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Emily Brodrick, Bren Ahearn, and Trying to Rationalize Gender Sterotypes in Crafting

Emily Brodrick is a native Long Islander currently living in Massachusetts. Her primary technique is knitting and crocheting, on both a small and large scale. Brodrick crochets tiny pieces of jewelry for sale on her Etsy shop, as well as creating massive installations for galleries. After exploring her website a bit, this quote from her bio got me to thinking:

“With the skills passed on to me I explore the negative connotations associated with the words fiber, domestic and feminine in the context of fine art. I proudly portray this history of femininity and domesticity in my art and give voice to my female ancestors whose work was often overlooked because of their gender and their work’s title as craft.”

I also come from a small town on Long Island, so it’s exciting to see a fellow feminist crafter with similar origins. When you’re in a rural environment, it’s easy to be surrounded by primarily conservative opinions which can be a hindrance for the creative process. Emily takes great pride in the women who have passed along their crafting skills onto her, which is another heavily relatable trait I share. My nanna taught my how to crochet, my grandmother taught me to sew, and my mom taught me how to scrapbook.

I feel it’s important to recognize the permanence of crafting, although it has been considered a dying form due to the decrease in younger people learning how to mend clothing and work with fiber. In my opinion, part of this problem may be the assumptive gender role affixed to craft, and trying to figure out ways to separate it from this association. As Emily mentioned, people do easily dismiss craft as “women’s work” and a lesser form of art. And while I am only in my twenties, I think I can confidently say that I know more female-identifying individuals within my age group who know how to sew/crochet/knit/felt/etc. compared to male-identifying individuals. Which is even more intriguing, especially since home economics has become a high school class inclusive for all genders.

Bren Ahearn
Bren Ahearn
Bren Ahearn
Bren Ahearn

Feminist Fiber Art on Instagram posted an image of a sampler from Bren Ahearn. “AT LAST! A MALE!” I shrieked, looking fascinatingly upon his website. A lot of discussions I’ve been having lately with friends involve the concept of masculinity and permitting men to react to emotions (like crying), without feeling the risk of being mocked. In my opinion, Bren really takes the cake with exemplifying these societal expectations of men and masculinity and utilizing craft to communicate how wrong it is. Bren Ahearn gives me hope that crafting can become wider spread among the male-identifying individuals who may feel discouraged to embrace their emotions or willingness to pick up the needle and thread.

So, I think the best way to remove the dismissive stigma of craft being a lesser form of art is to increase involvement through all genders. Educating and including others breeds acceptance and embracing what may not be typically considered the societal norm. Of course, we shouldn’t disregard the fact that craft originated and developed from women when educating as well. There is a pride that should be taken there that all should understand. I think it’s easy to say a majority have a precious knit blanket, stuffed toy, hat, etc. that our grandmothers crafted us.

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