Crafting Empowerment

What is Queer Craft and Why Does it Matter?

Crafting provides a space for people to express their unique identities and celebrate diversity. 2SLGBTQA+ artists and makers lead the way in the contemporary craft spectrum, sparking conversations about acceptance and equitable rights. The beauty of craft lies in the ability to affirm one’s identity, transcend binary norms, and serve as a tool for empowerment.

Crafting Identity

Craft has a rich legacy that explores, affirms, and resists individual and community identities. Artists and maker culture constantly push boundaries beyond the binaries. The Sisika (Blackfoot) use the term aakíí’skassi to describe “men who perform roles typically associated with women, such as basket weaving and pottery-making”. Crafting identity reclaims narratives and expresses individuality, uplifting community voices.

From altered clothing for drag performers to handmade pronoun signs, craft serves as “a survival strategy” that empowers individuals to lay a stake in the materiality of culture. One example is the fictional Queer Newfoundland Hockey League (QNHL) by Lucas Morneau. This series of knitted jerseys employs team names as “pejoratives to reclaim the words often used against queer individuals”. Craft is a tool to occupy space in conversations that have historically excluded them.

Mel Beaulieu, a Mi’kmaq beadwork artist from New Brunswick, creates joyful designs and shares their experiences online to uplift others who may be going through similar journeys.

“As queer artist in today’s transphobic political climate our voice is important, and what we have to say matters. So many of us are afraid right now, especially the next generation who are just sorting out who they are. Through my creative process I’m asking myself “what did I need when I was young and trans and afraid. What would make 15-year-old me feel seen and loved?” The answer always breaks down to being able to picture myself as a trans adult who feels joy. I needed examples of queer joy. And from that thought path comes nostalgic Indigi-queer art that fills that need. I hope that through my art I can provide a little tiny corner of the internet where we’re safe to be ourselves.”

Mel Beaulieu, The Beads Knees

Moving Beyond the Binary

When we challenge societal norms and embrace diversity, we help create a world where individuals are valued for who they truly are. Moving beyond the binary embraces the complexity of gender. Craft is a great analogy to express these possibilities, much like the “Queer and Dear” exhibition in Seattle, WA., which celebrates diverse voices through clay, highlighting that “clay is a powerful medium with diverse attributes; elasticity, fluidity, resilience, strength, and expansiveness”. The Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery also has an online exhibition that explores how ceramics “can uniquely convey the physical and psychological concepts of queerness.”

Craft can be a healing and investigative tool that requires strength and dedication. Silvi Naçi creates qilms in collaboration with traditional techniques, elder knowledge and community input. “I arrived to my own sexual identity on top of this national treasure, the qilim, in a country where queer bodies were punished by jail and stoning,” Naçi writes in Queerness and Craft. Craft can offer respite and hope, which allows us to find community and fully express ourselves.

“My advice for queer creators would be not to let the world convince you the only way to make queer art is to display your grief. You’re allowed to experience and share joy too – that’s enough. Your joy has meaning, and your joy is art.”

Mel Beaulieu, The Beads Knees

Craft for Empowerment

The emergence of queer and gender non-conforming artists in the cultural landscape is a powerful force that has “risen to the forefront of contemporary culture”. Artists inspire and empower individuals to embrace their unique identities and contribute to a more inclusive society. Their work and presence have a genuinely transformative impact.

Craft is a movement that expands how we communicate and learn, making it essential to uplift queer artists and craft. Crafted with Pride explores the material cultures of queer activism in Britain, acknowledging the importance of documenting the history which has encouraged social and political change. 

It’s crucial to amplify the voices of 2SLGBTQA+ in the art canon, such as the exhibition Making in Between: Queer Clay,” which “centers queerness as an unapologetic presence.” Now more than ever, new tools are emerging to support that, like Decorating Dissidence which has a category on its site dedicated to queer craft and whose mission is to “break down disciplinary boundaries and find new ways to critically engage with feminist art history .” Projects like these bring to light the stories of marginalized makers to ensure their voices are heard and celebrated. 

“We need and deserve to create bubbles of joy for ourselves and our communities. Every time I create or adorn myself with joyful queer art I am saying “I choose joy because I deserve it. I honour myself because I deserve it. I will live a long, glorious, trans life because I deserve it.”

Mel Beaulieu, The Beads Knees

Queer craft is a movement that celebrates diversity, inclusion, and self-expression. By promoting visibility and representation of the queer craft community, we can empower individuals to embrace their unique perspectives and bring their creative visions of the world to life. So pick up your tools and create, share, and learn, knowing your contributions matter. Don’t forget to explore the links in this blog and join the conversation online using the hashtags #QueerCraft. We can inspire and uplift one another toward a brighter, more inclusive future.

References

“Decorating Dissidence.” decoratingdissidence.com. Accessed July 26, 2023. https://decoratingdissidence.com.

Filice, Michelle. “Two-Spirit.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, February 2, 2023. https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/two-spirit.

Fountain, Daniel. “Crafted with Pride.” Intellect Books. Accessed July 26, 2023. https://www.intellectbooks.com/crafted-with-pride.

Fountain, Daniel. “Survival of the Knittest: Craft and Queer-Feminist Worldmaking.” MAI, December 13, 2021. https://maifeminism.com/survival-of-the-knittest-craft-and-queer-feminist-worldmaking/.

Kaplan, Genevieve. “Making in between: Queer Clay.” American Museum of Ceramic Art, May 22, 2023. https://www.amoca.org/current-exhibits/queer-clay/.

Morneau, Lucas. “Queer Newfoundland Hockey League.” LUCAS MORNEAU. Accessed July 26, 2023. https://www.lucasmorneau.com/queer-newfoundland-hockey-league.html.

Naçi, Silvi. “Queerness and Craft.” x-traonline, April 17, 2022. https://www.x-traonline.org/online/queerness-and-craft.

Published Online June 28. “Pride in Canada.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, June 28, 2016. https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/world-pride-2014-toronto.“Queer and Dear.”

Saltstone Ceramics. Accessed July 20, 2023. https://saltstoneceramics.com/pages/queer-and-dear.

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