When I speak to people about working with survivors of domestic violence in the ways that we do – people are amazed that this hasn’t been done before. Its not surprising. The work a day world that we are all so thoroughly invested in takes up much of the time needed to create.
I think we chose this particualr artform for survivors of domestic violence for a few reasons. Studies currently show that women who leave domestic abuse have tried at least SEVEN times to leave. These women have chosen at this point to make a leap of faith that life will be. That it is worth living without being reprimanded at every point. When I consider that courage, that strength of spirit I am moved. How many of us could step out on faith even WITHOUT threats of violence. How many times have you heard of a person being given a wonderful opportunity, only to opt for the familiar. – Heck, its safe!
This is the mind and spirit that is open and ripe for creative nourishment.
We made a few conscious choices with this endeavor.
There seems to be a trend of working with people (young and old) that keeps the projects to “keep busy, play with color” types of activities. Greeting Cards, scarfs and pillows are all wonderful – however as women, we are the ones up at 3 in the morning realizing that still don’t have clothing to make it through the day! By simply looking at the skills we wanted to teach (sewing, crocheting, knitting, weaving, embroidery, machine knitting) and thinking about clothing and home furnishings, we have created a Core Wardrobe which incorporates learning these needlearts skills in the most efficient ways.
Once a domestic violence survivor enters the shelter or residence, and she has gone through all of the steps of relocating and reorienting herself to her new surroundings, there is a period of stasis. Not enough time to find work (if she has children) and not enough time to go to school, there is the window of nothingness until she has to leave the shelter. This window is the perfect time to discover a way to heal while creating all the items needed to nurture this new life.
We were 4- 5 years into the process of this organization when I gained a wonderful understanding…..Textiles and the Needlearts connects us all. It was when we were in the studio and in our first large scale volunteer sewing event. Women and men, young and old were working together side by side to create skirts for the survivors of the Haitian Earthquake. As I moved through the 200+ crowd of volunteers, I heard bits of conversation…….
- “My grandmother would be so proud of me”, said by a young man sewing a wrap skirt by hand….
- “My aunt used to make these beautiful baby blankets, I remember my mother had kept mine and I saw it recently it looked like new!”
” – You too – My grandmother made tablecloths also”
” – with that little thread and that tiny needle, she tried to teach me but I was like uh uh!”
this was a conversation with a West Indian woman, a Jewish woman and an Asian woman who were working on the cutting table….
Over and over again the amazing feats of the needlearts were performed by this eponymous “Grandmother” who seemed to travel the world “creating wedding dresses for her four daughters” or who “taught us all to crochet” or who “did embroidery and sewed coats for all the children in a weekend!”.
The memories evolved and poured out as our studio became filled with men and women of the early 20th century who lived their lives creating beauty in their homes and for their families.
What I am learning through these conversations is that textile/needlearts knowledge is somehow organic to the human experience. Where a family may not have had computers or even literacy there was always some aspect of the needlearts that was integral to the lifestyle of the entire family. In fact the comment “my (uncle, mother, great aunt – fill in the blank) made ALL our clothes” comes so frequently it makes me wonder why that practice stopped so abruptly to where now individuals have difficulty with sewing on buttons….
The visual familiarity of the needlearts in the home encouraged this ambitious task – I knew that if women had SEEN the needlearts in their own lives, they could appreciate the value of learning these skills for themselves and their families.
Sue Rock Originals Everyone is a charity organization which provides textile support to survivors of domestic violence who leave. We provide these services to women in need FREE of charge. If you would like to support the work we do and get more information – you can make a donation to our organization. Every bit helps and it all goes to supporting our weekly classes in the needlearts to survivors of domestic violence. Donations can be made through Paypal at email@example.com. Thank you!