email Youtube

Workshops & Calendar

Speak Up, Speak Out

Emerging briefly from the production tunnel to share my latest piece which, thankfully, I CAN share despite the fact I’ve entered it in the Threads of Resistance Call for Entries (Deadline in about 2-3 days)!  As many of you who have known me for a while know, I haven’t usually been politically involved or spoken out.  This is, in part, the legacy of being a federal employee, when you were not allowed to be political (there were ways you could do it, but it was such a fuss that it was easier just to NOT).   However, the last election cycle aggravated me so much I began making political posts and comments on Facebook and getting involved.   Even though I didn’t really have the time, when a group of art quilters got together with this exhibit concept and called for entries, I knew I wanted to try to make a piece.

Speak Up, Speak Out © Sarah Ann Smith 2017. Although the Women’s March imagery has become ubiquitous since the March, I decided to proceed with my concept because it was my experience.

It began during one of the debates last autumn (2016).  The then-Republican-candidate (I *refuse* to use his name) kept saying “Make America Great Again,” as if it weren’t great already!   I will be the first to say that we are an imperfect union, this great nation of ours, but that is part of why we are a great nation….or were and must recover from the collective idiocy currently gripping the country.  I started sketching during the debate and came up with two ideas for art quilts, one about Maine, one about our nation.  The latter was to have a border of hands, holding hands, and phrases and words that represented the US, but the center wasn’t yet clear to me.

With my soon-to-be daughter-in-law Ashley G., I traveled to the Women’s March on Washington on an overnight bus (overnight going and returning…LONG nights sitting up!).   I bought a cheap spiral notebook and asked riders on the bus, if they wished, to trace their hands so I could use them as the border in this piece.  Every hand traced is here (one twice, because I needed one more hand to make things fit properly).

At the March, I took many many photos and as the day wore on I knew that being in this sea of humanity, most in some sort of pink hat or cat ears (reference to the-one-who-shall-not-be-named joking that he would grab a woman by the pussy–slimeball! that’s sexual assault you jerk!) I had found my image for the center of the quilt.  The images of women and men marching, protesting peacefully (not a single arrest!), has since become ubiquitous.  So much so that I considered NOT doing this view because it has been seen.  But I decided that since I conceived of the quilt before the march and finalized during the day of the March as the images had barely first been seen on the internet, I decided that since it was also “my” March, I would proceed.

This photo became my starting point–it is the only photo I didn’t take (since I’m in it..someone on the street offered to snap pics for us):

Some of the ladies from the bus. We are on East Capitol Street heading toward the Capitol. Mainers were to wear blaze / hunter’s orange. I’m on the far right standing next to Ashley, who has her orange scarf on, and we’re wearing the hats I made us.  There is an odd aberration in the photo, but so it goes.  I printed this photo on the label.

Usually when you see photos of protest marches, so many of the signs are manufactured, a printed graphic done by someone professional (ish).  What impressed me about this March is that almost all–upwards of 95 percent–of the signs were homemade and many were clever and/or inspiring.   I selected my favorite ones and used them.  One of the signs in the quilt is the actual sign that I made and wore on my jacket during the March.

Left side of the quilt. I loved the sign calling for a return to civility, courtesy, charity and compassion.

In the sky above the marchers, surrounding the capitol dome, I quilted the Preamble to the US Constitution on the left.   Brief signs/slogans are under the hands at the top.  On the right I quilted the First Amendment’s four freedoms of speech, religion, assembly, and right to redress the government for grievances (which is what we were doing!  Democracy living and in action!), as well as more slogans and thoughts.

There were three huge signs in the shape of cats, maybe 4 feet tall, so I appropriated one of them to use.

Center left. I LOVED the quote attributed to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg (I think I am falling in love with that woman!) and made sure she really did say it before including “Better bitch than mouse” as one of the signs.

By the way, I used Fabrico felt tip pens and Pitt Artist pens (brush and bullet tip) for the signs.

When I graduated from Georgetown University (in DC) in 1979, a t-shirt was popular that said “A woman’s place is in the House, and in the Senate.”  At the time, no woman had been elected (or maybe just one or two…I’m thinking Margaret Chase Smith and Nancy Landon) to the Senate that had not gotten there by taking her late husband’s seat.  It was still common to be told that a woman’s place was in the home and the kitchen, not the office.  Now I’ve said “A Woman’s place is in the House, the Senate, the Supreme Court and the Oval Office!”

Center of the quilt. I was really pleased at how the dome turned out. I used my photo as my guide and sketched out the pattern, cut the shape (as usual I am using Mistyfuse on fabric and raw edge collage; the dome is a rare case of me using a print fabric instead of a batik. The peach-yellow hand on the left is my dyed fabric, the salmon-pink-purple on the right is Laura Wasilowski’s, from a fat quarter from a class I took with her.  The fabrics in the signs are mostly my hand-dyes.

The coat hanger sign is a combination of two such signs that I saw.   I loathe the idea of abortions. But when I was in my 20s, I was a US visa officer.   I was processing the paperwork for a British man’s visa based on his marriage to a US citizen.  When you do that, you need to establish that the marriage is legal and valid, so you need to see if there were any prior marriages and, if so, that they ended legally.  He was a widower.  To break the tedium, I used to look at cause of deaths when these cases came across my desk.  His first wife died of septicemia (blood poisoning) from a self-induced abortion (because it was illegal in the UK at that time). Ever since, I have stood for freedom of choice because there will ALWAYS be women who are that desperate, no matter how awful I or others believe abortion to be.  Moving on…back to the quilt.

Center right. I loved the take on the Don’t Tread on Me flag from revolutionary war times that turned the snake into a uterus and says Don’t Tread On Me (on left, on Laura Wasilowski’s fabric).  The big pink sign with Michelle Obama’s mantra is what I wore at the January 21, 2017 March on Washington.  That’s my DIL Ashley on the left in this photo, me on the right. I modified a sign carried by a Vermonter to read (in the sky writing) One Maine snowflake in a storm.

Center bottom right. A bit sharper photo.  In the bottom left, under the copyright, you can see a “ribbon.”  The center woman I think of as “Everywoman.”  Then there is Ashley (DIL) in braids, and me on the far right.  Ashley’s hand is the purple one at her right shoulder, mine is the blue one next to Ashley, one in from the corner.

Some generous unknown-to-me person who couldn’t go to DC made and gave away these ribbons to those from Maine who marched. It was done in the Mainer’s blaze/hunter orange. That was pretty bright for the front of my quilt, and I didn’t want it to distract from the imagery. So I scanned the ribbon into the computer, then in Photoshop darkened the color so that it would work visually on the front. THANK YOU whoever made these!

Far right. My friend Gail Galloway-Nicholson used to be the Curator for the Supreme Court so is as familiar with Capitol Hill as I am, if not more so from having worked there for a good bit of  her career..  I worked for a US Congressman for two years, and we also lived just two blocks behind the capitol (yes, I got to see our old house).  She asked me to carry her name in my pocket since she couldn’t go to the March. I did, and added the names of more friends (some I’ve only known via the internet and quilty stuff).  Thank you all for being there with me!   I love knowing you and that you wanted to be there in spirit and on the cloth!

So that is all the details, well, most of them, of what went into this quilt.  Don’t know if it will get juried in–I know there is some awesome art being made for this that doesn’t use the ubiquitous image–but I am glad I made it!

And I have decided to get involved volunteering for my Town of Hope, Maine.  I decided that one needs to put your time where your mouth is, and as the saying goes, all politics is local.   Here’s to giving back to my adopted-shoulda-been-born-here home state of Maine!





23 Responses to “Speak Up, Speak Out”

  1. Dianne Harson Says:

    Hi Sarah, Just wanted to say that I LOVE your quilt and also felt greatly affirmed by your whole posting. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Dianne

  2. Sarah Ann Smith Says:

    Thank you so much, Dianne! I am touched!

  3. Candy Negrete Says:


  4. Paula Blanchard Says:

    Thanks Sarah for sharing. Making my “art therapy quilt” helped a lot. Viewing and reading about yours brought me to tears again…powerful.

  5. Sarah Ann Smith Says:

    Thank you Candy!

  6. Sarah Ann Smith Says:

    Thank you, Paula! I’ll bring it to quilting next weekend.

  7. Jaye Says:

    This is the quilt I want to make. You must have read my mind, though your piece is much more thought out than the one in my mind. Great GREAT work. I will post a link to your quilt from my blog. Check there in a day or two. If you make posters or something, let me know. I love this piece.

  8. Kristin Freeman Says:

    Dear Sarah

    It is wonderful to read the story of this work of art; thank you for the many photos and the story behind each decision you made in arranging the composition. Your participation in the “march” and your commitment to making a change in the world is one of the big pieces of our friendship that glues us together. Thank you, thank you for being connected to my life’s journey.

  9. Patricia L Walters Says:

    I read every word you wrote as well as on your quilt. I love what you said and did with the quilt and thanks much for sharing with us! Love to you!

  10. Heidi Says:

    love it !
    Another sign of hope

  11. Linda Teddlie Minton Says:

    Sarah, it’s wonderful! I, too, read every word on the quilt and in your blog post about it … very inspiring.

  12. Mary Carter Says:

    Dear Sarah,Thank you so much for making this quilt. I have followed the art group since the idea was first presented. I hope your quilt is selected. I am hoping the quilts will be in Houston this fall as I want to see all of them. Again Congratulations for speaking my thoughts.

  13. Sarah Ann Smith Says:

    Mary…thank you so much! I’m guessing that Houston has probably already selected exhibits for 2017. I looked at the Threads of Resistance exhibit schedule, and the selections will be at PIQF in California in mid-October, so I doubt they would then be in Houston less than two weeks later (not enough time to ship, etc). But keeping fingers crossed! Thanks again. My older son is getting married the day of the opening reception in Lowell, Mass., so I won’t make it that day, but I plan to travel down to the exhibit after the wedding.

  14. Sarah Ann Smith Says:

    Thank you Linda! I hope to see you in Houston…I will….gasp! have 24 of my quilts on display this year in the Rising Starts exhibit so I’ll be there most of the time and should be easy to spot.

  15. Sarah Ann Smith Says:

    Thanks so much, Kristin. I seem to do better when I just go for what moves me. Maybe one day we’ll get to meet in person…I too am glad you are part of my journey.

  16. Sarah Ann Smith Says:

    Thanks Patricia…back at ya!

  17. Sarah Ann Smith Says:

    I hear you….I don’t think even counting 1968 there has ever been so much civic engagement in our lifetimes. It is heartening!

  18. Sarah Ann Smith Says:

    Thanks so much, Jaye! I think you should do YOUR quilt! Thanks for sharing mine…never even occurred to me to make posters…hmmmm. Good idea!

  19. Debi Says:

    I’M WITH YOU, SARAH!!! I agree totally – I refuse to say his name either!! Keep up your great work!

  20. sonja hagemann Says:

    Sarah Ann,thank you for making ans sharing this quilt of beauty and powerful positive words that you recently posted. This is time emotionally very like the vietnam era i lived through when we must stand up for what is kind and caring and compassionate for all beings and our earth home.

  21. Sarah Ann Smith Says:

    Thanks Debi…. we will all PERSIST, RESIST and HOPE!

  22. Sarah Ann Smith Says:

    Sonja, I love the quotes on your blog! The Chagall is new to me and I really like it. You must be a tiny bit older than I…I was in grade school during Vietnam (it ended sophomore year of high school), and I feel as though these days are as turbulent in many ways, less in others (thankfully no riots and assassinations like ’68), but that the protests are much more widespread and cover so much more of our lives, not just a war, but individual liberties, health, the environment……interesting times!

  23. Sarah Ann Smith Says:

    Thanks Debi! I am thrilled that the quilt was accepted for the traveling exhibit!