Most of you know that I am a founding member of Cloth in Common a small international group of artists. Every two months, we get an unusual prompt from one of our members. We then create an individual response to the prompt by creating an original artwork.
Every Tuesday during this two month period one of us will write a blog post for the Cloth in Common website. These posts are our written responses to the prompt—what we are thinking about, what materials, or visuals ideas we are exploring.
This time the prompt was Dis-Unity. The journey I took with this prompt went well beyond creating a new quilt. Here is what happened.
Personally, I have some very strong opinions about almost everything. Art, exercise, aging, politics, food, entertainment—I know what I think about each and every one of these things. Normally I do not use social media to express these beliefs. This is a decision I made early on. I want my blog, my social media in general, to be a place of positive, creative energy.
Still, the last two years have been hard. We are a nation divided on so many things, and there is a part of me that feels it is wrong not to speak out. That silence is complicity.
During the middle of this two month period, I went to QuiltCon 2019. There were political quilts everywhere. I was inspired.
So, when it came time for me to write the Cloth in Common weekly blog, I had this weird urge to jump into the fray—add my words to the cacophony of voices blaring their ideas across social media. I tried to create a Bill Maher style rant—creative, critical, and cranky. I was going to use the prompt Dis-Unity to complain.
I paired my words with images of the quilt Colors Unfurled aka If Betsy Ross Had my Stash. In 2008, I created this quilt to serve as a visual celebration of Barrack Obama’s nomination for the Presidency.
Shortly after I posted the blog, I received this comment (edited for clarity) on my personal blog.
“Your blog post was offensive to me….keep your opinions to yourself and just quilt…… you’ve lost me and I’m sure others.”
And then Lisa Walton, President of the SAQA board and fellow member of Cloth in Common, contacted me to let me know that while she normally shares Cloth in Common blog posts on her Facebook page, she had to take mine down because it was getting so many negative comments.
I thought about this. Did I really want to be a part of the hate? No, I did not. Lesson learned—As enticing as it may feel to write in all caps and figuratively stomp your feet. Don’t do it. Don’t hate back.
Hating just contributes to the problems we are now having, and I am hanging my head low for having joined in on this.
So, I took my original words down. I replaced them with new words you can read here.
Back in the studio, I decided to make a word quilt. Because, well, words are what this prompt has become for me. How to speak wisely, clearly, and honorably? What to say? I kept going back to a saying that has always resonated with me.
Then I got the idea to build the quilt backwards, posting each letter on Instagram with a shout out of love for the women in history and in my life who have worked to be agents of positive change.
So that is what happened. In hindsight, I think I made a poor decision. I regret my earlier blog post, but I also know I needed to do it to get to where I am standing now. I learned a very important lesson about communication, social media, and who I want to be as an artist and advocate.
I want any space I hold here on social media to welcome anyone who loves quilts, art, and creativity, anyone who aspires to be a better parent, artist, and partner, and anyone who wants to find common ground.
I often find that any comment on social media that is somewhat critical is met with an avalanche of criticism. All comments have to fit the happy place mentality of social media. You cannot have an “other” opinion. Or, for that matter any opinion at all. I once made a rather benign comment about Starbucks.The hate mail that I received was more than you could ever imagine.
I can totally see that–I have seen that. But in this case, I was just joining in on the yelling, and it felt really wrong afterwards. It is like some sort of fake reality. And the way that teenagers use it is in some ways frightening. I suppose they might have a clearer idea of what they are doing because they have grown up with it. I just don’t know. I appreciate you stopping by and commenting.
A very thoughtful and ckear message, Maria, thank you. I also struggle with the balance of putting love out into the world and speaking my truth. I appreciate being reminded that balance can be met.
Thank you Jeannie! And a big huge congrats on getting into 3D Explorations. That is going to be a great show!
You have as much right to speak as anyone else.
I like your Obama quilt. It commemorates history as would an Abraham Lincoln or a George Washington quilt.
I know you are right, but I also know that it really doesn’t help to add more negativity to what is going on right now. I don’t want to be a part of that which I see as part of the problem here. I want to be part of the solution. Thank you for your words!
Oh Maria that is amazing what you did on your word quilt and how you handled the disgruntled reader issue with grace.
Thank you Tierney. I am sorry to be slow so to respond. I learned a lot about myself from this experience. It needed to happen for me to understand a few things about where we are right now as a country. I appreciate your comments.
I’m sorry that for all the right reasons, you inadvertently crossed the boundaries of ‘netiquette’. I’m sorry too for the person who decided your work isn’t worthy of her gaze because she doesn’t like how you are feeling. (She will be missing some great stuff!) I also understand that you now feel it’s best to stay on the sunny uplands of social media and leave the hinterlands to the grumpy and disgruntled. But what I find most fascinating about the whole incident is that people felt it necessary to bring their negativity to the issue to say metaphorically ‘you stink’ because they object to your sentiments. It’s Mother’s Day here in the UK and although my own mom is gone, she is never to be forgotten. One thing she always drummed into us as children was “If you can’t think of something nice to say, say nothing at all’. I wonder why more people don’t just unfollow – or untick or unwhatever – and silently and move on? Please keep up your marvellous and inspiration output. I’m out for a walk in the woods with my dog so I can rant and rave about the whole Brexit thing…. don’t get me started on that one!!
Sorry for the delayed response. We are just going through the most difficult of times. I want to continue to gently put my views out there, but what I did in the blog post I took down was not gentle. It was contributing to the problem. Thank you very much for your comments. It is always good to hear from you!
Sounds like that was a hard lesson. I agree in principle to separate political opinions from other work, but in fact my quilts are an expression of all of me. Yours look like an expression of all of you, too; maybe keep up the meaningful quilts but skip the editorial in print.
Yes. I think you are right. Let the quilts speak for themselves. Thank you Zippy Quilts!
Sad that your feelings can expose so much hate, I sometimes think some are just waiting to jump in with their hate. I did wonder what you where doing on instagram, it was so different from your usual posts but such a nice daily reminder. Love the quilt and nice to to be reminded of Colour Unfurled as I am presently reading Michele Obama’s book Becoming.
I am going to Michele Obama’s book next. I have heard such good things about it. Thank you Bev!
Sometimes it’s painful to be the lightning rod. I am very careful on social media these days, too. I sometimes find a great joy in deleting one of my comment on social media – if it has garnered a lot of ugly hateful responses. When I delete my comment, the hateful ones are magically gone, too. They had their opportunity to vent and I had the last, though silent, word.
That is a good way to think about! Thank you Yarngoddess!
Who was the person who made up the title of the prompt? That person was really “asking” for personal replies. Surely they knew what they were doing.
I am sorry that people responded negatively. I am not sure I would want to be a part of the group myself. “Speaking your truth” is what we need now. I don’t think that is a negative. I liked your reply.
You are right. In fact, one of the other artists commented that she was having a hard time with the prompt because it came from a place of negativity. I feel like it was good for though. I learned a lot including that I do not want to be part of the problem. Thank you for stopping by and commenting.
Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I don’t believe it was an easy thing to do and I appreciated your open candor of reflection and honesty.
Thank you Carol. It really was a growing experience.
If it makes you feel any better, the Pensey Spice Company wrote some political commentary as the owner claimed he could not keep quiet any longer. His friends told him not to do it. Turns out that his business increased by 70% after his message went out!!!!
Very interesting! I do think there are ways of saying what you believe that can positive over all. My original blog post was not that though. I learning. Thank you profmom for stopping by and commenting.
I recall a lot of opinion squelching (especially in late 2016). Your well earned stripes as an artist tell me that your voice comes from place of reflection. I’m pretty happy to listen to such voices whether they echo my own chamber or not. Really enjoyed your pieces at the Chicago Int’l Quilt Festival, by the way.
Thank you Monica. That is really nice of you to say that. I am glad you liked my quilts too!
Thank you for voicing your opinion…and thank you for this post..xo
I am also caught between the necessity to speak up for my beliefs and the desire for peace
It is the way things are right now. I hope it changes and we can all figure out a way to listen to each other. Thank you Diane!
Perhaps the comments were more proof of our dis-unity…I applaud you for speaking your truth….we all need to do more of that….and accept the challenges that may result….sad though, that others feel compelled to rant. We are becoming a society where the squeakiest wheels get the most grease and dissension simply for the sake of venting seems to be applauded…sad that we cannot listen and attempt to see th positives in differing opinions.
I was taught that if you don’t have something positive to say it may be better to keep your mouth shut. I appreciate mutually respectful, discussions of divergent views but dislike that rabidness that so many people feel the need to display these days…
I agree. How can we get past the yelling? My decision is to try and not yell myself. Really good points. Thank you!
I salute you
You are too nice to me. Thank you!
Yikes! I also avoid political commentary on social media platforms. Having said this I wonder if the negative vocal extreme has become a bully which the majority of the public allows to keep them silent.
In recent months I have used an app called 5 call (https://5calls.org/). It connect me with my representatives. All of them here in Utah are Republican but I call their offices anyway to express my concerns with specific policy or with the rhetoric that is exasperating the division coming from the President.
It been therapeutic for me. Just suggestion. ….
I call my senators too! It does make us feel like we are doing something in a world where it feels like we have no control. Thank you Margaret for commenting. i am going to get that app!
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