Quilts for political and social commentary: A follow up…

by kath_red on 30/01/2012

in Art+Design, Quilting

The feature post last week by quilt artist Chawne sure did raise a few issues and I would like to discuss a few of them here. First up though I want to say that I admire Chawne and her work and her artistic integrity, she is a wonderful skilled crafter and she creates from the heart. I featured her work on whipup for precisely those reasons and will continue to feature artists and makers whose work is real and raw, as well as the nice and practical and the thoughtful and artistic, just as I have done since whipup first launched over 6 years ago.

We have featured a variety of art/craft over the years – everything from crochet coral reefs to knitted poo, penises and boobs (yarn body parts warning), from knitted tank cosies to radical cross-stitch (language warning), from crafting politics to human hair as yarn, from knitted graffiti to public embroidery – if you are interested in exploring more check out our art+design category.

A few issues that were raised in the comments included those discussing the ‘quilt’ and its place in politics and art, many people were offended by the use of certain words but many others found the work to be as thought provoking as I did. Many quilters and crafters may not realise that quilting has a long and strong tradition of political and social activism, when I posted a series of Obama crafts a few years ago there was a strong reaction to politics raising its head in the craft world, so I want to reiterate that women throughout history have used craft as a way to have a voice in a male dominated world and I am sure that women will continue to claim their craft to voice their opinion or protest or to just speak their creativity.

You might like to read this thoughtful essay at the Quilt Index by Marybeth Stalp and titled In the Shadow of the Quilt: Political Messaging in Quilts

…those quilts that do not incite “fuzzy” and “comforting” feelings, but instead those that highlight and address publicly the social reality of inequality, racism, sexism, oppression, and the like.  I also examine quilts that communicate subversive, ironic, and sardonic messages. [Excerpt from essay]

A few folks were worried that their children might happen upon a few crass words online and as a parent myself I didn’t think twice about sharing those images with my kids and in fact it was the catalyst for a really interesting discussion about American history as well as the way language is used in our society.

Many readers were down on whipup for posting this and some even suggested that I remove the post as they found it ‘offensive’ and ‘disgusting’, and there were a few more ugly words thrown in there that I personally found way more upsetting and distasteful than the words that appeared on the quilts. Of course I won’t be removing the post, and I will continue to defend and showcase a wide variety of crafts here at whipup, just as it is your right not to read this website if you choose. However one point did emerge: it seems that many of you wanted a more defined language warning — that I will rectify for next time.

Thanks for reading

Be Sociable, Share!

{ 57 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Maryse January 30, 2012 at 8:09 am

Great response.


2 Marya January 30, 2012 at 8:14 am

I actually enjoyed the original article, even though I would never personally buy, make, or feature one of these quilts in my own home. But that’s what was interesting to me about the quilts… they push a boundary and use quilting arts in a way that I’d never expected. It was thought provoking, as is your response to your readers comments because it encourages a dialogue in lieu of a reaction (or as a response to a reaction). I’m glad you shared both. Thanks.


3 beth lehman January 30, 2012 at 8:15 am

I loved your response here. Perfect.


4 nestra January 30, 2012 at 8:20 am

I like looking at the confluence of message, craft, and art and am glad that you are including such works on your blog. I also think that your have given a reasonable response to what was probably some very heated comments.


5 Doug January 30, 2012 at 8:49 am

Art is never out of context and politics is probably the most pervasive of contexts. Thanks for a great reply!


6 Katie January 30, 2012 at 8:58 am

I think there are far worse things for our children to run across on the internet and in life, than a few subversive quilts. Perspective people, perspective!


7 Olisa January 30, 2012 at 9:00 am

Love this clear-headed response. Thank you for both the original post and this follow up. Words and language do not exist in a vacuum — the speaker/writer and viewer must be considered. Same thing for art and craft. Thank you for putting this in context.


8 cate January 30, 2012 at 9:07 am

Great response, and I found the language warning to be clear and obvious.


9 strikkelise January 30, 2012 at 9:25 am

Thank you for this response and for reassuring us that you will continue to offer postings with substance beyond entertainment and eye candy.

I still consider this site “family friendly”, whatever that is. In my definition, something that I feel I can share with my entire family, including my kids who are both in primary school.


10 Heather Grant January 30, 2012 at 9:36 am

I think the post was fantastic and the work in it amazing. It absolutely deserved to be covered. On a slightly snarky note, it amazes me that people can get upset about some foul words when there so many other things worth getting upset about like poverty, curable illness, hunger, pollution and so on.

Great post, keep doing what you’re doing.


11 Becky January 30, 2012 at 9:45 am

Good response. I loved the original post too.
I could tell from the title of the post what was about to come. How anyone didn’t figure that out is beyond me.


12 andrea January 30, 2012 at 9:46 am

a wonderful response. thank you for continuing to showcase such great work. i love that some readers have used the post as a catalyst to discuss some real issues with their children. that is the epitome of kid-friendly in my book.


13 Dani January 30, 2012 at 10:00 am

Great response. I personally am not a quilter, but I enjoy all types of crafts and the blogs that love and appreciate them. Knowing that WhipUp will continue to showcase such a time-honored skill in all of its aspects will keep me coming back.


14 maya January 30, 2012 at 10:03 am

I’m just catching up on last week’s post. Your response here is so powerful and thoughtful. I’m a long time admirer of Chawne’s hands, head and heart. She always knows how to begin a conversation, oh yes! I’m really grateful that you showcased her more provocative work and continue to stand strongly behind it. As the crafting revolution moves forward, I believe it needs to be viewed and recognized with the same reverence that ART does when it features political, cultural and personal expression. Chawne’s response post on her blog was articulate as ever and her self portrait was intensely gripping with that evocative description. I deeply respect her and her work.
Applause for Whip Up, Kathreen!


15 Barbara January 30, 2012 at 10:03 am

Many many thanks for the original article last week and today’s links to others of substance. They are all greatly appreciated by this 60 year old quilter.


16 Lori January 30, 2012 at 10:22 am

Excellent follow up post. I hope this whole uproar opens people to more conversation.


17 jafabrit January 30, 2012 at 10:22 am

“The only way to make sure people you agree with can speak is to support the rights of people you don’t agree with. ” Eleanor Holmes Norton

How can we learn about quilting if we are forced to confine ourselves to one aspect of it and ignore the rich history and the variety of people worldwide using this medium to express themselves. It’s a fascinating history :)


18 Laura J. January 30, 2012 at 11:15 am

I believe you should be allowed to run articles like that, but I found it to be offensive. I feel sometimes people use words for the shock value and I’m not interested in that. Please run a much larger warning next time about language and photographs. It seemed a waste of fabric to me.


19 Julie January 30, 2012 at 11:59 am

I am afraid, Kathreen that i am one of those who completely agrees with you. I admire Chawnes work. She is not only a good artisan but an activist. These are the things that create dialogue. And of course it did.
I applaud you for your response and for continuing to show activist crafts on your blog.


20 Ann Thompson January 30, 2012 at 12:22 pm

(I really like Stalp’s work and I think you’re response here is right on.) I think crafting is an inherently political activity. Because of its emeshed history of craft as gendered, I think the political aspect of craft is always being both revealed and hidden. It stirs people up when the curtain is pulled back! But we need that to happen.


21 Anita January 30, 2012 at 12:57 pm

I agree that this site should keep featuring artists of all sorts, great response!

I admit I drew away from my computer screen when I scrolled down to the “N” quilt and looked over my shoulder to see if my kids saw it. But that is the reaction the quilt is going for. Shock. Dismay. And a realization that that word is deeply wrong.

I, for one, am happy that there is a negative response. No one should be happy that that word exists.


22 melissa January 30, 2012 at 1:11 pm

This is a wonderful, balanced and courageous response. Well done.


23 Jen January 30, 2012 at 2:45 pm

I actually just gave you a standing ovation at my computer. Brava! Well said!


24 Katie January 30, 2012 at 2:56 pm

The other commenters said it better than I probably can…but in short, I’m very supportive of the content you post, curse words and all. Generating dialogue and even (!) controversy is one of art’s primary functions. People can disagree with something while still respecting the work and the maker…sorry that some readers couldn’t :(


25 Deanna January 30, 2012 at 3:20 pm

You have my appreciation and respect. I enjoy all aspects of Whip Up and appreciate your sharing of interesting and enlightening arts/crafts/thoughts. Thank you!


26 kimmiekat January 30, 2012 at 3:29 pm

I enjoyed your response and also Chawne’s post which reminded me to look up her blog again. Well said, both of you!


27 Carrie January 30, 2012 at 3:41 pm

I am so impressed with the original post, the follow-up post, you, and Chawne. Thank you for doing what you do!


28 Colleen January 31, 2012 at 8:29 am

hear hear!


29 Marie January 30, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Saying that I love your response doesn’t quite feel like enough. Thank you for standing up for what you believe, and not letting the negative comments or threats of not reading the blog in the future sway you.

Besides, you’ve at least received one new reader (myself), and hopefully many more! :)


30 Bean January 30, 2012 at 4:09 pm

Thank You!! <3


31 Seanna Lea January 30, 2012 at 4:59 pm

I read all of the comments on Chawne’s post from last week and was horrified at the vitriole I saw there from both supporters and denigraters. It is a hard thing to be an activist and by giving those people a bit of a voice here, you are making it much easier for their messages to reach us.


32 Jennifer Can Quilt January 30, 2012 at 6:59 pm

way to defend your content. not that you should have to. it is, after all, your website.


33 Jennifer Can Quilt January 30, 2012 at 7:29 pm

I found it frustrating that so many people felt the need to unfollow WhipUp as a result of not liking or being offended by the post (when they weren’t even offended by the post, but the work in question).


34 Jesse January 30, 2012 at 7:00 pm

I have been scouring the web for fun sewing and craft blogs that feel more “current” and less “sunbonnet sue”. I am not at all surprised at the craft world’s dismay at seeing what are very commonplace words in the real world, but it is refreshing to find a venue where it can be discussed and appreciated for its merits, instead of being swept under the rug. New reader!


35 susan January 30, 2012 at 7:04 pm

Agree with all wisdom above including feeling confronted by the work (but that’s the point). As to arguments about ‘family friendly’ craft sites. Don’t younger kids (with some genuine exceptions) do better outside turning up rocks, poking things with sticks and swinging their legs than glued to their mother’s (caregivers) blogroll? As my 7 and 18 year old put it “let us out of your crafty prison” :).


36 Alia January 30, 2012 at 7:40 pm

Forget the “naughty bits,” how about the naughty English?

“Penis’s” as used as a link in your post is not a plural. It’s a mal-formed possessive and “just plain wrong,” to summarize Bob the Angry Flower’s all-too-true rant about the inexplicable urge some feel to use apostrophes in the strangest places. (http://www.angryflower.com/bobsqu.gif for Bob’s rant.)

What you were aiming for was “penises.” No English word, no matter how “scandalous,” is pluralized by adding an apostrophe or an apostrophe-S to the end.

As for the the other stuff? Grow up, people; you’ll see naughtier words (and worse grammar) on the wall of any public toilet.


37 kath_red January 30, 2012 at 8:00 pm

thanks – have fixed it


38 Dan Rouse January 31, 2012 at 12:08 am

Well said. And hurray for Chawne!


39 Kristin L January 31, 2012 at 1:00 am

Well said Kathreen. As a long time reader of Whip-Up, I had actually been missing some of the more fringe art and craft I used to see here. Also, as an artist I can say that I love expressing often uncomfortable subjects in the comforting media of quilts — the juxtaposition and irony strengthens the message and reinforces any feminine and/or feminist aspects.


40 Laurel January 31, 2012 at 1:49 am

I almost never post comments, but I just wanted to say that I loved the post and am glad you’re not taking it down. Well written, well argued response. Keep up the good work.


41 Canvas & Canvas Art January 31, 2012 at 4:31 am

Definitely very though provoking.. Great insightful post. Very interesting to read about the political and social backdrops to quilt making.


42 ERGANIweaving January 31, 2012 at 7:38 am

Thank you for the response. Crafting is always a way to express, not only to make something useful. Keep going on…


43 Heather January 31, 2012 at 8:23 am

Great response to a fantastic original post. Being made uncomfortable by something you read or see on line will hopefully make you empathetic to people who have to deal with it in their lives. I hate that I still hear slurs fly easily out of the mouths of children I teach, and they didn’t learn them from a quilt. Thanks for publishing the post, keeping the post, and continuing to make people think.


44 Jessica January 31, 2012 at 3:31 pm

Been a silent follower for a long time now, but thought I’d finally speak up here and send my support for your decision to include the subversive, the political, the controversial, the good, the bad, the ugly, whatever we want to call it. I remain a faithful, if silent, follower (-:


45 Lola Nova January 31, 2012 at 5:58 pm

Wow! Just catching up over here and I am fascinated by the whole business; the original post and artist, but even more so the comments that follow both of your posts on this. I admire the way you handled yourself and the openness of the artist. Thanks for the perspective!


46 Helen January 31, 2012 at 7:34 pm

Good for you Kathreen – we need a little controversy in our lives.

Hatred and bigotry certainly are family issues. Thankfully, words like these are shocking and offensive, but that does not mean we should avoid them at all costs.


47 Wendi January 31, 2012 at 9:00 pm

Good for you, defending art, everyone’s right to make it and the first amendment! Thank you!


48 deb January 31, 2012 at 9:17 pm

good for you – stick to your guns. art/craft doesn’t have to be polite “women’s” work. I am more offended by the narrow mindedness of some of the comments than any cussing on a quilt


49 Carol U. January 31, 2012 at 10:41 pm

Hopefully for every deserter, you get two more followers! I came to WhipUp via Chawne’s blog and I’m going to stay.


50 Krista - Poppyprint February 1, 2012 at 3:28 am

That goes for me, too.


51 Miti February 1, 2012 at 8:31 am

I too quietly read whipup and admire the work that goes into showcasing so many ways of crafting by so many people world over. Was disappointed to see ppl say ‘check me out’ from whipup just because Chawne’s work being showcased here. Racism is a bigger problem than foul language – racism exists at many levels and between many kinds of people. One person’s effort to confront such an issue should be applauded and not be censored. WTG Kathreen! More followers to whipup!


52 Stephinie February 1, 2012 at 10:26 am

well said!


53 katrina February 1, 2012 at 11:47 am

i started following whipup *because* of this post.
it is completely appropriate, important, and the epitome of creative expression.

thank you.


54 Dana Nichols February 1, 2012 at 12:10 pm

I respect your right to post what you please, and I appreciate your response. What I don’t understand- and never have understood- is the need for an artist to shock an audience with their extreme images/language. To me art is beauty and there is no beauty in her work for me. I just don’t get it. But I have a right to my opinion, just as you do. Carry on.


55 jafabrit February 13, 2012 at 11:14 am

Our creativity should never be bound by the ideals of others. If that were the case we would NEVER create anything because everyone has a different idea of what is art, what is beauty,what is perfection, etc.
Sometimes artists are not trying to shock anyone, but art is subjective, just like beauty, and some take umbrage when none was intended. On the other hand, what is wrong with shock art? I talk about that in response to questions of Chawne’s work.http://jafabrit.blogspot.com/2012/01/playing-with-my-dolls.html


56 Jill February 1, 2012 at 12:41 pm

This is a wonderful and thoughtful response. Art should not have rules. Any rules placed on art in history have been broken and done away with. Art is expression and words are an avenue. I think the lack of acceptance is much more hurtful than an article about one person’s expressions.

I stand by you, Whipup and Chawne, as we all have the right to make beautiful and thought provoking art.


57 Wendi February 1, 2012 at 4:13 pm

I would just like to add that I find it strange that the people most upset by this are also claiming it to not be art. That is exactly the definition of art. I feel confused by their idea that only things that do NOT provoke any sort of emotional response is art.

I cry and my heart breaks a little every time I choose to view Chawne’s “N” word quilt but this is why I LOVE it. It tugs at my soul, it makes me human. Of course it makes me sad and irate to know that a fellow artist, friend, and anyone for that matter, must deal with this in their lives BUT I am incredibly grateful that there are outlets in which to do so. I am grateful to be included in that. I am incredibly grateful that she’s shares her pain with me in order to make us both better people.
I am grateful for art that makes me feel like a human being.

art 1 |ärt|
1 the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: