Making Matters Review

Erika Gifford, The University of Findlay

Gruwell’s Case Studies

After showing how craft is necessarily political, Gruwell applies this framework in Chapters Three through Five to instances of rhetoric through the lens of craft. Chapter Three “Craftivism and the material specificity of rhetorical action” continues to strengthen the bond between craft and New Materialist Rhetoric (MNR) by looking at craftivism which argues that: “craft objects are rhetorical, and as such, they respond to and reshape the world around them.” (p. 71). This reshaping of the world around craft objects leads to craft’s potency for political action as highlighted in the cultural phenomena of yarn bombing or knit graffiti, the art of crocheting yarn around a tree in order to bring the domestic out into the open.

Gruwell uses this case study to look at how traditionally white craftivists (crafting activists) appropriated words traditionally associated with graffiti which simultaneously legitimizes themselves as yarn bombing was a very popular protest, while at the same time undermining their own agenda by relying on appropriated terms that perpetuate discrimination and exclude others. Gruwell argues that craftivism will continue in this cycle unless it can examine the privilege it has as a predominantly white, feminist practice. More broadly tying this back to assemblages and citation ethics, craftivist need to face up to their unethical citation practices that don’t acknowledge the influence of material assemblages around their craft.

Chapter Four, “Manifesting material relationships online through Ravelry” helps situate material influences on the digital by looking at the online crochet/knit pattern and project sharing cite: Ravelry. On Ravelry, users can look up projects that other people have made, look at yarn suggestions, and document their own works in process. Nearly everything refers to a material existence, even the needle sizes listed on a pattern refer to a needle that physically exists, even the pattern itself refers to a material object that has been made with it. Gruwell uses this clear connection to the material show how Ravely makes the materiality of rhetoric visible in a digital space. She uses this case to show: “online activity and “real life” experiences are not mutually exclusive; they complement and enrich one another” (p. 93). Gruwell says that Ravely does a good job of highlighting the material intra-actions in an online space, and should serve as an example of ethical and political rhetoric necessary for NMR.

The last example she gave of the connection between rhetoric and craft was in Chapter Five “The women’s march, digital-material assemblages, and embodies difference” when she addressed the pussy hat pattern made for the 2017 women’s march. This example allowed Gruwell to highlight the political nature of the craft as a response to Trump’s “grab ‘em by the pussy” comments. Women used the feminine nature of craft to embrace their own femininity while reclaiming the word “pussy.” Once again, materials intra-acted together as an individual downloaded a pattern, worked with their own yarn, and placed the hat within a rhetorical community by wearing it with other women in a larger political movement. Gruwell helpfully points out how by combining NMR and craft theory, it allows her to pick apart the material intra-actions of the pussy hats in order to see their political and rhetorical influence. She concluded that they left something to be desired because the pink pussy hats reinforced a white woman’s suffrage based in traditionally white craft and coloring, and did not address the fact that not all women have pussies.