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How to be a Craftivist: The Art of Gentle Protest

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How to Be a Craftivist is a manifesto for quiet activism: how to tackle issues not with shouting and aggression but with gentle protest, using the process of ‘making’ to engage thoughtfully in the issues we are about, to influence and effect change.

Sarah Corbett – professional campaigner and founder of the Craftivist Collective – shares her journey from burnt-out activist, tired of marching, confrontation and demonizing opposition, towards a more respectful activism: using craft to contemplate global issues, provoke thought and start conversations rather than arguments; to engage, empower and encourage people on and offline to become part of change in the face of injustice, inequality and prejudice.
Interwoven with Sarah’s personal stories of causes fought are ideas and suggestions for every novice craftivist. From how to think about the medium itself, to looking at colour, fonts, size and message, here is inspiration for every detail of your creation.

In today’s world it’s easy to feel helpless, but here is a book to initiate debates rather than shouting matches, to enable collaboration in place of confrontation. Gentleness can be a great strength, and quiet action can sometimes speak as powerfully amid the noise as the loudest voice. And if we want a world that is beautiful, kind and fair… shouldn’t our activism be beautiful, kind and fair?

320 pages, Hardcover

Published October 5, 2017

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 34 reviews
Profile Image for Melanie.
548 reviews292 followers
March 17, 2019
I understand how movements can benefit for having a book about themselves. It enhances the brand, it's almost like a business card adding validity to the existence of the movement. And as such, I think Sarah Corbett has been successful. I saw Corbett at the book launch and found her interesting and many things she said really stuck with me and quite a few have transformed my letter writing significantly. I started this book several times and as much as I love the concept of it, the reality of reading this book is like pulling nails of my fingers. It's not well written, it's dull, repetitive and nothing like Sarah Corbett herself. I just cannot finish it.
Profile Image for Melanie Godecki.
21 reviews
December 8, 2017
This was so informative and helpful! I'm inspired to start my own Craftivist projects soon - after some quiet reflection of course. I will definitely reread and refer to this in the future.
Profile Image for toria (vikz writes).
239 reviews7 followers
February 13, 2018
Unraveling  the problem

Coming from a political family, I have always been political. Moreover, I took women’s studies, and took part in many campaigns, during my time at university.  In addition, I work, as a volunteer,  with the RNIB and Oxfam, on the campaigns that matter to me. As a disabled person, those activities have recently taken on a greater urgency. So, my campaigning life has become busier and more intense.


Recently, therefore I have been feeling tired, disillusioned, and unfocused. I am finding it hard to know where to spend my campaigning energies; which campaigns to prioritise when they all seem so important.

We live in turbulent times; Trump in the White House, Brexit, sexual abuse scandals, police violence, the deaths of black men, hate crimes against marginalized groups, global warming, and austerity still ruining peoples lives.  The list goes on and on. This has led many campaigners, including the author of this blog, to feel tired and dispirited.

Sarah Corbett, mirroring my own concerns, speaks of the tendency of campaigners to spread themselves too thinly; to feel that they have to be everywhere, doing everything, fighting every battle.  This leads to the temptation to cut corners and to complete tasks that can be undertaken quickly.  These methods are often unsuccessful, leaving the campaigners angry and disillusioned.

Moreover, the author states that campaigners, often driven by anger, react in a knee jerk manner to situations that arise.  This, Corbet tells us, can often lead to mistakes and knee-jerk actions can often lead to negative outcomes.

Crafting a solution

Sarah instructs us, not just to react to negative situations as they arise, but rather, to think about the world we wish to craft. In my case, that world would be one in which disabled people and other marginalized groups; would feel safe, able to live a productive life,  have our voices heard, and live in a manner that respects both other people and the world in which we live.

Corbett argues that campaigners need to take a step back and think about; what campaigns they focus on, why they feel the need to campaign, where their skills can be best utilized, and what methods will get the best outcomes. We need to ensure, often in consultation with those individuals who we are seeking to help, that our campaigns will have a positive impact on the issues that we care about.

The author, also, challenges campaigners to break their addiction to quick campaign methods, i.e; the online petition and template letter. Campaigners are instructed to slow down our campaigning; to take time to craft methods that will create the best possible outcomes.  For example, she argues that we should get to know our representatives and personalize our interactions with them.

This book came at exactly the right time for me and, while I will not take her every suggestion on board, I will slow down, both my writing and campaigning. I will see my writing as part of my campaigning. I will take time to write letters that engage the reader and not simply send a template letter or sign a petition. I will take time on my reviews, and other writing. If the book is good enough to write about, I should give it the time it deserves. If the issue is important enough to raise passion, I should be able to express my passions in a manner that engages the reader.  The arguments contained within this book are too broad and too deep to express in a short post. Therefore, I have picked the bits that spoke to me and left other sections for the reader to find on their own. For example, I have left out any discussion of craft. You should really get hold of a copy and read it. I highly recommend this book.
Profile Image for 4JFJF3.
24 reviews
August 29, 2022
I read the book not because I aspire to be a (craft)activist. In fact, I have found myself mostly declining the choice to commit to any cause despite the many desperate changes for a better world to fight for. I suppose I'm quite a nihilist. I am, however, curious of the viewpoints and inner working of activists and what make them tick to actually take action and fight for something. That's intriguing. But activists tend to bear the stigma of being incessantly angry, self-righteous, judgemental and mostly reflective than inflective of the values they wish to see implemented. And then comes Sarah Corbett.

She is charming in writing (I only say this because I don't know how she is in person).
I also admire the family she was born into.

Although the book mainly talks about the gentle ways of making rippling changes in the world in no matter how small the ways, some of the insights are also helpful for making changes in one's own life (-first, if one's so inclined to change the world later). I particularly like the part that reminds us to be mindful of a few things before fighting for something. Some times we chase things we thought was the purpose of our life without even realising the ACTUAL reason/s why we are chasing them in the first place to then get lost in a hunt of blurry objectives. She is also very self-aware that makes her writing effectively sympathetic.

Overall, it's a warm and fuzzy read. Made me feel like wanting to find something to care enough about to fight for. But then again, it's always for some other day that hasn't arrived.
Profile Image for Carys.
58 reviews3 followers
October 29, 2019
*technicality did not finish*

Craftivist reads like a dissertation trying to reach the he character limit. There were multiple times in the book that I didn’t think were particularly of relevance or helpful to me in any way and this made it really hard to convince myself to keep reading. Corbett has some really great and valuable insights, and sometimes it’s inspiring. But these parts are hidden in between repetition, and rambling (I don’t want or need to know how exhaustedly successful the craftivist collective is(!)). I had to skip sections, even entire pages and to the end... entire chapters. I couldn’t help but feeling that I would’ve enjoyed the book so much more if it was cut down to about 1/3rd if it’s size... and I’m pretty sure it would’ve been able to give me all the exact same information.
Profile Image for harithaolag .
45 reviews
April 30, 2019
I went into this book with an open mind, yet had to continuously remind myself to maintain an open mind throughout reading it. 'How to Be a Craftivist' is the perfect book for crafty introverts (and people that appreciate quiet activism!) interested in getting involved with activism. It's very accessible and Sarah Corbett is never rash or blaming in explanations, always keeping a kind and gentle approach. However, this also makes the book quite long-winded and repetitive, and I found myself skimming many sections.

As a raging socialist that is unafraid to belt chants at protests or force leaflets into strangers' hands, I cannot say that this book changed my view on traditional non-violent activism. It did, however, provide an interesting insight into chronic anger and the craftivist movement, and I have a lot of respect for activists in the movement. However, I still believe that having discussions with political and commercial leaders (honestly sometimes like sucking up to them) is less powerful than building an active movement of the working class to revolt against injustice. Also, I wish the book focused less on charity and NGOs and had a bit more of a discussion on diversity (there was definitely room for it in the book).

This book wasn't really for me, but it's definitely having a very positive impact on its readers! I would really recommend the episode entitled 'Are All Activists Assholes?' featuring Sarah Corbett on Leena Norms' podcast 'I'm Not Being Funny But-' as further listening!
Profile Image for Maricruz.
416 reviews45 followers
July 26, 2020
No me gusta menospreciar el trabajo de nadie, y estoy segura de que la labor de Sarah Corbett es muy útil, pero... (denme puntos suspensivos más grandes) al final este libro me ha acabado pareciendo un poco paridita. Su principal problema, y el que ha hecho que acabe leyéndolo en diagonal, es que hay demasiado relleno, como si debido a una exigencia editorial de llenar x páginas la autora hubiera tenido que reelaborar lo obvio para hacer más bulto. Por otro lado, entiendo lo del activismo amable, me parece muy bien, incluso, pero el tono de este libro me resulta tan edulcorado que, por más que he intentado no pensar mal, el pensamiento ha aparecido de todas formas en mi mente en letras grandes y rojas: ¿Será todo esto una especie de «hagamos del activismo algo cuqui»? ¿Activismo fashion del que se puede puede presumir en Instagram? Estoy segura de que aunque es uno de los riesgos que corre el craftivism, no todo va por esos derroteros, y si he querido leer este libro es porque estoy convencida de que la protesta social creativa da mucho de sí (me vienen ahora a la mente The Yes Men o las Guerrilla Girls, por ejemplo). Me habría gustado conocer más ejemplos de «craftivismo», y ver cómo se justifica política y sociológicamente. Un poquito de ensayo, vamos, aunque fuera ligerito. Pero el libro de Sarah Corbett se centra demasiado en lo suyo y no habla apenas de otras iniciativas, y en cuanto al discurso con que lo presenta, aunque de vez en cuando dice algo interesante y que merecería la pena explorar, se queda en una superficie blandita y bastante inane. Quizás me lo parezca más aun por haber leído recientemente, en una temática similar, The Subversive Stitch: Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine, que tenía mucha más chicha.

No sé si yo estoy hecha para el «craftivismo», pero estoy segura de que al menos este libro no estaba hecho para mí.
Profile Image for Pamela Adam.
95 reviews1 follower
March 25, 2019
Grace and Gentleness

I give this a 5 as it's not preachy and gently I tricycles craftism and how to slowly make a difference to our world in a way introverts like me can cope
Profile Image for Eileen Hall.
1,074 reviews
November 16, 2017
This important book should be made available to anyone interested in world events especially the natural world.
Sarah Corbett is well known in the gentle, none threatening activism world, especially for her campaign entitled Origami Migration.
This campaign saw concerned people sending in origami birds which were attached to a net.
This net was erected outside the Spanish Parliament to protest the dredging of the river that flows through Donana National Park, a World Heritage site and an important area for biodiversity.
It was feared that the dredging would disrupt the life of migratory birds.
So successful was the colourful protest that the Spanish government finally cancelled the work.
So anything crafty that people can get involved in is worthwhile, (think of yarnbombing to try and brighten up areas).
I recommend this book highly.
I was given a digital copy of this book by the publisher Unbound via Netgalley in return for an honest unbiased review, which I am very happy to do.
Profile Image for Laura Gembolis.
454 reviews42 followers
November 26, 2019
Somewhere between a three and four on my DIY rating scale:
2 - meh. Not my thing.
3 - Changed my framework
4 - Plan on revisiting for refresher, deeper read

Only time will tell if proves to be a 4

Edit: 3, maybe a 2.
Profile Image for KriisGaia.
60 reviews
December 11, 2017
In How to be a Craftivist: The Art of Gentle Protest, author Sarah Corbett offers insight on how to help improve the world in a beautiful, gentle and loving way.

Throughout the ages, we’ve always protested what we felt to be injustices or wrongs in our society. Protests have run the gamut of disapproving looks, all the way to horrible mass destruction and murder. The latter can’t be supported, and the former is insufficient.

Many people will completely shut down if you start yelling at them. I turn right off and barely even acknowledge the existence of the other person when I’m being yelled at. The fastest way to get nothing of what you’re trying to achieve is to yell at somebody. Nobody wants to help somebody who is screaming at them.

Enter the Art of Gentle Protest, Craftivism. In the spirit of you can gather more flies with honey, the author suggests a more gentle form of protest.

The book begins with a brief introduction from the author, including her backstory. Part One of the book includes definitions of Craftivism and Gentle Protest.

Part Two of the book covers the Power in the Process. With sections covering Slow Activism, Mindful Activism, Crafter Thoughts, Communal Crafting, and Inner Activism. These five sections describe the various ways of channeling your crafting process.

With Part Three, you learn the Power in the Product. Sections include The Gift, Graceful Activism, Compete with Beauty, The Message, and Catalyst not Conclusion. These sections describe various ways to use your craft to support your activism.

Part Four of the book “Power in the Public Sphere”, includes chapters on Intriguing Craftivism, Pretty Protests, Wearing your Convictions, Reaching Out, Shareability, and Measuring Success. These would be your more public demonstrations of Craftivism.

The book ends with a brief Epilogue and a few pages entitled “Wellmaking Clinic” where you’ll find information on how to alleviate some of your concerns and anxieties.

Lots Of Great Information

In all, there is a lot of really good information and ideas here, Craftivism is definitely something to look into. Given the title of the book, however, I was rather hoping for more of a how-to manual not a how I did it story.

Reviewed for LnkToMi iRead in response to a complimentary copy of the book provided by the publisher in hopes of an honest review.
Profile Image for Erin.
Author 2 books4 followers
February 18, 2018
This is a lovely and inspiring book. I know not to judge a book by its cover but even as an object, it's nice to look at and have in your hands. It's pretty apt given its argument: that crafted objects can provide a nourishing, creative, and methodical path forward for addressing social justice issues.

I'm 100% on board! Corbett mentions some of the criticisms people have had of her work (it's too gentle, it's not direct enough...) but as she says, craft isn't going to work all the time for every issue. And when it does work, the impact can be staggering, as the book details.

The book is structured first to talk about Corbett's ideas about what craftivism is and the form hers takes and how it works. She then goes into examples of craftivism in action and offers tips and insights on things like shareability on social media and impact measurement. All valuable stuff, but I felt like these components could have been integrated more to avoid repetition. I think a few powerful examples which illustrated the points Corbett made would have been a more effective way to tell the story of her craftivism. It read long and at the start I was hungry for description and by the end I found myself skipping over paragraphs because I'd seen the idea addressed already.

I also felt like the book's use of quotes from those Corbett has worked with read a lot like testimonials. There were also copious references to things I could buy from the Craftivist Collective website. It's good to know that there is a website and it's good to hear from other voices about effectiveness but it's too much when it's so congratulatory. I kind of felt like I was being advertised to, which is a little disheartening given I already paid £12.99 for the book in the first place. Those points are really why I can't give this book 5 stars, even though I found it transformative and valuable.
Profile Image for Libby.
129 reviews15 followers
February 16, 2020
I would have loved to give this a higher rating, because I believe in craftivism and I like Sarah Corbett and her work. I think this is a good book for those who are starting out on a campaign and want to think of new, innovative ways to get going. However, like other reviews, I found after about page 175 things got quite repetitive. I think it was mostly the edit and tone that lowered the rating of this book and not the author's point on the power of craftivism. That said, and I'm really only re-emphasising one of her points I felt like needed saying more: It's important for people to understand that craftivism is just one tool in the shed of activism. Even when it isn't explicitly said, you can see that in all the references to various NGOs and the hours of work they put into a campaign. We have to give that credit, too.

Also, if there's ever a re-edit, I'd cut back the example letter to the MP - it is quite long (you want it to fit on an A4); and I'd add a campaign strategy template.

Finally, I don't have the book in front of me (loaned to a colleague!)** but there are a few points where I disagree - and I can totally understand why. Corbett's craftivism is unique and very focused; but honestly sometimes just getting people together to craft something and have the 'crafterthoughts' is useful. You can encourage a political link to it - it's a gift to the target - but I also think there's something valuable in just a crafting session for oneself. She isn't in opposition to this but I guess I'm just saying I'm a bit more flexible on the concept. Furthermore, she was specific on who should get involved in the crafting, and that was usually someone who had links to being influential to the targets; include the stakeholders in developing it, but you want to focus on those middle people. I don't really agree with this. I think involving stakeholders/beneficiaries (whatever you want to call them) should be from start to finish. I love the idea of green hearts crafted for foreign leaders by those on the frontline of climate change - and not just the middle class WI Brits in an environment minister's constituency - and think it really can have some power behind it.
**I'm going to double check the exact line when I'm back to ensure I've got this right, so please don't challenge too much in the comments!

Best of luck to Sarah though, I really think that beginners will get a lot out of this, and I wish her all the best for her campaigning. We need more Sarah Corbetts out there fighting the good fight. Crafting the good craft...?
August 22, 2022
Did not finish book. Stopped at 35%.

I wanted to like this book so badly. I'm a knitter and crocheted! I'm an activist and even worked for a while in community organizing! I opened up the book ready to be inspired and energized ... and I was slowly and inexorably disillusioned. 

From her subtle and not so subtle implications that there are right and wrong ways to protest (and that protests which are too loud, too angry, or involve property destruction are decidedly wrong), to her belief that if we just talk nicely enough to those in power, all the way through to her admonishment that we should "quietly get on with the work of justice on behalf of others."...

It became very clear to me that Sarah Corbett's activism is not the activism of the oppressed, and is instead fraught with a white savior-ism where one works on behalf of others, not in support of others, and where if it takes all the time in the world to get there, at least we'll get there eventually.

There are some not-awful nuggets of craft as activism ideas sprinkled within her bad praxis and self-promotion. But those nuggets of idea weren't worth the time I spent having to calm myself so I could keep reading. 
Profile Image for Lou T. Cosner.
95 reviews3 followers
January 29, 2022
Ci sono spunti molto interessanti per chiunque faccia o voglia fare attivismo: come rimettere al centro la gentilezza, la consapevolezza che dall'altro lato c'è una persona anche se sta contribuendo a un'ingiustizia o un'oppressione. In alcuni momenti sembra voglia stabilire una gerarchia tra i tipi di attivismo: quello proposto dal libro è migliore di quello "solito". E su alcune cose può essere più efficace, ma la gerarchizzazione proprio non dovrebbe trovare posto in un libro di questo tipo.
D'altra parte credo sia vero che spesso l'attivismo e l'advocacy aggressive (che io stesso pratico e ho praticato) siano controproducenti.
Quindi molte cose su cui riflettere nell'approccio al "come cambiamo il mondo?".
Tuttavia, in tutto questo predicare gentilezza, mi sembra che il libro e il metodo siano gentili con tutti, tranne che con chi il craftivismo lo dovrebbe praticare: devi fare così, comportati così, quando incontri le persone sorridi, usa questo atteggiamento, questa postura, questa espressione facciale... è davvero una forma sostenibile di attivismo come viene detto?
Profile Image for Freya Stewart.
49 reviews28 followers
July 2, 2018
A great book for everyone craftivist or not. I love the idea of a gentle protest, a more peaceful protest that encourages conversation about the problem. Sometimes I feel that protests can seem quite childlike in their response, 'i don't agree with you so I'm not gonna talk to you, I'm just going to sit here or I'm going to shout about it and throw a tantrum. Whereas Sarah talks about a more mature response to start a calm conversation with those who have the power to make changes. My favourite quote that Sarah uses would be "always talk to those you disagree with" because only by understanding the other side of the argument and understanding why they hold those beliefs can we change them.
Profile Image for Abbigail.
480 reviews
August 9, 2022
I thought this book included some interesting examples of how craftivism has played out in real situations. That said, I didn't think it was written super well; it felt very tedious and long-winded in some sections to the point that I had to skip over a bunch of pages.

This book really made me think, which I appreciated, and hence the 3 stars instead of 2. There was just some things about the author's philosophy that I disagreed with (like basically sucking up to politicians or a corporation's board members), but most of my complaints have to do with how tedious the book was which made some parts a slog.
Profile Image for Allison.
322 reviews4 followers
August 19, 2018
This book discusses how the slow process of making things by hand can cause one to be more intentional and empathetic in social messaging. The reverent tone is somewhat similar to Marie Kondo's "Life-Changing Magic". I would give it 5 stars, except that much of the content (examples from particular craftivist campaigns) will soon feel dated. I would eagerly read a bigger-picture book that linked John Ruskin, William Morris, et al. to the contemporary craftivist movement.
Profile Image for Stephanie Harvey.
306 reviews3 followers
March 3, 2019
I found this author to be a bit distracted with so many different causes, it's sometimes felt like she had a passion for disruption rather than a passion for solving a problem. However, overall, this book was really fantastic and made me think a lot about my life and my art and what direction I can start going in to persuade other people to see some of the Injustice has that are going on in the world, but also make changes to abolish these practices. Wake up!
629 reviews1 follower
December 22, 2019
A good book about the emerging act of craftivism, written with honesty and practicality. Some of it was definitely ‘manual-like’, giving advice and instructions as to how to go about a campaign but it was quite an interesting read. I would have liked some more stories and examples but I don’t think that’s the aim - the idea here is to inspire and guide others into craftism rather that simply share stories of previous campaigns. Interesting though.
Profile Image for Robin.
655 reviews
December 24, 2019
I read about Sarah Corbett's work in one of my British magazines. A former organizer and life-long activist, during a time of near-burnout she considered combining crafts and activism in "the art of gentle protest." An introvert, Sarah applied her knowledge of effective activism with the slow and mindful movement of craft in intelligent and creative ways. Food for thought! You can read more about her work at https://craftivist-collective.com/our...
1 review
April 9, 2018
'If we want our world to be a more beautiful, kind and fair place, then shouldn't our activisim be more beautiful, kind and fair?'
Sarah Corbett

Sarah explains with practical insight and inspiring storytelling how we can do this.
This is one of those books I will never stop reading.
Profile Image for Jess Ness.
28 reviews1 follower
December 27, 2018
I really appreciated this book in that it introduced me to a new form of activism and I leaned a ton. However, I found the book repetitive and admittedly do not think I am the audience the author was aiming for as I’m not crafty at all.
29 reviews
November 6, 2019
Even though some of Corbett's views made me kinda uncomfortable, overall this is a really good, solution-focused book that I would recommend to anyone interested in changing the world in a way or another.
Profile Image for Sarah.
368 reviews
December 17, 2017
Found this a really peaceful, gentle read but it tended to be quite repetitive and go into too much detail. Would still recommend though!
Profile Image for Elizabeth Judd Taylor.
533 reviews4 followers
December 26, 2017
A gentle and informative book about craftivism, the Crafivist Collective, and the art of gentle protest. Highly recommend to all my crafting friends who want to make a difference.
Profile Image for Skis .
24 reviews
February 27, 2018
This book has definitely inspired me to do some craftivism of my own. I liked the gentle and balanced tone the book took, and it chimed with me and my views.
Profile Image for Chloe.
38 reviews2 followers
April 3, 2018
A wonderfully useful and inspiring book, kindly written and filled with encouragement.
Profile Image for Anne.
639 reviews7 followers
April 14, 2018
It would have helped if I had something towards which I could have used the information. Otherwise it was a great resource.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 34 reviews

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