria I found in a box of deleted library books waiting for me to make something out of to enter into a repurposed book art exhibition, stamped them with “seeds for bees” and collaged them with pretty recycled papers. To date I’ve done this another 1890 times since (give or take a few).


4. How long have you been doing it? How big do you want to grow it? 

My first seed drop was in August 2015 at tram stop 8 on the street where I live in Adelaide, South Australia. I was pretty nervous and self conscious but they were snaffled up by the time the next tram arrived. So I made more and pegged them up at other stops along the tram corridor and posted photos to social media with the #seedsforbees hashtag.

That very day I was approached by public artist and craftivist Sayraphim Lothian from Melbourne, Australia. She loved the idea and offered to peg some up around her city. Since then I have been inundated with requests and now nearly 2000 packets have been pegged up by more than 30 collaborators all over Australia (Adelaide, Melbourne, Newcastle, Brisbane, Townsville, Hobart) and more recently in Stockholm, the capital of Sweden. Quarantine restrictions in some Australian states and also in Sweden have given me the opportunity to collaborate with other seed savers in these places. Seeds for Bees have also been used as bonbonnieres at three weddings, as corporate gifts for not for profit organisations and a few offshoot seed drop projects have begun in Hobart, Brisbane and Germany.

 I will keep growing the seeds and making packets for as long as people will take them but it’s getting to the point now where I need help to keep up with the demand. I’m always trying to connect with more local, national and international seed savers who practice organic gardening methods, crafty folk to help me with the stamping, stitching and stuffing, and of course accomplices to perform seed drops.

If you’d like to get involved, visit textilewarrior.com and send me a message, or you can follow Seeds For Bees on Instagram: @textilewarrior and Facebook: textilewarrior.

Stamp, Stitch, Stuff, Repeat.

Stamp, Stitch, Stuff, Repeat.


No borders

Collaboration with @stitchforus - human rights activist/craftivist in Sweden. Lisa has made guerrilla stitches to accompany nearly all seed drops in Stockholm. Collaborating with Lisa has probably been one of the most personally enjoyable aspects of the project, she invested so much time and I’ve loved seeing her images come up in my instagram feed.

Collaboration with @stitchforus – human rights activist/craftivist in Sweden. Lisa has made guerrilla stitches to accompany nearly all seed drops in Stockholm. Collaborating with Lisa has probably been one of the most personally enjoyable aspects of the project, she invested so much time and I’ve loved seeing her images come up in my Instagram feed.


“Daisy Chains” - Little Rundle Street, Adelaide. The big arse wall of flowers I made as part of the Adelaide Fringe Festival Street Art project drawing attention to the fact that bees need flowers. It accompanied a seed drop of 200 packets.  This piece measured 3 metres x 1.8 metres and was made from woven and crocheted plastic bags.  I made the kids too :)

“Daisy Chains” – Little Rundle Street, Adelaide. The big arse wall of flowers I made as part of the Adelaide Fringe Festival Street Art project drawing attention to the fact that bees need flowers. It accompanied a seed drop of 200 packets. This piece measured 3 metres x 1.8 metres and was made from woven and crocheted plastic bags. I made the kids too :)


Seed drop in Hosier Lane (street art precinct)  in Melbourne by @sayraphim

Seed drop in Hosier Lane (street art precinct) in Melbourne by @sayraphim


Seed drop at Flinders Street Markets in Adelaide (South Australia).

Seed drop at Flinders Street Markets in Adelaide (South Australia).


Another #craftivism photo round up!

Checking out #craftivism on Instagram is one of my very favorite things! Therefore, I wanted to share a few photos from that feed that have made my day recently!

i'm so honored and grateful to say that these freedom collection stitched pieces are connecting with so many. i'm excited that something small that i'm doing is connecting and shining a light on the issues surrounding modern day slavery. i've shipped off two more pieces to some beautiful folks and began working on this last night. and most importantly, i've sent funds to @ijm as they represent, rescue, and restore those in slavery. can't wait to share the new look of the freedom collection along with a variety of price points…very soon! cheers… . . . { #healing #endslavery #slavery #hope #bethechange #smallthings #greatlove #inspiration #natural #linen #organiccotton #stitch #embroidery #mindfulness #craftivism #plantlove #rustic #ivory #liveauthentic #vintage #wabisabi #peace #compassion #simple #fiberart #textile }

A photo posted by pendrops couture (@pendrops) on

I've been quiet about the Orland Shooting for a while. It's taken me a bit to process it. My friend lived in Jacksonville for four years and she used to go to that bar. Her friend who still lives there goes almost every weekend still. He wasn't there that night, but he lost SEVEN of his friends in this act of hateful terrorism. She told me it's not unlike the gay bars we frequent here in Baltimore. All I know is it could have been me. It could have been my best friend. It could have been you. It wasn't, but it was fifty people whose best friends and families are now in mourning over an act done out of pure hate. I can't make bigots love queer people. 🌈🌈🌈 What I can do is try to let queer people know they are beautiful as they are. You are beautiful and you are loved. Not by all, but by many – including me. Here is a token of that. 📷: @maurahousley #lovewins #lgbtqpride #lgbtpride #gaypride

A photo posted by Mary England💖Self Love Teacher (@uncustomaryart) on

And one last image, which is an #ssslovebomb!

Craftivism: Party of One

Lately I’ve been getting a lot of emails where people have been frustrated about not having a group to ‘do craftivism’ with. As someone who sent emails just like that until a few years ago, I can tell you, being frustrated is seriously not going to get you very far.

However, action will. And if you really want to call yourself a ‘craftivist,’ it’s not about joining a group or creating a circle or whatever. It’s about YOU wanting something to change. It’s about YOU wanting to make the world a better place. It’s about YOU wanting to make yourself a better person.

You could knit a blanket for soldiers or your sick aunt or homeless dogs or homeless people or refugees or a local family whose house burnt down. You could make a tree cozy for that tree in front of that really ugly abandoned building. You could xstitch a headline or a quote or an image of something that grabbed you and resonated with you about change/changing the world. You could then post it in your bedroom or place it on a park bench or downtown.

Because, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you foment change and/or healing. Like I stated above, to be an activist is to create change. To be a crafter is (in a fundamental way) to heal/soothe/bring joy/teach others. Whenever you combine those two, you are a craftivist.

It’s about bringing light and joy and beauty in your life, the lives of those you know, and/or the lives of those you don’t. There’s no one way to ‘do craftivism’ or be a craftivist. If someone tells you different, then they are actually practicing some other -ism, because it sure as hell isn’t the one that I’ve been writing and talking about all these years.

Sometimes craftivist pieces heal you in the making. It’s important not to overlook that, I think. Because changing you is its own kind of activism, because it’s about not accepting the status quo, it’s about taking the reins and taking charge of your own actions. Because as you change, you become an evangelist for change in others, not only by your words, but also by your actions.

If you’re improving things along the way and including craft in this change, you’re being a craftivist. You’re spreading the good word, in a non-confrontational way, and letting people decide if they want to get on the bandwagon or not. With your enthusiasm, you’re empowering them to make changes and maybe even eventually include their creativity in with those changes.

So, take heart, and don’t get discouraged if you are the only craftivist around. That doesn’t mean you can’t act, it means you have even more reason to act! You have more people to inspire with your actions and have more work to do than those of us in towns with craftivist groups or collectives. Activism brings change. Craft brings healing. Craftivism brings healing change.

So, go forth and be crafty, in whatever way you want to be. You don’t have to call yourself a craftivist even, but do know that with your creations, you’re helping foment change without even opening your mouth. And that, my friend, is a very powerful thing, indeed.

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