Cat Mazza's craftivism

By Melissa Mansfield

Cat Mazza smallThe week of election day, every US Senator will be receiving a hand-knitted helmet liner.

Why? Because a group of 33 knitters from 20 states have been making the liners to use as protest message against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Why? Because of Troy's Cat Mazza.

Mazza is a technologically savvy knitter with a social conscience. She's been lauded in international magazines for her work as a "craftivist."

Mazza says she simply combined her love of crafts with her passionate activism, to create projects that make people think.

The helmet line project is the most recent example. "I had a lot of frustration with this administration, both of my senators voted for force, part of that was in this project," Mazza said. "I wondered about what other people in other states felt."

So she used her blog to reach out to the greater knitting community. "I wanted to getting knit hobbyists involved, using the craft circle for political organizing."

The 30-year-old Mazza's been mixing technology with crafting for a long time. As a grad student at RPI, she created an application called knitPro that lets people turn any image into a pixilated chart perfect for use as a knitting pattern. She's used the program to recreate company logos, particularly GAP and Nike, to call attention to their use of sweatshop labor.

Since then, other people have used KnitPro for their own craftivism. A design called "I Love My Public Library" was uploaded as a response to allegations that Sarah Palin had attempted to ban books when she was mayor of Wasilla, Alaska. Other uploaded images have paid tribute to Martin Luther King Jr and suffragist Lucretia Mott.

Mazza says she's been amazed at the depth of subject matter. "When you can upload any digital image, the diversity is amazing. Pornography, children's stories, sports teams.""

The Stitches for Senate helmet liners will be mailed from Florida, where they are currently on display, two weeks from now. Meanwhile, Mazza's working on a video project about the history of wartime knitting America called Knit for Defense.

photo: Cat Mazza

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