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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!

Strange Material, Uncategorized

What We (should) Talk About When We Talk About Fashion

Earlier this week, my blood boiled at a news story. Mass clothing retailer Urban Outfitters  claimed that they had NO idea that a recent bloodied Kent State sweatshirt that they manufactured had a link to violence.

Zara tshirt and Auschwitz Children

This story came on the tail of another, weeks earlier clothing retailer Zara was under a storm of criticism for producing a t-shirt for children that resembled Nazi concentration camp uniforms. Apparently Zara feigned innocence – citing designer’s unawareness of the historical reference (and apparently the same unawareness among the manufacturers, the sales teams, the merchandisers, etc…etc…who all work for the company. To which I say, really? Hundreds of people are involved in the garment manufacturer process and not a single soul noticed?)

I’ve been mulling over how to write about these two events when I came across this brilliant video by  and  of The Guardian UK:

Urban Outfitters Kent State Sweatshirt video

Do you see the common element in each retailer’s statement? Essentially: the designer didn’t know. The designer didn’t have cultural awareness. The designer isn’t aware of history, or textile history.

Garments, by their very existence can drum up all sorts of feelings, historical significance, and cultural connotations. I want there to be a greater awareness that textiles have meaning – just as much as any other object that we choose to surround ourselves with. This is why I wrote Strange Material – I hope it contributes to a growing body of work around textile conversations and discourse. Collectively, the world needs to know more about the stories that surround cloth and symbols and those who make them – not just those of us who are heavily interested in textiles and craft but everyone. I assume that before Zara and Urban Outfitters got called out, some of those pieces of clothing were purchased and worn, in public.

This rant follows the news that the intelligent fashion journal WORN, is retiring, which is a little heart-breaking. The WORN fashion journal had a mandate unlike any other fashion magazine and it will be missed:

“WORN hasn’t missed the fact that there are scads of fashion magazines out there. But we feel something is missing: opinion and intelligent commentary that’s untainted by advertisers’ demands. 

WORN discusses the cultures, subcultures, histories, and personal stories of fashion. We strive to embody a place between pop culture magazine and academic journal that opens new avenues in art and fashion theory by hovering where these two ideas intersect, connecting with fashion scholars and artists. We pay attention to how what is worn is made, interpreted, transformed, disseminated, and copied. “

Worn’s last issue is available for pre-order* and I’d recommend it, we obviously need more commentary on textiles, and fashion, that create critical awareness.

*I am not affiliated with WORN in any way. I am endorsing this magazine because I think we need to support more intelligent commentary on the things that we wear and purchase, and it was one of the few publications that actively provided this sort of commentary.

Also, I’ll be speaking my mind on this and other subjects on panels with Kim Werker and Betsy Greer over the next month. If you haven’t had a chance to find out about our tour, all events are listed here. One week from today I’ll be Seattle at Schoolhouse Craft teaching a course on subversive textiles and activism. If you are in Seattle, please think of joining the conference! It will be a great time with a lot of interesting people, and I’ll be running a fun making session at the closing party on making Six Word Story Bracelets (DIY to come!).