Lizzy Taylor first heard the term "craftivism" with the launch of the Pussyhat Project — the pink, cat-eared, handcrafted hats worn at women's rights marches in 2017. Learning about craftivism (a form of activism that uses textile-making, such as crocheting, knitting, embroidery, cross stitch and more) inspired the second-year Arts and Cultural Management student to work on her own creative project as part of AGAD 230: Independent Research.
Her cause? Help save endangered bees.
"The rusty-patched bumble bee was classified as endangered under Canada's Species at Risk Act in 2012 as its population declined severely in the 1990s due to a combination of habitat loss, pesticide use and climate change," she explains, adding that the species hasn't been seen in Canada since 2009, though it had once been a common sight throughout southern Ontario and Quebec.
Lizzy hopes her finished work will compel people to act. "I want to depict a species with a story of such dramatic decline that it shocks audiences to consider the environmental impacts of industrial farming and climate change, encouraging them to take action towards helping pollinators native to their own communities."
Title of work: "Craftivism and Irish Lace Crochet"
What is the research about?
Lizzy's work is a creative project that depicts the rusty-patched bumble bee through Irish lace crochet as a form of environmental activism. Using a crochet technique that she says is often derided as being "outdated and granny-ish," Lizzy wanted to respect the longstanding craftform and its female creators by using traditional motifs to depict the female worker bee.
"The female bee works to ensure the future of the colony and is an essential part of a healthy ecosystem through her role as a pollinator," Lizzy explains.
Her idea is for viewers to experience her work as an art piece that reminds them of the bees and the beauty of the flowers that result from their pollination before informing them about the state of the species.
What was the most surprising thing to learn?
"Academically, I was surprised to learn the importance of Irish lace crochet, as it was taught in convents to help provide a steady income to thousands during the Great Hunger," says Lizzy. "Personally, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed developing the final design and creating my own pattern."
Lizzy designed the wings herself in order to ensure the bees would be as anatomically correct as possible because the wings play a key role in insect identification. "I'd never experimented with creating patterns, so it pushed my skills in crochet and design past what I previously thought I was capable of."
Lizzy says she plans to post her work on social media in order to fulfil the activism part of her craftivism project.
"I want to establish myself as a textile artist, so this piece has been valuable in helping me understand the process that goes into crafting a coherent message as well as creating eye-catching designs," she says.
MacEwan University is celebrating student research with an ongoing series of stories that look at subjects our students were investigating throughout 2019/20. Many students who were planning to present at the 2020 Student Research Day have submitted their papers, posters and presentations to the university’s research repository, RO@M.
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