Art and craft can enhance life in so many ways and all the time I’m discovering new possibilities. Focusing as I do on how they can improve wellbeing – personal change – I’m also seeking ways they can fuel and fire wider change, as through craftivism, creative activism, using art and craft to challenge. I’ve recently started hearing about dementia craftivism, mainly through the #dementiacraftivists tag on Twitter, and this has opened up another area, and one which interweaves personal and wider change.
What stands out about craftivism as a whole is its ability to empower. Helplessness, powerlessness in the face of global, national or personal issues can be deeply depressing, sapping energy and hope. People become passive. Apathy grows. This can be true with all kinds of issues such as illness, or inequality, or climate emergency and species loss and pollution. Activism refuses to be silenced, to be passive. It says no, change is possible, and even where change is unlikely, we still need to be heard.
As a unique form of activism, craftivism takes creativity and uses its many possibilities to share, to react, to connect or to fight. It’s empowering because it is expressive and productive.
Dementia craftivism has its own focus. As people who have dementia experiment with creativity, they experience art and craft’s power to absorb, to calm and to express. And they use this creativity to connect with others – to encourage and enable other people who also have dementia to take part themselves, and to share their experiences of dementia with people who do not have dementia. Either way, this can be liberating, restoring confidence, purpose and motivation and creating support.
Creativity can also reinforce identity, which could be fundamental for people living with illnesses like dementia which can impact cognition and personality. Creativity is also very flexible and varied: when there are over a hundred different forms of dementia, this too is empowering in enabling people to create in diverse ways as their own illness allows.
Dementia has become far more common than it once was, and improved awareness and empathy have made great strides. But stigma still hovers in the background. Dementia craftivism can help shine a light on the real experience of living with dementia, dispelling more of the shadows.
The other day I discovered Dementia Creatives, an initiative “supported and hosted by Innovations in Dementia” and funded by the National Lottery Communities Fund. On their website (https://www.dementiacreatives.org.uk) you can see gallery pages showcasing dementia creatives’ work – in painting, papercraft, textiles and wearables, woodwork, clay and modelling, poetry, performance…Such diversity. The Painting Gallery itself is so varied, ranging from self-portraits to abstracts to cartoons to painted glass plant holders, all using different art media. There are also audio and video features to share and encourage, and opportunities to get involved.
All craftivism is inspiring or thought-provoking or driven in some way. Dementia craftivism is all that and more. Over time, it could help drive change as it lessens stigma and informs relationships and debate. It can also change specific personal experience as it enables people to contribute. And it all starts with a paintbrush or a needle.
It would be great if you would like to share any thoughts or experiences of craftivism, or dementia craftivism, or dementia and art, in Medley’s Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/359291215486002 Thank you.