Thursday 18 June 2020

A nicer place sans me

I want to acknowledge the terrible and unnecessary death of aboriginal man David Dungay. Mr Dungay died in a police cell at Long Bay Jail on December 29, 2015. He is one of 430+ indigenous people who died in police custody in Australia since 1991. If you want to know more, and find out how you can act to support indigenous activists, click on his name to go to this Guardian newspaper article. Follow up on the many great links at the bottom of the item.

Copwatch is an app that aboriginal youth can put on their phones. Follow that link to go to a website where young blak people can find out what their legal rights are to record any police harassment they might get involved in.

my pdf sewing pattern "Serenade Skirt"

Closed my Instagram Account

Two days ago I closed my Instagram account @pearlredmoonart. Its not just temporarily disabled but deleted. When it was deleted I didn’t take the option to save the pictures and commentary that had been collected so I have no archive of what was posted there over 8 months (? Not even sure if that was the length of time) However I’m aware that some people, as one person described it have “screenshotted the hell”, out of selected things I wrote and no doubt some of that will be circling around cyber space for years.

On my blog, roughly a couple of years ago, I naively inserted myself into the debate about whether describing a sewing pattern as a kimono was a cultural appropriation. I now describe that as “na├»ve” because I stupidly thought it was an issue open for discussion. Further, I believed I was a legitimate stakeholder in such a discussion and had an entitlement to say what I thought coming from my particular background of knowledge and experiences.

This is a round up of why I thought I was a stakeholder entitled to make a credible contribution:
·         I’m an independent clothing designer publishing pdf sewing patterns to sell.
·         I’ve written a blog for 11 years that’s mainly about my textile art making and clothing designs 
·         Over those 11 years I’ve joined innumerable Facebook sewist groups, visited websites, followed the blogs of other sewists and made 100s of comments in those places. I’m a member of the international online sewing fraternity.
·         I’ve been making my own clothes for 40 years so are an accomplished seamstress.
·         I have a trade industry qualification as a sample machinist and patternmaker, gained at Auckland Technical Institute in New Zealand in 1984.
·         I’m a self proclaimed textile artist who advocates for sustainability, ethics and transparency in the international sewing industry.
·         In my art and production of clothes to sell I operate within a fairly radical self imposed code of ethics and transparency.

For months I blathered away on my blog hearing only my own voice soaking into the walls of my padded cell. I got no feedback from the activists who had called out other sewing pattern businesses for using kimono. Without feedback I felt strangely untethered and it was easy to wander down some lesser visited avenues, knocking on all sorts of doors hoping someone was home.

another version of the Serenade Skirt, one colour with red overlocked seams on the outside.

Months into my monologue somebody finally sent a private email elucidating me that cultural appropriation isn’t an intellectual idea up for debate.

They told me my disagreement was seen as quite simply a racist rant.

I was told that I had no right to question the person who had declared using kimono was a cultural appropriation. Her Japanese heritage was her authority. Even if that person was born in the USA, had lived their whole life there and was an American citizen. If I was questioning why that person had the authority to speak for Japanese people then that was an argumentative and defiant attitude coming from my white woman privilege. Any disagreement, any begging to differ was an arrogant, violent expression of my racism.

I am still mad about that but I've reluctantly learned to shut up. They are so much more powerful than me. Of the two most significant Instagram influencers I infuriated one has 17,000+ followers and the other a staggering 150,000+. Until Tuesday I had 640. If they tell their followers I'm a racist bully no one is going to question it. 

As an Aspergers person Instagram was challenging to negotiate. The rules of engagement were even more baffling than successfully surviving face to face interactions in real life! Then there was the stress of seeing the clothes I've made and designed offered for sale by Chinese scam manufacturers, scrolling past on the screen.

I did clunky moves on Insta posting those comments that offended. Within 4 weeks I had several sustainability/ethical practice campaigners for the clothing industry and some anti-racist activists blocking me. Some went beyond just kicking me off and called me a white racist woman ignorant of my privilege, plus, some of the comments DM by their followers said - Liar. Bully. Accused me of trying to be a "victim". Said I intentionally stalked, terrified and hurt BIPOC people. Accused me of trying to use being neuro-divergent to get a free pass to be racist. Lots more.

That was all enormously distressing and I'm now living in this weird parallel universe where everything is upside down.

After those horrendous awkward blunders it was obviously best to get out of that toxic shouty world before more people noticed the she-devil was amongst them. Crosses and wreaths of garlic were being hurled to ward me off....sigh...

Tuesday was the day to cut and run and retreat back to the safe place of this blog. Having told this story from now on I'd like to get back to the core issues I care about -

This is my pdf pattern "Theodora Tunic" decorated with sewed on appliques.

textile art 

sewing our own clothes 

raising awareness of the exploitation of the international fashion industry to the environment and its workers,

understanding what is a sustainable and ethical way to chose your clothes

Upcycling, re-making, making do 

Sunday 14 June 2020

Small Acts, Big Change

Last year I was asked by our local shire council, Scone, to join my home town campaign for a Tidy Town Award. Most Australians reading this will be aware of the decades old Tidy Towns movement.

With the support of council community coordinator Heather Ranclaud I joined 3 others in the sustainability category to make a submission about how we make a difference by recycling. When the judges visited my studio in November 2019 I showed them the garments I making for my "Thirty Coats" exhibition. They saw my collection of used clothes and textiles, all sourced inexpensively from thrift shops and garage sales and I showed them how I altered the fabrics with stenciling, applique and patchwork.

In late 2019 it was announced that Murrurundi won an award for our contribution to sustainability!

Keep Australia Beautiful - NSW Sustainable Communities.

As part of the recognition for that award I was asked to show my work for this small video

Small Acts, Big Change. Pearl Moon

Going forward, these are my ongoing commitments to sustainability and ethical making for the years 2020 & 2021 and into the forseeable future:

 1) Every garment I make will comprise at least 90%+ used clothes and fabrics. 
 2) Every garment I sell will be made completely by my own labours. I cut, embellish with paint and stitching and sew every garment. To date I've never employed outworker sewists and would acknowledge if I started to do so.
3) Every garment I make is unique, I don't do any sort of mass manufacture - small or (heaven forbid!) large scale.

"Hie Coat" 2019, by Pearl Red Moon. Made from thrifted remnants of cotton canvas, brushed cotton and cotton broadcloth. The garment was stenciled with my hand cut stencils, and the sewing techniques were primarily patchwork and applique.

In the book Thirty Coats that I published about the garments in the exhibition this is the statement on the poster....

" Using only second hand and discarded fabrics each coat is an example of how skill and re-imagining can transform and make valuable what was destined for landfill. Following in the tradition of re-make and make-do, such as Boro and patchwork, the artist has applied a wide range of technique to transform the mundane salvaged materials into beautiful and intriguing garments that transcend fast fashion and have the potential to be worn for decades"

Currently a lot makers and independent sewing pattern businesses are falling over themselves to get on lists identifying the good ally anti-racist people to buy from. I hope it fulfills the idealistic aspiration to raise the profile and sales of BIPOC owned and run businesses. Personally I'm ideologically opposed to getting myself on such a list. I am white and privileged (though also poor and autistic!) and in the current heightened consciousness over BLM issues I'm more comfortable staying out of the room and letting BIPOC have the mic. 

Though, quite honestly I suspect my stand on kimono has firmly branded me a racist white supremacist in some peoples estimation. I cannot help but notice I'm still blocked by various IG influencers I offended during that period when I disagreed that using kimono was an unacceptable cultural appropriation. That is list I never volunteered to be on and will most likely never get off for some people...! It's frustrating that I continue to be disdained over that issue when I believe my advocacy and activism for an ethical and sustainable clothing industry is far more relevant. 

I recommend following my slow fashion season journey to keep up with the political activism.