Creative Quarantine: Craftivist Shannon Downey

Thanks, I guess | © Shannon Downey, 2020 | Photo by Mark Germain

Artist and craftivist Shannon Downey, known as Badass Cross Stitch, shares with Esthetic Lens how the pandemic has altered her practice. Through the troubles of these current times, she has found new content to explore with her powerful cross-stitch work.

1. How are you holding up?

I’m doing ok. I like to think of myself as pretty adaptable and resilient, so I’ve been rolling with the punches over here. Are there days where I look around and think – what fresh hell is this? – absolutely! I try to use those days as inspiration days for pandemic art. 

Let Her | | © Shannon Downey, 2020 | Photo by Mark Germain

2. Has Covid-19 had an effect on your work? If so, in what way?

COVID has forced me to change everything. Prior to COVID, I had been planning out a year-long tour of the US. I had over 100 events booked across the country. I had 50 events scheduled for prior to launching to cover the costs of getting on the road in an RV. All canceled. It was devastating. I allowed that depression in for about a week and then it was game on.

Spilling the Tea | © Shannon Downey, 2020 | Photo by Mark Germain

I reframed how I was looking at things and decided it was no longer a tour but it would be a new way of life. I quit my job, gave up my apartment, bought the RV, and left Chicago on June 30th. I hadn’t left my apartment since early March so being out in the world was a big mental adjustment. That said, my home is my vehicle and my vehicle is my home so I can quarantine and still be moving around. 

But I love them | © Shannon Downey, 2020 | Photo by Mark Germain

All of my workshops, speaking engagements, and events are all virtual now and that’s been a brilliant “second best” solution. I’ve still been meeting people from all over the world, teaching folks how to stitch, and speaking at conferences and events…from the safety of my RV.

The Queen | © Shannon Downey, 2020 | Photo by Mark Germain

If I don’t feel comfortable somewhere (Indiana I’m looking at you) I just drive away and head to a spot where folks are wearing masks, social distancing, and staying home.

I even get to keep teaching my classes at Columbia College because they are being offered online to keep everyone safe.

I Like Your Rage | © Shannon Downey, 2020 | Photo by Mark Germain

It feels like this is exactly when I need to be out supporting social justice movements and civic engagement – uplifting and amplifying and providing alternative means of protest and resistance at a time when it’s quite challenging for folks to feel like they are having an impact.

My art has always been in reaction to current social and political events so it has given me even more to work with.

Deal With Your Shit | | © Shannon Downey, 2020

3. Is there anything you’ve added to your practice that you’d like to keep after this is over?

I really am enjoying the real-time, virtual workshops, and community events that I’ve been leading. It is a great way to connect with folks that can’t be with you in person. It is creating a much stronger national and global community and I am here for that!

Boys Will Be Boys | | © Shannon Downey, 2020

4. Of the artists you follow, who’s handling this particularly well?

I’m not sure it’s possible to know who is actually handling it well versus who appears to be handling it well via social media. I will tell you that there are folks who continue to carry on, adapt, innovate, and shift – and that much I can see via their work.

My fav’s: Social Justice Sewing Academy, Tiny Pricks, Black Women Stitch, Whitney Bradshaw, Mindy Tsonas, and Subversive Cross Stitch.

Born To Slay | | © Shannon Downey, 2020

5. Please share with us any projects, updates, developments you’d like us to know about.

BadassHerstory is my global craftivism project that is currently accepting submissions. It exists to encourage women and non-binary folks to explore and center their narratives and translate that to fiber art.

© Shannon Downey, 2020

Shannon Downey better known as Badass Cross Stitch, is a community organizer disguised as a fiber artist and craftivist. She blends her politics, activism, and art into projects that are designed to inspire others to take action, think, discuss, engage with democracy and their community, and find some digital/analog balance. She currently lives in her RV full-time and is traversing the country bringing community and art activism to the country she still believes in.

She is the instigator behind #RitasQuilt and Badass Herstory and is on a quest to teach 1 million people to embroider and invite society to rethink how we categorize and value craft and art. 

Her life motto is: Make Art. Smash Systems.

Check out her website, Instagram, and Twitter.