Stitching History with Janda Lipker and Rebecca Christian-Lipker

0.75x 1x 1.25x 1.5x 2x 0:0000:29:27 Stitching History with Janda Lipker and Rebecca Christian-Lipker

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Janda Lipker & Rebecca Christian-Lipker

This is a mother-daughter duo who creates quilts. They run their family-owned hair and beauty company, James Lauren LLC, out of Maple Heights. The name honors Lipker’s children, Rebecca, whose middle name is Lauren, and her son, James.

Lisa Woolfork

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 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. 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:

  • Janda’s sewing story
  • Janda’s life growing up
  • How Rebecca picked up sewing
  • Making masks during Covid-19
  • Details about the Henry Box Brown quilt
  • Using color as a form of language
  • The dynamics of working together as mom and daughter
  • Details on the trapunto quilt
  • Projects they have coming up

Quotes from the show:

  • “I started sewing my first dress in third grade. So, I’ve been sewing, literally my own clothing, since third grade” —Janda Lipker in “Stitch Please”
  • “I think with age came patience, in knowing like, it’s not all gonna come together, you’re not gonna be great at it initially, but there’s time” —Rebecca Christian-Lipker in “Stitch Please”
  • “The big theme of us, is I may not know all the answers right now, but imma figure it out and it’s gonna be right!” —Rebecca Christian-Lipker in “Stitch Please”
  • “This is what I love. I love that joy is always our option. Joy is our birthright as well! We can talk about our powerful history and you can stitch that history in about half a million stitches” —Lisa Woolfork in “Stitch Please”
  • “Because social media is so raggedly individualist, there are a lot of people that don’t want to help anybody else” —Lisa Woolfork in “Stitch Please”
  • “There is a lot of history that goes into every piece we make” —Janda Lipker in “Stitch Please”
  • “Stich in any way that makes you happy, no matter what anyone says. Do what makes you happy: whatever that craft is, whether it’s stitching or not” —Janda Lipker in “Stitch Please”

Stay Connected:

Lisa Woolfork

Instagram: Lisa Woolfork

Twitter: Lisa Woolfork

Janda Lipker

LinkedIn: Janda Lipker 

Rebecca Christian-Lipker

Instagram: Rebeca Christian-Lipker

James Lauren Beauty


Instagram: James Lauren Beauty

Twitter: James Lauren Beauty

Facebook: James Lauren Beauty

This episode was produced and managed by Podcast Laundry.

Read Full Transcript

Lisa Woolfork 0:10

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. And like I say every week, this is a very special episode, because this episode is the Quilters Lipker. I did just make that up--the Quilters Lipker as a way to kind of talk about this fantastic mother-daughter duo of quilters. And I'm speaking, of course, of Janda Lipker and Rebecca Christian-Lipker, who managed to blend powerful African American history with fandom as a way to sustain a joy practice through the needle arts. And their work is so vivid, so inspiring, and just so powerful, and I am grateful to welcome them both today to the Stitch Please podcast. Thank you so much, Jan and Rebecca, for joining us today.

Janda Lipker 1:25

We're happy to be here.

Lisa Woolfork 1:26

So Jan, I'm gonna start with you. Can you talk a little bit--and I ask this question all the time. What is your sewing story? Did you begin--did you have lots and lots of experience? I did read that a lot of things kicked off for you as a team in 20-20 Did you have any sewing experience that went before that?

Janda Lipker 1:45

I started sewing when I was really little. Grandmother in Mississippi, mother sewed, we all sewed. We weren't wealthy and we didn't know that. My mother made sewing fun. So she's like, "You can make your own clothes. You don't have to buy from the store." And we didn't realize we were doing that because we weren't well off. And I started selling my first dress in third grade. So I've been sewing literally my own clothing since third grade. It was fun. My mother made it fun. I didn't realize until I got to an adult that was sneaky, but it was cool. And then we just grew up sewing. And my grandmother taught us how to quilt very little. And she just experienced. I couldn't quilt with the quilting ladies, but I loved listening to their stories and cutting out the fabric, because we just took old clothes, and we cut patches from old clothing. And they literally sat in a circle and talked and shucked peas. And literally, it was just so much fun. I just liked listening to the stories as a kid. You're like, "Who did what?!" It was so much fun.

Lisa Woolfork 2:33

If you stayed quiet, and they forgot you was there, girl, you could get some tea!

Janda Lipker 2:40

Wait, what?

Lisa Woolfork 2:41

You know because they slip into their comforts, you know?

Janda Lipker 2:43

Yes, and they forget.

Lisa Woolfork 2:45

It's that repetitive motion. The things you can do and not have to pay such close attention. You know, hulling peas, snapping beans, sitting and stitching with a group of people and the the harmony of the bubbles of conversation. And so were you about a third grader when you were doing this as well? You grew up as part of your process. You sewing yourself but also being part of a community of women that did that. I just wanted to hear about this kind of the fly-on-the-wall-type scenario of being a little Black girl in a big Black family with Black women talking, talking, talking? Y'all, I know many of you all who are listening are not three-year-olds or in the third grade. But I'm telling you, if you were a kid as like I was a kid, and those adults forgot that you were around just plum forgot... .

Janda Lipker 2:45

Right, let you in a room. Lot of times we weren't allowed in the room.

Lisa Woolfork 2:51

Because you're annoying and you're a kid, and they can't talk and say anything because kids, as my friend said, are God's microphones. And you say something once in front of a kid that you didn't want nobody else to know, and then next thing you know, you hear about it when you're in line at the bank. So yeah...

Janda Lipker 3:46

Loudly, yes. Every summer we would go to Alabama and Mississippi as part of our yearly travel. I didn't realize how blessed we were. But we started that when I was five years old. So every year we spent a week in Alabama and a week in Mississippi. So that was the highlight for me because these ladies did this, you know. Every other day they were sewing or getting fabric together because they came together and made quilts was real cotton from the cotton fields. So it was just very interesting watching them do the tops. But I have more fun spreading the cotton, literally. They didn't have batting. They use cotton. Just straight off the--get the seeds out, cotton. So it's a lot of fun. But we did that every year, and I think they didn't let me touch a needle probably until I was in ninth or 10th grade. I just cut fabric.

Lisa Woolfork 4:29

Wow, that was your apprentice. That was your apprentice state. It reminds me of back in the day--Jan, I think you and I might be close age mates--and back in the day there was no remote control, because you had children, and the children were the remote control.

Janda Lipker 4:42


Lisa Woolfork 4:43

It's like all these fancy automatic cutters, the machine that can cut this, and the rotary cutter. It's like, no, you didn't need rotary cutters because you had kids, and the kids did that. Or like I remember vividly my mother calling me over to her very big heavy metal...I think it was a Singer machine that she had in a table. Huge, heavy, 30-pound machine. And she said, "Lisa, come over here with your young eyes. I need you to thread this needle." I was the needle threader. That's what I did. "Come over here with the young eyes. Bring your young eyes over here so you can put this needle in."

Oh my god! You take me back. It was like, "Girl, turn these needles," because it was like 10 of them. So I'd be sitting there, and I'm thinking why can't they see this? I understand now. [laughs]

"Gosh! It's so easy, you guys. Just open your eyes a little more." And it's like, this is why we don't let nine-year-olds in here, because y'all are a pain in the ass and you give information that nobody's requested.

Janda Lipker 5:36

Oh my god, thread them needles.

Lisa Woolfork 5:38

So, Rebecca, how did you pick this up? Like I know for me, my mother sewed, my grandmother sewed. I didn't want anything to do with it until I went to graduate school and I needed some type of relief, some type of stress relief, some type of something else. And I found that in sewing. How did you, as someone who grew up with a mom who had all of this sewing background and experience, how did that land for you as someone who's clearly creative?

Rebecca Christian-Lipker 6:03

Yeah, I was not interested for the longest time. My grandmother on my dad's side tried with Barbie. She's like, "Look, you can make their own little dresses." So I'm like, "That's nice. Let me know when you're finished, and I'll play with it." But I was always crafty. I did everything else. I didn't knit. I did crochet. But for some reason sewing didn't click for the longest time. And to your same story, it was in law school where we started the business. We did the haircare, and then I'm like, okay, well, the pandemic has shut everything down. We just had an awful show at a big venue. And we're just stuck in the house. And I'm like, well, there's literally nothing else to do. I think with age came patience. And now I'm like, all right, it's not all going to come together. You're not going to be great at it initially. But there's time, because literally the whole world shut down. So let's do it.

Lisa Woolfork 6:50

I really love that. I know that it can be so devastating to have a big show where you've expended funds and time and energy. And then there's nobody there or people aren't coming because wait, a pandemic has happened, and now you all are about to lose this investment and the funds and the time and like, oh, this is so demoralizing and frustrating. So you come in the house and you say people need masks we hear. And Jan says, "I have a sewing machine." And the next thing you know, y'all are making masks. Like was it a big jump to switch from "we're going to vend these beauty products in person at shows" to "let's make masks to sell online." That seems like a long journey between those two points. What was that like?

Rebecca Christian-Lipker 7:33

Fortunately, my mom, I love you so much. We don't play about indecisive. Make your decision, and let's go. Like you can think as long as you must, but once it's time to get rolling, get rolling. So fortunately, she's an amazing shopper herself. But getting what we needed was the easy part. It was the transitioning on the website, our website crashing, had to buy a new one, and thanks to her providence of going, "Hey, I saw this advertisement for Shopify." Shopify is not sponsoring us, but if they want to, they absolutely should.

Lisa Woolfork 7:58

Yes, they're not sponsoring this either. But if you want to, you can hashtag pay Black women and sponsor all of us.

Rebecca Christian-Lipker 8:05

Listen, I was like, okay, well, I don't know much about it, but I'll figure it out. And the big theme of us is: I may not know what the answer is right now, but I'm gonna figure it out, and it's gonna look great. And trusting each other and trusting that process is how we made that switch in a relatively short amount of time of I figured out like lighting, photography. I bought a light box to take the pictures. I can't show you in person, and you can't feel my vibe to know like, "Hey, I'm not sketchy. I've actually been out here for a minute. Let me show you how these masks would work." But getting the layers, us talking about it. Mom, I think you still hate making ties to this day.

Janda Lipker 8:36

I hate making ties.

Lisa Woolfork 8:37


Rebecca Christian-Lipker 8:38

Yeah, and then realize, oh, elastics sometimes hurt, and people's faces are different, so that didn't always work for the fit. So you should do ties. Making them stupid ties, because they started off fairly hefty. But as we got better and better, they got smaller and more sleek. We had it down to a science. The CDC was like, "Yeah, forget all that. No more of those cloth masks. You better go buy something." We're like, we go again.

Lisa Woolfork 9:00


Janda Lipker 9:01

Those kids in nursing homes, because we really felt that kids--they weren't marketing them to kids. And we don't do ugly. We really don't do ugly. So we wanted character masks for kids because no kids wants to walk around with their mother's mask on. They want Spider-Man, they want Wonder Woman, they want whatever they want.

Lisa Woolfork 9:16

Exactly. They want Avatar, they want their own things that they like-- Spider-Man. They want what they want.

Janda Lipker 9:22

Yeah, and they kept them on because they liked them because it was their character fandom. So, again, that was the impetus versus doing this character because I'm a big kid. I will watch a cartoon right now.

Lisa Woolfork 9:30

Same! I want us all to sit down and watch Avatar after this is over. My favorite episode, I think it's season six, the silent episode about the general's son who passed.

Janda Lipker 9:41

That was so sweet!

Lisa Woolfork 9:44

The one where he's drinking the tea under the tree, and it's dedicated to one of the writers on the show. I'm having chills right now just remembering that episode. It was so great! With uncle and how he loved that boy so much. Zuko with his rage and, oh, just so good!

Janda Lipker 10:01

(unclear) walking through the village going to the tree to have the picnic. Yes.

Lisa Woolfork 10:04

Yes! Yes! Yes! Exactly! Yes! Rebecca's like, "Nerds."

Rebecca Christian-Lipker 10:11

I'm just not trying to cry today. Yeah, I'm not getting all puppy-eyed, then I'll be all...

Lisa Woolfork 10:17

But this is what I love. I love that joy is always our option. Joy is our birthright as well. And we can talk about our powerful history. And you can stitch that history with about a half a million stitches. And part of those stitches are joy and laughter and trauma and loss and limitation. But they all resolve through love. And that's how you end up getting the things that you're able to create. Can you tell me about the Henry Box Brown quilt? And what led you to tell that story in stitches?

Rebecca Christian-Lipker 10:54

I was talking to strangers on the internet like I normally do. We were on TikTok, and I knew I needed help because listen, my background is law, economics. Ain't not a lick of marketing in that. So I had met a really nice other TikToker whose platform was booming. I always recommend people talking to their group, their class, who's next up to graduate.

Lisa Woolfork 11:15

So you met with this very popular TikToker with a booming platform. And I really like how you said it's really good to build connections with the person in the graduating class above you. And what I like about that is that it's a way to talk about hierarchy without feeling like you have to like worship somebody, that you are peers, you are in the same kind of field and same interests, and they have done certain things to get to where they are, and they might be willing to share a few tips with you because you're in the same kind of area. And it's also really powerful because too often it seems like because social media is so ruggedly individualist, there are a lot of people that don't want to help anybody else. They feel either threatened, or if I help you, then you're gonna step on my heels. But I'm glad you're able to find someone who kind of believes in the National Black Club Women's motto of lifting as we climb, which was kind of like what you were doing. So can you talk about how the Henry Box Brown quilt was the thing, was the piece, the story that moved you or that helped to move your business forward?

Rebecca Christian-Lipker 12:21

As we were growing on TikTok, I knew I needed help from marketing perspective. I reached out to him in the DMs just going, "Hey, I know you're very busy. Please help me." Fortunately, he responded back. And in the midst of us having that conversation, I'm like, "Listen, I--just being honest--I do not have the bandwidth to pay you for your efforts, and I know that you do deserve that." And that's when he mentioned "Oh, could you make something with Henry Box Brown?" And it'd be great because he actually has it in his home right now. But also when he was doing shows, because he's also a magician, he's like, "That's someone in history I really look up to." And I had no idea after seeing that image that Henry Box Brown had a stint as a magician. So as I went implementing his marketing skills that he was passing on, to me, that's how we came up with--I think it's like a three part series--of me kind of telling this story in like a bedtime-story type of fashion. And that's kind of what took off from there because A, people had never heard of this person, like in that kind of depth. And then B, what was the calmness of it at the time, because like ASMR was doing really well on TikTok at the guy. So just this calm, soothing voice was working out. And it was just the least confrontational way to discuss a very interesting person's mystery, because he has a lot going on.

Lisa Woolfork 13:28

There's so much beautiful about this that seems to kind of become like a metaphor in some ways for your business overall, the lifting as we climb, but also the bartering, the community engaged form of trade that says, "Hey, I know what you have is valuable, and I am not just trying to use you for your knowledge. Your knowledge is valuable, and I do want to respect that, but we have a quilt. And we have the skill to give you something that is also priceless." That he might be able to use in some way, like for display or whatever.

Black Women Stitch and the Stitch Please podcast is grateful for all the support that made Sew Black possible. Special thanks to our underwriters, Spoonflower. Thanks also to Moda for generous sponsorship. Thank you, Bernina, for your wonderful support. Thank you also to Amtrak for partnering with us. Special thanks to those who shared resources to equip the space. This includes AccuQuilt, Aurifil Crimson Tate, Sew Easy, Ruby Star Society, Free Spirit Fabrics, Kai Scissors. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Special thanks to Focusrite for making the live recording possible through the donation of an audio interface, the Focusrite 18-i-eight. Thanks to The Bridge PAI for the initial funding, and thanks also to the Modern Quilt Guild for their generous support. Thank you all so much for making this possible.

There's something about the piece, the way that you were able to replicate the confinement of Henry Box Brown and the rich details in the image that come through your stitching. It seems very much like what you're showing us is you're kind of writing this story in stitches rather than in words. And I wonder if you could talk about that, about like, how you use color, how you use depth and definition through the long arm, like the long arm quilting machine, as something that's a form of language in some way. Can you talk a little bit about how the quilting itself and the way that you use color, how you stitched out a certain design, how that contributes to the weight and the beauty of the work?

Janda Lipker 15:44

That is really such a joint process, because we go back and forth. We're mother and daughter, but we both respect each other immensely. So there's times we don't agree. But if the other person has a stronger argument, we're done. We don't talk about it too much more like, "You know what, I see what you're saying there. I think that'll work. Let's try that." But a lot of times, we literally lay out the piece, we research the piece if we're not familiar, and then we start pulling colors. It's such an emotional part of us when we're quilting, because we infuse that in it. So as you know, our quilt arms has a 20-inch space. So we're dealing with 20 inches at a time. If you look at more than that, it's overwhelming. So literally, whatever's under the long arm, and we step back, we look at it what are we trying to evoke here? What are we trying to display here? What are we trying to impart in this part of the quilting? So it's more about looking at the piece, literally laying out all the threads, and then we're pulling back and forth. So 20, 30 different (unclear) color is not a not normal for us. I mean, we've done pieces like Harriet Tubman had six colors of brown in her hands. Henry Box Brown had a lot of black, but he had a lot of other colors because we wanted to make it more vibrant. And because we did like that piece so much, we did a more monochrome one of him, more like his wanted poster, which is very powerful. And then we did one with (unclear) to literally put him in the box. That one literally looks like he's about to climb out the box. And I'll be honest, we fold him over at night because his eyes--he was coming out that box. And we didn't want him coming out that back at night. So it got very detailed for us because we do a lot of thought. And that's the part we can't explain to people. It's not so much you loaded on to long arm and you jump on it. It's a whole conversation between the both of us. What do you think? What do you think? What are we going to do? What are we gonna do? What do you think about this? What about black? What about charcoal black? There's just so many colors that go into it. And it does take a lot of thought prior to before a stitch is stitched.

Lisa Woolfork 17:29

And the way that you're describing the connection, the relationship between the two of you, It's also a conversation between you two, but it's also a conversation with history. And that's the thing that I think is so exciting that you do the research, you find out all of this information as much as you can in order to even begin. You don't begin with let's pull fabrics. You begin with what is his story? What is her story? What is she best known for? What do we want to communicate about her? Are these the types of questions that you're engaging?

Janda Lipker 18:02

Yes, there's a lot of history that goes into every piece we make, literally every piece. And that's why people go, "Can you make this?" No, not right now. Because they don't realize a piece can take two or three days worth of research depending on what we're doing. Because we don't want to just jump on it. And it's a lot of time and investment in a quilt, and you don't want to just go, "Oh, just give them this. They won't notice." We treat every quilt like we're giving it to a family member. That's literally. We want you to love this forever. And whether you see some of our goose eggs that we put in there or not. We know they're there. Because we might throw heart in, we might throw something extra in because it's like giving a piece of artwork in our minds to someone who's going to cuddle with it. And we don't want to be thinking about you're not gonna love it because we love it. We don't give it if we don't love it. So that's the part that people don't understand. We love giving them whether we're commissioning them or not. They're part of us. And we put a lot of heart into every quilt, every single quilt.

Lisa Woolfork 18:53

And it absolutely shows. It absolutely shows. And I wanted to ask about the Harriet Tubman quilt because I think that was the first one that I saw. And I think I saw the Henry Box Brown quilt after I'd seen the Harriet Tubman one. But it's just so stunning. And, you all, go visit their website, go follow the TikTok. We have the links to all of these in the show notes. The mural itself is incredibly powerful. It's really just so meaningful. This is a mural that I believe is in Baltimore. And then you took that same image and turned it into a quilt. Can you talk about what it means to see something that's like painted on brick, like it's a brick wall, but then you turn it into a quilt, which is in some ways the complete and utter opposite of what a brick wall is. So moving it from the side of a building to three layers atop some quilt batting and backing is such a powerful transformation. Can you talk a bit about that process and what that was like?

Janda Lipker 19:52

That was a little tougher pre pandemic. Becca was doing the haircare business, so we were doing a lot of craft shows. At craft shows, we would see tapestries all the time. And I'm an art person. I retired, and I just love when we go, "Ooh, that's pretty! I don't know what I'm gonna do with it, but I'm gonna do something." So we bought tons. To say--Becca, stop looking at me--to say we bought a lot we bought like several, like a couple hundred because we were at these craft shows, but they were selling them really reasonable. And I had never seen that before because Becca had me doing 80 craft shows. I love her dearly. And it was so much bonding time.

Lisa Woolfork 20:21

Eight zero?

Janda Lipker 20:22

Eight zero. Before the pandemic, we had hit 80 plus craft shows. I think it was at least 80. So you got to walk around. In a year, yeah.

Lisa Woolfork 20:31

Listen, I could not do 80 craft shows. Because especially if I was buying stuff, I'd be like, why am I even here because all the money I make I'm spending on the floor.

Janda Lipker 20:38

My son was just in college, and I really wanted his room. He was really into tapestries at that time. So, again, being the overbuying mom...

Lisa Woolfork 20:46

I really wanted his room. So yes, I love you so much. And I'm really gotta miss you, but not in the way when you're in your room, because now that's gonna be mine.

Janda Lipker 20:55


Lisa Woolfork 20:56

The couch is always available to you, sweetie. We love you so much.

Janda Lipker 20:59

But I like to switch out, because he likes to switch out. So anyway, we bought that piece, then we brought it home. Didn't think about it anymore until we started quilting, and then we pulled it out and was like, ooh. Rebecca was like, "Mom, let's do this one." And I'm like, wow. So again, we're back to let's research this, who is this by? Who is this about? Then we saw the image, and I'm like, wow. And literally, we just stared at it. And how do we invoke that and a little bit of us into the piece? So literally, that's what we did. We looked at his artwork, and I'll be honest, we put it up on our iPads. And we looked at it, we looked at the piece. And then we like you know what we want the clothes to drape more. And these are all conversations before a stitch is made. We pulled all the colors. I think we probably put 40 colors before we were done. It's like no, this won't work. We want to emphasize the green more, we want to do this. So there's probably 18 different colors of green in that green. I love that people see the stitching that we do, but they don't see it. They don't realize how much goes into every single little bitty element of how you quilted but we wanted to respect their mural work. To us the lines on the right specifically, and I won't go into much detail, the lines are brickwork lines. But for me they were the invisible wall that we're all still breaking through. Those are those little kind of goose eggs that I mean in the piece you go, "Oh looks like the wall." But that's an invisible wall. And our favorite part is the back where people don't see it's a brick wall.

Lisa Woolfork 22:15


Janda Lipker 22:16

We're still breaking through these walls. But she was just such-- everybody, again, Black, honestly, I think knows Harriet Tubman. We had to respect that legacy of her legacy and that image. So that was a work close to our heart. And we had to do her justice. So that was a lot of stitching and a lot of thread colors. Becca, what do you think? Ma, I don't know, what do you say? Ma, what do you think? Let's do? Well, how about this here? So again, every piece we do that with, and that's the fun part for me because I can engage with my daughter and my best friend. So yeah.

Lisa Woolfork 22:42

I love this so much. I'm sure that there's folks listening to this who are like, ah, man, how wonderful is it that this mother daughter duo can have this kind of vibrant relationship based in mutual trust and respect for each person's artistic vision and relying on one another. That there's going to be things where Rebecca is going to know more and things where Jan's gonna know more. And that is absolutely okay. And as it should be. This is what a collaboration requires. If you all both have the exact same set of skills and the exact same set of knowledge, it wouldn't work. So I really love seeing that. I think it's really powerful. I just wanted to ask a quick question about the trapunto, if you could talk a little bit about that, because I think that I love that technique. And so can you explain to the audience just briefly what trapunto is and how it was useful in getting depth into this quilt?

Janda Lipker 23:36

Trapunto, as you know, is using extra layers of batting. In this case we used polly because it was a higher loft. We really wanted him to appear encased in the box. So literally we want the highest loft of polyester batting around the edges to give that extra depth. For us it's kind of sad that it doesn't show up on pictures, but when you see the piece in person, it literally looks like he's in the box because the trapunto comes off slightly over a quarter inch, and it gives depth in it. And it's literally all around the edges and again, as you know, we stitched a little harder around it to literally give it all the way around, encasing him in the box. So it literally looks like he's gonna walk out that box. But I love trapunto like you, and the biggest part is knowing not to stitch it too hard. Becca was like, "Mom, don't stitch the edges too hard" because we wanted to keep it clearly around the edges.

Lisa Woolfork 24:23

Yes, I love the technique, and I have not had much--I think I'm still waiting for that patience that Rebecca says come with age. I haven't found that patients to do a lot of like handwork and that type of manipulation because I'd rather just make an outfit, so.... Let me ask you all about what you all have coming up. There's some really exciting commissions coming your way in May. What can you tell us about these exciting projects?

Janda Lipker 24:47

We have been blessed--Becca and I--the Chagrin Arts is a local gallery that does a lot of work with Ohio Innocence Commission and Ohio Innocence Project. These are lawyers who volunteer their time to help get wrongly convicted, primarily Black, men out of jail. Their last person that got exonerated had been in jail 20 years. And he's also an artist. So a lot of these men are artists. So not only do they help them get out of jail, Chagrin Arts showcases their artwork, where they can actually sell it there too. But they're an amazing organization. So when we found them--actually, they found us--there's not much we can't do for them because of who they're affiliated with and how they help these people in these dark situations. So you have these attorneys, which again, back to being a lawyer, it was kind of like a full circle. And a lot of them are musicians, and my son is a musician. So they're trying to help my son, who's also in law school. So it was just this huge, "Okay, Jesus, you just can bring all these people to us at one time. Okay, okay."

Lisa Woolfork 25:42

We're ready. We're ready. Let's take a deep breath, and we ready

Janda Lipker 25:45

And they literally opened the doors for us. So once again, I'm trying not to cry, because it's so weird when you meet people. Let's be honest, in our lives as adults, when people go, "Oh, we'll help you." Why? And then you have to step back and you say it in your head--

Lisa Woolfork 25:56

Wait a minute, I'm the one that helps everybody. You gotta help me. Wait a minute, what?

Janda Lipker 26:00

It's was one of those, "Okay, so tell me more." You're always polite, "Tell me more." And when they got into their mission, it was painless. So in May they have an annual fundraiser. Right now it's tentatively set for the House of Blues and Cleveland. They have lawyers, the Supreme Court justice. They have a band, and they give a concert to raise funds to help these lawyers, again, continue this amazing mission to help these persons get out of jail. I don't know if I can mention his name. Rebecca, can I mention his name? The artist?

Rebecca Christian-Lipker 26:25


Janda Lipker 26:25

Not right now.

Lisa Woolfork 26:26

Well, listen, how about this? Don't tell us. People can look it up and find you, right? And so like, I'm gonna direct you all to keep your eyes and ears peeled, and follow the Lipkers, follow on TikTok, follow on IG. I'm sure as May approaches, you all are going to be talking about this, and then people can find out what they need to know. We do not need to let any cats out of any bags for this interview. Not at all.

Janda Lipker 26:50

But he donated his art. That was the amazing part. He's a multiple Pulitzer Prize winner. He donated the artwork, and obviously we're donating the quilting to auction off this piece. So we're excited. We're excited.

Lisa Woolfork 27:00

It's gonna be incredible. And I cannot wait to see it unfold. As we wrap up this great conversation today with Jana and Rebecca Lipker, I'm going to ask you both the closing question of the Stitch Please podcast is our motto, our slogan: We will help you get your stitch together. I'll ask you first, Jan, what would you advise for our listeners to help us get our stitch together?

Janda Lipker 27:21

Stitch in any way that makes you happy, no matter what anyone says. Do what makes you happy. Whatever that craft is, whether it's stitching or not, mostly just do what makes you happy. And it just works out. It's a happy place for you. Just stitch the way you want.

Lisa Woolfork 27:34

I love it. Thank you so much. Rebecca, how about you? How are you going to help us get our stitch together?

Rebecca Christian-Lipker 27:39

I was gonna say be very clear about your boundaries and sticking to them. They reap dividends. It's one of like the most expensive things that you're ever going to develop. But they're so important. And sometimes whether you say yes or whether you say no, if you stick to your boundaries, it all works out. So that is something that we've had to use a lot lately, sometimes saying no means I don't hate you, but I'm just not doing it. Like I say no and love to. It's just we don't have the bandwidth, and I rather not do a disservice to you or to me, so have those boundaries.

Lisa Woolfork 28:11

I love it. And on that note, I am so grateful to Jan and Rebecca Lipker. Thank you all so much for being with us. Thank you for this first conversation. I'm calling it our first conversation because my hope is that we'll be able to have you back some time to talk about that project from May. And by the time May rolls around, y'all will have something else really excited. So I'm hoping this will be our first conversation, not our last conversation or our only conversation. I'm so grateful to you all for being here today. Really, truly, thank you so much.

Janda Lipker 28:41

Thank you. Thank you so much.

Lisa Woolfork 28:45

You've been listening to Stitch Please, the official podcast of Black Women Stitch, the sewing group where Black lives matter. We appreciate you joining us this week and every week for stories that center Black women, girls, and femmes in sewing. We invite you to join the Black Women Stitch Patreon community with giving levels beginning at five dollars a month. Your contributions help us bring the Stitch Please podcast to you every week. Thank you for listening. Thank you for your support, and 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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