Wake Up, Humanity! A Textile Message

Like most other people, I would rather not worry about climate change. I’d rather think that it is yet another conspiracy theory, or something that will happen in the far future, or a problem we should leave to experts. But the last few years have made that impossible. Climate change brought itself to our doorstep, an unwanted boomerang. 85% of all humans have already felt its effects, and 100% of us will not be able to escape its near-future implications. All around the globe, the weather is not what it used to be. There are more natural disasters, more disturbances to our daily lives.

And yet, we all keep going about our days. We worry about our mundane problems, big and small. Our minds cannot comprehend the enormity of the situation. The unfathomable changes that are about to come. Like ostriches, we bury our heads in the sand and hope that the problem will go away.  We put our daily comforts ahead of our children’s futures. Out of short-sightedness, we let money get in the way of smart choices. We surrender to the interests of large corporations.

Difficult Art

I’d rather be making happy, colorful art. I’d rather be playing with color contrast and textures. But the last few years have filled me with dread and urgency. I don’t have much time to create art. There are so many other things I need to do: errands to run, family to take care of, a house, a garden. I came to the conclusion that my art-making time should be meaningful. Even if that means making art that is difficult–or even unpleasant–for me to make.

This piece, like Behold the Future!, is about climate change. But whereas the former piece was about what climate change will do to our planet, this piece is more about our reaction–or lack of–to it. The disasters are coming our way. Some are already here. They will harm us. Badly. And yet, we refuse to look…

Creative Process

I started this piece by choosing already-quilted fabrics for the background. In the past, I used such fabrics to make stable bases for zip pouches. But I no longer make zip pouches, and the textures and patterns of these textiles were just perfect for what I had in mind. They were simple yet interesting, and I felt that they go well together.

I knew I wanted the disasters to fall from the sky, but contemplated between shaping them as bombs or arrows. Eventually, I chose arrows. For those, I used fabric I had painted myself with acrylic paints. I used a fabric marker to write the various disasters brought about by climate change. Then I sewed the arrows on.

In what is now becoming a habit (slowly, a new series is forming!), I posed for a photoshoot. My children had a blast seeing me posing on all fours, bottom up, on our living room coffee table. They were right, I did look ridiculous, but hey! Short of standing on your head (which I refuse to do even for art!) try burying your head in the sand in any other way… Still, my kids teased me about it endlessly. I was satisfied, though, because at least one of the pictures they took looked exactly like I hoped it would.

I printed this picture on fabric, ironed a fusible web on the back, cut it out and then ironed it onto the artwork.

Alas, once done I realized I had made a double mistake. Despite checking once and again for the exact location of the human figure, I somehow managed to fuse it to the wrong place. And also, the texture of the quilted background showed through the figure, printed on thin fabric, giving it a look that I didn’t intend it to have.

What followed was a sleepless night. I tossed and turned, upset, wondering what I should do. I though I might have to remake the entire piece, but knew I no longer had my chosen fabrics.

In the morning, I dreadfully entered my sewing room. I searched my fabric stash, only to confirm that I don’t, indeed, have more of those fabrics. Then I made an interesting discovery. Fusible web, it turns out, doesn’t stick well to home décor textiles! In the end, I was able to gently peel the human figure off.

I ironed it onto stiff interfacing, to give it more body. Then I fused it to the background again, this time in the correct spot. I finished by stitching it in place. I decided to call it Wake Up, Humanity! as a call to action.

When the COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow opened earlier this month, hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated, in Glasgow and around the world, demanding faster, more drastic actions from world leaders. Maybe humanity is starting to awake after all, though we need millions to join the action for any real change to happen.

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