“Remember when Post Secret first came out? The book? I do. It blew me away. I never sent anything in. It was just a neat read.
Participating in Laundry Day, however, immediately had an appeal.
Something about how local it felt. Something about the idea of putting the stories on real clothes. It made everything feel all that more tangible.
Because Laundry Day is specifically about women, it felt like it was finally the right time to explore something I've been wrestling with, but can't say aloud: Being a feminist but not believing in 'sisterhood.' I was burned too many times. I can't say that to other feminists. It felt great to put it out there in Laundry Day, though. I went to Goodwill specifically for the skirt. I wanted something fresh and modern and distinctly female and cheerleader-y, to represent what I'd once thought sisterhood meant. It's OK though. It's much better for me to navigate the world believing good people are in this together, and that those people may or may not be women.”
When I went to Laundry Day I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I deal with major anxiety so just getting through the door was a huge task for me. When I got there a huge relief washed over me it was like being at my grandmothers house.
There were biscuits on top of the stove and as time went by I really enjoyed listening to all of the women share and talk about their lives.
I knew the story that I wanted to tell as soon as I met Andrea. It took about a year for me to be brave enough to share my story because there are not a lot of people who know my story. I knew that I wanted my piece to tell the story of the younger me and how it affected the adult that I am now. It was great to have the chatter of other women in the background as I processed a very difficult time of my life.
I was not expecting to feel so empowered after finishing my piece. I now want to share my story and look into the eyes of young girls and women and tell them that we do survive. After seeing my piece in social media and reading the comments I realized that life does get better. There will still be days that I cry but I am strong and so are so many other women.
I would tell anyone who is looking to participate in a Laundry Day to simply be true to yourself and trust the process.
“My first laundry day was AMAZING! Fellowshipping and hearing with/from all the women from different walks and social standing in life was enlightening! It's always good to to get to know one another on levels that allow you to recognize that as different as we are we are all the same! It doesn't matter how much money you have, or your skin color, or how big your house is, we all live through the same s***!
My decision as to subject matter was quick and I'm generally very tedious about materials I choose so the first laundry day I did not create a complete piece but I had a definite subject matter in mind for my first piece. My second piece was extremely personal! I always had it in mind for this project, but needed to start off a little less personal...get my feet wet so to speak! As far as materials and execution, I am an artist so I was very comfortable with execution. But the women who were not artists seemed very comfortable and the atmosphere was such that it was easy to ask for help! I never thought I would say this but I love laundry day!“
“Prior to attending the ‘Airing Out the Dirty Laundry’ event, I had been struggling to cope with the challenges associated with my identity as a black female student at a PWI, and I needed some sort of release from the tension and stress that I was feeling. The event came around at the perfect time. I wrote a poem a week or so before I found out about ‘Airing Out the Dirty Laundry’ to express my feelings, and I hadn’t intended on sharing it with anyone. Ultimately, I decided to use the poem as the central piece of the project once I was at the event. Attending ‘Airing Out the Dirty Laundry’ started as extra credit for an English course I was taking, but once I was there it became so much more to me.
What appealed to me about ‘Airing Out the Dirty Laundry’ was the artwork and its purpose. I loved that it was an interactive form of story telling with the artist, their piece, and who ever was able to see it and touch it next. I wanted to be a part of that. I felt like I had been looked past and looked over at school and in life, and I wanted my identity to be seen and heard along with the other women’s stories. Though a lot of the art was different, I think all of the artwork and the artists who created the pieces had a similar goal of speaking up and speaking out in the safe space that Andrea Downs created, whereas a lot of us are told to behave, and to be quiet, and to sit still in society.
Sharing my poem was actually the easy part of the project for me. Creating the art associated with it was the difficult part for me at first, as I am not the best at arts and crafts. After speaking with some of the women at the event, and sharing my inspiration for the poem, my vision for the piece came together. The poem was about me, my management of anger, and the stigma associated with the expression of my emotions in our society. Since the piece was specific to me and my identity, I was able to create a layered piece of art that actually looked like me. The event allowed for anonymity, recognition, and validation all at the same time, and that was the beauty of this event and of this movement.
All of the art is created by women, and each piece holds a story and a voice, and because there are no names or signed signatures there’s this sense of safety and confidentiality in each piece without there being a disconnect. In fact, you gravitate towards the artwork because of the shared voices and shared experiences that you can physically see among women. They could be by and about any woman. You can read someone’s words and feel the layers of their project, and you don’t know the artist’s name or what they look like, but you connect with them on a level of understanding and empathy either because you’ve experienced something similar to them or because you know someone who has. It’s moving, really.
I appreciate ‘Airing Out the Dirty Laundry’ for all it accomplishes and aims to accomplish. I was able to bond with women during this event, and not just the women who created pieces, but the women who sat in the room with me. We were able to sit side by side and work and talk in this comfortable and safe environment without any judgement. I met professors I would never have crossed paths with and students I had not seen at school before. I left the event feeling heard and whole, and I even left the event with new friends I still talk to today.”
“When you came to the CLTextile May meeting and presented this project to the group I felt excited about the project, but not particularly inspired personally. I kind of played around with some of the materials I brought…had some thoughts in my head, but, honestly felt like I really didn’t have anything to bring to this project. I did have one piece of fabric that I had brought, a piece of silk that had been printed on, dipped in indigo, and had a silk resist process applied to it. I had made this piece of fabric several years ago in a class at Penland School of Crafts. I was really drawn to this piece of fabric.
A few days later, as I had thought on and off about this project, ideas began to come to mind. And the words “no one told the leaves” a phrase I used in a weaving after 9/11 came to mind loud and clear! I found a piece of linen I had, and wrote those words randomly on the the linen. To me those words mean a variety of things, how the world changed after 9/11, but the seasons still continue (no one told the leaves). On a more personal level, they mean a hidden grief, a silent sorrow, of a time when I had a miscarriage. Lots of women suffer this loss, a child lost. Because there is no child for others to see, to know, because many times this loss is only known to the mother, maybe the father, maybe a few close family members, it becomes a loss unknown to others. a grief that is silent, a sorrow that is silent.
I also knew I wanted to do some hand stitching on this piece. The “thread” I used was originally part of a weaving process, where I paint loosely woven fabric and the remove the fine weft thread. I save this thread and that is the thread I used. I stitched every day for about an hour or so until the deadline. I used that time to slow down, to reflect, to look back, to look forward, to let me thoughts move where they wanted, to experience quiet, to sit with my husband while we watched baseball…
Finally to combine/layer the silk and the linen. Our lives are layered and complicated. Our lives are hidden and revealed. Our lives continue even after a silent sorrow or hidden grief.
I am very glad I was able to find “something to say” and be a part of this amazing project.”
“As I planned my materials for "laundry day" I found this beautiful tree fabric. My idea germinated and came to fruition at Andrea's home which was filled with creative, energetic and engaging women of Charlotte. I must say that being task driven I wanted to create me piece in one sitting, but I also wanted to hear everyone's stories. As I painted and stitched and chatted I heard about instances of pain, lifelong struggles of abuse, ideas to educate, and examples of strength. Based on my found trees, I knew I wanted my laundry to pay tribute to two amazing women in my family who impact me daily.
My mother is the epitome of love and self-sacrifice. She is my roots and has demonstrated to me what a joyful life looks like. My beautiful spunky daughter has a heart for others and the gift of healing. I have watched her grow from a shy child to a bold culture changer. Her spreading foliage offers shelter to those in need and rustles loudly against the winds of injustice. She is my hero.
Attending laundry day connected me with women I may never have met. I appreciated the opportunity to take the afternoon to craft a statement of appreciation for my bookends, my mom and daughter, and to celebrate the qualities of amazing women who make me proud to be one.”
We all have a story to tell.
Like so many women, my story began before my ability to tell it.
As women*, we are told that our stories don’t matter and aren’t valued. We are silenced.
On January 21st, 2017, a diverse group of women created space for women across the globe to gather and use their voices in solidarity. My nine-year-old daughter and I were 2 of the 20,000 individuals who chose to march in the Charlotte Women's March. This experience that I shared with my daughter was my call to action. I walked away knowing that I needed to create and hold space for women to continue to share their stories and experiences through art.
Airing Out the “Dirty” Laundry creates opportunities and spaces for women to share and reveal our stories of strength, unity, and resistance of oppression, injustice, and exclusion through visual storytelling. When we reveal our stories, we create the possibility of shifting the narrative.
Airing Out the “Dirty” Laundry is a catalyst for women’s voices, a call to gather together, opportunity to listen and to be heard, and to foster the love and understanding that resists hate and injustice.
Andrea Downs is an artist who has taught art for 16 years. She creates work that is designed to foster collaboration, connections, and deeper dialogue across different segments of the diverse communities within which she lives and works. Relationships, connections, identity, and an openness to engage with one another are at the center of Andrea's work. She creates opportunities and shared experiences in order to foster the kinds of connections that build strong communities. Her most important work, in partnership with her husband, is raising her two children to believe in equality. Andrea lives and works in Charlotte, North Carolina.
*cis women, trans women, women identifying, and non binary people