PhD Creative Research Journals

May: theming my PhD around decentralisation

The fundamental reason I make art is to break the rules. It pretty much always has been. In high school in my last year, right before writing my final exams I was making ceramic mugs instead of studying—at that point I owned my own kiln, I did not need to make them in school rather than studying, but I chose not to care. I had no intention of failing, but the unwritten rule to excel and to value excellence, I broke.


I do textiles, weaving specifically, because there is a lot of rules and I brake all [most? many?] of them. I was once told that my work is like Saori Weaving which is a type of weaving referred to as weaving without rules. My work is interesting because there are rules, without the rules, the work is slightly tepid. The is excitement in rule breaking.


I like to brake material or technical rules and I like to brake stupid societal rules. That is why I am drawn to protest. Breaking rules and systems, rules and systems that are inherently unjust and corrupt—that ooze like a festering wound.


And I am doing a PhD, a practise-led art PhD. Only, I don’t know, for the scope of this research degree, what my practise is. What specifically is my research? I am on a search to narrow down and define this. What is possible and appropriate within a PhD context?


An overall identified theme is introducing a specific field that does not exist, at least by name or as a separate ideology: Protest textiles. But, as this is not an academic research degree that is intending to delve into minutia of this new field, further specificity is needed.


A proposal was to do decentralisation of protest art [textiles]. With a secondary inclusion of shadow protests, protest ephemera and simulacra, which was included because it peaked the interest of a supervisor. They are correct that it is an interesting area that is understudied, but it is not active protest, at best is semi-active. This is not what I want to create. My view of what is protest art will likely not match that of my supervisors, as artist and academic Alana Jalinek stated “I used to think I was an activist and then I met some” (2013 p 1). I, however, know I am an activist, I have met plenty and been accepted by them as a fellow activist. The intention is to make protest art, not art about protest or art adjacent to or within a movement. While an attempt within the writing has been made to define protest art, I am a rhizomatic thinker. The definition will transcend sections, it will also be displayed best when cogitating upon different art.


Within this theme of decentralisation, four distinct projects were proposed as well as two semi-related conference workshops. But upon consultation with supervisors, it was suggested that each of these projects were PhD’s in and of themselves and that PhD’s required more depth. The mourning armband project seemed appropriate and feasible with the caveat that the project evolved. I absolutely could not spend three years criticising galleries, though I would be happy to add further allies like libraries to the list within the armband project. I am also not interested in funerary art (I took an art history class on the topic in undergrad and my personal project involved at looking at art-using-death rather than look any more at any funerary art). Post-apocalyptic art is also something that I am not particularly interested in. So I am left with looking in depth into many ideologies that I have only a passing interest in.


A consultation with the institute director gave me some further insight: get rid of the projects you can live without doing. Excellent advice, however, that only removed one project. Even when deciding to focus my PhD project on the mourning armband project, I still intended to do at least one, if not two of the other projects on the side. Which is fine, but maybe stupid? Why would I want to laser focus on a project that has a lot of side elements that I am not particularly interested in, while making art that excites me and not include it? I can follow rules, I just find ways to brake them while following them. So, where to go from here?


My personal goals for my PhD are:

1.     To introduce the discipline of protest textiles

2.     To find methods to decentralise art activism [or protest textiles]

3.     To clearly define what protest art is and is not


Not only are these goals, but they are all original research, all gaps. None of them have in-depth research.


A material studies project I like to set myself sometimes, when weaving, is to create difference from similarity. I like to start with one long warp and use varying wefts to see how different the pieces can look. And I think that is what I have done with my PhD. It looks scattered and different, but it is not really. At the core is the same warp: Methods to Decentralise Art Activism.


Admittedly, the projects are set up to be a survey study rather than in-depth research. It would be possible to pick one method and study it ad nauseam—digging ever deeper and revealing further insights while doing so.  The value of this depth is less relevant when the overall objective has no firm research, when no papers have covered the topic and artists, while they may have utilised decentralising methods, have made no study on this topic.


Why decentralization? I live nowhere. Technically it is a city, but only just.


Is decentralizing a framework that is helpful when looking at weaving? Traditional weaving is mostly decentralized. Aesthetically, if a blanket or shawl is considered, it usually has a top border and a bottom border and there is a pattern (or plain weave) that often runs to the edges, or there may be side borders. The top and bottom borders may be plain, but usually edge borders are decorated, often even more so even then the middle pattern. The top and bottom often have fringes. This is frequently the case throughout most of the world, other than some rugs and tapestries. This means that aesthetically, whole weavings are primarily decentralized. They have traditionally been created decentrally, with most households creating their own weaving. Globally weaving has taken place almost everywhere, with golden periods in terms of techniques and craftsmanship likewise scattered globally and throughout various eras. If a process of decentralization can be perceived as breaking borders, then it is possible to examine the expansion or demise of the selvedge.


The first major experiments in removing ideological as well as physical borders from weaving would be the 1960’s textile artist such as Magdalena Abakanowicz and Olga de Amaral. These artist brought textiles away from craft into the realm of fine art while exploring three dimensionality, industrial materials and monumental scale. Since that time, weavers have been exploring pushing the boundaries: in three-dimensionality like Marilyn Piirsaul and Kadi Pajupuu; with industrial materials like Brigitte Dams; through ever evolving collaborative installation like Line Dufour; and by weaving across literal national borders like Tanya Aguiñiga.


What does decentalization in weaving mean to me? Is it possible to decentralize a weaving? If warp and weft threads were removed from the middle, rather than being decentralized, the weaving would be re-centralized, because the lack of centre would draw attention to it. Though I have a set of weavings that might count as a literal decentralization. I did a series of untethered weavings, waffle weave structures that were loose, sometimes to the extent of not retaining the weaving structures. The waffle weaves were intended to be very deep, 50-100 warp threads deep, but with the added looseness, the depth increased astronomically, some of them were over ten times deeper than they were wide. During weaving, this depth originally was the centre, but after being removed from the loom, it was no longer possible for the centre to inhabit the centre.


But it is not weaving I am aiming to decentalise. It is protest and the requirement to be at centres of power for effective protests. At its most basic level decentralization is a process whereby a central hub is replaced by scattered interconnectedness, it is a neutral ideology. However, because it is a distribution method of goods and ideas, it involves power or power structures and is therefore not neutral. Politically it is championed by both the right and the left, with outcomes that are diametrically opposed.  


My PhD could identify decentralisation methods that [textile] artists are already employing and investigate and use other methods in my own practise. It will also involve constraining and naming, building walls around concepts, creating categories within art activism and delineating protest textiles. Protest textiles are something that exist but are not yet a discipline. This field will be scooped out of existing practises, edges defined and an argument will be made for their importance and uniqueness.


So what decentralising methods will be employed?


Using mail and targeting allies will be tackled in the mourning arm bands project. When envisioning this project, the question was asked how to get feedback. Initially, it seemed unnecessary—it is protest, one does not get direct feedback. But with this project, that is different, it identifies and targets people within organisations that are construed as allies. If they are allies treat them as such, leave them a method of feedback, contact them to follow up. This project has a great research potential because of this ability to get information about direct results.


The two workshops will also provide for a chance for feedback. One of the projects, a quilt, will be craftivist, as in there is no direct targeted protest, the other, mourning accessories, will open up participants to direct protest. The mourning accessories will allow workshop participants to mail or give their crafts in protest, if they choose, along with the possibility for feedback from recipients. However, what the workshops will enable is feedback from participants. The participants will mostly be environmental historians, people who are much more concerned with climate change then the average person, so they are not a neutral study group, however, they are a good protest focus group because the craftivism will be more likely to motivate them, which is what the research will seek to answer in this project. How will participants change or think they will change their behaviour due to the workshop. Can workshops be an effective way to decentralise art activism?


Collaborating with an activist group will be investigated as a decentralising method. The idea is to make an art piece that is then used by activists in an action as they see fit. The caution tape project will be suggested, though not insisted as the collaboration. The ideal scenario would be to have around five different groups with the same or very similar art pieces and to see the various actions that each group comes up with. The activist groups will then be questioned to find out if the art changed their normal practise and if so how and weather or not this collaboration might change future actions. Having textiles and an art object will be key to this decentralisation method. A lot of art activism is anti-object (reference here) and textiles tend to be hyper object, it is the authority of the object that will be critical for this collaboration.


Centres of power can be travelled to for pop-up protests or protest events, while this is a method of decentralisation, a way to decrease the need to travel is to further the lifespan of the action by creating a protest afterlife. Performance protest weaving, where the act of creating is a part of the protest, will be created with intentionality to create effective protest ephemera to be exhibited afterwards. This project will take my concept of protest ephemera and develop it as an intentional outcome and seek to understand how this ideology can deepen art activism.


A huge decentralising force in our current society is social media. It is also a key element to craftivism. In the ice weaving project I will be adding to existing research in using social media to decentralise art activism. This project will investigate various spaces, poignant remote ones as well as everyday city ones, and use a combination of video and photography on social media as well as live for a performantive protest art installation.





Jelinek, A., (2013) This is not art: activism and other ‘not-art’. London; New York, NY: I.B. Tauris.





Nandwani, B., (2019) Decentralisation, Economic Inequality and Insurgency. The Journal of Development Studies, 557, pp.1379–1397.


Mignolo, W., (2000) Local histories/global designs: coloniality, subaltern knowledges, and border thinking. Princeton studies in culture/power/history. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press.


Manor, J., (2006) Renewing the Debate on Decentralisation. Commonwealth & Comparative Politics, 443, pp.283–288.



Centres of Power


Butler, J., (2020) The force of nonviolence: an ethico-political bind. London ; New York: Verso.

Chomsky, N., Mitchell, P.R. and Schoeffel, J., (2003) Understanding power: the indispensable Chomsky. London: Vintage.

Rothe, D.L. and Collins, V.E., (2017) The Illusion of Resistance: Commodification and Reification of Neoliberalism and the State. Critical Criminology, 254, pp.609–618.

Gruber, L., (2000) Ruling the world: power politics and the rise of supranational institutions. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press.

Klein, N., (2008) The shock doctrine: the rise of disaster capitalism. London: Penguin Books.

Rancière, J. and Corcoran, S., (2010) Dissensus: on politics and aesthetics. London ; New York: Continuum.

Roberts, A. and Garton Ash, T. eds., (2012) Civil resistance and power politics: the experience of non-violent action from Gandhi to the present. Reprinted ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

March: Part 2 of Creative Research Journal Mourning Armband

(See february for part 1)

My search for fabrics was long and moderately successful. I discovered due to the nature of website creation and search analytics, most fabrics that are listed on fabric store websites are not searchable. After discovering that one of my better fabric shops was entirely wholesale, I bought an approximation fabric from the tiny fabric shop in my town.

Armband prototypes



armband #1 opaque crinkle polyester with double folded edging and velcro

-This prototype did not look good. My edges were huge and I do not sew very straight

 did not look good.


#2: opaque crepe tubed with edges ironed after and velcro

-this seemed like it was going to be the best option. I had bought this crepe, the proper material for a mourning band and a translucent crinkled fabric.  I was worried that my poor sewing skills would be too apparent on the translucent fabric. However, disaster struck and my sewing machine broke. The repair place said that fixing my old west German Pfaff was not worth it, it would be expensive and might not even solve the problem. This led me to buying a new machine and discover when disaster isn't disaster. My new machine is much easier to sew straight, which led to #3

#3 Opaque crepe with double folded hem edges and velcro

-This prototype uses significantly less fabric than #2, it also looked way better than #1. But #2 looked better. Conclusion: prototype #2 is best so far.

Testing Styles for lettering


I used prototype #1 to test how I might use lettering and put ART (for the death of art) on the armband. The intention was to have it be mildly subtle, so that it was seen, but not distracting.
test 1 was using a sewing machine to do the lettering, I tried a few different stitches and all of them were terrible, they pulled, left big holes, were not noticeable enough, really sloppy looking. Number 2 has 3 different ways of using straight embroidery stitches, all of which were not right. Stitch trial 3 was a different embroidery stitch. It looked great, but was quite slow, making any number of these was going to be laborious. 

Prototype #4 translucent crinkle fabric

Then I realized that with my new machine, I would be able to use the translucent crinkle fabric that has the appearance closest to the victorian armband in the bristol museum.  The fabric was less translucent than the victorian one, so it made sense to try folded edging. I used an overcast stitch on the edges to create a semi-serger edge, then folded this under and stitched it down. It made a fairly small and tidy enough edge for the project. 


I decided to make the sizing so that it fits me at the largest setting. I have big arms, so it would be big enough for most arms. The intent on sizing is to be inclusive, while still being practical, it would not be realistic to create an item that suits all body types that that requirement would over-shadow the intended purpose.
The initial overcast stitch was created pulling the fabric taught and then the edging was finished with a stretch stitch. This meant that the armband retained a stretch to it. The velcro fastening gave a 3-4cm range in size adjustability, the prototype #4 had 2 cm of stretch. The velcro was given up for the much more elegant sewn edge that still allowed some size adjustment. I decided to make the sizing so that it fits me at the largest setting. I have big arms, so it would be big enough for most arms. These bands were usually worn over clothes, so most people with moderately thin would be able to wear it over their jackets.

Lettering on Prototype #4

Some quick testing on spare fabric from prototype #4 made it apparent that a sewing machine could be used to create the lettering. The stretch stitch was not the most functional and the straight stitch did not end up impairing the stretch for fit. How see the lettering was more challenging. I picked a font I liked,  determined the size and then printed it out. I cut out the letters and drew with chalk onto the fabric. It was way too difficult to see the chalk while sewing such particular small lines.

Masking tape stencil


I ended up cutting the letters out of layered masking tape, and then sticking the stencil directly only the fabric and sewing inside the stencil with my sewing machine. THe middle to the A & R I stick down in the approximate location and sewed around them.

Prototype #4: we have a winner!

This may be how the final product looks, it it may be that I use different colour thread for the lettering of ART.

February:   Creative Research Journal for Environmental Mourning

I watched a video of climate protesters throwing a can of soup at an artwork. I felt like their assessment of art in relation to climate change could have been cleverer. The video just sat with me for a few days, when I found myself needing to confront it. Was I against the action? The honest answer was sort of. As an artist, I did not feel outraged at the protesters for throwing soup at the paintings, though I am upset that the tomato soup did cause some damage because I like the work. The point I think the protesters failed to make or make well, but is incredibly valid and why I think the protest has some merit is that we, as a society, are heading towards making all art garbage by our inaction towards mitigating climate change. That in 50 to 100 years, with rising sea levels, climate refugees, food scarcity, etc, our society will collapse totally including galleries, museums and their collections unless we take strong measures to mitigate the disaster. But I am still not that keen on the soup throwing. But what could I do?

· Idea #:1 hold a funeral in a gallery for the artwork. What would work ideologically better than the soup protests would be to hold a funeral including possibly tiny versions of the artworks in the room. People come in black, weeping & wailing, have a eulogy for the dead art.


  •  links art to climate change
  • is something I would be willing to do


  • small media attention. It would mostly just catch the attention of people in the room and maybe have a small reach outside of that
  • the soup protests really got attention, shock & rage. The imperative of action was highlighted.
  • has no proper target. It would be a lot more sensible to get the gallery to make some concrete changes but this would be unlikely to do so.

Conclusion: It would make a lot more sense to make a targeted action towards people in charge of the art galleries. It has the advantage that it is likely people who support better climate initiatives in galleries and thus it might actually result in some concrete changes.

· idea #2: mail mourning item along with pithy obituary or ueology (description of bizarre way the gallery died) to try to get galleries to enact concrete changes.


  •  ideologically sound: a job of galleries is to preserve art and climate change makes this job a problem long term
  • there is a tradition of gifting because it is harder to ignore a gift a lot of charities employ this method
  • north west coast turtle island indigenous traditions because that receiving a gift comes with expectations. While this is not a western held view generally, there is something deep to this philosophy and held explain previous thought
  • the audience I am addressing generally agrees with me and most (all? TBD) have held exhibitions on this theme
  • it is plausible that some might take concrete action
  • mourning the death of art is also funny because historically there have been periods when sections of the artworld bemoaned the death of art
  • uses Alana Jalinek's theory that we all contain power, that the binary model, supported by the avant-garde and not yet lost, believes in the powerful versus the powerless, the good versus the bad is an incorrect assessment of power, that we all contain power, even artists. She further points out that even those who are convinced of human impact on climate fail to take actions to mitigate it.
  •  however, the other extreme is just as problematic. The zero waste movement is Neo-liberal  bunk. It advocates that everyone has the personal ability to change the situation through their personal actions. It requires excessive money and time without tackling the real problem--that a majority of waste happens in the industrial, manufacturing and transportation phases long before it reaches consumers. That the time spent in trying to be zero waste could be better spent advocating for better practises that would then be available to average people and those with minimum wage jobs who no ability to be zero waste.


  • galleries have restrictions due to funding
  • they are not the main cause of the problem
  • will likely result in zero press coverage
  • the action is so quiet that it may achieve nothing

conclusion: Pros outweigh the cons, it generally seems like it will be a good action.


What Form Should the Mourning Item Take? 

My first instinct is that it should be a black armband like victorian armbands. 

What already exists? There are "cause" ribbons wither in metal as depicted below or textile ones. There is also the wearing of poppies for war commemoration. Both of these have problems in that they are not specific enough.


There are also black armbands that are worn currently. They are most commonly seen on athletes, though military, police, fire, ambulance and politicians do wear them.


There are also specific black bands that are made and sold for covering badges of the police specifically, though images for military, fire and ambulance can be seen on websites that sell these black bands.


Requirements of the mourning item:

  1. It must be easily deciphered as a "mourning item" and therefore must be conventional
  2. It must be relevant today- ie: victorian mourning jewellery with hair 
  3. It must be hand made
  4. It has to be relatively easy to make
  5. it must be black (see #1, non western galleries will not be targeted)
So yes, hypothesis that a mourning armband is best is correct. There are not many death conventions in our current society and very few that are iconic. White flowers are used for death, but can also be seen in other places such as weddings. The black armband for mourning is a convention, but not self-explanatory, a reference to the mourning armband needs to be made in order for it to be correctly identified.

Examples of current mourning armbands:

Elasticized with velcro for military use

elasticized (non-velco?) available as large orders

a thin black ribbon that is just tied

military black armband in crepe

Traditional victorian armbands are made of crepe. But crepe is a fairly non-specific material. It can be translucent with a pronounced foldy texture, which is what my mind envisions. It can also be a much less-pronounced textured opaque material. The image above is from a military apparel website that is selling a crepe black mourning band where the image is only an unspecific variegated black, but appears to be opaque and not crumply/foldy of my imagining.  Further images from easy googling are not of quality, size or quality to give any definitive answer. The image on mourning armbands on wikipedia appears to be opaque slightly textured crepe, but even that is a guess, the picture is just too small and soft focused.  My supervisors have recommended that I read Lou Taylor's book Mourning Dress as a good place to start looking for either mourning armbands or references that might have them. I haven't found the an online book that I have access to and the book isn't cheap. I did ask a librarian. Unless he finds an online copy that LJMU can gain access to, I do not think it will be timely enough for me.
I found a museum with a mourning armband.
The museum of Bristol has an online archive with a mourning band. It is dated between 1800-1900, which with such a wide breath I am taking with a grain of salt, but the date does not matter too much ofr my purposes. The armband is made of a very textured crinkled (or foldy or ridged) black translucent crepe. The band is double thickness most of the way, with one seam running along the middle. How the band is connected into a ring is not discernible from these images.

Hopefully I get an answer to my questions. In the mean time I am trying to track down fabric like the bristol museum piece so that I can start to fabricate samples. The fabric is called plisse crepe.... but I live in Germany and this term is mostly not used, plisse translates into not just pleated, but pleated blinds. But there seems to be a wholesale fabric store near me that sells something that looks okay, though not translucent. It is called a musselin, which I take to mean muslin though it certainly could mean bot in German... I am not a fabric expert, so trying to get the correct fabric in a different language is proving a bit challenging. There is also crepe de chin and crepe georgette, which I think is more the opaque style I think I see. I will have to start figuring out where there are decent fabric stores near me, the one in my town is itsy-bitsy and unlikely to have anything like what I need.

January 2023: Searching for Solid Ground


caution tape test #1: a rolling fail


Caution Tape trial #2:  it worked!

using gridding from a hardwear store. The background in the photo is actually from the piece above (it was white, so I used it). The work is complete with finished edges, it wants to bend or curl just a little bit. The lettering isn't quite as good, but I am very pleased with the overall look of it.

November 2022: Ice Weaving experiments in NYC

In November we had a transart residency in New York. I had signed up to do a skill share and intended to have the group make ice weavings--a project that I am doing as part of my PhD. I have told that there would be 26 people, which I was concerned would be too many people, so we made it sign up and almost no one signed up, so I cancelled the event. I was then left with a bunch of tiny ice frames. The size meant that they were too small to act in situ as protest. As a workshop, the small size would be fine, they would also be amplified by having participants post them to social media. They would be somewhere between a workshop and an online protest. But to quote Gil Scott Heron "The revolution will not be televised, the revolution will be live". I will add avoid the seduction of photographs ( a few photos make the work look piece). What the work is, if they are final pieces, is a quiet message with online amplification--in essence craftivism. It is possible to make photos that give an epic proportion to these small ice weavings, but Gil Scott Heron is correct, that protest functions best live, that the pedestrians should be favoured over the internet viewers.

other lessons learned: It is more challenging than anticipated to hang the work & there is way too many security guards in NYC (which also limits work placement).

Ice Weaving: Share the Road. 2022, 15 cm x 30 cm. Cardboard, hand dyed wool, heat, ice, time










The Next Day:


Ice Weaving: Reporting a Climate Emergency. 2022, 20 cm x 30 cm. Cardboard, heat, ice, repurposed clothing, time.



Ice Weaving: Gentrification. 2022, 30 cm x 50 cm. Cardboard, hand dyed wool, heat, ice, time.


Ice Weaving: On The Bridge. 2022, 15 cm x 35 cm. Cardboard, hand dyed wool, heat, ice, time.

Ice Weaving: Seeking Justice. 2022, 50 cm x 30 cm. Heat, ice, plastic, styrofoam, time.


Ice Weaving: Engulfed by the Judicial Institutes. 2022, 15 cm x 15 cm. Heat, ice, repurposed clothing, styrofoam, time.

 Ice Weaving: Caution, No Justice for the Climate. 2022, 15 cm x 30 cm. Heat, ice, plastic, styrofoam, time


Ice Weaving: Cityscape I. 2022, 15 cm x 20 cm. Hand dyed wool, heat, ice, styrofoam, time.


Ice Weaving: Melting Crosses Cultural Boarders. 2022, 20 cm x 50 cm. Heat, ice, plastic, repurposed clothing, styrofoam, time.



October 2022 : The Work begins

 My month started out with my first supervisor meeting. I have two advisors through trans art, Leah Decter and Lynn Setterington. In this meeting, we introduced ourselves, the work we do, agreed to work together and it was suggested by both of my supervisors to alter my research focus/ questions. They suggested that my intended research into non-western protest textiles would not be a good topic for a PhD, though it might be used in the future. So then I was left with what are my research questions and what will I focus on, the plan was to stay with protest textiles, but re-frame it.

I was also applying to a Canadian SSRC scholarship at the time, so I wrote up the following proposal that includes my new thinking. The proposal makes no mention of the practise based element of my research as this was recommended to me to be the best method. The methodology of research through practise, or knowing about protest textiles by making protest textiles is therefore not mentioned in this write up.

My main objective is to categorize different types of protest art, something that as far as I can tell, has not yet been done, though I will mostly be doing this with textiles which certainly has not been done.

Britta Fluevog’s PhD Proposal Subversive Textiles: A Look at Protest Fibre Art

Introduction to My Research Questions
In September 2022, I started a three-year Doctorate of Philosophy program in Fine Art at Liverpool John
Moores University. My supervisors are Dr. Lynn Setterington, Dr. Leah Dector and Dr. Lee Wright.
My research aims to answer the questions: What are protest textiles? What are the different ways that art
and fibre functions as protest? And, how do protest textiles and art relate to broader social movements?
Our current era will likely be remembered as a period of civil unrest and mass demonstrations
throughout much of the world. Along with these protests are many artworks, playing different rolls. Now
is the time to investigate how art has functioned within a protest or political movement. Within my
research I am focusing on fibre art or textiles, such as the pussy hats at the 2017 omen’s March in the
USA. What are the strategies protest textiles have used and what does art have to offer to the field of
protest that is unique to art. What are subversive textiles and how are they used?

Existing Research
The Subversive Stitch: Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine (1984) by Roszita Parker is the first
recognized text that frames textiles within a political or activist lens. Parker’s research does not garner
much further writing until the do-it-yourself (DIY), internet, craftivist movement starting around 2002,
which can be traced through writings of Betsey Greer, the main founder of the movement. The deeply
political aspect of textiles is explored in The Empire of Cotton: A New History of Global Capitalism
(2014), by Sven Beckert, which explains the large roll textiles had within colonization. Activist and
protest textiles are discussed in Julia Bryan-Wilson’s Fray: Art + Textile Politics (2017). The most
similar research to my own work is Julie Decker and Hinda Mandell’s book, Crafting Democracy: Fiber
arts and Activism (2019), but this text is more of a historical framework than my research will be.

Craftivism as Key Cultural Context
My research examines the relationship between craftivism and protest. While craftivism is the
portmanteau of the words of craft and activism, I am viewing it through Tal Fitzpatricks’s reframing of
the term, specifically the changing of activism to DIY citizenship or civic engagement. So, while
craftivism can be found at intersections of ideology, history, educational guides, etc., it runs more
parallel to protest textiles rather than residing within or overtop of it. Certainly many activist (rather than
simply DIY citizenship) textiles have come out of the craftivist movement, but most craftivism is more
concerned with civic engagement than protest. Craftivism is very important to protest textiles, but it is
just a small facet to a much larger discipline that I am researching. My research will define and trace the
history of craftivism and discuss why not all textile protests fall within field of craftvisim.

The texts of existing political activist textiles will be threaded into general protest art ideology such as
found within TV Reed’s book The Art of Protest: Culture and Activism from the Civil Rights Movement
to the Streets of Seattle and Stefan Jonsson’s article The Art of Protest: Understanding and
Misunderstanding Monstrous Events. The this amalgamation of protest theory of the textile art will be
interspersed with various cultural theorist, when pertinent. Intersectional ideology will come from of
Kimberle Crenshaw and Bell hooks. Noam Chomsky and Naomi Klein will provide ideology on our
current western governance system and the necessity of activism, the artworks themselves can be
disseminated using Adorno’s aesthetics theories.

Protest art is usually categorized by medium, or different political movements, or what is being
protested. My research will also categorize different types of protest textiles in terms of how they
function within a protest: Personal or Community identity as a form protest like the Molas created by the
Kuna indigenous people of Panama’s San Blas Islands; artwork used within traditional protests such as
the banners at the Greenham common women’s peace camp; artworks where the art is the protest like the
arpilleras the Chilean women made against the dictator Pinochet; art that is the theoretical underpinnings
of a movement such as Khadi cloth was for Mahatma Gandhi and the Indian National Congress; artwork
that sits somewhere between political and protest, where the protest is more subtle like Kawira
Mwirichia’s Kangas celebrating African LGBTQ heroes; and peripheral artwork like artwork made about
protests or artwork from protests that is subsequently exhibited in new contexts and what these
peripheral actions can mean.

Methodology and Expected Outcome
My methodology and expected outcome are somewhat commensurate. My research will find, categorize
and analyze different types of protest textiles with the intent of being informative to those who wish to
study the subject and elucidating to those that want to create them. Categorizing will allow parallels to be
made on how the different textile art functions within a protest or a political movement. My research
uses Empirical Analysis and Exploratory Analysis to understand differences between the different

Within the categories my research will provide examples of around two five different artworks or art
series or connected art that demonstrate the particular category of protest art well. The artists or groups
researched will be varied in many ways, with the intersectionality being an integral foundation within the
research. Some art will be well researched, with large bodies of literature to draw upon while others will
be relatively obscure where the artwork will be required to speak more for itself. A global approach will
employed with textiles from diverse countries and communities within them.

Many of the books on activism and textiles are edited collections of essays and as such have a very broad
viewpoint as well as broad definition of activism—this promotes inclusivity, but it does water down the
notion of activism or protest. Lots of research, such as most craftivism, has focused on political textiles
that are quiet, polite fibre works, which admittedly is something that fibre excels at, but is not the
exclusive usage of them. My research will focus more on the brash and unapologetic textile work,
because as I aim to shown, there is value in being loud while protesting like Marianne Jorgensen’s pink
yarn-bombed tank, Pink M.24 Chaffee Tank (2006).

The main argument of my thesis will be that these categories exist and that dividing protest art into
different categories will be useful. My research will analyze and compile previous analysis, but a main
focus of my research will be to initiate further artwork and research within the field of protest textiles.

My Motivation
My research reflects who I am as a person and that is why I do the work. I am a textile creator and an
activist. Through the work of my research, I aim to improve both of these aspects, both for me personally
and for my peers.


*******end of paper*********


This month, I have also started doing some writing on craftvisim, ordering and reading literature.

I have also been working on a very large waffle weave. I built/set up the loom  and am in the process of spinning and warping it. My re-framing of my thesis has been useful because it led me to a greater understanding of this piece. The last few works I have been making are about personal identity as a form of protest.





August/ September 2022: PhD Proposal: Subversive Textiles

Within my PhD I aim to ask what are protest textiles and who creates them? How can we use the history of textiles to further destroy notions of the art cannon and create a web of interconnections? I plan to have a practised-based PhD of political and protest textiles paired with academic research into non-western protest textiles.

Non-Western Protest Textiles
As a Caucasian European/ North American Artist narrowing down my field of research to non-western textiles might seem disingenuous, particularly as part of my stated aim is to place my work within a movement. My art practise looks at global imbalances, particularly within the textile industry—addressing the same imbalance within academia is a natural progression. My hope is that, a text of non-western practises coming out in an emerging sector sets a precedent for future research.

My practise includes both political and protest textile works. My choice to narrow down my academic research to contain only protest textiles is a deliberate one. The concept of fine art, and the theorization that is contained within the ideology, is a western construct. The nature of protest art-work is irrefutably fine-art by western ideology—in that it is symbolic, intended to be interpreted and meant to be powerful. Julia Bryan-Wilson aims to distort the binary of fine art and craft or folk art in her book Fray. “Though I employ words such as amateur and artist, I also aim to pick at, worry, and put pressure on their mutual borders until they, too, unravel (p 5 Bryan-Wilson).” The blurring of the lines between fine art and craft is one of my aims in looking at protest textiles. Created by both those who consider themselves fine artists and those to whom the idea of fine art does not even exist, protest textiles bleed this dichotomy. The need to blend these ideas is largely based in Economics.

Stunted Economic Renumeration of Craft
While there are many repercussions to the art/craft divide, none is as overarching as the economics involved. A textile work can be sold at a higher price if it is viewed as fine art and not craft. As most industrial textiles are sewn on machines by hand, this divide should be seen as fine art on top, then craft followed lastly by industrial makers. And these divides are rankings because, particularly when the global situation is considered, there is a stark economic and power divide.

Because of the low renumeration and amateur associations, there was a push by educated textile artists, starting in the 1960’s, to have their works viewed as fine art. This meant that rather putting energy into changing how our society values all textile workers, the people who most understand the skill in textile creation wanted to side with fine art and thus widen the gap further between the different textile makers.

As a textile artist who makes only fine art textiles, I feel it is part of my duty to ensure that the economic gap widens no further. I hope that academic study in textiles will help increase the economic renumeration and value for all textile makers.

Existing Critical or Theoretical Research
There are some publications that analyze textiles, particularly political textiles that will aid my research. First is The Subversive Stitch, by Rozsika Parker from 1985. The next major publican is 22 years later in 2007, Thinking Through Craft, by Glenn Adamson; it includes textiles into other crafts in a critical and art historical context. The first textile focused theory book, String, Felt, Thread: The Hierarchy of Art and Craft in American Art, by Elissa Auther, is from 2009. 2014 marks the change in texts and from now on they published regularly starting with Betsey Greer’s Craftivism: The Art of Craft and Activism, a coffee table style book that is connected to the internet DIY craft subculture. The Empire of Cotton: A New History of Global Capitalism, by Sven Beckert in 2014 is a re-looking at the history of colonization and industry depicting the political roll of textiles. Fray: Art + Textile Politics, by Julia Bryan-Wilson in 2017 is pivotal work, as this textbook only discusses a few artists, but really in-depth, which was new. The Textile Reader, 2019, edited by Jessica Hemmings is critical essays from multiple view points. Also in 2019 is Crafting Democracy: Fiber arts and Activism edited by Julie Decker and Hinda Mandell. One of the most important texts in terms of similarity my research is P.L. Henderson’s 2021 book Unravelling Women’s Art: Creators, rebels & Innovators inTextile Arts, which came out only two months ago. It is a mix of everything— it covers a lot of everything everywhere textile related, but briefly, sometimes only two to three sentences, without much critical analysis.

My research will look more in depth than the Henderson book and focus on fewer movements and look at what conclusions can be drawn from them akin to Byan-Wilson or some of the texts in Mandell’s volume. Though a lot of the texts in my list’s titles proclaim their political nature, a lot of them lack radical political ideology and are vaguely political. I aim to show that our current conception of fine art has always existed and is not a western phenomenon.

Research Methods and Timeline
Finding international protest textiles of note will be challenging. It may be that the P.L. Henderson’s book Unravelling Women’s Art: Creators, rebels & Innovators inTextile Arts that came out in march, which I have looked at, but not read will be a very good starting place. When I envisioned this research I was unaware of this book, however, rather than compete with my research, it may be a perfect research starting point as the amount of political textiles it references is massive and many are from non-western countries, but very few have any in-depth analysis, more just brief introductions.Much of my research will come from establishing connections and networks with arts schools, artist collectives, guilds or cooperatives internationally.

Hypothesis and Expected Outcome
What are protest textiles and who creates them? The answer to this is both very simple and very complex, I have a definition and I am one of the creators, but beyond that, who makes them and why. What circumstances draw them to it. What similarities are there and what conclusions can be drawn. One of the main reasons I expect to find protest textiles is because making textiles is something many women know how to do and are already doing, though in the case of the Arpilleristas that was not the reason for protest textiles. I also expect it to be mostly women as textiles have been largely a female occupation, though not in the case in India and of Gandhi. It may end up being that more differences than similarities are discovered.

How can we use the history of textiles to further destroy the art cannon and create a web of interconnections? The meaning or meanlessness of fine art may or may not end up playing a significant roll within my research. The prestige, economic renumeration, and power that come along with the fine arts term are important to bring to non-western protest art, the term itself is perhaps incidental within this research. The occidental implicit bias of the intellectual rigour and thus superiority of fine arts within the western tradition needs further reminder that art within our current conception of it, other than association with institutions, has always existed.

The academic research into non-western protest art will form a large bulk of my thesis. In keeping with the radical politics of the work, the writings will not live solely in a traditional academic thesis but may instead be free access through open source journals or venues such as wikipedia; may turn into art or semi-art forms of zines, poetry, poetic prose an art exhibition featuring works of the researched protest art; or it might be in ten different languages that all of the groups speak; or an edited volume from the protest artists themselves. The research will dictate the outcome.

Concurrent Art Practise
My aim is to have my academic research supplement my art practise or art as research. Protest weaving is something I have done and intend to continue doing. How the research and art practise will influence each other and intertwine remains to be seen. I envision the thesis to have exhibition component to it. Some of my artworks are radially political, some are protests in and of themselves while others are about protest textile makers. My academic research may influence, guide and otherwise flow with my art practise or it may directly change my practise to be more about textile protest makers than being itself a protest.

Overview of My Practise

My artwork brings a strong aesthetic and material based practice into the realm of social justice. I use weaving, ceramics, performativity and process as manifestations to expand the discourses of textile and political art.

Touch, texture and the handmade are explored in relationship to the maker and the performativity of making. Local, industrial, and Indigenous materials are explored in relationship to their places of origin and the connotations they carry. Strong aesthetic and decorative elements in the work are employed to subvert traditional occidental devaluation of these elements particularly in relation to craft materials and women’s workThe textile-orientated works of contemporary artists such as Sascha Reichstein, Sara Rahbar, Tanya Aguiñiga, Tanja Boukal and Lisa Anne Auerbach, which are politically radical, influence my practice.

Through the lens of social justice and intersectionality, my work investigates borders, refugees, globalism and colonization in relation to textiles and makers. I use the relationship of textiles to social justice and activism to create a working method for my material explorations. The act of making alone can provide a powerful statement that has the ability to reframe the way we view and act within our world.

My Motivation
Pursuing my masters had a profoundly positive impact on my art practise. My hope is that pursuing a PhD will have a similarl impact on my practise, though in different ways. Focused time, frequent readings and critical discussions will evolve the way I view and interact with my art. My masters thesis was 19,000 words focusing almost entirely on myself and my practise, which felt overly self-indulgent, I am hoping my PHD will allow me to contribute more to the wider art-world and less to myself.

While at a textile conference in Manchester, one of the speakers from Mexico deplored the lack of research into non-western textile artists. For someone with an activist background and an interest in anti-colonial practises, it seemed clear to me that this was an area where I could insert myself. I have been doing low-key research and have written thirteen articles on wikipedia on mostly non-western textile art and artists. Doing my PhD would allow me to continue this ideology in a more formal method, with greater resources and incentive to be productive.

Adamson, Glenn. Thinking through Craft. London : Bloomsbury, 2013.
Auther, Elissa. String, Felt, Thread: The Hierarchy of Art and Craft in American Art. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010.
Beckert, Sven. Empire of Cotton: A New History of Global Capitalism. Penguin History. London: Penguin Books, 2015.
Bryan-Wilson, Julia. Fray: Art + Textile Politics. London: The University of Chicago Press, 2017.
Clowney, David. “Definitions of Art and Fine Art’s Historical Origins.” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 69, no. 3 (2011): 309–20.
Decker, Juilee, Hinda Mandell, and Rochester Public Library (Rochester, N.Y.), eds. Crafting Democracy: Fiber Arts and Activism. Rochester, New York: RIT Press, 2019.
Greer, Betsy, ed. Craftivism: The Art of Craft and Activism. Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2014.
Hemmings, Jessica, ed. The Textile Reader. London : Bloomsbury Visual Arts, 2019.
Henderson, P. L. Unravelling Women’s Art: Creators, Rebels, & Innovators in Textile Arts. Edited by Cheryl Robson. Twickenham: Supernova Books, 2021.
Mandell, Hinda, ed. Crafting Dissent: Handicraft as Protest from the American Revolution to the Pussyhats. American Association for State and Local History Book Series. London: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019.
Parker, Rozsika. The Subversive Stitch: Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine. New ed. London : I. B. Taurisr, 2010.
Postrel, Virginia I. The Fabric of Civilization: How Textiles Made the World. First edition. New York: Basic Books, 2020.
St. Clair, Kassia. The Golden Thread: How Fabric Changed History, 2021.

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