Strange Material – Leanne Prain – Chapter One

“We are, as a species, addicted to story. Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories.”

 Jonathan Gottschall, The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us HumanHe used this quote during his TED talk.

Tales told in cloth.

The Hmong community from Lagos embroider stories. This is taken from the website .


This tapestry depicts a farming scene. On the upper right, the men are using poles to poke holes in the ground, while the women drop rice seeds into them. The Hmong in Laos planted their crops on mountain slopes. Rice planting usually occurred in May, with extended family members and neighbors helping each other, and again with the November harvesting as seen in the lower left. Normally, planting and harvesting rice did not occur at the same time. In the lower left a woman is using a sickle to harvest rice while others pick corn and dig cassava, lower right.
By Yee Lee, Laos, 2005, 26×26 cm
Photo by Noah Vang, item at the Hmong Archives


 Bayeux Tapestry


Graveyard Quilt, Elizabeth Roseberry Mitchell, 1843

The information taken from The Kentucky Historical Society website states that “This quilt is widely known as the graveyard quilt. The quilt is made of cotton fabrics in shades of brown. The pattern features 8 pointed stars alternating with blocks of brown calico. The center depicts a graveyard surrounded by a picket fence with a trellis with climbing roses. It also has angels in the corner and several coffins. The border of the quilt is another picket fence with more coffins. Walnut hull dyes were used for the brown fabrics. Names of several family members are attached to some of the coffins on small strips of paper.”

“Textiles are the invisible sister of the art world, and those who make them have to work hard to be seen.”


The Political Stitch: Voicing Resistance in a Suffrage Style by Eileen Wheeler


Birth Trinity Needlepoint 1, 1983, needlework on 6” mesh canvas, 4’-3” x 10’-10”. Full-scale black and white drawing, color study drawing and color specifications by Judy Chicago. Needlework by Susan Bloomenstein with Elizabeth Colten, Karen Fogel, Helene Hirmes, Bernice Levitt, Linda Rothenberg, Miriam Vogelman. Collection of the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History, Albuquerque, NM. © Judy Chicago, Photo © Donald Woodman

Judy Chicago is one of my favourite artists – she wasn’t afraid to tackle domestic subjects at the start of the women’s movement in the mid 20th century.

The Chilean Arpilleristas: Changing National Politics Through Tapestry Work by Dayna L. Caldwell is another academic paper on the subject of the disappeared generation of Chile and how the women have stitched the stories.


Families of the Detained and Disappeared protest before the Supreme Court demanding to know where their loved ones are ¿Dónde Están? and Truth and Justice. (Anita Rojas)

And here is a paper on political quilts from around the world. Transforming threads of resistance: political arpilleras & textiles by women from Chile and around the world.


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