I’ve been using some more traditional quilting techniques as a way of exploring the sometimes dischordant relationship between embracing being part of a long line of women before me and wanting to live the life I want, rather than the one thats served up to me.
The fabric used is a combination of liberty print tana lawn and demim cut out of a pair of jeans I bought from the YMCA charity shop. The patch was screenprinted by Casey Lee with a lyric from “White Boy” by Bikini Kill. The back of the cushion cover is a woolen herringbone fabric my mum gave me.
This project was also a way of upskilling and learning some more hand-sewing techniques, as well as looking at how homeware could also function as an art object.
Bikini Kill: You Really had to be There
The title for this piece comes from the opening line of a live recording of “Thurston Hearts the Who” by Bikini Kill. Bikini Kill were a driving force behind the 90s riot grrrl scene which grew out of the punk movement and became a platform for women to discuss and challenge everyday problems associated with gender and the expectations and beliefs that they felt were being put upon them.
Before discovering riot grrrl, my knowledge about feminism probably extended as far as knowing that The Suffragettes had done some brave things a long time ago so I could vote one day and that Germaine Greer existed and she’d written a book that nobody much I knew seemed to want to read.
Feminism seemed like something cold, distant and academic. The problems my friends and I were facing weren’t to do with whether or not we might go to university but that being groped or having your drinks spiked was becoming normal.
Bands like Bikini Kill talked about these things, about how it wasn’t our fault for wearing short skirts or being drunk and that we didn’t have to stand for it. “Thurston Hearts the Who” had been recorded in 1992 and the band had split up by 1997 but in 2005 we still needed them, 15 years old, out on the town and being “chatted up” by men twice our age. Clubs and pubs are much tighter on ID these days but I’m not sure much else has changed. Girls still grow up hating their lives, their bodies, their friends.
Bikini Kill played their own instruments (all of them, they often swapped round during shows), wrote about what they thought, published it themselves and encouraged others to do the same, to get in touch about it and to get political. They challenged hypocrisy within the punk scene and for my friends and I, they helped reclaim the word feminist and made it make sense for us to idenitfy ourselves as such.
For me though, the most important part was about embracing diy culture and empowering people to stand up and say what they thought and what mattered to them in whatever way they felt was best. They made it okay for me to make art about whatever I wanted to and to use it as a way to be honest about my experiences and hopefully encourage others to reflect on and be honest too. They made it okay for me to be a punk and a feminist and someone who quilts and bakes bread. To me there’s no contradiction there now, its just me.