Holding Space: Unraveling Appropriation in Fiber Art
Born, borrowed, or stolen, textile traditions and practices are intimately tied to all of us. On Friday, December 2, 2022, Holding Space: Unraveling Appropriation in Fiber Art, we delved into appropriation vs. appreciation and why this distinction matters during our virtual panel discussion amongst artists and educators Emi Ito, Japheth Asiedu-Kwarteng, and Meghann O’Brien with moderator Karen Baker. Emi Ito is an educator and activist writing about the cultural appropriation of the kimono in sustainable fashion and her experiences of motherhood, race, and education. Japheth Asiedu-Kwarteng’s works are inspired by traditional Ghanaian symbolism and the communicative potential of fabric and fibers to discuss the experiences of the African Diaspora. Meghann O’Brien is a Northwest Coast weaver working in the traditions of basketry, Yeil Koowu (Raven’s Tail) and Naaxiin (Chilkat) textiles.
This annual event is organized by SDA’s Equity, Access, and Integration Committee. Holding Space celebrates, educates, and encourages conversation with the intent of building a healthy, active, and diverse fiber community to drive change.
*Originally aired December 2, 2022 via Zoom
As Founder of Fiber With A Cause and Ethnographic Fiber Artist + Documentarian, Karen (she/her) has been weaving and knitting for eight years. She focuses on using natural and organic fibers and materials to design ethnically handcrafted textiles, accessories, and rugs. Karen is researching the patterns, dyeing, weaving techniques and process of enslaved African American weavers before the Great Migration to fiber and textile design. From the research, she integrates their techniques into her artwork. Karen is currently completing a documentary on the history and narratives of African American weavers before the Great Migration under her Doctor of Design program at North Carolina State University. Karen is an SDA Board Member and part of the Equity, Access, and Integration Committee. In addition to Founder/Board President of the DC based nonprofit, Social Art and Culture, founded in 2009.
Emi Ito (she/her) is the great granddaughter of a tea master, the granddaughter of a calligrapher, and the daughter of a koto and shamisen player. She volunteers with grass roots activist organization, Japanese American Families for Justice, teaches Dharma School at her local Buddhist temple, and is a proud mother, partner, and long-time public school educator. For her close to twenty years in public education, Emi has been a passionate advocate for racial and social justice. She currently works in a district-wide position coordinating a roll out of Ethnic Studies, transitional kindergarten through eighth grade, while supporting the ongoing Ethnic Studies efforts at the high school level.
After becoming a mother, Emi began tapping into another aspect of her own mother’s legacy: her keen sense of fashion. Her changing body and sense of identity through motherhood led her to find community on social media where she began to write about the cultural appropriation of the kimono in sustainable fashion and her experiences of motherhood, race, and education.
Aside from her passion for social and racial justice, Emi has a deep and abiding love for Star Trek, sewing, J-Pop, K-pop, and Asian snacks.
Japheth Asiedu-Kwarteng (he/him) is an Artist, working primarily in ceramics, and mixed media. He holds a BA Industrial Art (Ceramics option) from KNUST, Ghana, and an MFA in Ceramics from Illinois State University, USA. He teaches Ceramics and Design at University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV), Edinburg, Texas.
Japheth is a member of International Academy of Ceramics, Artaxis and National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA). He has exhibited his works extensively in Ghana and the United States including 2022 and 2021 NCECA Annual and Multicultural Fellowship exhibitions. Japheth has several publications, lectures and presentations to his credit including presenting Ghanaian Ceramics Now: Ahoↄden! at the 2021 NCECA Conference. Japheth has works in the permanent collections of the University Galleries, Normal, Illinois and other private collectors in the United States.
Japheth is a Baber, Multicultural (NCECA), Lela Winegarner Fellow respectively; Marshal Dulaney and Zenobia Scholar respectively.
Meghann O'Brien (she/her) is a Northwest Coast weaver working in the traditions of basketry, Yeil Koowu (Raven's Tail) and Naaxiin (Chilkat) textiles. Meghann has apprenticed under master weavers and traditional teachers Kerri Dick, Sherri Dick, and William White. Her artistic process is one of devotion to the highest expression of the art form, preferring to allow the weaving to find it's own place in the world once completed. Her work is distributed between public and private galleries, museums, collectors, family, chiefs, dancers, and ceremonial people. She travels globally to lecture and demonstrate.