'Tiny Pricks Project': A crafty form of political protest
Textile protest exhibit makes at stop at West Stockbridge
President Donald Trump got a wall after all — at The Foundry in West Stockbridge.
Gallery walls are covered with Trump tweets embroidered on vintage fabric — dish towels, doilies, napkins, handkerchiefs — in textile artist Diana Weymar's "Tiny Pricks Project: Empower and Reclaim" show, opening Saturday and running through Jan. 21.
In early 2018 in Victoria, British Columbia, Vermont-born Weymar began embroidering the president's quotes onto her grandmother's old needlework. It became a daily habit — and an Instagram hit.
Friends wanted to help, as did hundreds of like-minded stitchers around the world. They contributed 3-inch to 2-foot squares, some more than one. One woman made 50 pieces. Weymar's 19-year-old daughter Macy added 40. A Montana group sewed a 4-foot world map quilt with corresponding quotes.
The original goal of 2,020 pieces by 2020 long surpassed; currently there are 2,400 quotes and counting. It's the largest textile Trump protest ever, according to Weymar.
At The Foundry, experienced and beginner sewers can add to the show at free "Stitch 'N B---h" sessions held Tuesday evenings through Jan. 14. Materials, instruction and quote suggestions are provided, with a cash bar and SoMa food truck offering refreshments.
Weymar discovered textile craft while studying creative writing at Princeton, and inherited a trove of vintage material from maternal grandparents.
"Generally, I work with text and photographs and stitch them into memory or antique textiles," she said from Canada, her home for the past decade.
Since 2015, she has focused on current events from hospice to transgender teens through large public projects, leading "Interwoven Stories" workshops at "Build Peace" gatherings from Bogota to Belfast, and reproducing infographics by Great Barrington native W.E.B. Du Bois — "some of the most beautiful things I've ever seen," she said.
For "Tiny Pricks," Weymar looks for inexpensive material ideally holding some memory for the sewer. "In half the pieces, the original textile belonged to somebody in the participant's family," she said.
She never expected the project would become so large, attracting worldwide online attention and a New Yorker article.
"Grassroots movement doesn't start with that architecture," she said.
Concerned people would forget, she wanted to accumulate a material record of the most extreme things Trump said, "as a kind of memorial documentation protest."
She originally planned on doing one piece a week, thinking she might have a small show once Trump was no longer President — however long that took.
In 2019, "people strongly encouraged me to go full time 'Pricks,' they felt it had an urgency," Weymar explained. "That's when I really started to ramp it up."
When her first fully-installed show of 630 pieces ran in San Francisco, Weymar was invited to exhibit at Lingua Franca, Rachelle MacPherson's activist Greenwich Village boutique.
"She had a vision for the project," Weymar said, "and I was completely intrigued."
The show attracted locals and tourists alike, and New Yorker coverage "helped place it in a literary context and as an art form."
New material — both cloth and quotes — is added constantly. "I am tethered to what's happening politically, it's changing every day," Weymar said. "It becomes a time capsule if you don't update it.''
The project would not exist without its Instagram posts, she acknowledged. "It goes in this little circle from social media to textiles to social media again."
At community events and workshops, people sew and air opinions. "They start talking when their hands are busy, becoming friends and learning about each other," Weymar said. All pieces are donated to the project, "a gift for everyone to enjoy."
As sections tour from Portland to Miami, Weymar sees a life for "Tiny Pricks" beyond the current administration. "It translates into a memorial, depending on what happens next. Everything is unfolding right in front of us."
Saturday's celebrations include a cabaret in the venue's Black Box theater. Performers include violinist Hannah Cohen, dancer Tom Truss, actress Caroline Fairweather, WordxWord poets and a surprise guest (not Santa, but much more fun!). Tickets are $25, $10 students. Weymar will lead one-hour workshops from 1 to 4 p.m.; signups at thefoundryws.com.
"I love that she's contrasting the permanence of vintage linen and impermanence of social media our President uses to express himself," said Foundry owner Amy Brentano, who connected with Weymar through a mutual friend.
Seeing photos of the New York show, Brentano thought, "This is beautiful and crazy and funny and sardonic, but also really informative and compelling."
The quotes have taken on a life of their own. Weymar first stitched "I am a very stable genius."
"Tiny Pricks" addresses a sense of powerlessness Brentano has observed, while building community and supporting dialogue among unheard voices.
"They can express themselves as some kind of outlet," she explained. "I want to create a space for that to happen."
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