Interview with Shannon Downey (@badasscrossstitch)!

For a long time now, I’ve been wanting to interview people about their craftivism projects. Because I couldn’t fit everyone into my book and there are so many great projects out there to share!

Therefore, here’s an interview with Shannon Downey (@badasscrossstitch) about her current craftivism project!

Shannon’s accepting pieces until August 15th. Find out how to participate here!


1. How do you define craftivism and what does it mean for you?

I suppose my technical definition of craftivism would be something to the effect of: the subversive use of craft to activate conversation and awareness around a topic of social or environmental injustice. My less technical definition might be: using whatever crafty talents you have to shake shit up, call out injustice, inspire thought + hopefully cause some serious discomfort.
2. You started stitching guns and then turned it into a community project, what make you open up the project to a larger audience?

True. I live in Chicago and gun violence plagues this city. When I first started stitching the guns I did it as a form of personal therapy. I was trying to process the complacency that seems to exist among large swaths of our community and public officials. I was just trying to give myself time and space to really think about it. Allow myself to feel it versus think of it as something happening around me.

The pieces started to lead to some incredible conversations. Folks really responded to the dissonance between embroidery and the image of a gun. Everyone is dealing with the collective trauma of gun violence. That is when I decided to turn it into an open project and encourage others to join me.

That said, I’m all about action. I am tired of prayers and thoughts and art and thinking without action. That is when I decided that this project needed to have action behind it. The pieces that are being created and sent to me from all over the world will be displayed but they will also be sold, with every penny going to support Project FIRE. These guns can become a symbol but also a tool to support young people injured by gun violence with their recovery.

Project FIRE (Fearless Initiative for Recovery and Empowerment) is an artist development employment program that offers healing through glass blowing to youth injured by gun violence in Chicago. Project FIRE* combines glass arts education, mentoring and trauma psycho-education in order to support trauma recovery and create employment opportunities for young people who have been shot or witnessed the homicide of a loved one.

* You can follow them on Instagram here.

3. Why guns? 

Guns are the tools that are currently being used to release the hate and rage and anger and sadness and fear and frustration that is growing in our world. They are both the object and the symbol.

4. How have your efforts been to share word of the project? What has been your most effective strategy?

Pretty solid. Instagram and my blog have been the most successful thus far. The thing that makes me the happiest though are the folks who are getting together groups of stitchers to eat, drink, stitch guns and discuss gun violence. I’m also loving the artists reaching out asking if they can participate through a medium other than embroidery or even fiber. To that I say, Hellz yes! If you are inspired to participate I want you involved!

5. Why did you choose cross stitch as your medium for craftivism? Have you tried any other medium for craftivism? And if so, was it as effective?

It’s not necessarily limited to cross stitch. I actually started with embroidery and blackwork and then moved on to cross stitch because I wanted to slow the process down more. We all know how painfully slow cross stitch can be. I wanted it to move slower and really create some space to think. I released the cross stitch pattern on my blog for anyone to download and use because cross stitch is so accessible. I am excited that fiber artists and non fiber artists are getting involved. I want everyone to participate however they feel comfortable and inspired. This is my first craftivism project.


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Thanks, Shannon!!

If anyone would like to be interviewed about their craftivism project, please let me know (betsy@craftivism.com) and I’ll send some questions your way!

xx

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