Spun Stories

In this series, I hoped to pay homage to the historical entanglement of women and textiles while also exploring the rich diversity of this heritage. Although the three women depicted are all tightly connected to thread in the Greek myths from which they are drawn, they nonetheless have very different relationships to it. For Arachne, who was turned into a spider after besting Athena in a weaving competition, the incomplete laciness of her webs serves as a perpetual taunt and punishment for her hubris. Ariadne’s gift of yarn to her lover Theseus tethers him quite literally to both her and life when he enters the labyrinth to seek the Minotaur. Weaving allows Philomela to find justice and her voice after she is raped and mutilated by her brother-in-law; she communicates her story to her sister by creating a tapestry of it. Although bound together by a common theme, the women shown here are undeniably distinct entities.

The Ties That Bind

I’m not much one for personal photos. Maybe it’s some sort of snobbery, maybe it’s a fear of narcissism. Maybe it’s just a design sensibility. However, that doesn’t mean that I’m not terribly sentimental. These embroidery pieces are an attempt to hit a compromise between those two impulses. They’ve also afforded a wonderful opportunity to try out different stitches. Thus far, I’ve made hoops for my mom and my sister. My mom’s hoop is 8 in; at 6 in, my sister’s is a little smaller. Both are done on off-white muslin.  I’d like to make one for my dad as well, although his lack of hair has given me pause. Perhaps he’ll get an embellished mustache.

Esther de Berdt

Having the Fourth of July follow right on the heels of the Supreme Court’s two recent decisions regarding Planned Parenthood and Hobby Lobby caused some serious cognitive dissonance for me. While I’ve been a bit conflicted about Independence Day for a while – jingoism! but fireworks! but nationalism! but barbecues! – this year I felt for the first time like I might be at odds not only with the overly bombastic celebration of the holiday but also with the culture and country at which it was directed.

Which is, paradoxically perhaps, part of why I was so excited to answer Cool Chicks from History’s call to draw a woman from the American Revolution. Because Esther de Berdt, the woman I was assigned, really did believe in the ferocious hope that America somehow seemed to capture. A recent immigrant, de Berdt threw herself into the patriot’s cause; she founded the Ladies Association of Philadelphia, the largest women’s organization of the American Revolution. Together these women raised over $7,000, which they used to sew over 2,000 shirts for soldiers.