Craftivism in Action


By Andrea O’Ferrall

I had never heard of Craftivism until my friend Bridgid told me she was intrigued with the concept and wanted to try it here in Seattle.

Craftivism is a form of activism incorporating elements of anti-capitalism, environmentalism, and solidarity, that is centered on practices of craft. Practitioners are known as craftivists.

As Bridgid explained it to me, it is, as its name suggests, a combination of craft and activism. The example she gave me was of a woman in Britain who wanted to have a better relationship with her local MP, so she knitted him a scarf with a caring message and included a thoughtful hand written letter. The intent was to heal a slightly adversarial relationship. It worked. Bridgid texted me the link to the group Craftivists Collective when I asked for more information. She referred to a Craftivist book by British poet Sara Corbett.

In our case, we are trying to connect with the port of Seattle commissioners on the topic of economic expansion and sustainability, particularly as it pertains to cruises from Seattle to Alaska.

Bridgid created collages that visually represented the provocative questions we have used as a guide for our actions.

One is a group of youth climbing a mountain with the earth as a background — What are the children of the future asking us to do?

Another is the earth floating above a desert — What does the Earth require of us if we want to keep living on it ?— Wendell Berry

The third is a heart surrounding an elderly and young child’s faces asking — What kind of ancestor do you want to be?

And the last is various ocean photos with the question — What legacy do you want to leave?

On the back of each card is the directions:

Sow this seed for the Earth in your heart. Nurture the deep meaning of this question daily. Watch how it sprouts and grows in the dark stillness and love in your heart. Follow its wisdom. The children of the future will thank you.

Bridgid lovingly wrapped the sets of cards and attached a flower. Members of our group each wrote a letter to one of the five port commissioners. My letter was to commissioner Felleman.

The night before the meeting I wrote the letter out by hand.

Then I took ideas from the letter and wrote what I was going to say as public comment. This is what I shared at the port meeting:

I’m speaking to you because I believe that you — and all of us resident humans — have a deep responsibility to the health of the Salish Sea.

When I read statements by Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations, such as the following, and I quote “Heatwaves are hitting the northern hemisphere, but the reality is that no nation is immune to the climate crisis. Half of humanity is in the danger zone from wildfires, floods, droughts and extreme storms. We can still avoid the worst– with urgent and ambitious Climate Action.” (end quote)

When reading this I think that climate action includes changing the way we think and the way we act. We have to stop doing things that cause harm. We need to stop using fossil fuels.

So often the word sustainable is floated around. Mega cruise ships are not a part of a sustainable ecosystem. We need to stop promoting them. We need to stop allowing them in the Salish Sea.

I question how a livable future is possible if we’re already seeing record temperatures, breakdown of systems and scientists are admonishing us to change course.

I wonder what kind of future people imagine with the ‘continue to support the economy’ argument. Climate disasters are costing the economy billions. And how can we put a dollar amount on the lives lost? According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “Wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes and a winter storm and cold wave were among 20 weather and climate disasters in the US last year that cost $1 billion or more, totaling $145 billion and killing 688 people in 2021.

We are in the Anthropocene. Us humans must take responsibility of our actions and show how truly smart and capable we are.

All around us is life. We have harmed it. We can save it. You are in a position of power so what you think and how you act, matters a lot. We need to see the forest for the trees looking at the big picture of protecting life on earth. Mega cruise ships are not part of that livable future. We need a cruise free Salish Sea.

When we had entered the meeting room, one of the port commissioners Toshiko Hasegawa, had come over to greet all the people giving public comment with a smile and a handshake. I told her that I had really appreciated her comments at a previous port meeting after the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. She had spoken with such passion it had impressed me. After I had finished giving my public comment, she made eye contact with me and mouthed “thank you.”

As we were leaving the meeting Commissioner Felleman asked if I had been the one to write the letter to him, since it was similar to my comments. It was good to know he had already read it. I said yes and he thanked me personally.

Who knows if this will make any difference, but when I hear people saying, “There’s nothing we can do,” I say, “of course there’s something we can do!” There are many things we can try. When one doesn’t work, then we try again or try another.

We weren’t the only ones to speak to the commissioners at this meeting. There was a pair of young Somali women airport workers that spoke movingly about the difficulty of not being able to afford health insurance with the wage they were earning. They spoke of other airports in US cities that were providing insurance for all the workers there.

Outside the port building, I went to one of the women to compliment her on the lovely and heartbreaking speech she had given. She thanked us for our words supporting nature and life on Earth. We are in this together, supporting each other to make life better for the many, not just the few.

In Europe, climate change is making river cruise decisions for them.

Our craftivist efforts aren’t so much focused on saying no to cruises as to helping people in power, come to terms with their humanity, their compassion, their connection, to make morally sound decisions.


August 2022

Below is Bridgid’s letter:

Dear Commissioner Calkins

My name is Bridgid and I live in Seattle on the shores of the Salish sea. I’m writing this letter to you because as a commissioner for the Port of Seattle I believe that you — and all of us resident humans — have a deep responsibility to the health of the Salish Sea and the coastal waters of the Pacific Northwest.

I’m passionate about the beauty and fragility of this unique marine environment, and know, as I believe as a thoughtful leader you do too, that the Salish Sea cannot stay healthy if mega-cruise ships plow its waters.

I write to you as an Earth Being. We humans in our essence are Earth Beings and have no independent existence apart from the other Earth Beings — the plants, the fungi, the animals, and insects — the air, water and soil, and the living Earth itself. The other Earth Beings can survive without us, but we cannot survive without them. And this includes the marine phytoplankton that provide 50% — 80% of the oxygen we need to breathe. Ocean pollution, warming and acidification threaten their survival. And thus our survival is threatened too.

As an Earth being, I have joined with others to bring gifts of seeds to communities across Seattle. Dressed in blue and green like the Earth, we have been going to farmers markets and other public events since the spring equinox to gift people with two kinds of seeds. One kind are Northwest wildflower seeds to support the insects, pollinators and birds of our city. The other kind we call Seeds for the Heart. These seeds are profound questions that we invite people to reflect on every day. We ask them to notice what sprouts and grows in their heart and then follow its wisdom. What we hope grows is their own unique way to speak up for the Earth. The Earth has no voice. The Salish Sea and the creatures who live there have no voice. We are their voice. The people we have gifted these seeds to have been visibly moved and grateful for the invitation.

I have spent many hours of my time creating collage images to deepen the power of these questions. I hope you will ponder the images and questions on the cards that accompany this letter with an open mind and heart. I invite you to choose one to plant in your heart and reflect on daily.

I know your job as port commissioner is difficult and you are trying to juggle many different demands. However the reality is that we are in a time of exponentially increasing global warming and rapid melting of sea ice. When the oceans get too warm and the acid levels get too high the phytoplankton, and therefore the other Earth Beings that depend on them for oxygen or food, will start dying.

Please know that I’m here to support you in making courageous and tough decisions on behalf of all Earth beings and the oceans and Earth itself — decisions that would make good on your 2017 campaign commitment to prioritize the fight against climate change. Your children and their children, and their children’s children will thank you.

I look forward to your response and would welcome meeting you in person to explore our mutual responsibilities as Earth Beings to a survivable future.

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