On the Fourth of July, Stephanie Griffin caused a stir with embroidery.
Griffin, who sells her work online and at art markets as Siren’s Song Stitchery, reposted an embroidered hoop that she made a few years ago on Instagram and Facebook—an outline of the United States stitched in black and filled with the phrase, “No one is illegal on stolen land.”
One commenter took particular issue with Griffin “bringing politics” into stitching.
“I just found it really interesting because of this idea that fiber arts or stitching isn’t political or isn’t radical or isn’t resistance,” says Griffin. “I know that history. So many people are like, ‘It’s just a cute thing.’”
Despite its recent popularity as a twee Instagram trend or its association with Jane Austen characters, embroidery has a long, cross-continental history, from maps of the Underground Railroad that enslaved people would sew into their clothes to Ukrainian ritual cloths and the intricate floral designs of Zapotec embroidery.
“Fiber arts and working with fabric is literally a human tradition,” says Griffin, who is Black. “The idea that now, in 2020, these communities are so white-centered kind of blows my mind.”
Sure, many of Siren’s Song Stitchery’s bestsellers are intentionally political—tangerine floral fabric embroidered with “Seek peace, but be ready to go to war” or “Please fuck off, thank you” in swirling cursive that was recently reposted in response to the deployment of federal officers in Portland. But she’s just as likely to stitch Pacific Northwest scenery, flying saucers, or odes to coffee.
And despite naysayers in comment sections, Griffin’s work clearly has resonance. Last summer, the Hulu series Shrill cold-called Griffin and used three of her pieces for a Season 2 set—including the “No one is illegal on stolen land” hoop.
“I wanted my art to be really, really me and reflective of all of me,” Griffin says. “Everything from pretty florals to curse words, to jokes or TV references, to radical quotes from radical Black women to historical stuff, to quotes from Dracula and Edgar Allan Poe—a full range of all the things that I am.”
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