More Re-words Abstract

This abstract and paper  was presented at Making Futures 2 at Dartington Hall in September 2011.

The series of Making Futures Conferences is organised by Plymouth College of Art.

responses, redefinitions and repositionings;

more re-words;


The ‘craft revolution’, commonly  known as ‘craftivism,’ initially seems to be a contradiction in terms.

This paper will examine the incongruity between the (relatively) new found popularity of textile craft processes (make do and mend, ‘stitch and bitch’, yarn-bombing etc.) and the use made of web-based social networking sites resulting in a powerful movement which promotes  anti-capitalist, anti-war and environmental and sustainability messages.  At a time of economic unrest and uncertainty new paradigms are needed and answers to the question of how the role of artists and practitioners can be redefined for the 21st century.


I am currently researching, by means of a practice based Phd, the ways in which textile art and processes can contribute to an ethical dialogue between art, materials and social and cultural change. I often invite my audience to contribute to the work and engage in the making process.

‘Come knit with me’ involves my ‘knitting chair’ and yards and yards of yarn made from crisp bags; participants knit or unpick which emphasises the fact that this material never goes away. As performance knitting is both an accessible activity and a tacit display of agency.


my work is about resources, I re-examine, re-evaluate and reconfigure materials usually taken for granted. I make yarn from snack wrappers, paper coffee cups, single use builders bags. I create objects, interventions and installations, often inviting the viewer to participate in the work, thus questioning attitudes towards value, ownership and the making process.  The gallery, when used, becomes a site of engagement and participation.


the low-tech textile craft methods I employ leave space and time for reflection;  by hand,  cutting, stitching, knitting; reflection on why materials are still being made that do not degrade and cannot be recycled. In a consumer driven culture that expects us to be busy and productive, the act of making ‘just for the love of it’ becomes a political act, subverting notions of ‘exchange value’ necessary to sustain a capitalist system.


this paper will discuss the meaning of making in the 21st century where we do not need to make, the disillusionment felt with our ‘commodified’ culture, the importance of making in everyday life and how new technologies are taking the making and distribution of creative work out of the hands of solely professionals. The social meaning of creativity from DIY and knitting to YouTube and Web 2.0 is discussed in David Gauntlett’s book ‘Making is Connecting’.


in his 2008 book Remix, Lawrence Lessig describes a remix culture as one where the public is free to add, change, influence and interact with their culture, thus making it richer and more inclusive. It is much easier for people to access and become involved with various participatory craftivism initiatives through digital media/networks.


finally this paper will seek new ways of defining the positive changes which are becoming apparent,  searching for a new form of ‘ eco-philosophy’, with creativity at its heart, which can sustain us for the future.

Alison Harper 2011