Friday, August 13, 2010

What Craftivism Means to Me

The first time someone called me an activist I was shocked, almost insulted. Me? A crazy activist?

The accuser assured me, "Yes, You."

It took me a while to get over my preconceived ideas of what an activist was. There wasn't much hope in denying it though. I had become, without even realizing it, an activist.

Craftivism on the other hand was a word and a description I loved right from the start. My "activism" has always revolved around awareness. The concept of using craft and art to spread awareness really hit home with this crafty chick.

At the time I'd never heard the terms upcycle or freecycle. My friend Nani, who introduced me to craftivism, had to keep correcting me, "not recycling, upcycling." The idea wasn't new to me, just the word. If you came to my house you would find upcycled and freecycled items in every room. Even my car is freecycled!

I love using my craft to spread awareness about issues that matter to me. Sometimes I do this directly by making a piece that illustrates my cause, like the Pelican Messenger Tote for the Gulf or the Lyme Awareness Wallet. These items by design will spread awareness to anyone who sees them.

Other times the craftivism is more indirect with a portion of the proceeds from individual items going to charities I support.

Combining craftivism with upcycling and freecycling hits home with another of my causes, the environment. It's all about, Reduce Re-Use Recycle!

I also get to spread awareness about the causes I care about when I ask people to donate clothing and materials for my projects. I love posting on twitter asking for people to send me their pants. It is a great conversation starter:
Me, "I need your pants."
You, "What! Excuse me?"
Me, "Just the pants, you can keep what's in them to yourself."
I could just go down to Joann Fabric, buy everything I need, make things and sell them, but it just wouldn't be the same.

The reward is so much greater when I've connected with someone who sent me their pants or other materials. I get to turn their "trash" into treasure, spread awareness about the causes I care about, and help protect the environment all at the same time.

The items I make have been on journeys, they have stories to tell and jobs to do. They've been reinvented and given a second chance at life!

I am an activist and a proud craftivist. I firmly believe that by doing my part, even though I am just one person, I can make a difference.


  1. Oh Ashely, I love this post! It really makes so so happy to see you take off with the craftivist really defines what it is that I see myself doing as well. I love that it is something that anyone can do, even if you have very little resources. YOU ROCK girlie! =)

  2. As you know, I craft as well. Recently I have been inspired by your craftivism. When you are creating something that others can use to spread the word, it makes the project more meaningful. I wan't to send you some old garments, but I will an address to send them to. I would love to see what you do with the material. When you do, please post. It is solely up to you, but I would like to see my items to spread Lyme awareness (since I battle it everyday). And now there is a possiblity that my husband has it as well. Who knows who had it first. My next question is, do you only take jeans or other garments as well?

  3. Marti, Thank You!

    I do use other clothing items. I can use just about anything. I any kind of sturdy pant of dress is excellent for making the bags. The wallets are made of all kinds of non-strechy materials. Button shirts make super cute flap lining. I make kids pants out knits... I try to find a use for everything and anything.

    Of course your donation can go to the Lyme project! I post everything I make and I try to give a little bit of the history of its origins.

    The address is-

    Ashley van Tol
    PO Box 290
    Tahoe City, CA 96145


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...