Author Archives: vmark

The Scholarship of Women of Color and Crafts

Mentor: Eve Dunbar (English Department)

Scholars: Soliana Kasa (’24) and Vanessa Mark (’26)

With the initial subject being the scholarship of women of color and craft, we took interest in different aspects of this broad niche.

I created an annotated bibliography focusing on quilting circles and bees, sewing, weaving and the community-building aspect of craft arts for women of color. One of the main framework questions I had thought of to guide my research was what made crafts produced by African American women different from those made by European-descended Americans. I immersed myself in the African American tradition of sewing and quilt making, dating back to the days of enslavement in the United States. They used techniques like those used in tapestries made by the Dahomey people in West Africa. I got to read articles that delved into the rich history of this tradition amongst African American women and their ingenious contributions to the craft, which are often overlooked in the historical discourse around American quiltmaking, and a sense of community interconnected with the practice of quilting.

Beginning with finding the distinction between art and craft, I found that much of the art world had roots of elitism, whereas the craft world was an outlet of creativity to women of color. Reading feminist theory provided interesting insight on crafts. Alice Walker and Audre Lord find that women of color use crafts as an expression of agency. I ultimately applied this lens to the experience of Japanese Americans during WWII internment camps, where creativity and expression proved to be a lifeline for many. This research allowed me to explore two seemingly unrelated subjects, and find the connection between them. I compiled relevant readings into an annotated bibliography. I was able to genuinely explore these subjects for the sake of learning, without the pressure of a final assessment or grade.