I have been sitting in discomfort, searching for how to begin. Fear of making a mistake keeps me from acting, from speaking. Perhaps some of you reading this feel the same way. Are you a privileged white person, trying to figure out how best to speak up, how to be part of the solution? Are you getting a crash course in systemic racism and wondering what to do with all the emotion and information? We can give money to Black Lives Matter causes if we’re financially able. But something more is being asked from us right now.
White silence is complicit, white silence is oppression. If you are white and you have a social media following, you have a responsibility to use that influence to draw attention to Black voices. I don’t have much of a following (but huge gratitude to those who DO follow me) and I am certainly no influencer. Nonetheless, I want to use some of my space today to draw attention to two incredible Black women textile artists: Sarah Bond and Bisa Butler.
I’ve been following Philadelphian Sarah Bond on Instagram for a while, appreciating not only her beautiful quilts, but her frequent mention of herstory. A descendant of slaves, Bond is inspired by the quilts of her ForeMothers and by modern quilts, combining ideas from both into her bright geometric creations. I especially admire her scrappy diamonds.
Follow Sarah Bond on Instagram at @slbphilly Here is an image from her IG feed of one of those scrappy diamond quilts in delicious blues.
One of her recent projects is quilting together blocks created by young people at the Social Justice Sewing Academy (SJSA), an amazing organization that “empowers youth to use textile art as a vehicle for personal transformation and community cohesion and become agents of social change.” Their hands-on workshops are held across the United States. Check them out.
Fibre artist Bisa Butler’s vibrant portraiture needs no introduction to people in the textile arts scene, but until recently, I was oblivious to her work. Her bright Kool-Aid colours and realistic fabric portraits are legendary. As an art student at Howard University, Butler was influenced by Romare Bearden’s collage and the AfriCOBRA collective (one of the inspirations for the Black Arts Movement). As a young mother, she learned how to quilt and developed, through these combined influences, her unique fibre art style. Her work celebrates African American identity, history, and culture through intense fibre portraits. Sometimes she uses pieces of clothing from her family history in her work. This short film, Quilting for the Culture, will introduce you to the woman, her work, and her aesthetic:
on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bisa.butler
I’m in awe of the skill and talent of these two women. I aim to continue learning more about Black artists, especially Black women artists and Black textile artists.
As I prepare to return to work in two weeks, I’ve been cleaning up my creative space and reviewing the last six months of sewing. It’s been a productive time as the pandemic kept me close to home, close to my sewing machine. I find sewing brings joy and soothes grief—and I need that right now as our world is shaken by Covid-19, police brutality, and racism.
In January, I finished Four Seasons, a scrap quilt. After that, I sewed purses, potholders, and face masks galore and gave them all away. I also sewed my first garment, the “Courage Cape,” out of a $5 thrift store blanket. I made a couple of banners: “Thank You” to our health care workers, which hangs in our front window and “Black Lives Matter,” which hangs on our front door.
I finally completed Eight Worldly Winds, the first piece I’ve made that I dare to call “fibre art.” A series of eight triangular pennants arranged in a mandala feature a stag as protagonist and illustrate the eight worldly winds from Buddhist teachings. These consist of four opposing pairs of pleasures vs. discomforts: happiness/ suffering; praise/ blame; fame/ disrepute; and gain/ loss. Pema Chodron has a gift of making this teaching relevant to our lives:
“We try to hold on to fleeting pleasures and avoid discomfort in a world where everything is always changing. Our attachment to them is very strong, very visceral at either extreme. But at some point it might hit us that there’s more to liberation than trying to avoid discomfort, more to lasting happiness than pursuing temporary pleasures, temporary relief.”Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change, 54-55
I am offering Four Seasons (approximately 38″ X 45″ quilt) and Eight Worldly Winds (35″ circular wall hanging) for a suggested donation of $250 each. All money raised will be donated to Black Lives Matter Vancouver (and I’ll post the receipt for funds donated here on the blog). Free shipping (my donation) in North America. If you are interested, please send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
I loved seeing Bisa Butlers fabric portraits and hearing her teaching about making black art. What a work of art she herself is! I also love seeing some of your vibrant fiber art. So good! Great posting 👍🙏🕉☯️
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Thank-you, Arnie. Yes, Butler is amazing.