On today’s episode of the Craft Industry Alliance podcast we’re talking about quilting and activism with my guests Sara Trail and Juan Tapia.
We recorded this episode in person at the New England Quilt Museum in Lowell, Massachusetts where there is an exhibit up through December 1, 2019 of the Social Justice Sewing Academy Quilts called Piecing Together Youth Voices in a 21st Century Sewing Circle. I spent some time this morning taking it all in and it’s truly outstanding.
Sara Trail, she’s the founder and executive director of the Social Justice Sewing Academy. Sara learned to sew when she was a toddler and had a sewing career as a teenager when she wrote Sew with Sara, a book that teaches teens and tweens how to sew clothes and accessories. She also starred in nationally published DVDs called Cool Stuff to Sew with Sara, designed two fabric collections with Fabri-Quilt and a pattern collection with Simplicity. While attending UC Berkeley, Sara created a quilt in memory of Trayvon Martin and her love for sewing and passion for social justice intertwined. After graduating from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, she founded the Social Justice Sewing Academy (SJSA) to be a platform where youth create art that engages and educates communities.
Juan Tapia is one of the students who has been a participant in the Social Justice Sewing Academy. Juan just graduated from high school and is now working for a non-profit called CURYJ, Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice, that works with formerly incarcerated. He’s a digital design associate and is hoping to become the head of the communications department at the organization.
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Juan cutting applique pieces for his quilt while enrolled in the Upward Bound program.
We begin the conversation with Sara explaining the process she’s developed for leading young people through process of creating quilt blocks that represent issues that are important to them. The workshops begin with a conversation and include mini lessons on color theory, composition, and visual representation. All of the fabrics used are donated. The students learn raw edge applique techniques to make their blocks which are them embellished by volunteers who embroider the pieces and add words if needed.
A student creating her block.
Next Juan shares his experience in the program. Juan found Sara’s program entirely by accident. In fact, it was his last choice while enrolled at Upward Bound. Juan talks about his upbringing and challenges he personally faced as a child and teenager and the power he found in creating a quilt about gentrification.
Juan and Sara outside of the New England Quilt Museum the day of our interview.
Next, Sara talks about her early career as a sewing celebrity. She wrote a book, designed fabric and patterns, and starred in DVDs as a young peron, but Trayvon Martin’s murder made her realized that a whole population of youth were being left out of the sewing conversation.
Sara talks about how you can become involved in the Social Justice Sewing Academy by volunteering your time, donating fabric, or donating money to this non-profit organization.
Of course, I ask Sara and Juan to recommend three things she’s enjoying right now.
- How to Be an Anit-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi