Ice House

At Pop Shop America, Crafting and Politics Make for a Potent Mix

Beyond the ubiquitous "pink pussy hats," craftivism is inspiring activists to get creative.

By Emily Juhasz April 14, 2017 Published in the May 2017 issue of Houstonia Magazine

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It was a balmy spring evening, and a diverse group of a dozen men and women gathered at the Pop Shop America workshop space on 19th Street in the Heights, surrounded by reams of paper, boxes of markers and sheets of stickers. Bent over their work, some made poster board signs; others wrote postcards, dropping the sticker-covered, hot pink results into a pink hatbox sitting at the end of one of two long tables.

It was the second event held by Craftivism Houston, the brainchild of Alexandra Drake, a children’s librarian, and Brittany Bly, Pop Shop’s founder. Both politically active and both crafty, the women embraced the idea of combining the two pursuits after the recent presidential election. “We wanted to evoke change within our society,” says Bly. “There is so much happening in our nation, and we felt that we couldn’t just sit by idly waiting for change to happen on its own.”

As craftivists, they are not alone. In fact, President Donald Trump’s election has been very good for the office-supply and crafting industries. The week before the Women’s March, sales of poster and foam board, markers, glue and adhesives all soared, while some shops reported running out of pink yarn. The signs of the march were instantly iconic; the knitted pink “pussy hats” the women wore, a surprisingly powerful showing of solidarity. Crafting and politics, the day proved for many, can be a potent mix. And as protests have proliferated in recent months, so has participants’ creativity.

The assembled group addressed their postcards to Texas’s U.S. Senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. “We the People,” read the front of one card; “Hear Our Voice,” another. One crafter, Shasie Turner, meticulously placed peel-and-stick letters onto a piece of black poster board—“People Over Money,” read the glittery silver sign—as she chatted with her tablemate, Jillian Goltzman, who was putting pen to postcard, detailing her concerns about threats to women’s rights.

“They’ve started to cut funding for programs I really care about,” Goltzman said, referring to proposed cuts in President Trump’s recent budget blueprint, including reduced funding for programs to prevent violence against women. She herself, Goltzman told us, is a domestic-abuse survivor.

By the end of the evening, the hatbox was overflowing with postcards. Bly and Drake said they felt encouraged by the healthy turnout, and that they planned to up the ante at future Craftivism Houston events, inviting speakers from groups such as Mi Familia Vota, the NAACP, the Houston chapter of the Dakota Pipeline Protest, and various women’s centers to discuss important issues that can be translated into crafting projects—whether it’s postcards, posters, hats, or possibly, one day, something larger.

In between discussions of prison reform and the power of breakfast tacos to transcend cultures, Drake collected the last stray postcards. “It takes a lot of bravery to put yourself into something you create and then to put it out there for people to see; it’s a big deal,” she said. “If you don’t take action because you’re afraid of criticism, then you don’t get anywhere and you’re silencing yourself before they silence you.”

To find out more about Craftivism Houston, visit their Facebook page.

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