Page 100


A CONVERSATION WITH CRAFTIVIST, SHANNON DOWNEY We chatted with cross stitch artist and craftivist Shannon Downey, whose work went viral at the peak of the 2017 Harvey Weinstein misconduct revelations. Shannon chats with us on her craft, using her platform to express and on going viral. Badass Cross Stitch was created by Bostonborn and Chicago-based Shannon Downey. “I've lived a wacky and adventurous life and my path only makes sense to me.” Her work has ranged from middle school teacher, to domestic violence/sexual assault advocate, to event producer, to writing teacher in the prison system, to entrepreneur, to college teacher. “his past June, I shut down the marketing company that I started 10 years ago in order to take on the position of Director of Development for one of my former clients, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago. I have spent 2 years of my life (collectively) traveling and living around the world. I want to be Indiana Jones, so I have a bachelors in Archeology and a masters in Outdoor Education.” She adds, “I have two of the cutest dogs that have ever walked this earth, and I got engaged this month to the most wonderful and talented woman ever.” Besides moonlighting as Indiana Jones, Shannon is a fiber artist, feminist, activist and craftivist. She started Badass Cross Stitch to inspire others to join on her journey to find a digital and analog balance. Additionally, “I wanted to inspire folks to put down their devices and create something meaningful, express themselves, and say something powerful.” The name stems from Shannon’s favorite word–– badass. “[It’s] sort of a sub-brand for me. I have a blog called Seriously Badass Women where I feature––wait for it––seriously badass women. I love associating embroidery and cross stitching with the term badass because it creates a real sense of cognitive dissonance.” She says it’s her own form of subliminal messaging to help folks think differently about the art form; to take it beyond a precious or easily dismissed “women’s craft”.

I wanted to inspire folks to put down their devices and create something meaningful, express themselves, and say something powerful.

Shannon describes craftivism as something built around action and outcomes. “I love to create opportunities for movements. Building and mobilizing community is my jam.” She continues with an example. “I live in Chicago and we have a pretty epic gun violence problem. My fiancée ––oh that was fun to say!–– co-founded a program called Project FIRE and works with young people who have been injured by gun violence, teaching them glass blowing and entrepreneurship. One day, I logged how many times I heard or read the word gun. At the end of the day it was 72 times. 72 times! So that night, I stitched a gun.” She posted it to Instagram and her community asked her to turn it into a pattern so that they could stitch one too. After creating the pattern, her Instagram feed flooded with guns. “I asked folks to stitch guns and mail them to me. They did. 200 from all over the world in just a few months. I partnered up with Project FIRE and we hosted an epic gallery show at Pilsen Outpost. Over 500 people attended the opening and we sold all of the pieces and all of the glass art made my Project FIRE. We raised over $5,000 to fund the next semester of Project FIRE.” The most moving part of this for Shannon was the letters received with the submissions. “Folks were so happy to have a way to do something that would have a real impact. So many of us feel so helpless when we are thinking about giant, systemic problems. Sometimes you just need an opportunity to take action.”


Atlas Magazine | Winter 2017 | The Presence Issue