This Long Thread: A Chat with Jen Hewett

0.75x 1x 1.25x 1.5x 2x 0:0000:42:49 This Long Thread: A Chat with Jen Hewett

1x
0:00
00:42:49
Powered by the Simple Podcast Press Player

Episode Summary

Jennifer Hewett is a textile artist, printmaker, and teacher. She is also a collector of stories in her book, “This Long Thread: Women of Color on Craft, Community, and Connection”. She joins the Stitch Please podcast to share her process of honoring the unfiltered voices of women of color in the crafting world. Jennifer takes you behind the scenes of weaving together interviews, essays, and stories that feature the innovation and creativity of women of color and their contributions to the world of art. This episode is a testament to the power of art, identity, and inspiration. Tune in, get inspired, and listen to how Jennifer encourages artists of color to share their stories in a safe, supported, and amplified way.

Episode Notes

Read Full Transcript

[00:00:17] Lisa Woolfork: Hello, stitchers. Welcome to stitch, please. The official podcast of black women's stitch, the sewing group, where black lives matter. I'm your host Lisa woo fork. I'm a fourth generation sewing enthusiast with more than 20. Of sewing experience. I am looking forward to today's conversation. So sit back, relax, and get ready to get your stitch together.

[00:00:46] Lisa Woolfork: Hello everybody. And welcome to the stitch please podcast. As I say every week, this is a very special. And it is a especially special, special, if you are Patreon subscriber, you get the added [00:01:00] benefit of seeing our lovely faces. And Jen Hewlett is rocking a fly outfit with a scarf that I'm sure is heard.

[00:01:06] Lisa Woolfork: That she made you design and I'm also holding another beautiful creation of Jen Hewlett right here in my hands. And it's called this long thread women of color on craft community and connection. Welcome Jen to the program. And thank you so much for coming to talk with us about this amazing

[00:01:24] Jen Hewett: book. Thank you, Lisa.

[00:01:26] Jen Hewett: I'm so glad to be back here. Thanks for having me back. I wasn't sure about that last time. for me,

[00:01:31] Lisa Woolfork: this is a huge. Exciting thing to happen on the stitch place podcast, because this is what I enjoy doing. I enjoy am dedicated to lifting up the work of black women and to have this book and to have you representing women of color in craft.

[00:01:49] Lisa Woolfork: And putting our voices forward is incredibly powerful and it's a wonderful way to use your platform. So I wanna thank you for this work and for [00:02:00] being here because of it. So thank you. So let's jump right in. Tell me a bit more about the initial idea. What made you start to consider publishing a book about women of color in the craft community?

[00:02:13] Jen Hewett: this all started way back in 2016 or 2017, I think where. I had told my editor over Bruce books, whose name is also Jen. I said, you know, I feel like I'm the only person of color, woman of color, really out there publishing books, being visible in this world. But I'm not the only one. And this is a choice that I think a lot of publishers have made that they're going after.

[00:02:40] Jen Hewett: I actually had another publisher with an organization that I did not go with saying, well, you know, when manuscripts come in, I don't know the race of the person. Who's. Submitting them. So it really is just based on what's coming in. But what I responded was, well, a lot of the people that you are asking, a lot of [00:03:00] people whose books you publish, you're actually going after them asking them to publish with you.

[00:03:04] Jen Hewett: And so that just really started this idea. And I wanted originally to do a book. About women of color, people of color in this world. And it was going to be very like a coffee table book, beautiful with lush photography and stories and interviews. And I would be traveling around the country to do this and a book like that has a really high production cost in order to produce a book like that.

[00:03:28] Jen Hewett: I would've had to get a lot of people with large followings already so that the book would sell itself. So I put that aside, cuz I kept doing the budget and the numbers wouldn't work. And my editor just kept saying no. And then 2019 something erupted in the craft world, particularly in the knitting world.

[00:03:47] Jen Hewett: And then it prepped over into sewing and quilting about really how white. The dominant narrative of craft is in online communities. Also in publishing. I [00:04:00] brought the idea of that book back, but what I didn't want this time was for it to be about the heavy hitters, the people that we all already know. And at that same time, I'd been rereading women in clothes.

[00:04:12] Jen Hewett: Which I don't know if you read, but that's a fantastic kind of anthology. The structure's very similar. I totally crib the structure of this long thread from women in clothes. I said, what if I did a survey? What if I did a survey and asked. Just anybody who was a person of color, woman of color. And then we had non-binary people of color coming into to just complete this talk about their experiences and my editor, my publisher loved that idea.

[00:04:39] Jen Hewett: My agent more importantly did too. Cause she was gung-ho to sell it. She's been such a huge champion this entire time. And so that's really the kernel aware this book in this. Again,

[00:04:51] Lisa Woolfork: I am so grateful for that. And I wonder, what do you think the survey as a [00:05:00] strategy brings that perhaps talking to the heavy hitters wouldn't bring, it seems like the survey you interviewed 19 people, and then you had a survey that surveyed a larger SWA.

[00:05:11] Lisa Woolfork: So can you talk about the distinctions between what a survey result might.

[00:05:16] Jen Hewett: Yeah, survey results. Um, the people who completed the survey, you were one of them. Most of them were people. I didn't know people. I don't follow people who might follow me. I think I had a lot of my own followers in there, but people who I wouldn't have necessarily gotten in touch with wouldn't have known how to find also people who aren't online much, right.

[00:05:37] Jen Hewett: The age actually skewed a bit older than I thought it would. And that was fascinating to me. So I got a lot more. Personal stories from people who maybe hadn't really thought about this because they don't have an audience and they've been wrestling with the idea. Well, I have this craft. I really love it.

[00:05:55] Jen Hewett: I always feel weird in specific spaces. I don't see anybody online who looks like [00:06:00] who's doing this. I was able to reach those folks who maybe hadn't spent a ton of time thinking about it, talking about it, but who finally had a place to give voice to what they were feeling? You know, my own smallish community, crafters of color.

[00:06:17] Jen Hewett: We have these conversations all the time, but if you're feeling isolated in your craft, who are you having those conversations with?

[00:06:23] Lisa Woolfork: You're not really having them. And then that was one of the things that for me, really appealed to me about the book as I was reading it, I just felt relieved. And I knew I wasn't the only one.

[00:06:34] Lisa Woolfork: I mean, obviously I was able to find an entire organization called black women's stitch because a lot of black women felt exactly as I did, but it was so heartwarming to just know that I wasn't. And I think that the book is a way to actually enact the process. That you went through in order to build the book that the book itself to me feels like community.

[00:06:58] Lisa Woolfork: It feels like when I'm [00:07:00] reading it, I'm learning about Sean Kimber. You know who I, of course I know she was a mathematician and I know she's a professor and a scholar. I knew all that, but I didn't think about math as a vocabulary or as a language. And how that shapes her craft practice. I, I wouldn't have known that Vanessa Vargas, I believe like she had some really exciting stories.

[00:07:18] Lisa Woolfork: There's so many. Really interesting things that made me feel as a reader that I was participating in something, not just as a person, cuz I was fortunate enough to participate. Y'all can read my survey in there, but it was nice to know the context. And that's why I think this book is so valuable for encapsulating the time that we find ourselves in right.

[00:07:42] Lisa Woolfork: And I think that this means that the book itself is an artifact of history that you have uniquely and generously documented and not just in a beautiful book. It's this is a beautiful book yet. The illustrations are lovely y'all they are really, really nice. One of my favorite ones is what you did [00:08:00] for the sewing justice sewing academy, where you talked about some of the blocks from their block of the month club.

[00:08:04] Lisa Woolfork: And I was like, yeah, I remember those blocks. And it just feels kind of. You're walking into a hug. , that's how I felt reading it. And I'm trying to show y'all. This is how I mark up books for work. I haven't written in it yet because it's still new to me, but I'm pretty sure the pencil's gonna come out. If you're not a Patriot subscriber, you're not seeing like all the tabs that I have for the places I wanted to ask questions about.

[00:08:28] Lisa Woolfork: So it's really a generous. Offering. Now I wanna talk a bit about audience when I was reading the introduction. It seems as though the book might have two audiences and I believe that was it your friend, was it Ebony? I believe mm-hmm. who asked you? Who is the book? She asked me, it's a question that on any writer has to address at the outset of the writing process and my answer hasn't, hasn't waved in the 18th months since I submitted the proposal.

[00:08:57] Lisa Woolfork: And you say my primary audience is a diverse [00:09:00] swath of crafters and artists featured in this book, people of color who are doing this work it's for us, but it's also for folks who are also not us. Right. And that I thought was very interesting. Can you talk a bit more about the dual audiences?

[00:09:16] Jen Hewett: I'll just start out by saying that there are movies that I love that are not made for me, but that I will watch and I will enjoy.

[00:09:24] Jen Hewett: And I think that when you flip that coin, a lot of times the dominant culture thinks that if something is not made for them, They won't enjoy it. They won't consume it. They won't watch it. They won't read it. They won't listen to it. Right. And I also felt that we were in this very particular moment of time where.

[00:09:42] Jen Hewett: The dominant culture was. And by that, I mean, white folks and white women specifically were receptive to these kinds of stories, to our stories that are not about pain and suffering and degradation that are just straightforward stories about our lives, our craft. [00:10:00] And I thought, you know, that's also an audience.

[00:10:02] Jen Hewett: Those are also people who. Need to be hearing this need to be reading about this because they may think this book is not about them and not for them, but really they're the ones who are trading the environments in which we exist and are often excluded from. And they may not consciously be doing it.

[00:10:21] Jen Hewett: There are a lot of times where I've been in situations and I know that people aren't consciously doing or saying the things that they're doing or saying until I call it. And it's that moment of, oh right. A lot of times people are very defensive and say, oh, But, and I do talk about this in the book where there was one occasion where I called it out.

[00:10:40] Jen Hewett: Everybody was super uncomfortable. I left and they continued the conversation. So if I in this book can engender that without people of color being hurt in the process, I am happy for this book to serve that purpose.

[00:10:54] Lisa Woolfork: I think that it is incredibly effective on those two fronts. And I cannot speak as a white person, [00:11:00] but I can speak from my experience as a black woman and also as a literary scholar.

[00:11:04] Lisa Woolfork: So one of the things that Tony Morrison talks about when she was an editor at random house, Tony Morrison, before she became. She was always who she was, but before she became super famous as a writer, she was an editor in the early 1970s, late sixties. She edited Muhammad Ali's autobi, she's like she's genius editor brought us Gail Jones of all people.

[00:11:22] Lisa Woolfork: I mean, she's incredible. But one of the things that sparked her writing was she felt that when she was reading African American literature, that there were writers who were writing. She said she was reading the books, feeling like they were writing to someone standing behind her. They were addressing a white reader behind her because they were explaining things.

[00:11:42] Lisa Woolfork: That didn't need explaining. And so it was clear that though the book was written by a black person, it was kind of directly targeted to and approaching the needs of a white reading public, which she found very off putting for good reason. I think that this book is an example. Of allowing [00:12:00] our voices to speak directly to our experience, without any expectation of having to filter it or to translate it or to code switch.

[00:12:11] Lisa Woolfork: And I think that has to do with your process as the interviewer. And I remember in the introduction, you said you did not wanna get in the way of the stories. Can you talk about how your interview process was able to invite more? Contribution from those folks you interviewed, did you feel like you stayed out of your own way?

[00:12:30] Jen Hewett: So some backstory, I used to do HR when I first became a working artist, or even before that I was doing HR and I was doing a lot of recruitment and I would do hundreds of interviews a year. I also worked in private high school admissions, but that's a story for another time. So I am in many ways a professional interview.

[00:12:49] Jen Hewett: And what I like to do is to get people to tell me about themselves. I don't want to sit and ask a lot of questions. I wanna ask a question, like, so tell me about your childhood and you'll notice that's. [00:13:00] That's what I started with almost every single time. So in that interview process, the person starts wherever they want to start.

[00:13:06] Jen Hewett: And I wanted people to start where they wanted to start. I wanted them to tell me the things that they wanted me to know. And I had this experience at the dog park this morning, where a man whose dog was also there. I asked him a couple of questions and he. Wet loose told on himself. He told me exactly who he was and I don't wanna get too far into it, but he told me exactly who he was and what he believed a fairly short conversation, because I did not get in the way of it.

[00:13:34] Jen Hewett: I just let him talk, which, you know, people love to talk. I'm one of those people too. And then I would just jump in with questions like, oh, so tell me about that. What do you mean exactly? I'm not sure. And he would explain it in this process too. That's how I approached. Tell me about your childhood. What was that like?

[00:13:52] Jen Hewett: You know, and I remember, I think it was Stephanie Lee called out. That's a broad question. I said, answer it however, you'd like,

[00:13:59] Lisa Woolfork: I sense a [00:14:00] trick what is happening

[00:14:01] Jen Hewett: right. Even when I would interview. Eighth graders for high school. I would tell them, I'm not going to ask you anything. You can't answer. This is about you.

[00:14:09] Jen Hewett: I'm not trying to trick you. But the other thing I talked about this with friends, when I first started interviewing folks, and I noticed that the interviews were getting really deep really quickly. And I think it's because we were talking about race, that there's no way this. Skate around it. There's no way to talk around it when you're speaking to another person who actually knows maybe not the specifics, but the generalities of what you're talking about because we too have experienced it.

[00:14:37] Jen Hewett: And so a question like, tell me about your family. Almost invariably led to. My dad's from here. My mom is from here. I grew up here, all of that backstory, which it reminds me of when I was in college and would take the slave narrative class. Right? Like that's where it always started. Not that these are slave narratives

[00:14:56] Lisa Woolfork: and of course, but these are first person narratives of people basically [00:15:00] building their life out for you.

[00:15:01] Lisa Woolfork: In 2000 words, that's not a lot of words to build out an entire life, but you have managed to really capture. I. Something about that own individual sensibility and how that connects to the production of their art. And that's something I find incredibly striking and I think you should be really proud of.

[00:15:20] Lisa Woolfork: Well, thank you. Now

[00:15:21] Jen Hewett: I will also give credit to Dr. Barbara Christian, who was my professor when I was in college,

[00:15:26] Lisa Woolfork: you know, way seriously.

[00:15:27] Jen Hewett: Oh my gosh. She was fantastic. Oh my gosh, where we, we read oral. And then she had us conduct oral histories too. And that was the very first time I have ever done an oral history.

[00:15:40] Jen Hewett: I talked to my auntie, my auntie ma, who was the oldest of my granny's seven siblings. I think there were eight of them that lived to adulthood and we just had to talk to one of our relatives. It was a generation or two older than us and just asked them about their lives. And so when I started writing this book, I remembered [00:16:00] that.

[00:16:01] Jen Hewett: Interview with auntie model. Now my aunt Jerry, who was the last of my granny's siblings died just last year. She was probably in her late eighties, early nineties, but this was like, this was a story that I had never heard. And she was just talking about her mother about my great-grandmother Elna.

[00:16:16] Lisa Woolfork: I really appreciate that because what I love about it.

[00:16:18] Lisa Woolfork: And of course, Barbara Christian I'll include some links. Y'all in the show notes, in case you don't know who that is, but she is a pioneer in black women's. And she was actually good friends with my mentor, Nellie McKay. That's who I studied with in graduate school. It's just to think about and to call these women's names, you know, because we do have a lineage of black women scholars.

[00:16:41] Lisa Woolfork: That I believe is incumbent upon black women to name. I just think that's just really important. So I'm glad to know that wow. What a beautiful fingerprint to have. Oh, that's so wonderful. Now in thinking about the, the stories that you've collected, are there any that stand out to you? And of course you can't, I'm sure you can't privilege or prioritize all of them, [00:17:00] but there were some that I just was like, I found really striking.

[00:17:03] Lisa Woolfork: I'm gonna turn to the one, one of the ones that I thought was, and this was Tanya Anga.

[00:17:07] Jen Hewett: Yes. A a.

[00:17:09] Jen Hewett: Nega. Yes. A NGA,

[00:17:12] Lisa Woolfork: the title of her piece is art made on and between borders. Mm-hmm. And this is someone who apparently went to high school.

[00:17:18] Jen Hewett: No, all 12 years.

[00:17:20] Lisa Woolfork: Oh 12. Okay. So, so she lived in Mexico and she border acrossed every day.

[00:17:25] Lisa Woolfork: Mm-hmm to go to school in the us to have that kind of childhood. So someone was like, oh, people are saying, oh, this is great to experience two cultures. And she. It kind of sucked because it takes a long time to cross the border. And every single day she had to do that twice. It's the vulnerability and it's the exposure and it's the fear.

[00:17:44] Lisa Woolfork: And it's the challenge of developing friendly relationships in school, where you can't visit each other's houses. It's just incredible. Can you talk a bit more about where there are other stories like that or anything that jumped out at you? Oh, my, this is incredible.

[00:17:59] Jen Hewett: I feel [00:18:00] like they were all incredible, but I think the two that really struck me the most of the interviews that I did are the two youngest folks in the book.

[00:18:09] Jen Hewett: And that would be Naomi glasses and Raven doc. So Naomi, I think, you know, if you're a person. If you're a black person in this country descended from enslaved folks, you can only trace your family back so far. Right? And for Naomi to come and say, I am the seventh generation of weavers. This is the origin of our family's weaving story is being interned in quite literally a concentration camp set up by the us government for the Navajo.

[00:18:36] Jen Hewett: And this is what the women and her family did to get themselves through this trauma. Right. And this has been passed down through generations and that she also just decided graduated from high school and said, this is who I am. This is what I wanna do if I'm going to stay on the reservation because she hadn't grown up on the reservation.

[00:18:56] Jen Hewett: If I'm going to stay on this reservation, I need to have some kind [00:19:00] of livelihood. So why not weaving? And to have that real clarity and sense of self at 1819. Is amazing. Now Naomi is now a TikTok star because she's also a skateboarder oh, so you can find her she's skateboards throughout the reservation.

[00:19:16] Jen Hewett: oh my gosh. And then the other one is Raven who dropped out of high school. Because she let her counselors not even let, I don't think this was an active, this was not an act on her part. This is someone going through depression and being young and impressionable. She believed her counselors. When her counselors told her you should drop out now because you're not gonna graduate.

[00:19:38] Jen Hewett: And you'll just be embarrassed when they don't call your name at the graduation ceremony. When in reality, She would've graduated anyway. She would've been just fine. And what they wanted to do was they wanted to keep their, the school high school wanted to keep its grade a rating. So the counselors had told a lot of the students who were not doing well, who were mostly students of [00:20:00] color in this affluent dominantly white school to leave.

[00:20:03] Jen Hewett: And she came to embroidery because she needed an outlet. And to listen to her, talk about her work. And the reasons behind it and her process, it's like listening to someone who has gone through four years of art school, because she has the vocabulary and the depth of thought behind it. And her counselors did her a disservice.

[00:20:28] Jen Hewett: They did, did the world of disservice by trying to squa her and push her out.

[00:20:43] Lisa Woolfork: You're listening to this stitch please podcast. And I'm talking today with Jen Hewitt author of this long thread. Jim has also graciously offered a free copy of the book as a prize for stitch, please, podcast listeners. So go to the black [00:21:00] women's stitch Instagram page and see the details for this giveaway.

[00:21:12] Lisa Woolfork: The black women's stitch 2020 wall calendar is bigger and blacker than Edward. Not only is the calendar about 15% larger than last year's calendar. It still remains jam packed with so much wonderful history about black women's history, selling history and activist. There's also a wonderful new feature in this year's version.

[00:21:33] Lisa Woolfork: And that is the quarterly pattern release. At the beginning of every quarter, you'll find original images from black women artists. The patterns are available as a PDF download, allowing you to resize them to the needs. Of your project order, your copy of the black women's stitch 2022 wall calendar at black women's stitch dot big cartel.com.

[00:21:57] Lisa Woolfork: And we will help you get your stitch together.[00:22:00]

[00:22:15] Lisa Woolfork: And it's really. Compelling because what now we have vocabulary for it. The Southern poverty law center has a teaching center that I sometimes work with called learning for justice mm-hmm and they call this curricular violent. It's when there are pedagogies or things in classes that you are told that are harmful and guidance counselors are gatekeepers period.

[00:22:39] Lisa Woolfork: End of discussion. They'll either open a gate for. Or they'll close a gate for you. And very often students of color, especially black students. I can't say all students of color because everyone has different relationships to feeling comfortable, engaging with school officials or whatever. But, you know, I ha I have known many, many black students who have been [00:23:00] told.

[00:23:00] Lisa Woolfork: That they are inadequate or that they should do this and they should not do that. And it requires a lot of forceful advocacy, unfortunately, to help turn those ideas around. And another thing I noticed, and this goes back to the, how I felt this kind of continuity. I remember when I was in my PhD program, there was a handful.

[00:23:17] Lisa Woolfork: They bought a handful of black students in, so we would help each other and know each other, which was a great idea, but to a person, Jen, to a person. Every single one of us black students who were in getting master's degrees, getting PhDs, getting law degrees. Every one of us had been told by a teacher in our past a white teacher that we weren't good enough.

[00:23:37] Lisa Woolfork: Every single one of us. And here we are getting PhDs in law degrees. And we were, but we not good enough. It's amazing to see how that type of thing shows up in the craft space. And I don't know why I'm amazed because these are all the same people. , they're all like, I dunno if they have like a convention that get together, it's like, how can we screw up?

[00:23:58] Lisa Woolfork: People's lives, everybody for this [00:24:00] 20 22, 20 23 year what's on your agenda. Are we gonna take away voting rights or we're. Stop them from teaching things at schools that make us feel uncomfortable, honestly, it's like, did they pass out a manual because how is everyone having these same experiences when we're all of different ages and different racial identities?

[00:24:17] Lisa Woolfork: And I think it was Vanessa who was saying that she will not go to any quilt shop in rural Florida. And I was. I don't blame you. We have these things that we love things that we enjoy, but oh, no, I'm not going to that. I'm not going to that knitting shop. I'm not going to that yard shop because the last time I went, this happened, or for some reason they think that I'm here to, I don't know, shoplift a gain of.

[00:24:42] Lisa Woolfork: Raw wool. I mean, I don't know what I would do with such a thing, but okay. Mm-hmm and so it's interesting to think about how, what you've done here is to bring people together. And I think in bringing people together in all sorts of ways, the constellation of stories that you've [00:25:00] assembled. Really radiates so brightly, it's just really white.

[00:25:05] Lisa Woolfork: Beautiful. And so I really wanna congratulate that. I absolutely do. I wanted to ask about the 19 interviews. I know, for example, you were talking with, with Sean, for example, do you find that there is a distinction between folks who studied art form? And those who are kind of, as you were saying about the previous person who were kind of learning on the go, were there any kind of responses about their craft

[00:25:32] Jen Hewett: in terms of the people I interviewed?

[00:25:34] Jen Hewett: I think there was only one art school graduate. Okay. Two Kenya and Tanya, Tanya came to art school differently. I don't know if that came through in the interview, but she went to, she went to community college. And then she went to university, uh, California, U CS, D San Diego. And so I think that there is definitely, and we talked about that in.

[00:25:58] Jen Hewett: In our interview too, there's working [00:26:00] class there's immigrant guilt around being an artist. So already you're coming at it from a different place versus Kenya who grew up middle class. Who's from a family of artists whose dad just wanted her to do her thing and be who she was and was completely supportive of that.

[00:26:16] Jen Hewett: Oh, and Rashida, I forget Rashida went to, but I think of this group because probably because there are people who've kind of wandered and moved from thing to thing. There wasn't a real. Strong sense of difference between how they thought about their work and how people who didn't go to art school thought about their work.

[00:26:35] Jen Hewett: Not that I can think of, um, or how they spoke about it. I mean, Kenya and I have been friends for years and Kenya can just talk. So you need to interview her at someplace. She's fantastic.

[00:26:45] Lisa Woolfork: Yes. Introductions. Thank you.

[00:26:48] Jen Hewett: I don't know. I don't feel like there was a really strong difference. I also think, you know, to be honest, all of the people that I interviewed who were artists were all around the same age.

[00:26:56] Jen Hewett: And so we've all come up around the same time and we've come up [00:27:00] with social media and in many ways, our language around what we do with the exception of baby Tanya revolves a lot around talking about it publicly. To the world on social media, in classes, et cetera.

[00:27:14] Lisa Woolfork: I really appreciate having all of these beautiful women, these beautiful stories together in one place.

[00:27:20] Lisa Woolfork: And I know I talked about the isolation before, but I really feel as though what this book is doing is bringing not just evidence. Of the things that we have been talking about as being things that are real, right? Because sometimes you can just feel like, why am I really the only person that thinks this?

[00:27:37] Lisa Woolfork: Or am I the only person this has happened to that, can't be the case. And so that feels like the book itself is engendering that community. I also am curious in terms of the survey results I was looking at, you know, at some of the statistics about age, about the kind of fiber crafts and race and ethnicity, people who use it for hobby versus income.

[00:27:55] Lisa Woolfork: Do you find that those statistics might be [00:28:00] useful for a marketing perspective, or is it a way to show the craft industry as a whole that we are here and we are doing things and that it is really that they are being re. When they say that, well, no, we can't find anybody.

[00:28:15] Jen Hewett: So two things, the first is that my survey was not super scientific.

[00:28:20] Jen Hewett: So sociologists would come in here, statistician would come in and say, you ask this question wrong. And I don't wanna rely too, too heavily on the specificity of my, of the data that I gather there's that, but also I was able to find almost 300 people of color in the us of candidate who do these crafts without me even having to work that hard, to get.

[00:28:42] Jen Hewett: Right to find them. I didn't really have to look for them. So there that's one thing. The second thing though, is that there is data about this since at least 2012. And I think I cited it in the book saying that across race in the us, at least, I don't know about Canada, that [00:29:00] about 30% of people engage in some kind of hobby, some kind of craft hobby and specifically women.

[00:29:07] Jen Hewett: And it does not matter what race you. That number holds true straight across board. Right? If you're only focusing on one 30%, you're missing out on hundreds of subgroups that have 30%, right? So the data exists outside of my book. People just aren't looking at.

[00:29:26] Lisa Woolfork: And what I love about the book is that they won't have an excuse.

[00:29:29] Jen Hewett: Right

[00:29:29] Lisa Woolfork: this excuse, oh, it's a pipeline problem. You know, we hear this all the time. It's a pipeline problem. That's why we aren't able to publish this many more books by, you know, black women crafters and black women, fiber artists, because we don't have any of the pipeline. It's like, well, on my Instagram, I see a pretty steady pipeline of people who are doing this.

[00:29:47] Lisa Woolfork: So I don't know what I'm seeing. That you're not what someone told Sarah in the interview. She believed that children of color do not want to craft or do quilts. That's what she was told. That's not true. It's just, that's coming [00:30:00] from that person's own reluctance to do anything. Therefore there's no reason to do anything that kind of inertia becomes part of the structure.

[00:30:09] Lisa Woolfork: Right. And that's why things get so sediment and that's why they look the way they do. It's been really useful to read how folks also have persevered through challenges and come out on the other side. And I was thinking about the Vanessa, I keep going back to the crafty, Gemini as an example, because she's had.

[00:30:24] Lisa Woolfork: Celestial success with, you know, starting small with YouTube and now, and I, I watched them build the shop and everything and all of these great things that they're just she's doing with her family and her husband being super supportive, but also going to Paducah. And vending there. And people like interrogating her.

[00:30:41] Lisa Woolfork: She's doing something wrong. How did you get a booth here? How did you get your booth? What do you mean? How did I get a booth? Do you think that I just like shoplifted some white lady's booth and set up all my stuff here, like, and who are you to even police me? Who are you to ask me?

[00:30:54] Jen Hewett: They asked me here.

[00:30:55] Jen Hewett: Did they ask you? I mean, she's hilarious. She talks a mile a minute. I don't know [00:31:00] how many thousands of words our interview was in an hour. Some people was like 7,000. Some people, it was 17,000. She was a 17,000 word person for a one hour interview. Oh yeah. I mean, the way that she talks about that experience, not just people asking her, essentially the assumption is you don't belong here.

[00:31:17] Jen Hewett: I'm not even the assumption. That is the underlying statement. That is what people are trying to tell. She gets it, but she is not having it. And then also to have that experience of the neighbors calling the cops on her husband, when he, when,

[00:31:29] Lisa Woolfork: oh my gosh, well this, you have to get the book to learn about this story.

[00:31:33] Lisa Woolfork: It's really out of microaggressions. 1 0 1. No, no, not microaggressions. This is like macroaggression. She tells her husband like any spouse will tell you other spouse, Hey, I'm busy doing this. Why don't you run to the car and get my laptop? Because I left it in there. Go, okay, I'll go get it. Seven, 15. She has him go outside and three minutes later, she's getting a phone call.

[00:31:53] Lisa Woolfork: Hey, there's a sketchy guy outside. Are you outside? And then I'm telling you, Jen, when the cops [00:32:00] showed up my heart sank, but I knew it was okay because the story was in right. That this was a happy outcome that her husband did not get shot, that he was not beaten within an inch of his life for being in a suburban Airbnb with his wife at a quilt conference, like.

[00:32:18] Lisa Woolfork: That was not gonna lead him to his death. So that's why I was able to continue because I knew that the outcome was gonna be good, but why was it necessary? Right. It's just another reminder that even when we're doing our regular, everyday quotidian thing, a craft based creative job, you know, selling a special ruler, all of the things that people just do in this industry, that when you have the racism, that's in our community, That is such a feature of it just pressing down upon you.

[00:32:48] Lisa Woolfork: It really is. It's so interest in a way that people will just tell on themselves.

[00:32:52] Jen Hewett: Can I show you a funny story related to that? That actually has to do with the book too, in 2019, you, when I started working on this book, I'd been talking about it publicly [00:33:00] and I went to an event, just a little crafting event, and there were a bunch of women from the area around.

[00:33:05] Jen Hewett: It's actually in the town where I live now. And one woman started grilling me about and she said, so. Tell me about your book. And I said, well, I'm doing oral histories and personal narratives of women, of color, of people, of color who do textile arts and crafts. Well, what special training do you have to do?

[00:33:20] Jen Hewett: Oral histories. And have you done, have you heard of such and such program? And I actually host people who are taking this art part of this program and she just was talking about it, like in this way that she wanted me to give her my bonafides and I was like, mm, okay, whatever. And then. I was just casually responding to her questions, talking to other people.

[00:33:38] Jen Hewett: And then she finally said, so is everybody in the book going to be alive? Are you discussing people in the past too? And I said, I leaned forward. And I said, because they're oral history. They kind of have to be alive for me to be able to interview them. And she just stopped. And the conversation went on with the rest of the table.

[00:33:57] Jen Hewett: And I thought here, I telling you about this project [00:34:00] that somebody thinks I'm qualified to work, that everybody I'm interviewing thinks I'm qualified to work on. And you white stranger act path is a vet who I've never met, are questioning. My qualifications to do a project that I pitched and you don't even know what I'm doing.

[00:34:18] Lisa Woolfork: Listen, white stranger, who gets to grill you as if she is on your PhD defense team. Right now, she has no involvement and whatever she's selling, who on earth is gonna ask you, are you talking to people in the past? And I'm like, is it a say on ? Like, how are you supposed to talk to people in the past? Like, is that a trick question that you, who are you tricking?

[00:34:42] Lisa Woolfork: It's the discomfort. I believe I can only speculate, but it feels like it's the discomfort that needs to help put you in a place. Exactly. Right. Exactly. You have to be in your place and you have to it's like that. Arizona show your papers, show your papers. Show me your papers, where you have this qualification.

[00:34:58] Lisa Woolfork: Show me your papers, where you're [00:35:00] qualified to make me feel uneasy.

[00:35:02] Jen Hewett: And all you could have done was just say nothing, but instead by putting me in my place, I put you in yours, you know,

[00:35:07] Lisa Woolfork: sometimes it's really useful when that happens, because then, you know, you who you don't have to talk to every day.

[00:35:11] Jen Hewett: Right? Exactly. But it's also exhausting.

[00:35:13] Lisa Woolfork: It is quite exhausting because the reverse is rarely true. Not only are they not credentialed. At anything, they still don't have any problem, getting attention, getting accolades, getting, and no one grills them, no one walks around Paducah or these big events quizzing people on whether they should be there or not.

[00:35:37] Lisa Woolfork: Right. And it is so unfortunate and yet no one can fix a problem that they're not willing to acknowledge.

[00:35:44] Jen Hewett: And I can't fix the problem cause the problem's not mine to I didn't create it. Y'all gotta work it out. Gather your people. talk.

[00:35:54] Lisa Woolfork: Exactly, exactly. Get together. Mm-hmm get together everybody. Okay. And this is another going back to Tony [00:36:00] Morrison again, look at you in your amazing look.

[00:36:01] Lisa Woolfork: Have you think about Tony Morrison all day? Yeah, she said the same thing. That racism is a distraction. Mm-hmm it distracts black folks from the work and the things we are meant to be doing and that it's white folks problem to solve. Leave me out of it. And then she asks this question, she's like, what would you do without your whiteness?

[00:36:16] Lisa Woolfork: Who are. What are you? Are you any good? Are you special? Do you have anything? You should figure that out for yourself and think about why you're clinging to that so much. I mean, really talk about putting people in their place and also not expanding the energy. And that's what I love about the project.

[00:36:33] Lisa Woolfork: The project is not trying to dispel. It's not trying to prove anything. It's not trying to say, oh, please let us in because we are good too. It's not that it's saying that we are here. We have been here. We are thriving and flourishing in systems that were never designed for us to do so. And that is a gift.

[00:36:55] Lisa Woolfork: That is a gift. And that is a legacy, uh, that I believe this [00:37:00] book does a beautiful job of incarcerating. It does same, same. I told him cry, everybody's crying and because it's so necessary and because we need to see and uplift each other. Right. And I think that you are doing that so beautifully. Really, and truly you have so much to be proud of with this book.

[00:37:21] Lisa Woolfork: Now tell us now, when is the release date? I know the episode's gonna come out in November, so it's right around the, is it gonna hit shelves soon? Is there tour dates for events? Like tell us what's happening on that front?

[00:37:32] Jen Hewett: The publication date is November 16th. The books are actually in the warehouse, which if anybody knows anything about the supply chain issues of the past year, if not, there was a great episode of the daily, the New York times podcast.

[00:37:46] Jen Hewett: About the great supply chain disruption, listen to it. But the fact that we have the books that they're in the warehouse, it's a big deal. So if you order it now, you will most likely be able to get it. But if you wait too long, it might sell out. [00:38:00] We might have to get more. I don't know, let's help that happen.

[00:38:03] Jen Hewett: So they earlier, the better there will be a handful. Events one in person in New York city at weaving hand, Cynthia, Alberto, who is in the book. She also has an organization called weaving hand that we talk a little bit about, and she's going to be hosting a very small 40 people or so event. I think that chin Wayne, who is in the book, SHS K and Brandy Harper.

[00:38:27] Jen Hewett: And I, and Cynthia, of course. So the five of us are all gonna have a conversation. I think I'm supposed to structure the conversation. I'm not sure what we're gonna talk about. We might just get up there and talk,

[00:38:37] Lisa Woolfork: but be just fine. I think you've prepared enough. I don't think you have to do any prep. I think you are ready to roll

[00:38:43] Jen Hewett: and then we'll have a couple other online events.

[00:38:46] Jen Hewett: So one with gather here, Virginia Johnson, who is also in the book.

[00:38:50] Lisa Woolfork: Yes. I worked with her, we did a modern Quil Guild thing. She's so cool.

[00:38:54] Jen Hewett: Yes. And she didn't have to go on strike. So in addition to, or running gather here, she's also a costume [00:39:00] designer for film and she's II. So is Shawn's con and there was a.

[00:39:05] Jen Hewett: A chance that they would have to go on strike the labor movements that are not getting covered right now are kind of amazing. It's amazing how much movement there is right now and how workers are actually fighting very, very hard for the rights. And aren't really talking about it, but that's one example was that II very close striking.

[00:39:23] Jen Hewett: So we're gonna have one at gather here. A verb for keeping warm Adrian Rodriguez, who is also in the book, uh, wrote about her Nana, she and her wife own a verb for keeping warm. So we're gonna have an event there. And then two rivers bookstore in Portland, Oregon, we're doing something there. And I think that might be it for this year.

[00:39:43] Jen Hewett: And the reason for that is because it's Q4 and it's the busiest time of year for those of us who go in stores sell things online. So there's only so much I can do. We might be able to pick it up again next year is what I'm hoping. And definitely today as October 19th, my [00:40:00] big collection with world market was just launched.

[00:40:02] Lisa Woolfork: Congratulations. Yeah.

[00:40:04] Jen Hewett: They should also be carrying the book in the spring. So there might be some events around that too. We'll see local to hear. Probably the, the Northeast where I can stop in and maybe Southern California, I'll probably have some events there in the spring too. Just so my parents come.

[00:40:19] Jen Hewett: And my, my auntie Bing, who is in the book Ingham her grandchild, Ava, who I've known since Ava was a baby, interviewed their grandmother for the book. And so she is a frigging delight. It would be so fun just to sit with auntie me and ask her questions.

[00:40:35] Lisa Woolfork: And this is what you've given us all the opportunity to.

[00:40:38] Lisa Woolfork: By you standing in the place and asking such beautiful opened ended questions that allow people to reveal themselves. We too, get to get a glimpse of all these lives of all these stories that we would not have had otherwise. And you get to mark tabs in your books, so you can come back and look at other things later, too.

[00:40:57] Lisa Woolfork: So. Jen, this has been a [00:41:00] beautiful conversation. I am so grateful to you and congratulations on this amazing book. Congratulations on the world market deal. Like that's amazing. I am just so thrilled and delighted to be talking with you today. Thank you so much.

[00:41:14] Jen Hewett: Thank you, Lisa. Oh,

[00:41:26] Lisa Woolfork: you've been listening to the stitch please podcast the official podcast of black women's 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's stitch, gmail.com.

[00:41:42] Lisa Woolfork: 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's stitch there in the Patreon directory. And for as little as $2 a month, you can help support the project with things like editing transcripts and other [00:42:00] things to strengthen the podcast.

[00:42:02] Lisa Woolfork: 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 at the stitch, please podcast.

[00:42:30] Lisa Woolfork: 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.

You may also like...

Support the Stitch Please podcast & Black Women Stitch

Donate