“What’s so queer about working in threads for you?” This is the question posed by John Chaich and Todd Oldham in a new coffee table book, “Queer Threads: Crafting Identity and Community.”
Published by Ammo Books, “Queer Threads” was based on an exhibition Chaich curated and debuted at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in 2014. The exhibition featured works by 30 fiber and craft artists, including Nathan Vincent, Liz Collins, Sheila Pepe and Aaron McIntosh.
“I grew up in a home where my mother and my grandmother crocheted, quilted and embroidered, so I’ve always honored not only the gifts they’ve passed on, but the textiles and fiber art that I have in my home-made by their hands,” Chaich explains. He says he was “troubled” by the art world’s tendency to look down on craft, which has long been associated with women, and decided to focus on LGBTQ fiber artists after being inspired by the AIDS Memorial Quilt.
Chaich invited Oldham to see the exhibit when it first opened and a few months later, the designer-slash-author asked if Chaich would be interested in turning it into a book. “Queer Threads” highlights once again the works of the featured artists, as well as a series of interviews.
“The interview pairings were essential to turning an exhibition into a coffee table book,” Chaich says. The pairings, curated by Oldham, feature interviewers such as Jonathan Adler, Justin Vivian Bond, Michael Cunningham and Tim Gunn.
Chaich’s main takeaway from the book is the diversity of ways in which LGBTQ people approach fiber art. “There’s as great a range of reasons why queerness influences [these artists’] work with threads and fibers and textiles or not at all,” he says. “For every artist who says, ‘I’m a gay man and that informs what I do and my content choices and my material choices,’ there are artists who say, ‘I just like to crochet and if you read more into it, that’s fine.’”
He also began to think of fiber art as a symbol for community. “Bringing together threads, whether it’s single strands through knitting and crochet, seems to be a metaphor for what we do when we’re building community as queer people,” he says. “Individual strands become something when together.”
“Queer Threads: Crafting Identity and Community” is out now via Ammo Books.
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