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Creativity, Events, Writing

Art & Activism Talk at the CV Web Posse

I’ll be giving a talk about Activism through Art & Design at the Comox Valley Web Posse on June 28th. As I grew up in the valley, I’m really looking forward to meeting the new creative community there, as it has grown leaps and bounds since I left in the 1990’s.

This is a new talk that I’ve developed over the last year that I hope will spur creatives to think of how to responsibly tackle social justice issues through their creative work. Here is the official description of the event:

Activism Through Art & Design Talk

What can we do as designers, artists, and makers to incite positive change in our communities? How do we make space for creativity, while also expanding our practice to include other voices? How do we know if our work has made impact? How can we scale our practice and share it with others? How can we change history by documenting and unearthing artistic practices? Why does collaboration make us stronger?

Author Leanne Prain will take you on an exploratory tour of how artists and designers can use their work to activate social or political change. By sharing a wide variety of examples from around the world, Leanne will discuss how art can be used to implement civic collaborations, community co-creations, conversation-worthy street art, and covert storytelling. Learn how to implement your creative work in a way that will have true and long-lasting social impact.

This 45-minute talk will be accompanied by large-scale visuals, with a round-table discussion to follow.

NIC, Tyee Hall, Room 203
Cost: $10 includes door prizes
Students: free

A written list of women's names on a desk top with a keyboard
Creativity, Inspiration, Writing

100 Women Whom I Admire

In celebration of International Women’s Day I wrote a list.  I thought that I’d write a few names, but then it became longer…and longer.

Here is a list of 100 living women that I admire, both professionally and artistically.

This list is not exhaustive. I could easily write down 500 more names. I already have half of next year’s list swimming in my head. If you are reading this list, and you think that you should be on it, yes – you probably should be. Feel free to add your name and links in the comments below.

These are women who I think that everyone should know about. Some of them I know personally, some of them I do not. The only common thread here is that they are all inspire me. They inspire me to do more, be more, care more, and think more.

100 Women for International Women’s Day

  1. Mushroom suit inventor Jae Rhim Lee delivered my favourite TED talk of all time.
  2. Artist and rabble rouser Judy Chicago has been pulling women’s stories from history and has been resisting and persisting longer than most of us
  3. Photo journalist Christine Germano
  4. Surface designer Vikki Wiercinski of Mezzaluna Studio
  5.  Designer, artist, and Olympic metal designer Corrine Hunt
  6. Journalist, author and podcaster Sarah Vowell
  7. Artist Camille Engman
  8. Thought leader and civic designer Dana Chisholm
  9. Typographer, lettering artist and amazing personal project maker Jessica Hische
  10. MOMA Senior Design Curator, design salon host, writer and speaker Paola Antonelli
  11. Queen of Shitty Robots Simone Giertz whose humour smartly shows us that anyone can experiment with robotics
  12. Yoko Ono (enough said)
  13. Designer, typographer, and valentine-maker Marian Bantjes
  14. Design leader, educator, record keeper, Outlet owner and illustrator Kate Bingaman-Burt.
  15. I want to read everything by writer Rebecca Solnit.
  16. Designer, editor and writer Jessica Helfand
  17. My frequent artistic collaborator, educator and poet Laura Farina
  18. Buffy Sainte-Marie, a legend
  19. Shelia Sampath, the founder of The Public Design Studio, a design studio devoted to social justice and change
  20. Designer, publisher and brand-change advocate Anne Miltenburg
  21. Book publicist, writer and fatshion icon Cynara Geissler
  22. Writer, director and filmmaker Mina Shum
  23. Musician Cyndi Lauper 
  24. Podcaster, educator, brand designer and writer Debbie Millman
  25. Textile artist and educator Katherine Soucie
  26. Colette Patterns founder Sarai Mitnick who used her user experience background to start a sewing pattern company
  27. Artist and illustrator Molly Crabapple
  28. Lizzy Karp, event producer, host, speaker
  29. Design critic, writer, and educator Alice Tremlow
  30. Filmmaker, director, photographer and curator Faythe Lavine 
  31. Design writer and critic Anne Quito
  32. The Kitten Lady Hannah Shaw
  33. Choreographer Vanessa Goodman 
  34. Artist and community space maker Candy Chang
  35. Artist and community activist Andrea Creamer
  36. Author, technical editor, designer, photographer Mandy Moore (who I co-authored Yarn Bombing with)
  37. Musician PJ Harvey
  38. Comic artist and creativity coach Jessica Abel
  39. Good witch Anne Banner, owner of Salmagundi West
  40. Namita Gupta Wiggers, co-founder of the Critical Craft Forum
  41. Project H design educator and advocator, bringing design to rural areas Emily Pilloton
  42. Freelance arts and culture writer Nathalie Atkinson
  43. Antoinette Carroll, Designer and owner of Creative Reaction Lab, a design firm focused on creating equity-focused community design.
  44. Writer Joan Didion (I recommend watch the new documentary on her life, The Centre Will Not Hold)
  45. Printmaker and educator Jen Hewitt
  46. TV writer and poet Jennica Harper
  47. Illustrator and artist Lisa Congdon (if you are not reading her blog, you should be!)
  48. Healer, photographer and writer Susannah Conway
  49. Writer Claire Vey Watkins
  50. Rock star Kim Gordon
  51. Artist, cartoonist, cabaret performer and musician Dame Darcy
  52. Cyclist, bicycle advocate and publisher Elly Blue
  53. Product designer Diane Espiritu
  54. Ceramist Maggie Boyd
  55. Writer and tarot artist Michelle Tea
  56. Bust Magazine Publisher, author and knitter Debbie Stoller
  57. Force of nature Tavi Gevinson
  58. Storytelling quilt artist Marion Coleman
  59. Journalist and writer Jackie Wong
  60. Illustrator and surface designer Erin Gibbs
  61. Artist Geninne
  62. Paper artist and community art advocate Rachel Ashe
  63. Writer and design educator Erin Ashenhurst
  64. Textile artist Sonja Philip who started her sewing journey with 100 acts of making
  65. Craftivist and author Betsy Greer
  66. Adult camp counsellor, maker, writer and editor Kim Werker
  67. Novelist, cook and blogger Felicia Sullivan
  68. Writer Roxane Gay
  69. Printmaker and surface designer Lotta Jansdotter
  70. Entrepreneur and writer Rena Tom
  71. Cookbook author, science writer, and funny woman Emily Wight
  72. Punk rocker and painter Jean Smith (of Mecca Normal)
  73. Making advocate, Vancouver Mini Maker Faire founder, and designer Emily Smith
  74. Blogger and product designer Joy Cho
  75. Embroidery artist and author Jenny Hart
  76. Artist Aram Han Sifuentes, creator of many things including the Protest Banner Lending Library
  77. Sarah Clugage, founder of Dilettante Army
  78. Publisher of Design Sponge and author Grace Bonney
  79. Actor Sandra Oh, the coolest girl in school
  80. Jen Simmons, design advocate, and front-end coder – expert in CSS grid
  81. Writer and critic Alissa Walker, who writes about walking in LA
  82. Comic artist and writer Lynda Barry 
  83. Business owners, entrepreneurs, web designers, early feminist bloggers Emira Meares and Lauren Bacon
  84. Writer, podcaster and writing cheerleader Rachael Herron
  85. Writer Miriam Toews
  86. Designer and gardener Gayla Trail
  87. Poet and writer Susan Musgrave
  88. Designer Kelli Anderson
  89. Illustrator Jill Bliss
  90. Musician Kathleen Hanna
  91. Chef, nutritionist and blogger Sarah Britton of My New Roots
  92. Comic artist and modern truth teller Mari Andrew
  93. Michelle Obama (obviously.)
  94. Comic artist and memoirist Ayun Halliday 
  95. Tattoo artist Sweet Sue Tattoo Sue Jeiven
  96. TV writing mastermind Shonda Rhimes
  97. Journalist and speaker Samaah Jaffer
  98. Designer Betsy Johnson
  99. Comedian Ali Wong
  100. Apple designer Susan Kare

Who inspires you? As an act of radical self-care, I recommend writing your own list and sharing it with the women you know.


A man wearing a hat that says Love Your Neighbour
Creativity, Interventions, Quote, Resist

Using Art to Resist

“A reminder that all acts of making are by their very definition acts of resistance, and they are political. Even if you don’t think so.” — Karie Westerman

Creative Resistance Resources

Books, Creativity, Ecourse, Uncategorized, Writing Life

Mixing It Up in 2015

Bang by Ai Wei Wei at the Vancouver Art Gallery, December 2014. A photo posted by Leanne Prain (@leanneprain) on

I gave up making New Years Resolutions a few years ago. Instead, I’ve adopted a theme word for each year – last year’s word was JOY (and amid the ups and downs of life, there was a lot of it) and this year’s word is STRETCH. For me this means trying new things, taking on projects that I haven’t done before, and expanding the limits of my comfort zone.

Over the next few months, I’ll be filling my time with some exciting projects, including:

  1. Changing my e-newsletters to come out every two weeks. Not on the list? You can sign up here. I started to publish to my list monthly this past fall but lost momentum over the holidays. With blogging and e-newsletter writing, my biggest hurdle is not keeping up the habit. This year I really want to prove to myself that I can do this. 35 newsletters – here we come! (the next one comes out tomorrow – January 4th!)
  2. A website redesign - my current site is not reflecting my goals and interests. I’ll be doing gradual updates over the next month. Keep your eye out for changes. While my focus has been primarily on textiles and street art, I intend to start blogging more about design, making, and the intersection of culture with all of these things that we touch and make by hand.
  3. My first e-course! Launching February 1, I’ll be sending out a weekly prompt via STITCHED STORIES to inspire stories for textiles, or textile stories (as you wish). The course will run for 12 weeks and this first session will be free. Let’s write together, it will be fun. I’m limiting this run to 50 people tops, so sign up early.
  4. An ideation class  – I’m taking a night class at a local design program on brainstorming ideas, and I’ll share what I learn as I go. I’m looking at getting a fresh perspective on how to generate new ideas. Plus, I’m super-excited to be around young graphic designers again.
  5. Sewing clothes and trying to figure out my new Serger. I may need your help figuring this one out.

It seemed like 2014 was a mixed bag for many people I know, and there is a feeling of optimism about the coming year. 2015 – I think you are going to be a good one.

Did you receive Strange Material: Storytelling Through Textiles as a holiday gift? Drop me a comment on this post and let me know what you think of it!

And, thanks to the Surface Design Association for naming Strange Material a must-have book for 2014. I’m honoured!

Creativity, DIY Ideas, Textiles

Simple DIY: Six Word Short Story Bracelets

A photo posted by Leanne Prain (@leanneprain) on

This weekend I decided to spend equal times working (e.g.: digging myself out from mountains of email) and playing (getting out my old sewing machine). While the garment that I sewed myself was not perfect (hello, wrinkly hem!), I have to say that forcing myself to try a project that stretched my boundaries in a weekend really set me on the path of wanting to sew again which is something that I haven’t spent a serious amount of time on in a few years.

Now I’m super-excited to try a bunch of new patterns, which lead me to thinking about how the writing and story process often starts the same way for me – you have to start with something small, like a sentence, to get to something much bigger, like a finished book. In the spirit of this, I thought I’d finally share the project that I designed to take to School House Craft earlier this fall – the Six Word Short Story Bracelet. If you are looking to start in textiles with story (or vice-versa), this is a very basic project that can get you started.

Can you tell a story in six words? This project is a great way to try. 

Ernest Hemingway was challenged in a bar bet to compose a story of only six words. He did: For sale: baby shoes, never worn. Since this time, thousands of people have written six word stories, and you should too!

Here’s some examples of other six word stories (from the excellent website

Left handed woman seeks Mr. Right (by Amber)

Nerdy Kid. Rocket Launcher. Bully Gone! (by Captain Doom)

Three Blind Mice, Cat Had Lunch (by Joe Douglas)

Sharp New Yellow Pencil, Limitless Potential (by Melissa Wilson)

Here’s How to Make It: Supplies:

    • a pen and paper
    • Cotton twill tape or a natural fibre ribbon 6-8 inches in length, 2-3 inches in width. If you will ever launder the bracelet, you should pre-wash the twill tape.
    • scissors
    • sewing needle
    • thread
    • snaps are specified in these directions, but buttons, Velcro, and jewelry clasps work well too.
    • tiny rubber alphabet stamps (smaller in size than the width of the ribbon) or fabric markers which will dye the fabric. I purchased my stamps at Michael’s in the party favours section, and each set only cost me $1.50 for the full alphabet.
    • fabric-ink (I purchased a brand called Momento Luxe, but any fabric paint will work)
    • an iron and a pressing cloth
    • pinking shears (optional)


A photo posted by Leanne Prain (@leanneprain) on

 Step 1: Write your Six Word Story/Poem – Take a pen and a scrap of paper and WRITE! Don’t hesitate, just try! (turn this page over and use the back!) Write the first thing that comes out of your head. Usually we have something in our subconscious that is dying to get out. Go with it. Not sure? Read it aloud to another person  and get their feedback. There’s no right way or wrong way to write a six word short story, but it might be easier to think that your six words have a ‘beginning’, a ‘middle’, and a ‘end’. Don’t like it? Write another – just six words. Keep going until you come up with one that you like. Go as fast as you can – eliminate your inner editor! Have a story that you like? Good! Now, pick your favourite one and transform it into a bracelet! Don’t like it? Start writing again!

Step 2: Make Your Bracelet ­– Cut a length of ribbon to fit your wrist (6-8″ is standard). Pinking shears will give a semi-finished edge, but I also recommend finishing ends with binding tape, or hand sewing a finished edge. Using a flat ribbon is recommended but pieces of linen, binding tape, and twill tape, in a natural fibre, will also work for printing. Attach a clasp to the wrong (non-shiny side) of the ribbon.

Step 3: Print Your Poem – Using rubber stamps and archival ink, your poem will be stamped onto the ribbon. I suggest planning where each word will go (words longer than 10 letters may take some creative placement) before you stamp, and then stamping one letter at a time. It may be erratic and look a bit messy, but both life and stories are like that, so embrace your mistakes. Don’t have rubber stamps? Handwrite your message onto the ribbon with a fabric ink pen. Decide what kind of handwriting works best for your story – is it script or block printed? Fine penmanship, or stylistic lettering? FInished writing or stamping it out? Ta-da, you now have a six word story bracelet!  


A photo posted by Leanne Prain (@leanneprain) on

Step 4: After Care – For longevity, I recommend heat-setting your ink with an iron once the ink is dried. Cover your bracelet with a ‘pressing cloth’ (a scrap piece of cotton or old pillowcase will work well) and iron the right-side (the inky side) for a few minutes with an iron set to medium heat (do not use the steam setting).

Step 5: Share Your Story – Stories are meant to be seen by others. I’d love to see a photo of your finished project or hear about your experience making it! Send it to me at [email protected] or @leanneprain!