Thinking Through Pink




When we were kids, one of my brother's favourite colours was pink. I, on the other hand, loathed it; a rebellion against the ubiquity of the colour for little girls, and a loyalty to my tomboy nature (I was the girl always climbing trees and enthralled by creepy crawlies). Where did it all go wrong? Why do I now own at least seven pink dresses, and am happy to be snapped prancing around in a salmon candy-striper frock?


My parents tried all they could to evade gender stereotypes (my beloved bright yellow Tonka truck attests to that), but it seems I've waltzed right into one; I've turned out decidedly girly. And what do I blame this disturbing phenomenon on? Why, on the young modern feminist art movement, of course!

Tumblr is awash with young feminists "reclaiming their girlhood"; as Beth Siveyer, founder of Girls Get Busy, writes in the fourteenth issue of the zine, "I can be strong and feminine, and it doesn't matter what people think (...) I'm 24 years old and I'm finally ready to be pretty in pink."

Image of Girls Get Busy #14 - 3 for £3

When I was discussing this with my Mum the other day, she commented that she'd recently had to buy some gardening gloves for a group of young people she would be working with. The gloves came in two colours; pink, and blue. In the end she had to go with the blue gloves, because, she conceded, the boys in the group simply wouldn't wear pink gloves. I'm inclined to think that this would not be because of an aversion to the colour, but an aversion to what the colour represented; an aversion to perceived femininity. Why is femininity so reviled? Why is "stop being such a girl" such a terrible insult? 

I would hazard a guess that it's because, historically, women have been the second sex, subjugated and weakened by a patriarchal society determined to keep men on top. This has lead to the impression that women themselves are intrinsically weaker, and so "feminine" behaviour is a sign of weakness. One need only take a glance at the Everyday Sexism Twitter feed, a deeply depressing but vital read, to realise that we are a long way from gender equality, and that a culture of "keeping women down" is still a very real and present danger (and I don't use that word lightly).

But, as Beth Siveyer writes, femininity can be a source of power. So too can pink. It is an audacious colour, a passionate colour, a sexual colour. A colour as varied as women themselves.

DENIM Feminine Is Not Anti-Feminist Patch featuring Rarity- My Little Pony
"Feminine Is Not Anti-Feminist" patch, by albinwonderland on  Etsy

However, pink can also be nauseating. Case in point, that ubiquity I mentioned; now more than ever, it seems there's almost no other choice for little girls than pink clothing, accessories, toys... the list goes on. As this article notes, "All the other colours of the rainbow will be washed away in an unending saccharine sea."

The backlash to this trend has resulted in the Pink Stinks campaign, focusing on combating the "dangerously narrow definition of what it means to be a girl" and the ways in which "pinkification" of girls leads to sexism and gender stereotyping, and an obsession with consumerism and body image.

 In my opinion, this is most certainly a laudable cause, though the name of the campaign does sound like an assault on the colour itself, rather than its use as a reductive marketing tool. A member of the modern feminist movement makes the suggestion (via Tumblr, of course) that the Pink Stinks campaign changes its name to Rethink Pink. Though this is a subtle change, I think it is a wonderful one; one can remain critical and aware whilst embracing the colour, that, for better or worse, has come to symbolise femininity.


It was not ever thus; indeed, in the early 1900s in the United States, a trade publication proclaimed that "The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl." It is interesting that here, pink is associated with strength, just as I posited that pink can be a powerful and audacious colour. However, strength is associated with masculinity and delicacy and daintiness is associated with femininity; why can't one be both strong and dainty? This combined strength and delicacy is what I feel I emanate when I choose to wear pink.

By a happy coincidence, one of my very favourite artist's thoughts on the matter chime precisely with my own. In an interview, Lily van der Stokker speaks about "the strength of pink curlicues"; there is strength in this apparently "weak" feminine softness.

Lily  van der Stokker, I am an artwork, 2004

But is it softness? For all its sweetness (indeed, because of its sweetness) van der Stokker's use of pink is nauseating, even abrasive. Pink can be harsh, abject, confrontational. It demands to be seen. Van der Stokker is certainly not ashamed of the femininity that pink implies, even if it horrifies the fine art bubble; she unabashedly proclaims girlyness to the world. 

A show of strength indeed.

I too, am happy to proclaim my femininity to the world, and to prove that it does not make me weak but in fact stronger. Since becoming more involved in the young feminist art movement, a number of my embroideries have started to explore themes of feminine strength, defiance of  gender roles and societal expectations, and incorporate pink into their colour scheme as a symbol of this.





I will continue to wear pink with pride and as a reminder of my feminine fortitude; I too am ready to be pretty in pink.

I couldn't stay away for (too) long...

After a brief sojourn (well, more like six months' sabbatical!) from Blogger, I'm very glad to say I'm back for good. I have sadly missed the artistic community on here, always writing inspiring posts and ready with encouraging feedback. I will be transferring across the six months' worth of blog posts I posted on Wordpress shortly.

So, what've I been up to during my break? Well, I've left Significant Seams, started working in a tiny arts and crafts cafe, been featured in a number of zines, and just today learnt that I've been accepted to start training at the Royal School of Needlework in September.



Now that I'm back, I will attempt to post at least once a week, and catch up with all your wonderful blogs. It's good to be back!

Doing It Ourselves


Yesterday I went to support my friend and fellow founder of  Stitch Witches Collective Hanecdote at the DIY Cultures Fair at Rich Mix in Bethnal Green.
I’d been to Rich Mix once before, to hear some poetry at their Jawdance open mic night, an evening that really did reflect the cultural diversity of East London, in all its myriad forms (as the Rich Mix aims to with all its programmes). I found myself back there yesterday for a celebration of “all things independent, autonomous and alternative“.
After bumping into everyone from ex-Dartington students to the founder of the Craftivist Collective, I got down to doing what I do best; stitching at a Girls Get Busy X Hanecdote embroidery workshop.
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As you can see, plenty of girls got busy creating their own version of the Girls Get Busy/feminist/Venus symbol. One guy got busy too; my boyfriend Pip made a very valiant attempt at stitching a sunshine yellow symbol.
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I think you can see from the pictures how engrossed everyone was with their DIYing. Hannah’s friend Mollie, a first time embroiderer, made this incredibly cute Venus symbol. I hope she’s proud of her newfound embroidery skills!
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As Pip and I arrived a little late to the fair, I had to finish my patch at home. Inspired by Mollie’s design, I added gold star sequins to my yellow stem stitch symbol:
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I’d love to send the patch to a fellow feminist of a crafty persuasion; if you’d like it, let me know and I’ll send it along in the post free of charge.
OOMK Zine, whose first issue features an article about my experiences of exhibiting in the E17 Art Trail, tabled at the event, and DIY Cultures was co-curated by OOMK founder Sofia Niazi.
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I bitterly regret having run out of money and so not being able to pick up a copy of Sofia’s wonderfully witty and engaging zine Talk To The Scarf, a tribute to her hijab. However, for those of you who are similarly skint, Talk To The Scarf can be seen and read in full over at Sofia’s website.
My favourite new zine I encountered at the event was one which broke free from the normal constraints of the zine format; Indestructible Energy is produced in a print run of one hundred, and is comprised both of original artworks and reproductions. For each run, one hundred copies or one hundred original artworks are produced by the contributing artists for inclusion in the zine. Indestructible Energy is not unique only in being comprised partially of original artworks; it is also an unbound zine which comes wrapped in a screenprinted cloth, lending it the flavour of an archive rather than a publication. Indestructible Energy is also a digital art zine, and some of the reproductions which comprise issue 1 are screenshots from films featured on the zine’s website.
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Shots of Indestructible Energy’s table at the fair
The idea of a zine or archive which allows people to own potentially hundreds of pieces of affordable original artwork really intrigues me, and I will certainly be contributing to issue 2. I don’t think I’ll be completing one hundred embroideries, though! (Well, maybe for issue 3!)
Pip and I stuck around for a talk on DIY Artist Communities, during which Sarah Corbett of the Craftivist Collective spoke passionately and inspirationally about the power of craft as a tool for social change, and the founder of FoodFace, an artist run space in Peckham, reminded us that you actually can’t “do it yourself”; as artists we all need to support one another and come together to make change, and share our work with the world. I am so grateful for the many people present at DIY Cultures yesterday who have accepted me and my work, and helped to share it with a wider audience. Both Hannah and myself were so inspired by what we saw and heard, and can’t wait to turn Stitch Witches zine into a print reality. Watch this space.

A Christmas Message from Stitch Witches


(Or one half of them at least.)
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A very Merry Christmas to you from the moveable feast that is Stitch Witches headquarters. As I sit, stuffed as the turkey I’m stuffed with, glass of red in hand, I ponder how to make the glitter-covered (a Stitch Witches must) festive season just a touch more… ghoulish.
Possibly with the addition of a Stitch Witches rosette, printed with an illustration by Hanecdote and adorned with spiders, scaredy cats, or spluttering slime green candles?
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Or an otherworldy Stitch Witches loveheart brooch, decorated with ghostly green and lavender gems and sequins?
These and more will be available to buy (or perhaps even win) in the run up to the release of Stitch Witches zine #1. The zine is coming on apace; here is my most recently completed page for it; I won’t give anything else away apart from to say that Polly Kettle is an artistic alter-ego of mine, and certainly lives up to her “mystifying” tag line.
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Hannah is something of a one-woman stitching machine, constantly churning out occult-themed t shirts and accessories (but only of the highest quality), many of which are inspired by Stitch Witches, or will appear in its pages or in other merchandise.
We’ve both been featured (or are about to be featured!) in other zines over the past couple of months. Hannah’s “CREEP” patch above will appear in OOMK zine, along with (fingers crossed) a piece by me on putting on an exhibition in my parents’ bay window this summer.
We’ve also both had art featured in the most recent issue of Girls Get Busy zine. Girls Get Busy is “a non-profit feminist collective supporting female writers, musicians and artists with a monthly zine. Based in London, UK and curated by Beth Siveyer“. My piece, “Hysterical Woman“, is on the very first page (I can’t pretend not to be a little bit proud and smug about that):
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I made my fellow Stitch Witch a little Christmas package of witchy goodies, which arrived at the same time as her copy of Girls Get Busy. Hannah took some great photographs of her swag, and I’m glad she liked my silly little gifts so much (and that they, and the zine, coordinate with her nail polish!):
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One thing’s for sure this Christmas; Stitch Witches are certainly on the up. I’m looking forward to 2013, and all the creativity it will bring, immensely. All that remains to be said is, once again, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good ghoulish night.
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We are Stitch Witches


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Stitch Witches is a collaborative project that has been brewing for a couple of months now.
It all started when I went along to the Girls Get Busy Zine Festival in August. There I met artist and designer Hannah Hill, whose work I had admired online, and Beth Siveyer, founder of Girls Get Busy.
Me on the left, Beth in the middle, and Hannah on the right
Despite my slightly tipsy state, Hannah and I really hit it off, and immediately started considering working together on a project. A few days and emails later, we had begun to outline what Stitch Witches would look and feel like.
We were both intrigued by girl gangs, slightly occult themes, the few remaining taboos of modern society, and, most importantly, stitching!
Both being quite heavily involved in the young feminist art scene, and given where we met, we decided that our medium would be a zine, and thus Stitch Witches was born.
We plan on making the zine available to purchase in November, and will be doing a post-Halloween giveaway to get people in a suitably ghoulish mood!
Hannah has already produced reams of art and design for the zine, and I’ve written some of the text and designed a membership certificate (my next task is to make Stitch Witches rosettes!)
Here are some photographs from one of our (very high level business) planning meetings:

Afternoon Twee

I'm afraid this post is very text and image-heavy, but it's well worth a read/glance, I promise!

The past week was amazing. I honestly can't remember when I've been happier. I love my "job" (and my workmates), I've met new and very interesting people, spent plenty of time with loved ones, and I'm feeling hyper-creative (with an emphasis on the hyper!)

Saturday was a packed day - I took my cousin Emily in to Significant Seams with me, with the intention of us "holding down the fort"; perhaps fortunately, there was no fort to hold down, as Wood Street Plaza got all the foot traffic, and I didn't have any major disasters.


Emily the Entrepreneur

Slow day at work = sneaky photograph of my outfit
I had it far, far easier than my colleagues, in fact; Mark and Debs were busy demonstrating extreme knitting under a gazebo on the Plaza.






They had a captive audience of small children, but unfortunately I missed the younger knitters' efforts!

Em and I were then dismissed from our duties for the day, and after scoffing a venison sausage each and trying on dresses at Gigi's (me as potential outfits for graduation, Emily for shits and giggles - both equally dangerous, the owner is the most accomplished saleswoman I've ever met!), we proceeded to Lady V's for a cream tea.










As you can see, Lady V's is a veritable tiny, twee, chintzed-to-the-rafters paradise. It was even set off by menus bound in antique book covers and a gently tinkling toy piano track. It's well worth a visit if you're ever down Walthamstow way (it's located in Wood Street Indoor Market, as is Significant Seams). Lady V herself also hires out her bone china for films and parties. I may have to look on putting on a performance of some kind there with a few of my arty friends...

Having suitably lined our stomachs, Em and I nipped over to neighbouring Hackney to the Girls Get Busy zine festival. This was my first Girls Get Busy event, and it was absolutely fantastic. Although I was always very keen to go along to a GGB do, the main purpose of my visit was to meet the artist Hannah Hill, who I wrote about in my previous blog post.

With Girls Get Busy's founder, Beth Siveyer, and Hannah. I was a bit tipsy and nervous and made a bit of a tit of myself in front of Beth. Ah well. (Photograph courtesy of Roxanne Werter).


Hannah and I have decided to start a collaborative project together, which will most probably take the form of a zine. And that's all I'm willing to betray about the matter at the mo!

I picked up one of Hannah's cute-as-a-barrel-of-puppies Girls Get Busy t shirts, and a handful of zines. Here's my swag:


Photograph courtesy of Hannah Hill


It was so inspiring talking to the girls at the event; young women truly doing it for themselves, making things happen, and reaching out to (and supporting) one another. Definitely something I would love to get involved with, and will be going along to again in the future.

Yesterday was more family-orientated. I took Emily and family along to the newly re-opened William Morris Gallery, where Grayson Perry's Walthamstow Tapestry is currently being exhibited. It's so much bigger and richer in detail than I ever expected. I love Perry's subtle but biting sense of humour, and the busy-ness of his work.

Unfortunately I forgot to take along a camera, but I'm sure I'll be back soon. Fingers and toes crossed, Significant Seams will soon be working on a project in conjunction with the gallery, and crossed even harder, possibly I will too...

The rest of yesterday was dedicated to chatting, eating, drinking, making merry, and sewing, all taking place in our back garden. A large contingent of the Rolison (well, Swift; my mother's side) extended family was present, all having a jolly good time.

Some of my younger, more distant cousins became acquainted with my final university piece, On Being Soft:



The award for Cutest Moment of the Day goes to my little cousin Louis, who fell asleep wrapped up in the picnic blanket next to our dog, Rosie. She kept edging closer and closer to him for comfort!


And the award for Least Sociable Cousin goes to... me! For sewing/blogging/working through the entire gathering.


I'll post the fruits of my stitchy labour up soon. Until then,

Take care

K x