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Words –> Power –> Action

Two and a half weeks ago, I came across a Jimmy Fallon re-working of Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are a-Changin’ on Facebook and Youtube (hear it here–really LISTEN to the lyrics).  I was so moved by it that I wanted to create a quilt based on the song, but realized there were all those pesky copyright issues with using Fallon’s lyrics, so instead I created this quick piece to capture the spirit of the re-worked song. I pretty much never just drop everything and make a quilt this rapidly, but I just had to do it. I have titled it Words –> Power –> Action because, as our mothers told us, words have power.  Over the past two years, the election cycle, the results, and the first year of the current Presidency, have galvanized many so many of us. I have changed.  Legions of us have changed.

Words–>Power–>Action, © 2018 SarahAnn Smith


As a US Foreign Service Officer, I was not allowed to participate in partisan politics (federal regulations) because our job was (and should be) to serve ALL Americans.  I was used to keeping my mouth shut.  As a national level quilting teacher and artist, I felt it was better to keep politics and religion out of the classroom (and still do), so I kept my mouth shut.  But the past 20+ months have convinced me that I must speak out.  My quilt about the Women’s March on Washington in January 2017 was my first overtly political quilt.

Speak Up, Speak Out © Sarah Ann Smith 2017.

I’ve been so distressed about the polarization and apparent lack of civility, compassion and understanding, of tolerance for differing views, that the past two years have been pretty depressing.  Our political climate has made me angry and galvanized me to take action and speak out.  Inspired by Fallon’s lyrics I went in search of quotes.  I’ll share all of them after each detail photo in which they appear.

I began like our nation, with revolutionary words from the US Declaration of Independence, which are written at the top of my brick wall (yes, I have the Pink Floyd lyrics “another brick in the wall” running on loop in my head, along with the phrase “the writing is on the wall”–I resisted the temptation to use that as a title!).  I dyed fabric to be a wall, using cold wax (from ProChem, and can’t find it any more on their website!) to create a resist for the mortar.  The backing is dyed cement grey.  The edges are raw, like my nerves and emotions (and those of so many others), torn on both the top and backing, with a tiny bit of batting peeking out and scruffed up.

The top portion of Words–>Power–>Action . There are more visible bits of words and phrases, and longer quotes written in lighter ink behind, as if they were fading graffiti.

Prominent phrases and quotes:

  • Speak Up, Speak Out
  • get woke
  • We the People
  • Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.  We are the change that we seek.  Barack Obama

Background quotes:

  • Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governedwhenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.  US Declaration of Independence
  • We did not come to fear the future.  We came here to shape it.  B. Obama

Closer view of the center of Words–>Power–>Action with quilting that I hope simulates the rough texture of brick.

Center portion of Words–>Power–>Action

Prominent phrases and quotes:

  • Take a knee
  • Listen
  • Reach Out
  • #metoo
  • When they go low, we go high.  Michelle Obama

Background quote:

  • We, the People, recognize that we have responsibilities as well as rights; that our destinies are bound together; that a freedom which only asks what’s in it for me, a freedom without a commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy of our founding ideals, and those who died in their defense.  B. Obama

Center bottom of Words–>Power–>Action .

Bottom right of Words–>Power–>Action

Prominent phrases and quotes:

  • Women are the largest untapped reservoir of talent in the world.  Hillary Clinton
  • Vote!  Get Involved
  • Courage can be contagious.  Michelle Obama
  • e  Pluribus Unum (for non-US readers, this phrase comes from our Founding Fathers and means out of Many, One which represents who we are as a nation, a government of the people, by the people and for the people)

Background quote:

  • here in America we are waging a war against want and destitution and economic demoralization. It is more than that; it is a war for the survival of democracy. We are fighting to save a great and precious form of government for ourselves and for the world.  Franklin D. Roosevelt

Thanks for reading this far.  I hope you like it.





16 Responses to “Words –> Power –> Action”

  1. Mary Ann Littlejohn Says:

    Sarah, you have made the quilt so many of us have in our heads right now. This is a real winner in my book. Wow! (and it deserves an exclamation point)

  2. Sarah Ann Smith Says:

    Oh Thank you! I’ve been feeling a bit down the past couple of days (dealing with taxes, an unintentional error by a friend who raised my expectations for something that then turned out not to be the case, etc), so your encouragement and comment mean a lot to me. Thank you again.

  3. Vicki D. Says:

    What a powerful piece. The quotes you chose are so moving.

  4. Sarah Ann Smith Says:

    Thank you so much!

  5. Karen A. Says:

    Well done you!

  6. Sarah Ann Smith Says:

    Thank you!

  7. Mariann Price Says:

    Thank You, Sarah, for stitching what many of us have been feeling over the past week—(or year?). You are truly a prophet with thread and fabric!

  8. Laura Austin Says:

    Sarah, so many of us are frustrated with our current political situation, but we don’t know what to do. Thank you for changing your course and speaking up. You’ve shown there is a way. ?♥️

  9. Sarah Ann Smith Says:

    I hope others will speak out as well. There is a part of me that is feeling that maybe, just maybe, finally things will change for women and for the nation.

  10. Sarah Ann Smith Says:

    Ah…the broken heart is so apt…exactly how I feel today. DO speak out yourself in whatever way works best for you!

  11. Jeanne in Ohio Says:

    Your quilt is amazing, but I wonder where the civility is toward those of us on the right? I’ve had friends and relatives call me ignorant because I don’t agree with their views. How civil is that? I honor your choice to express your feelings with your art. However, I think many of these quotes are condescending, since they assume that any disagreement is because of intolerance and ignorance rather than an informed opinion.

  12. Sarah Ann Smith Says:

    Jeanne: thank you for writing! I am so sorry that you have people treat you in that way–that isn’t right. I would ask you, though, to re-read the words on the quilt. I don’t believe they are condescending at all, and in fact could be said by anyone no matter what their political persuasion. I would have to disagree with you in your thought that “they assume an disagreement is because of intolerance or ignorance.” In fact, I think the quotes speak to the foundations of our democracy. I hope others treat you with respect for the difference of opinions and with tolerance. And I truly thank you for writing.

  13. Janet C. Wright Says:

    Fabulous piece. Time to speak up and out! I have been doing that–but those affected by today’s politics need to speak out–the Florida kids will BE the change–faster than the rest of us. Hope they don’t let up

  14. Sarah Ann Smith Says:

    Oh Janet, I am SO delighted to hear from you! It has been eons! and yes, I agree…the kids need to keep up the pressure. I feel that finally with regard to victimization of women, things are finally, REALLY starting to change, but the gun control issues are still same old same old. The old vanguard needs to step aside. Hope you are well and still quilting and being art-full!

  15. Janet C. Wright Says:

    Yep–still limping along. Doing a lot of eco dying–India Flint–taking an embroidery course with ?sue Stone in England and working with Yukata fabrics. I see Marie every week.
    Love your work. I check your blog every week. Wish you were closer and I could drag Marie to see you. She is working 2 days a week–good for her although it is hard on her body–she now has some financial freedom.
    Keep up the good work. Janet

  16. Lynn CoMo Says:

    This is a very powerful piece! The quotes are rich with promise of wisdom and hope for justice for all. I made a wall hanging quilt a few years ago with run on lines of words and sentences regarding bullying. It was after a rash of young suicides due to bullying. I think it’s is a wonderful way to use our voices.

    Is there a better place to contact you with questions regarding sitdown longarm machines? Someone told me you loved yours and I’d like opinions if possible. Thanks, and if you are too busy I understand.