A Walk In Their Shoes

6-Piece Portfolio, 2021

Inspiration and Background

The fiber arts pose a unique opportunity to have a niche role in the conversation of social progression. Pieces within “A Walk in Their Shoes” highlight North Carolina community individuals with unique and diverse perspectives, experiences, and outlooks on American culture/society. The imagery, material choice, and themes for each piece were carefully matched to an interview with the individual, conducted at the date in the title next to their initials. These titles serve to indicate not just a snapshot in time but emphasize what is important: the individuals’ stories and lived experiences, not identifying personal information. 

Quilts have long stood as a form of expression in the South often to communicate and advocate for social justice change. Quilted Applique, the process of cutting out fabric pieces and sewing them directly on top of the larger quilt - as opposed to seaming pieces - has also long been a technique to create imagery within quilts. To further develop traditional quilted applique techniques, new materials were introduced such as vinyl, recycled materials, metallic threads, fire burning, and others. Further, a series of digital means were used in the fabrication of every piece including drawing/image manipulation, precision cutting, and embroidery softwares. “A Walk in Their Shoes” uses these new techniques and technologies to reveal to the audience more than just the face of each individual but their outlook on life, personal history, and lens of the world. Gained points of view could be insights into social barriers, strong emotional feelings, prospective wisdom, or messages of acceptance and validation that are novel to the viewer. From the public perspective, quilted portraits are an often unseen medium. Combined with the individuality of each quilt, these factors contribute to the lure of “A Walk In Their Shoes” inviting the viewer in to learn more about each individual.

H.T. 02/23/2021

Coming of age tells a different story for all of us. For H.T. It means taking away the mask and makeup of the play-pretend world he grew up in and stepping into his own skin, comfortable with the fluidity of understanding one’s own sexuality. His past isn’t forever lost though as he moves from light to dark - as the built-up wall of childish shapes become cast in the shadows, we are carried through to the other side with the audibly bright piano tones symbolic of the rise to a newfound sense of balance and golden maturity. Some things never change. Not strictly dichotomous, the chronological cracks in the pavement engender the nuanced emotions, hardship, and power of self-reinvention. Nevertheless wary of falling through the cracks, he who dares to let the daunting unknown come over them stand to move forward in the path to their true authentic selves. 

The goal of this piece is to encourage others that they are not alone and that even though they may live in a place or in a home where they cannot come into the light, there is hope of another side. I have seen this first hand in my own coming out experience as well as those in my community. Hope will always overcome hurt and this piece aims to demonstrate that to all of those who see it and it encourages those who feel like there is nothing but darkness ahead of them.

T.S. 03/02/2021

Centered around the concept of a Phoenix, a nickname for T.S. growing up, this piece tells the tale of rising from the ashes. T.S. - a non-binary, black, queer, Christian person who grew up in the South and in the Christian church had to navigate coming out, southern racism, homophobia in their own church/from other people of color, learning to redefine their faith and relationships to family/friends. As their colors changed, flourishing into the vibrant hues of blue, purple, orange, and red worn proudly, not everyone's colors changed with her. “Can’t you see colors changing things? Weren’t you supposed to do the same”? Though the bold, established, confident individual stands proud in this image, the burn-marks of others - a result of T.S. becoming themselves - are permanent. However, not all is lost. Although T.S. may have been burned in the process, they remind us that some things are worth sacrificing for true internal happiness and self-love. 

B.S. 07/20/2021

The sun, whose cross-styled rays represent the "invisible light" of Christ guiding B.S. through life shines bright in the sky. As the rays move through the mountains of life, we see that the valleys we experience can oftentimes be better than the peaks we look up at and admire. Christ put B.S. in the path of the Plainfield tornado of 1990 at the young age of 3 and the tornado took her mother’s life. Miraculously leaving B.S. largely physically untouched, it continues to move and constrains her life’s trajectory. Reaching out, the additional hand shows the progression from constraint to strength. B.S. now has worked tirelessly to overcome being defined by her past experiences, using her own "light" for good, symbolic of becoming a mother herself, being involved in church/choir, and relying on others. However, the "Light" could alternatively be interpreted as going in the reverse direction - it's ambiguous to the viewer. In this sense, the bond between the two hands could be between B.S’s mother and the sacrifice she made to save B.S., or the reciprocated love felt within the church environment, with the light leading her through the treacherous mountains of life. 

E.B. 07/24/2021 

E.B. has the loudest quiet strength of anyone I have ever met. E.B. felt represented by the Japanese pottery technique of Kintsugi involving the deliberate smashing of an in-tact piece, only to put it back together with gold. With this in mind, Sam Fender's words - clinging tight to E.B. 's face and embroidered in her own handwriting - take on a whole new meaning:  “I was far too scared to hit him, but I would hit him in a heartbeat now”. Sexual assualt and domestic violence may have once shattered E.B. but personal strength, determination, and faith mended these breaks with time. More than a passage of time though, E.B.’s gold represents a shift in attitude and the gained strength she never knew she had. Determined to look to the light of a brighter future, E.B. shows that even in the darkest of times, there is always a glimmer of hope.. even if it is only from within our past moments of temporary brokenness. My goal with this piece is to bring to light how prevalent sexual assualt and domestic violence are. These are often traumatic events that no one talks about due to shame and embarrassment. My hope is that this piece helps other survivors see themselves in E.B. and that their breaks will mend.

N.H.  11/11/2021

N.H. grew up in a rural village in Mexico and immigrated to the United States when he was 14. While this was his first major move, N.H. had been fascinated with travel since he was a child; however, the dirt roads he grew up on in Mexico had limited both accessibility and travel in more ways than he knew. While his dreams were just that when he was a child, he aspired to make those dreams a reality in the United States. N.H. went to school to become a civil engineer to further accessibility in his community– his current project is building a pedestrian bridge in Charlotte, North Carolina. N.H. experienced barriers throughout his entire life, first being accessibility in Mexico, and language and racial ones coming later after his move to the United States. Despite this, N.H. has dedicated his life to building tangible bridges as well as cultural bridges between his identity in the United States and the one he still holds from Mexico. 

This piece is so important because immigration is a topic that everyone seems to have an opinion about. We often hear on the news about all of the  crises happening with immigration. No one talks about the positive stories. My goal is to tell the amazing story of N.H. and the many thousands of immigrants to our country who have become U.S. citizens and bring so many amazing talents that benefit our communities.

T.A. 11/26/2021

T.A. grew up in a wealthy upper-class family in Nigeria. Her father was the local king of their region in Nigeria. T.A. went to boarding school, often visited Europe, and enjoyed her childhood and involvement in her community, despite her parents making a majority of her decisions. However, since T.A. moved to NC, life has not always been that of a royal princess. Successful and hardworking, T.A. and her husband opened a medical practice in Charlotte. Despite T.A.’s unbounded generosity towards others and an obvious good-hearted nature, this wasn’t enough to exempt her and her family from racially motivated malicious acts. Racial slurs were spray-painted on her driveway one evening in July 2017. However, despite it being on the news, with neighbors shocked and slightly in fear of who would do such a thing, T.A. simply left it on her concrete driveway. There it sat for months until the rain finally eroded it away. Confident in herself and her identity, T.A. was not going to live in fear of another person’s prejudice. It sent a clear message to others: However, T.A.’s message was not … it was “with God all things are possible.” 

You don’t have to believe in God or even religion to embody and admire the confidence, benevolence, and boldness of T.A. much like racism and other forms of hatred in this country, it stains our pavement. Whether we chose to leave it there like T.A. or clean it off makes a difference. T.A. teaches us that we must listen to whatever faith guides us and not be deterred by mal intention of others.