A new coffee-table book examines crafty gays making textiles … and a difference
John Chaich vividly recalls the time he saw the AIDS quilt displayed in its entirety on the Mall in Washington, D.C.
“Witnessing that massive piece that was created by hours of love and handiwork solidified the power of what fabric and fiber and textile and making things by hand can mean to a community,” he says.
Chaich’s appreciate for textile crafts wasn’t newly-discovered then — he grew up with a mother and grandmother who quilted, knitted and practiced what were derogatorily refered to as “women’s work.”
“But as a gay man, I felt an affinity for women’s work, since I didn’t feel an affinity for working on the car with my dad or sports.”
The led Chaich — an independent curator by trade — to create the Queer Threads exhibit, which opened in New York in 2014, and has traveled to Baltimore and Boston since. “I get to develop projects based on my own curiosities, and I was drawn to fiber arts and crafts,” he says.
But it wasn’t until Dallas native Todd Oldham served as a “guest docent” when the exhibition was in NYC that Chaich realized the potential to turn his passion into a coffee-table book. Dropping last month, Queer Threads: Crafting, Identity and Community is a collection of photos of many notable fiber arts, as well as interviews with the artisans — heck, call them artists — who are at the forefront of this growing movement.
“It was a tremendous honor for someone like Todd — known for items being handmade — to suggest the book,” Chaich says. He’s deeply gratified to bring this work to a larger public.
“The AIDS quilt was one of the most public and resonating and far-reaching [craft projects],” he says. “But within the larger art world, there has been a historic hierarchy and what is considered fine art versus craft or even design. There has been a schism of where fiber art is and where it can be shown. But more than ever, those walls are blurring. We are pushing those boundaries.”
How did he decide what to include in the book? That’s the best part.
“That’s a fun problem to have — keeping it to a manageable page count,” Chaich says. “There’s a tremendous wealth of talent. It keeps me inspired.”
— Arnold Wayne Jones
Queer Threads (Ammo Press), available online and at bookstores.