Darci Kern | Grant Recipient for Knitting While Black

- - - Knitting While Black - - -

My goal in this project is to lay bare the deliberate obscuration of Black people and stories in the fiber world. The Black American experience is inextricably linked to fiber. However, we are all but completely missing in the canon of art depicting people knitting. After searching Google Arts and Culture’s 1400 listings with the keyword “knitting” and only finding two images of Black people, I thought to myself, this is wrong. An alien arriving to this planet looking at these listings would assume that knitting is something Black people don’t do and I know this is so far from the truth.

I decided to fix this representation problem by recreating paintings and photographs of white women knitting, crocheting, spinning and crafting with myself as the subject. I take some liberties here and there, but the essence in each image is preserved in my recreations. I thought it would be satisfying enough to just share the photo, but it wasn’t. In addition to the recreation I share some aspect of history that I find interesting regarding the artist, the subject, or the place I shoot the recreation.

For centuries enslaved people tended flocks of sheep, sheared, and spun yarn to be sold for the benefit of their enslavers—among them many founders of the United States. My ancestors toiled in the cotton fields of Mississippi to produce the fiber that put the fledging United States of the map of the world economy. Without us and our labor there is no United States. In this project we are front and center, just as we always have been. I’m learning from these recreations that justice feels like representing and sharing the history white supremacy has sought to hide for so long. We have been here. We gonna be here. Get used to it.

- - - Artist's Bio - - -

I’m Darci Kern, a St. Louis based crafter of yarn and justice. I am rewriting the knitting stereotype of little ladies sitting quietly with their knitting in a corner. I am inspired by the legacy of my foremothers in the struggle for civil rights. I love coffee, cats, and rolling around in my yarn stash. When I am not working as a speech language pathologist, I am making pretty things, and a more just world, one stitch at a time.

- - - Photo Series - - -

Each week Darci shares two photos in her IG Stories for YOU to vote on, as her possible subject for her weekly study. She spends the week musing on how to recreate the clothing and other elements of the photo using what she has in her stash. By repurposing and upcycling things on hand, Darci's process is thoughtfully creative, low impact, and truly a craftivist project at heart. 

On Sundays, for the next 8 weeks, Darci will share each new photo recreation and process video for her Knitting While Black series in her IG feed, completing a series of 12. Be sure to follow along and join in! Her weekly photos will be shared here as well. The first 4 photos in her series are previously posted - do go check those out. As the project continues to grow, Darci hopes to use the photos she creates for future projects to expand their reach and create more engagement.

Week 1 - Sojourner Truth

Week 3 - Ota Benga

Week 4 - The Spinner

Week 7 - Robert Smalls

Continue following Darci's work and this ongoing series @darcidoesit