Craft Cult Gets Political on the Main

This is a little bit of a different one.

Can I get real for a second? Doing this newsletter right now feels wrong. This is a dumb crafting newsletter and people are fighting in the street for their right to live right now. So I am playing with the idea of taking a hiatus. Honestly, most of the things I do are on hiatus right now. As a comedian, it’s hard to be funny these days and comedy doesn’t matter right now. I have to be honest, it’s hard for me. I like working and this whole quarantine the only work I have had is comedy and making things. So it’s hard not doing that. But, I think as a white person I need to sit in that. To really feel those negative emotions, because in America it’s a privilege not to have to feel those emotions all the time. As a write this I am nervous that I am doing something wrong or saying something wrong. I might be. 

With that being said, even if I go on hiatus for a bit, I want to share this craft first. It is essentially an easy way to do screen printing. Anyone who has done legit screen printing before knows it takes a lot of materials. This process won’t come out as clean or as sharp but it’s a simple craft that is great for sign and Tshirt making, which I feel like you might be doing a lot of right now. 

To start, get some mesh. Mine from a mesh gift bag, old pantyhose also work very well for this craft. I also got an old frame that I was going to throw out. You don’t need the frame but it will make this craft a lot easier to do.

I glued my mesh to my frame with hot glue making sure that it was tightly secured. You don’t want the mesh to have any slack to it. If you are using pantyhose or other stretchy mesh this is slightly easier. The best practice is to staple the mesh in, but this was a hardwood frame and I didn’t have a good enough stapler so hot glue it is.

his is not a great photo and honestly, your glue work can look terrible, it doesn’t matter. Next, you want to draw an image that fits in your frame. You can do anything, but try to keep it simple at least for the first time you do it. The more complex it is, the harder this is to do. I chose to draw a raised fist. 

You might have noticed that I didn’t call it the “black power fist” which it is.  Partly because I wanted to do one of my trademark asides on this symbol. 

While the fist has been in r art since the 1800s, many attribute it’s rise to it being the symbol of the Industrial Workers of the World in 1917.

The Chicago based international labor union came to prominence with a goal of "revolutionary industrial unionism" and had ties to socialism and anarchism though the 1920s. The fist was then co-opted during the Spanish Civil War as a greeting that showed you were part of a faction that was fighting the fascist regime. It was called in this period "Popular Front salute" or the "anti-fascist salute.” It meant that whoever flashed it was Antifa.

Some young Spanish boys showing their salutes.

In the 1940s the Mexican printmaking shop, Taller de Gráfica Popular used the image on a poster that cemented it as a graphic.  

In the 1960s, it spread to the states with help from the artist Frank Cieciorka. 

He drew several versions of the fist including one that he gave to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Students for a Democratic Society then used the fist as well as the Black Power Movement. 

(both versions above were drawn by Cieciorka) 

Since then it has been used by revolutionaries in France and Ukraine. It’s been used to promote feminism, unions, and anti-fascism. However, it is probably most tied to the Civil Rights movement. A lot of that has to do with this picture. 

At the 1968 Olympics, Tommie Smith and John Carlos would call their raised fists as what they called a “human rights salute.” This photo however inspired the Black Panthers and they adopted the solute after Smith said justified his it by saying, “We are black and we are proud of being black. Black America will understand what we did tonight.”

Now I tell you all of this not as a “well actually it’s not about black power” because it is. It is a black power fist. Black activists were not harassed, locked up, and killed for this not to be a black power thing. But I think it is a powerful symbol which shows how antifascists, unions, and civil rights have always been connected. If we want to stop fascism we have to stop racism. If we want to talk about the power of unions, black people need to be there. If we want to talk about feminism, classism, abuses of power, progress, LGBTQ+ rights, we need people of color to be a part of that narrative. We might not have the same struggle, but the root of so many struggles are connected and so many voices from people of color overlap between all of these struggles.  We are not free until everyone is. In the words of Aude Lorde, “There is no thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”

It feels weird to go back to a craft after this. I will be honest.

When you have your image, put it below the screen. If you used something light-colored you can trace it onto or directly draw it onto the screen. Mine was too dark to draw on, so I put my rough sketch underneath the screen. I then took modge podge and started to apply it with a paintbrush around where I wanted it to stay white in the final image. A variety of glues would work for this, but I think modge podge is the best to use. Tacky should also work well. Mostly you want it to be permanent and not water-soluble. The glue might accidentally get the mesh stuck to the paper. When the glue is dry you can rub the paper off. 

You might need to do a couple of layers to make sure the mesh is fully covered in the glue. Let the glue dry completely then it is time to add paint. I used acrylic, which is fine especially for cardboard or poster board, but if you wanted to put this on fabric, I would either use fabric paint or mix acrylic with Gac 900. I wouldn’t use anything too liquidy, it will bleed.  I used a roller that was for a children’s clay set. Squeegees will work the best, however, if you don’t have either of these, a large brush should work fine. 

This first image is from a test which is why the paint color magically changes. 

Add whichever colors you want. I did colors similar to Philadelphia’s pride flag because it’s June and that means it’s time to remind everyone that Pride was an uprising and Pride should always be Anti-cop. 

Make sure to get your paint saturated throughout the open parts of the mesh. Take off your screen and let it dry to the side. You should have your design on your fabric or paper. Let is dry as well. As you can see mine has some rough edges, but you can go back in with a small bush and touch those up or even with a marker if you want a more polished look. 

I hope everyone is paying attention out there. I wanted to end with just a couple of links. It’s Pride month so if you can you should consider donating to charities that support black trans people (Vice even put together a cheat sheet) as well as keep donating to anti-racism charities and funds in general.  If you are in NYC and you are looking for protest updates, here is where I have been getting mine. If you feel like you need more information or more resources in general, I would highly suggest checking out this resource tree. I know a lot of people don’t feel like they can go to the protests, but that doesn’t mean it’s ok to be silent. Remember silence is complicity. Amplify black voices, donate if you can, sign petitions, talk to your racist relatives, check in on your black friends. You can do this. 

Stay safe, stay angry. And even if this goes on hiatus, it will be back.