Crafts get heavy

Craft Up probes gender, nature and sex

CRAFT UP at YYZ Artists’ Outlet (401 Richmond West #140), to December 15. Craft Show & Tell, today (Thursday, December 6), 6 pm. 416-598-4546. Rating: NNNN

Craft Up is definitely not a holiday crafts fair. The women artists here all use some form of sewing to comment on gender, nature, sexuality and the body. Like traditional needlework, many of the pieces incorporate text.

New York-based artist Ginger Brooks Takahashi cross-stitches quotes from Monique Wittig’s The Lesbian Body on skin-soft handmade paper, the meticulous sampler-style embroidery contrasting sharply with the words’ sometimes violent eroticism. Her white-on-white quilt-in-progress featuring women having sex with rabbits makes you long to pull up a chair for a queer quilting bee.

Members of the Washboard Collective ( Michele Costa , Melody Starkweather and April Walsh ) bag up pink and white lacy bits into a gloppy, cellular wall work called Cella Florem. It’s like a girly-girl’s laundry alarmingly come to life, transforming the pretty materials into something organic and strange.

This fatty enjoyed Allyson Mitchell ‘s fluffy carpet that cheerfully – or is it angrily? – proclaims “No Cookie For Fatty” in pompom letters, which hangs over plastic-canvas needlepoints reading “My fat crotch,” “My fat cramp” and other C-words. They share a room with former NOW writer Stephanie Rogerson ‘s Butches Bleed, a series of Y-front underpants with crotches disconcertingly embroidered with “stains” in the form of shells and labia.

Heather Goodchild emblazons an antlered but feminine-looking needlepoint deer head with a Biblical description of heaven, “There shall be no night there.”

Presumably there shall be no killing animals for trophies there either.

Montreal’s Andrea Vander Kooij uses floral-print textiles as a background for daintily embroidered anatomical diagrams, offering a comparison of scientific and decorative takes on nature.

If you’ve messed around in the world of craft, you know its community-building, recycling and empowering potential. These boundary-breaking artists joyfully bring craft’s democratic and feminist spirit to the art world.


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