This is not normal


I have always practiced the needle arts. As a child, I sewed saddles and bridles for my toy horses, embroidered Erica Wilson designs, and made fabric collage portraits of Queen Elizabeth I and William Shakespeare. Later, I taught myself to knit, and learned how to stitch temari (Japanese embroidered thread balls). I’ve worked in a yarn shop, taught knitting and temari, designed handknits. More recently I rediscovered embroidery, but I wasn’t drawn to traditional designs and techniques. Inspired by artists such as Sue Stone, I felt that handstitch could be used to tell stories, histories, and more. After my parents died, embroidering portraits of them helped me to work through my grief and loss.
But then came Election Day 2016. Like many others in the U.S. and elsewhere, I was dumbstruck and couldn’t believe that we had elected Donald Trump as President of the United States. As Inauguration Day neared, my fear, panic, and despair deepened. To deal with these emotions, I again turned to embroidery: I began a daily practice of stitching the phrase “THIS IS NOT NORMAL”—not because I believe there is some magical normal from which we have deviated and to which we should return, but rather to remind myself daily not to normalize this President, and his Administration’s myriad actions and policies that are so severely damaging my country, and the world.
For the first 100 days of the Trump Administration, I stitched small themed pieces, often reacting to something that had just happened. I assembled these pieces into two large Cloths of Resistance, each spanning 50 days. Beginning with day 101 (April 30, 2017) and continuing still, I have made Flags of Resistance, adding one iteration of “THIS IS NOT NORMAL” daily. I have made several other small pieces dealing with separation of refugee families, hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, and other timely topics. Recently, I have focused on somewhat larger pieces concerning the #metoo movement, and the unprecedented nature of the Trump Presidency.
All of my resistance artwork marries simple imagery with stitched text, often resulting in comprehensively stitched cloth. Stitched text is enormously powerful: it is slow, requiring that I live with each word for minutes or more at a time. Although this can be emotionally exhausting, it has resulted in pieces that connect strongly with people viewing the work.
Using arts traditionally associated with the domestic sphere of women to resist and comment on our current politics and culture brings history, poignancy and urgency to my work. Even when these pieces are immediate and perhaps too reactive to some new outrage, in fact the making of this work is slow, deliberate, and heartfelt. Finally, I take the words of Frau Fiber (aka Carole Frances Lung) to heart:
“I pledge my life to mending America by being a watchful and vigilant community member; peacefully and firmly fighting racism, sexism, and oppression; crafting spaces where all people are welcome; to continue to create change through calls to actions, skill sharing, sewing, and mending; and to persistently persevere in spite of the seeming futility of it all.”
For more informatioon about India’a artwork, please visit