Crafts and Activism Combine

Crafts and Activism Combine
Courtesy Photo Kelly and Donna Mulhollan stand next to their craftivism, which was created to help process their feelings about corporate agri-business’ animal confinement practices.

Courtesy Photo
Kelly and Donna Mulhollan stand next to their craftivism, which was created to help process their feelings about corporate agri-business’ animal confinement practices.

“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability,”

-Martin Luther King, Jr.

Change requires both an inner and outer dialogue. “Craftivism,” or activism through the art of crafts, fosters such dialogue—and craftivism is happening in Fayetteville.

Betsy Greer coined the word with her book, Craftivism (2014). Craftivism invites people to engage in conversation about the social and perhaps political intent of one’s arts-and-crafts creations. Greer says that craftivism differs from more traditional forms of activism and in-your-face protest actions, which can be polarizing.

Global and Local Craftivists

A ninety-year-old Australian man knitting tiny sweaters for penguins affected by an oil spill may have more impact on the hearts and minds of others than a mass demonstration protesting big oil. His little sweaters prevent penguins from swallowing deadly oil when they clean themselves.

One student in Professor Susan Moss’s craftivism class at Fort Lewis College in Colorado embroiders 7000 French knots and one heart on a gray background –the gray color represents the brain. Her craftivist creation commemorates not only her father who died of a brain cancer, but the 7000 people a year who die of the same disease in the United States. In stitching this embroidery, she contemplates her own father. In sharing the finished work, she raises people’s awareness about the disease.

Artist Weyam Ghadbian is a second generation Syrian former Fayettevillian living and working in California. Her hand-made book on Palestinian cross-stitch (Cross-stitch Intifada) highlights Palestinian embroidery as a form of crafitivism. Says Ghadbian, “In the case of Palestinian cross-stitch and embroidery, Palestinian women are acting as craftivists by preserving their cultural history in a context (Israeli settler colonialism) which seeks to erase it. By stitching centuries-old embroidery motifs with specific meanings and affiliations with their particular villages and locales, Palestinian women are re-inscribing their cultural memory. They are asserting their existence. We are here, stitch, we have been here, stitch, we cannot be erased, stitch.”

Craftivism Happening in Fayetteville

When Donna Sternja Mulhollan of the Fayetteville-based folk duo Still on the Hill learned about Greer’s coinage and movement of craftivism, she declared, “I’m a craftivist. I have been for years.”

Donna was inspired to mobilize craftivism on behalf of confined animals while reading the book, Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows. With her partner Kelly Mulhollan, Donna created a craftivism piece to process her feelings about corporate agri-business’ animal confinement practices.

She felt so moved that she decided to use the Omni annual celebration of Earth Day (see box) to produce a local event with an evocative look at the confinement of slaughterhouse animals. Donna says the event, called “Don’t Fence Me In,” will explore the impact of factory farming and Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) through music and craft. It will also celebrate local farmers who are raising animals humanely.


Courtesy Photo
Kelly and Donna Mulhollan also crafted a “crankie” to tell the story of Emily the Cow.

Emily the Cow

A two-year-old cow with uterine cancer stood in line to be slaughtered at a Massachusetts slaughterhouse back in 1995. When it was time for the cow to go through the gate, she panicked and jumped a 5-foot fence and escaped into the woods. The cow eluded capture for 40 days and nights during one of the coldest Novembers in history.

The nearby Quaker Peace Abby befriended the cow, named her “Emily,” and bought her from the slaughterhouse for $1.

Emily lived for another 9 years, and people came from all around the globe to meet her. When she died, they buried her beneath a life-size bronze statue of her, flanked by statues of Gandhi and Mother Theresa. Now Emily’s story comes to Fayetteville, carried by craftivism.

Interactive Tribute to Emily in Fayetteville

Moved by Emily’s story, Donna and Kelly designed an interactive shrine to Emily the Cow which they will feature at the “Don’t Fence Me In” event. Says Donna, “This performance sculpture will be a true example of craftivism.”

Beside the shrine will be a “crankie.” Donna describes this as an old Appalachian storytelling device. It is a large box with two dowels. The top dowel has a crank and the bottom dowel has fabric attached. On the fabric, the story is told.

The entire “Don’t Fence Me In” event is a craftivist extravaganza that includes art by the mysterious Madame Bovine, music and dance. It is sure to engage people in inner and outer conversations about what we can do to make a difference for this old blue planet.


A Farm Animal Fashion Show Extravganza

At TEATRO SCARPINO, 329 N. West Ave, Fayetteville

Earth Day Eve, Tuesday April 21 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. or later.


  • Locally Sourced ‘GREEN’ Music
  • *A No-Factory Farmed Feast
  • Runway Fashion Show (Yes, the rumor is true. Incredible fool-the-eye painted (human) bodies!)
  • *Art Exhibit- Entitled: “CONFINEMENT”
Categories: Music