Represent! with Bianca Springer

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Bianca Springer was born and raised in The Bahamas, now lives in Pearland, Texas, with her husband and two children. She learned to sew as a child, but says motherhood cultivated her passion for the craft. Representation matters and Bianca always tries to honor that through her writings. Recently she wrote REPRESENT! an embroidery book that looks like you! It celebrates diversity with more than 50 embroidery motifs of people in a wide array of skin colors, body shapes, and natural hairstyles. No need for painstaking design alterations—you can simply jump right in and start stitching. These inclusive embroidery projects represent every kind of beauty; see yourself and your loved ones in these designs. Expand your embroidery and sewing skills while increasing your appreciation of others! Celebrate beautiful YOU!

Lisa Woolfork is an associate professor of English,  specializing in African American literature and culture. Her teaching and research explore Black women writers, Black identity, trauma theory and American slavery. She is the convener and founder of Black Women Stitch, the sewing group where Black lives matter. She is also the host/producer of Stitch Please, a weekly audio podcast that centers Black women, girls, and femmes in sewing. In the summer of 2017, she actively resisted the white supremacist marches in her community, Charlottesville Virginia. The city became a symbol of lethal resurging white supremacist violence. #Charlottesville. She remains active in a variety of university and community initiatives, including the Community Engaged Scholars program. She believes in the power of creative liberation.

Insights from this Episode

  • What does the word “represent” means to Bianca
  • Why does Bianca feel a strong urge to represent the black community in an unapologetic way
  • Bianca’s trajectory writing down her designs and patterns on blogs and  magazines
  • How was Bianca’s process to write her book
  • How Bianca’s character has been put to test in the industry
  • Bianca’s thoughts on community building
  • Bianca’s  “Represent!” book and its frames
  • What would Bianca say to a person that is looking to “get their stitch together”

Quotes from the Show:

  • “[About  the meaning of represent] It means authentically showing off as your true self or allowing people into your space so they can do that as well” – Bianca Springer in “Stitch Please”
  • “This is me stepping into a space, I am not whispering, I am not easing in, I am not trying to stand back and wait for you to acknowledge me, I feel like in my craft life and in the craft spaces I have been in as an introvert, I had been happy to do that” – Bianca Springer in “Stitch Please”
  • “We are the ones we have been waiting for” – Lisa Woolfork in “Stitch Please”
  • “As someone who is trying to encourage others into craft, I want people to understand perfection is not the goal so if your work is less than perfect framing it elevates it. I’m highlighting the imperfection” – Bianca Springer in “Stitch Please”
  • “I say this book [Represent!] is for everyone, not about everyone” – Bianca Springer in “Stitch Please”
  • “Try something different and ask themselves two questions beyond their resistance, whatever thing is stopping you from advancing, ask yourself why and then why not and once you begin to explore that, you’re gonna get some stitches together” – Bianca Springer in “Stitch Please”

Stay Connected:

Lisa Woolfork

Instagram: Lisa Woolfork

Twitter: Lisa Woolfork

Bianca Springer

Website: https://thanksimadethem.com

Blog: https://thanksimadethem.blogspot.com/

Instagram: Bianca Springer

Book: Represent! Embroidery – C&T Publishing

Pinterest: Bianca Springer

Read Full Transcript

Lisa Woolfork 0:00
It's National Sewing Month, and we are talking with Bianca Springer. Let's go! Are you a Patreon supporter? If not, why not? Supporting the Patreon helps us bring the podcast to you. So hit us up on the Patreon.

Hello, stitchers. Welcome to Stitch Please, the official podcast of Black Women Stitch, the sewing group where Black lives matter. I'm your host, Lisa Woolfork. I'm a fourth-generation sewing enthusiast with more than 20 years of sewing experience. I am looking forward to today's conversation. So sit back, relax, and get ready to get your stitch together.

Hello, everybody and welcome to the Stitch Please podcast. I am your host, Lisa Woolfork, and as I say every week, this is a very special episode because I am talking with Bianca Springer, y'all. Thanks, I made it, and so can you. Bianca is a friend of the show, I like to think. I am a fan of her work, and she has appeared on the show earlier so we will include links to her previous episode, which was fantastic. There are some things I learned about Bianca in that episode that you will want to know. So I think you need to go back and listen to Bianca's first episode, and I'm gonna give you two words that's gonna intrigue you. Okay, you ready? The two words that's gonna intrigue you about Bianca and her very first episode of the Stitch Please podcast, two words: clown ministry. [Bianca laughs] Clown ministry. That's the phrase. I'm not gonna say anything else. I don't wanna give it away. I want y'all to go back, like I said, and listen to that episode. But if the words "clown ministry" don't get your attention, I don't know how you're living, okay? Cloud ministry. Okay, get into that cloud ministry. So, Bianca, welcome to the program. It's so good to see you again.

Bianca Springer 1:03
Thank you so much for having me, Lisa. It's always a delight.

Lisa Woolfork 2:00
So much fun. Bianca Springer is an omni crafter. Okay, an omni crafter. She does it all. She does sewing and quilting and hand embroidery. So those are like the needle art things. But she also does, like, she designs and makes—manufactures with cutting machines, pattern weights. I have about three sets and they are fantastically glorious. And I love pattern weights because of my utter disdain of pins. So pattern weights are my jam. It's just so glad to see her extend into a whole new arena now with writing. Now she's written before— blogger, writing for magazines, and now she has this new book out y'all called "Represent Embroidery." And so welcome, Bianca, let's get into it. Tell me about what does represent mean to you. When you hear the word represent, what does it mean to you,

Bianca Springer 2:52
It means authentically showing up as your true self or allowing people into your space so they can do that as well. We've seen a lot of diversity initiatives that are like fireworks: boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, look at us, and then it fizzles away. And I was getting a little frustrated with that. Embroidery felt like one, a place that we are grossly underrepresented, is eligible to teach, but also a good entryway craft. A lot of seamstresses and garment makers don't necessarily get into embroidery. And I thought, you know what, there's some good designs that we can use to jazz up what we make, to get people into upcycling. It can be time-consuming or not. So it felt like a good entry point. And because of the visual elements of embroidery, people can turn away from your words. They can turn away from something uncomfortable, that makes them feel uncomfortable. But a visual piece of art, it stays with you. It's hard for you to forget someone has sat and stitched a fit or a message. Yeah, like I said, it was a place that I felt I could fit. I feel like it was a bridge and an entry point for people who are new to handcrafts.

Lisa Woolfork 4:07
I think that is so wise. Because what it does is that you are expanding. And what you are doing is equipping people for success in a variety of ways. First, you are allowing or encouraging or inviting folks who might do a lot of apparel sewing to say hey, you know that this is not at all in competition with apparel sewing. It's a huge part of it. That this can enhance and embellish the things that you're already doing. Similarly, just in terms of ideas and thinking about how we live in the world together. It allows people to kind of think, at least for me, as a Black woman, I love the idea of having an embroidery that looks like me. And I think in some of the materials for the book, it says things like it's finally time for an embroidery that looks like you and without all of the fussy edits that you have to do like Oh, I'm gonna get this design but the design is of a white child, therefore, I will change that out, and I gotta fix the hair because that hair doesn't look like me either. I guess I just really liked the outfit the person had on, and that's the part that I really focus on. And so there's so many different concessions that Black makers have to make in order to participate in this craft sometimes. And I really like how you shifted that. You have shifted that with this book. I want to ask a follow-up question about the word "represent," which I love how you described it as entering it with your full and authentic and whole self. Why the exclamation mark? You could have had an exclamation mark. It says "Represent!" exclamation mark. And I'm like, why not a period? Why not a question mark, which would be terrible. Question mark, obviously bad. But why the exclamation mark?

Bianca Springer 5:42
Because I want you to feel that foot through the door. This is me stepping into a space. I am not whispering. I am not easing in. I am not trying to stand back and wait for you to acknowledge me. I feel like in my craft life and the craft spaces I have been in as an introvert, I have been happy to do that. Not happy but comfortable to just be in the space and have people approach me and engage me based on what I fade and my craft.

Lisa Woolfork 6:09
Yes.

Bianca Springer 6:10
That has been authentic in those moments. But the longer I have been in those spaces, there was an expectation on my part where I felt like you guys have seen me now. You know we craft. You know we're here. And with this title, I got tired of standing in the back. So a period is kind of standing in the back. This exclamation point is hello!

Lisa Woolfork 6:31
Yes, yes. I love it. It's a demand.

Bianca Springer 6:35
It's a demand. And I have goosebumps now because I'm irritated. It's like, don't you get it? Don't you see us? And you know what? I'm tired of asking you to see me. Here I am. Look, do something or not.

Lisa Woolfork 6:47
Or not.

Bianca Springer 6:47
But I am here. We are here.

Lisa Woolfork 6:49
Yes, we are here and we have always been here. And there have been deliberate choices to pretend as if we have not been. And I tell people this all the time: We are the ones we have been waiting for.

Bianca Springer 7:02
Absolutely. Absolutely. I'm like I'm tired of waiting for someone else to do it. And to do it as a firework. Because there have been people who do it, and it's beautiful, but it's a one-time thing in February.

Lisa Woolfork 7:15
Ugh.

Bianca Springer 7:15
And then there's that business as usual.

Lisa Woolfork 7:18
Yes, I find that so powerful. And I'm really grateful that you put an exclamation on it because it is a demand. And that is unapologetic. Right. It's absolutely unapologetic. And I wanted to ask you about the process of writing the book. So you are no stranger to writing. You blog, you write for different sewing magazines, you've created patterns for different sewing magazines. And now you have a book. Can you talk a little bit about that process? Is it very different writing a blog versus writing a magazine article versus creating a pattern? So like, and maybe talking just about the writing just at the beginning. You started as a blogger. Could you have imagined ending up with a book?

Bianca Springer 7:57
Absolutely not. When I started as a person on Flickr, I couldn't imagine anyone following me. [laughs] And then the blog, and then my friend Hillary is like, get on Instagram, get on Instagram. And then finally I got on Instagram. So I honestly no, I did not plan to be a book writer, but it feels inevitable at the same time. The book writing process was the force of another color is that expected?

Lisa Woolfork 8:24
Yes.

Bianca Springer 8:24
It is not the same. To write a blog post, it's personal. It is fun. It's silly. It's whatever you want it to be. And it's me, it's a hundred percent this is what I did today. The magazine articles are dictated by the mood boards and the theme of the magazine. So that is more instructional. That is here's what you do to achieve this product. I try to make my magazine projects things that I loved and that I would want to wear or use, but it's not as personal. This book is personal. I remember being at one point in the conversations with the acquisitions editor, and it occurred to me that we are actually talking about a book. [laughs] It was really surreal. This person wants to acquire a book from me, but it was a foregone conclusion to her at this point in the conversation where I was just spitballing, right? Oh, this would make a fun project. But maybe we could do something like that. And then she's like, "So make sure you have the proposal in on this day and time and in this format." And I'm like, oh, what? Wait. So the projects that I initially outlined have changed. Once I realized, okay, this is actually a book. Books require variety of projects, variety of techniques. And I really had to focus on what it was I wanted to say beyond representing and had to not just be about me.

Lisa Woolfork 9:54
Right.

Bianca Springer 9:55
And that was the hard part because I wanted it to feel personal. I wanted it to connect and resonate with people, but I didn't want it to be self-absorbed. I want Lisa to pick up this book and say, Ooh, yeah, I want to make that.

Lisa Woolfork 10:07
Yes, and I have. I seen some of those. And for you Patreon viewers, Bianca is sitting here looking amazing, as am I, but Bianca especially. And also shared with me a few of the images from the book. So I've had a chance to peek and see. And, y'all, I'm like, oh, yeah, I'm definitely making that one. That one for sure. I don't even have my book in my hot little hands yet, and I have already identified at least two, I'm like, oh, yeah, I'm gonna get that DMC floss in this color. But that'd be great. I bet I could do that just maybe with just using a big fat strip or that lettering. And first of all, I don't even embroider that well, okay? So... [Bianca laughs] I really don't. I would love—but I'm like, I was excited. So I think what I hear you saying it reminds me of this wonderful scholar from the turn of the century. And her name was Anna Julia Cooper. And one of the quotes she used to say, and she says, "When and where I enter, the whole of the Negro race enters with me." And what she was talking about was when Black women are allowed access to spaces of higher education or to these institutions and structures, that Black women bring along the community with them. And so that's what I saw in what you're doing. So while you're thinking about like, well, I don't want to be self-absorbed, I don't want it to be about me. But when it's about you, Bianca, it's also about me, right?

Bianca Springer 11:26
Yes, and that's when the pressure was on. And that's what was different about the book writing—is understanding that this is not just about me. This is about us. And I need justice. But I need to also understand that this cannot encompass everything. We are so vast.

Lisa Woolfork 11:42
Yes, absolutely.

Bianca Springer 11:44
It was a constant—there is this constant need to balance personal responsibility, community responsibility, and appreciation for the fact that there is just no way this book could speak for all of us. But I'm hoping it speaks to all of us.

Lisa Woolfork 12:00
Yes, I love that. And I think that you are meeting these goals. Because every book has a beginning and an end. It has a front cover and a back cover for a reason. It's meant to be bounded, that there are going to be way more ideas and projects and things you want to say that cannot fit into this book. Doesn't mean that they're bad ideas. it doesn't mean that they're no good. It just means that they are for later. And so I would not encourage you to see that as a downside. In fact, it's an upside, because you can finish this book and still have leftover ideas.

Bianca Springer 12:36
Yesss.

Lisa Woolfork 12:37
What a blessing is that? Like, that is amazing. So that's really fantastic. You were saying about the blog, and what I really appreciate what I'm seeing is trajectory. It's personal, very intimate. You decide when you want to blog, when you don't. You are the person who's solely in charge of it. And then you work at times for a magazine. And they say, "Okay, this month, we're concentrating on this. Let me hear your ideas about what to work for that." but you're still reporting to them. And then you move—I don't know if you see this as moving up and moving across—to a publishing company that has a lot more input. But it's also giving you this kind of platform to express some of your great creativity. Have you found that working with an acquisitions editor or working with whatever the editorial process is like, has that urged you to think about creativity a little differently? Has it shaped the way that you might work on other projects. I just keep thinking about, at least what I sew, I feel like it can be so solitary. It's like me sitting at the machine, and I'm making what I want to make, and nobody else is really involved. But this— there's lots of people involved in your book. How do you balance all of that?

Bianca Springer 13:44
Well, you know, honestly, there is a misconception in the level of involvement.

Lisa Woolfork 13:50
Oh!

Bianca Springer 13:51
There is a team.

Lisa Woolfork 13:52
Okay.

Bianca Springer 13:53
But actually, I feel very solace, like it's a solitary process. I feel at times isolated from the process because there are timelines where certain goals need to be met. And at various points in the timeline, someone new is in charge.

Lisa Woolfork 14:11
Ohhh.

Bianca Springer 14:11
It's establishing a new relationship with that person, but it's not a round table. It's not when we're all spitballing everything at every stage.

Lisa Woolfork 14:20
Okay.

Bianca Springer 14:20
I think honestly, that's been the most unpleasant part of the process for me, where there are silences. Where things are working in the background. And I'm like, what's happening? It's a hurry up and go. So over the weekend, I got some sample pages of the layouts. And this morning in my inbox, I need your feedback. When we hang up, I have to go give some feedback. But I'm like, I haven't heard from you in three weeks.

Lisa Woolfork 14:44
It's a hurry up and wait kind of situation. It's like, you hurry, hurry, hurry. Do it now! [laughs]

Bianca Springer 14:49
Yes! And what I appreciate, though, even at every stage there is, I feel free to say I don't like that

Lisa Woolfork 14:58
Great.

Bianca Springer 14:58
I don't like that. And understanding that within the publishing parameters they've set, I do have a voice. And I was nervous about that. I think that going in beforehand, I really thought this would be like a big move all the way through this process as a group. And it's not it's like a relay race instead.

Lisa Woolfork 15:17
Wow.

Bianca Springer 15:18
Where you're handed off person to person.

Lisa Woolfork 15:20
Wow. But could you talk a little bit about why you chose C and T? Or how did that connection come about? C and T, if you all don't know, is a premier publisher in the quilt—and I think overall—quilt design and making. I have quite a few of their books. I was looking through their catalog as part of the research for this episode. They've got a whole new cosplay book coming out and African fabrics and all of these things that are coming. And so it's a great company, as far as I can tell, just as a consumer, I've not done any other deep research around them. But tell us how that came about. Because it's wonderful to have your first book through such a prestigious press, I think.

Bianca Springer 15:58
Yes, it is. I'm really excited about that. I got connected with C and T through, I want to say, Kraft-Tex, the paper?

Lisa Woolfork 16:06
Yeah, Kraft-Tex. They make Timtex, right?

Bianca Springer 16:08
I'm not sure.

Lisa Woolfork 16:09
Okay, but Kraft-Tex, C-R-A-F-T dash T-E-X?

Bianca Springer 16:13
Yes.

Lisa Woolfork 16:14
Okay, that leather-like colorful paper?

Bianca Springer 16:16
Yes!

Lisa Woolfork 16:16
I have some of that. Surprise.

Bianca Springer 16:18
And so they reached out to me a few years ago, when I downloaded a pattern from their site. And then they're like, "Hey, do you want to be a part of this Kraft-Tex ambassador program?" And I signed up. I'm like, great, I'd love to play with it. The idea was every month there was a different theme, and we would make something with the product. And so I was a part of that ambassador program. And then that fall, my friends, Julie Starr and Sarah Gunn, wrote "The Tunic Bible," and they were doing promotion for "The Tunic Bible." And I was a part of the gallery. I made a sample. So they were at Quilt Market and Quilt Festival in Houston. And so I had an initial introduction with C and T there. So I felt like okay, I saw the way they treated Sarah and Julie during their book promotion, and they were welcoming, and you know, it was very supportive. So the idea of joining for the ambassador program made sense. And so the next year, I went to market and festival helping a friend. I dressed in something creative.

Lisa Woolfork 17:21
I think was that your Yo-yo jacket?

Bianca Springer 17:23
It might have been that year. I think it was the Yo-yo or the Granny Square. I think was the Yo-yo, yes.

Lisa Woolfork 17:28
Okay, these are amazing pieces, y'all. You have got to find Bianca's page on IG or her blog to see that the Yo-yo one and the Granny Square—both of them are exquisite. Such labor, but they look just like...I can't even describe it. It just looks like a BRIGHT boom of color. It's fantastic. They're gorgeous. And so that was getting you some attention as you were just doing your own thing, walking around, minding your own beeswax.

Bianca Springer 17:53
Yes. And I was carrying my Girls Night Out bag.

Lisa Woolfork 17:56
Oh, great bag. I love that. That's a great bag.

Bianca Springer 18:00
Thank you. And so I went to meet my Kraft-Tex contact because we hadn't met in person. So I thought, let me pop by and say hello. She wasn't there, but one of the editors just stopped and looked at me and she's like, "You have a story to tell. You have a book in you." And she asked me to meet our acquisitions person. And I'm like, What are you talking about?

Lisa Woolfork 18:20
This is a bag. This is not a book. This is a bag. You see.

Bianca Springer 18:23
This is a bag!

Lisa Woolfork 18:25
I made a bag. You're talking about a book. It's a different B.

Bianca Springer 18:27
And then people were walking by and they're like, "Oh, I follow you" and just whispering as they walked by, and the editor is like, "Who are you? Where are we?" You know, looking at my Instagram, and she's like, "You definitely need to do this meeting tomorrow." So apparently at market, which is different from festival, if you are within the industry and you want to pitch a book, you can schedule your time to do that with an acquisitions editor.

Lisa Woolfork 18:27
Okay.

Bianca Springer 18:27
And so they put me in the books, and, Lisa, I had no idea what was happening. Zero clue.

Lisa Woolfork 18:42
Hey, friends, hey. I wanted to share a little bit about the abundance of the Stitch Please podcast. The growth of the podcast has been so exponential, that the work has exceeded what I am able to do. And this is where you come in to retain the joy, practice, and the liberatory vision of the podcast. And to not have it reproduce capitalist extraction and overwhelm, I am recalibrating the Black Women Stitch Patreon for increased sustained financial support. You can find links to the Black Women Stitch Patreon in the show notes, and be on the lookout for more information as the recalibration unfolds. And thank you for your support.

You go to this meeting. You're like, "Okay, I have a bag. I was told to come here and talk to an acquisitions editor. Still not sure where this book is going to come from, but I'm game. I'm here. Here we go. Talk to me."

Bianca Springer 19:53
You said exactly what I said to her. I said that exactly. And she said, "Well, what are you interested in?" And this is where things got really real. I said, "You know what, I need to be honest with you. I am looking at your shelves. And as I look at these shelves, I am unimpressed. I am not interested in these books." And, and to her credit, she was so gracious with hearing me just be honest with her. I am interested in embroidery. I enjoy embroidery. And I told her about the fact that at that point, I had had two surgeries. I was on bedrest, and I ordered books online from their authors. And I bought them sight unseen. So as I got them home, I saw all these little kids and these people, I'm like, for every design I was interested in, I had to figure out how to change the hair texture, how to change the shape of the nose, how to widen the hips, how to make these things feel representative of me. And I said, you know what, in the moment, I did it because I had no option. I was incapacitated.

Lisa Woolfork 19:53
Right.

Bianca Springer 20:57
But now that I'm here and I have your ear, I took some books off the shelf, and I said, look at her. I mean, she's not my daughter. She doesn't look like anyone in my family. I'm from a mixed family, you know this. It's very difficult for me to sit and spend six hours stitching this thing because it doesn't communicate anything to me. I said, but more so than that, I don't want to give you my money to disrespect me. I can't pay you to tell me I am not worthy enough for you to create a design that looks like me.

Lisa Woolfork 21:27
That's right.

Bianca Springer 21:28
So I need you to tell me that if I were to write a book with people that look like me, will it be on these shelves? Is that an interest? Is that something you're willing to do? I'm like, there's a reason it hasn't been done. I don't know if it's because people like me don't have an opportunity to say this and aren't willing to pitch or if it's an internal thing where those opportunities are being denied. So I am prepared to continue this conversation with you, but you will have to understand this is not going to be [unclear] because I don't want to stitch these books.

Lisa Woolfork 22:04
Right, and what I love about what you said to her when you said "I am not interested in these books," what I heard and what my approach to that is it's not that I'm not interested in these books. I'm not that interested in them. The problem is: They are not interested in me. These books are not interested in me. They're not interested in you. They aren't interested in us, right? And so that's the message we get all the time as Black women sewists who like to make apparel or to make quilts. If I wanted to make a quilt for my boys, and I wanted to go into the store and find pictures with little brown faces on them and have them not be dogs, okay, I would be sorely disappointed. I cannot walk into a fabric store, at least I couldn't last year, and pick up oh, look at that little Black boy fabric. Now if I wanted to get kid, quote unquote, "kid fabric" with white kids on it, sure. And maybe they might have a little Black friend that they put on there, right? But it's not representative. And so this is why I say we are the ones we have been waiting for. Because whether it is a structural thing that the company is doing deliberately, or there is a very narrow pipeline of not having makers who are in the position to write books or whatever, the result is the same. It is this huge just lack of something, which doesn't make any sense. It just does not make any sense. And you know, I feel like we are just so far past the days of, like you said, waiting in the corner and hoping somebody notices. Or coming like we have our little beggar bowl in hand. Please, sir, could you please see me? Like no. No, thank you. And that's why I love your exclamation mark. I love how you just said, I'm not asking you. I'm telling you.

Bianca Springer 23:50
Absolutely. And I appreciate it. And she heard me.

Lisa Woolfork 23:54
I'm so glad.

Bianca Springer 23:55
I had nothing to lose.

Lisa Woolfork 23:57
That's right.

Bianca Springer 23:57
And I was respectful, but I was clear. And honestly, though, the other thing. So that happened in November, and she sent me after market she sent me the materials on how to write the proposal. I was excited. I'm like, okay, she was serious. Actually, it took me several months to write a few drafts.

Lisa Woolfork 24:16
Okay.

Bianca Springer 24:16
And then I just let it sit. So that was like November, and around February, okay, and this is honest so it might be hurtful, but it's honest. I got a request to be featured for Black History Month. But at this point, I had no relationship with the company beyond the Kraft-Tex, which is promotion for product.

Lisa Woolfork 24:38
They send you product and, in exchange, you make something with it, and you all get the mutual benefit of they get a product and you get more eyes on your page and exposure, etcetera.

Bianca Springer 24:48
I was asked to be for the profile and I believe this was either Black History Month or around George Floyd. I was unhappy with that. And I said, you know what, how about you profile me in July. But beyond that, you need to look within your sphere. If you are having to reach outside of your sphere for this profile, there's greater work to be done internally.

Lisa Woolfork 25:12
Absolutely.

Bianca Springer 25:13
I don't want to be tokenized. If you want me to be featured and you want to celebrate my work, you do it on a Saturday or Wednesday in July. You do it on an insignificant day. Well, you turn people down when you say no. Sometimes it appears to be that you're offended. And I'm like, I'm not offended at all. I appreciate that you see my work and my talent, but I'm saying no, with no offense. I'm saying no, with no offense, and I walk away. Our relationship continues. I really need you to look at why I have to be the one to do this. So that happened. And it was a little tension. And I still hadn't pulled the trigger on submitting my final proposal. So what happened next, I was listening to a sermon, and it was the parable of the talents. And so I had heard the parable of the talents about getting a master who gave one talent, five talents, and 10 talents, and then went there was a return on the investment for everyone except the one who buried his. And I was like, ohh, no. And I was like, ooh, I said that's a tender spot. Because I saw someone whose work I saw being heavily promoted and advanced, and objectively, I felt the caliber of that work was mediocre. In that moment, I was like, how was this good? You know, I really had to think about what I did and what they did and why it was well received. And with no judgment on the individual. I'm like, you make your money however you want. And if people are gonna buy it, do it. I support you.

Lisa Woolfork 26:46
Yes, yes, please.

Bianca Springer 26:47
But it forced me to look at why I was upset.

Lisa Woolfork 26:50
Yes.

Bianca Springer 26:51
And what I could do to solve the problem that I saw in my mind. And then this parable of the talents. It's like God was saying, "Look, I gave you an opportunity. I gave you an audience. You have an idea. You are offended when"—not offended, but you know—"when people want to profile you, what are you doing to fill the space that you are irritated in?"

Lisa Woolfork 27:12
Yes, yes. It's like you have to like secure your own healing. If you're annoyed, if you're frustrated about the things you're looking at, and you can't figure out why, and that's when you have to pause and say, "Okay, what is mine to do? What is mine to do?" And it seems like this book was yours to do. And I think it can be really helpful to look objectively at other people's things and say, hey, they're getting like mad attention for that stuff that's not that great. And I know my stuff is really good. I mean, to add just a quick side note: When I did my first retreat, I was so nervous, I didn't think I could do it, blah, blah, blah. And I went back and forth. And finally I said to myself, if that raggedy bitch can do it, [Bianca laughs] I know I can do it. So you get a message from the Lord. And then the Lord sends me a message in a different way. But at the end, we get to do our thing.

Bianca Springer 28:12
Yes.

Lisa Woolfork 28:13
It's the thrive.

Bianca Springer 28:15
Yes, and you know, at the end of the day, someone might hear this, someone might pick up that book and say, Oh, that raggedy bitch did it. And if I'm somebody's raggedy bitch to get them inspired to do it, I'm cool with that.

Lisa Woolfork 28:27
I am...same, same. I feel like every time I see a Black crafty person, I'm like, do you want to do a podcast? You should start a podcast. [Bianca laughs] Like, seriously! When the Asian Sewist Collective got started, I was like, here, find this organization. Do this thing. Go here. Ask these questions. Let me know if you need anything. I'm happy to help. I know that we say this all the time—community over competition, but I believe that. I believe it. I want us all to win. There is plenty. There is an abundance of opportunities and for flourishing, and we can support each other. We can promote and push each other. There's enough room for everybody. There's just enough. That scarcity idea only is meant—scarcity drives competition. And if we realize that scarcity is a myth, and that there is an abundance, then everybody's happier, and everybody's doing what they want, and nobody's hurting each other. And it just works out. And so that's what I think that see when you made the choice to commit to yourself by creating this book. It really is a gift to all of us.

Bianca Springer 29:27
Thank you. Thank you. And I embrace that. I'm excited about it. I'm excited. So some of the designs I know. I love that I have a diverse group of friends. I have shown the same image to my Indian friend, my white friend, my Black friend, and each of them has a different perspective on that image. So I have a conversation. So one of the images in the book, it's a simple text: You're invited to the cookout.

Lisa Woolfork 29:53
Yes, I saw that.

Bianca Springer 29:54
When I stitch that up, I'm going to stitch two versions: one as is, but one with a cross through the knot.

Lisa Woolfork 30:01
That's mine. That's mine. [Bianca laughs] That's mine. I don't be inviting people to the cookout. Yeah, not everybody's getting an invite. Again, like you, I'm in a mixed family. My spouse can come. [Bianca laughs] Then there's also events my spouse can't come. My spouse is not a Black woman. So my spouse never gets invited to the events with Black women. So yes, I did see this. So tell me the you're invited to the cookout, you're not. So tell everybody about it. I saw that. I was like...

Bianca Springer 30:29
Yes! I deliberated. That was not my original design idea. The original idea was: "You're invited to the cookout" in large text, and under it in a smaller subtext, "but you can't bring the potato salad." That's hilarious. And I thought that is hilarious. That is ridiculous. That is funny. Exactly what we say in our head. We're like, you can come, but you got to bring the ice.

Lisa Woolfork 30:56
Yeah or a bag of chips from a store.

Bianca Springer 30:58
Yes!

Lisa Woolfork 30:59
Plates. We also need plates and napkins.

Bianca Springer 31:02
Right? And so when I shared it with one of my Black friends, she got it immediately. She laughed. She's like, Oh, yeah, that's going on an apron. That is too cute. I shared it with a white friend, and they didn't get it. And then there was a whole conversation about why would you invite me and then tell me I can't bring something.

Lisa Woolfork 31:19
And that's why I'm don't invite them to my cookouts.

Bianca Springer 31:21
[laughs] You can't eat everybody's food. Don't you know that? Y'all put raisins in stuff that raisins don't belong in. And I'm joking, because in my head, this is a foregone conclusion. But that simple design, you know, meant something different to each of us.

Lisa Woolfork 31:39
It did, it really did. And I totally planned, when I stitch that out, "You're invited to the cookout," I'm gonna write "not" on mine. [Bianca laughs] For real. I think that Black folks, we need to stop passing out these wholesale invitations to people because people get in there, and next thing you know, they're like, why is it called a cookout? Do we have permits for the park today?

Bianca Springer 32:00
Right? Start saying usernames from songs that you know, you ain't got no business using.

Lisa Woolfork 32:04
Yeah, not everybody can come to the cookout. Not everybody gets to come. So for mine, when I stitch it out, it's gonna be N-O-T. There's other things in the world besides the cookout, you know. I want the cookout to be honest. So this is another example of how your wonderful, beautiful book is speaking to so many of our experiences. And I really love some of the images where you had someone who was a wheelchair user. I know a Black woman who does a lot of sewing, and she is a wheelchair user. So I'm like, I don't know if I've seen embroidery books that would include that type. I like the different body shapes that you have and the hair textures. And I also love this one piece where you have—there's this, like a frame that looks like a cameo. Can you talk a bit about that particular frame? Is that going to be something that you'll be selling on the side? Or like what the hoot? I think you've used that before and some of your work. It was for the women's faces.

Bianca Springer 33:00
Yes. The black frame?

Lisa Woolfork 33:02
Yes. The black frame.

Bianca Springer 33:03
Those will be sold at the store—my soon-to-be Shopify store, my website.

Lisa Woolfork 33:07
Oh, good.

Bianca Springer 33:08
Yes, and those are laser-cut frames that are made from metal.

Lisa Woolfork 33:12
Did you make those?

Bianca Springer 33:12
I did make them.

Lisa Woolfork 33:14
Look at that. I just asked her a question, y'all. Did you make those frames? She's like, "Of course. Thanks, I made them."

Bianca Springer 33:18
Thanks, I made them.

Lisa Woolfork 33:20
I don't want to make mine. I like to buy mine, because I know the other half of your phrases, "Thanks, I made them. So can you."

Bianca Springer 33:25
So can you.

Lisa Woolfork 33:26
I can't make frames. I could make shoes. I can make umbrellas. I make my underwear and bras and all my clothes. Frames? No.

Bianca Springer 33:33
And you know what, there's a point where we just have to say, Look, someone else gotta do it.

Lisa Woolfork 33:37
And I'm so glad that my someone else is named Bianca Springer, because they're talented. And she's very good at cutting very durable materials. So why did you decide to make those beautiful frames? Is that something to get a consistency of look, a way to kind of encourage people to like see their designs as art. I really do think that that does make a difference when you're displaying embroidery. What drew you to the idea of that particular frame style?

Bianca Springer 34:01
So when I was thinking about embroidery myself, and why few of my followers, or people I follow, do embroidery. Like Black followers and people I follow—very few of them engage in embroidery. And in part my love of it is because I love things that are retro and vintage. And so I appreciate that in a way that I know others don't. And so I started to think that just to see a traditional embroidery hoop felt a bit dated, and I felt like by putting that frame around it adds a little modern touch. It gives you a little visual interest. And you know what? In all honesty, I am a fair embroider. I think I do a good job. I am by no means a trained artisan in the embroidery arts. I do a good job. I am happy what I do. Every project gets better. The frame helps. As someone who's trying to encourage others in the craft. I want people to understand that perfection is not the goal.

Lisa Woolfork 35:03
That's right.

Bianca Springer 35:03
So if your work is less than perfect, framing it elevates it. But also, I'm highlighting the imperfection. I'm highlighting the fact that, you know what, I put a lot of time into this. And maybe pulled the wrong floss for that hair. But I put a lot of time in this. And it's cute, and I like it, and the next one will be better.

Lisa Woolfork 35:22
And it's a work of art. Art is not perfection. Art is a practice. And so when you put it up there, when you put it in the frame, you're honoring that process. You're honoring the practice. I don't think I never heard an artist talk about their work in terms of perfection.

Bianca Springer 35:39
Though, but you have a lot of critics and bystanders who do.

Lisa Woolfork 35:42
But I think critic bystanders? Sure. Wait, like, I think that it's a depth. It's an impoverishment of imagination.

Bianca Springer 35:49
Ooh, yes.

Lisa Woolfork 35:50
To look at a work of art and say, "Eh, that ain't perfect." Like, who thinks that way? That's not how we evaluate anything. You don't evaluate, like your food, oh this is good. I really enjoyed this, blah, blah, blah. But no one's gonna say, "That's not perfect. I'm throwing it out." We don't do that in any aspect of life, I don't think. I'm really racking my brain right now trying to figure out oh, it's not perfect, therefore, it's garbage. Only, like, really sad people think that way. That's not okay. And so what this invitation that you're offering us is the ability to play, to understand that with every single stitch, you are taking a step. You know, you are making a move. You are building on something. I absolutely love it. I really do. And I really love how you described the frame as elevating it. And it's nice to basically to appreciate your art on the walls. I can appreciate my clothes, because like, you know, I'm wearing them or my family's wearing them or whatever. I give someone a gift. But it's something else to kind of make something and then just to display it so that you can see it and have the enjoyment of it.

Bianca Springer 36:52
Absolutely. And I think...so the other part of this book, when we talk about the displaying of it is I've been asked, "Who is this book for?" I say this book is for everyone, not about everyone.

Lisa Woolfork 37:06
Yeahhhh.

Bianca Springer 37:08
And if you do not see yourself, and you will, I'm not even going to say that because everybody is in this book.

Lisa Woolfork 37:14
Right. That's one of the subtitles, right? I think it says Stitch 10 Colorful Projects and Over 100 Designs, Full Range of Shapes, Skin Tones and Hair Textures.

Bianca Springer 37:24
Yes, and I think there are some designs that some people will choose not to stitch at all. But I really want them to ask themselves, why not? Take two questions beyond your initial no. And if you are, if you are an ally, and you claim to support others, do that in your handwork. Do that where you put your time. And if you will take the time to stamp six hundred French knots in an Afro and put that in a frame or in your house, and someone walks in and asks you, "Did you make that? Why did you make that?" And it doesn't look like them. It does not represent. That's a conversation that needs to be had. Why would you invest your time in something like that? Because I am an ally. I support with more than just my mouth. If my kids see me stitching these little Afro knots, we can have a conversation about hair discrimination.

Lisa Woolfork 38:20
Right.

Bianca Springer 38:21
That's the bridge. I really want people who think this book is not for them to look at and ask themselves why not.

Lisa Woolfork 38:28
And what it also gives them the opportunity to realize that everything else in their embroidery library, everything else in their catalogs, all the other books on their shelves, this is the only book that has made them feel uneasy, then maybe they can imagine what it's like for us to go into a store and want to do embroidery and are looking for books and patterns that are meaningful to us and not finding anything. This idea that this book is for everybody, but not about everybody. That seems like I actually do have some books just like you. I've purchased these books. Clearly, they're not for me, nor about me. And I still buy them. And I still use them. And I still sew up the stuff. So there's a lot worse things that can happen to somebody than being made uneasy by an embroidery book.

Bianca Springer 39:20
[laughs] Right?

Lisa Woolfork 39:23
There just is. If that's the height of their oppression in the world is that they were made uncomfortable by an embroidery book, then congratulations.

Bianca Springer 39:32
Yes, give me your shoes. I'd like to walk a day in them.

Lisa Woolfork 39:35
Exactly. Just for a little bit though, because I think they might go a lot of racist places, and I don't want to go there. [Bianca laughs] I gonna let you go, but I actually have to ask this question because I've been asking everybody. The slogan of the Stitch Please podcast is that we will help you get your stitch together. Bianca Springer author of "Represent!", how would you advise our listeners today to get their stitch together?

Bianca Springer 39:58
Try something different and and ask themselves two questions beyond their resistance. Whatever thing is stopping you from attempting, ask yourself why and then why not. And once you begin to explore that, you're gonna get some stitches together somewhere.

Lisa Woolfork 40:16
And on that note, you all can find this marvelous book "Represent!" from C and T Publishing. If you are lucky, or wise like I was, you have preordered your book, and it is on the way to you. But if not, you can find some at booksellers and directly from C and T probably. There's all kinds of ways you'll be able to find the book. Bianca Springer, thanks, I made them. Thank you for being here. It was a delight as always,

Bianca Springer 40:43
Thank you, Lisa. Had such a great time.

Lisa Woolfork 40:48
You've been listening to the Stitch Please podcast, the official podcast of Black Women Stitch, the sewing group where Black lives matter. We appreciate you supporting us by listening to the podcast. If you'd like to reach out to us with questions, you can contact us at Black Women Stitch at Gmail dot com. If you'd like to support us financially, you can do that by supporting us on Patreon, P-A-T-R-E-O-N, and you can find Black Women Stitch there, in the Patreon directory. And for as little as two dollars a month you can help support the project with things like editing, transcripts, and other things to strengthen the podcast. And finally, if financial support is not something you can do right now, you can really, really help the podcast by rating it and reviewing it anywhere you listen to podcasts that allows you to review them. So I know that not all podcast directories or services allow for reviews, but for those who do, for those that have like a star rating or just ask for a few comments, if you could share those comments and say nice things about us and this Stitch Please podcast, that is incredibly helpful. Thank you so much. Come back next week, and we'll help you get your stitch together.

Hosted by Lisa Woolfork

Lisa is a fourth-generation sewing enthusiast who learned to sew while earning a PhD in African American literature and culture. She has been sewing for more than twenty years while also teaching, researching, and publishing in Black American literature and culture.

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