Giant Needlepoint

A Safe Home

A Safe Home was inspired by the yarn bombing movement, and particularly by a number of Raquel Rodrigo’s ArquiCostura pieces I saw in Valencia, Spain, including a giant needlepoint on the front of a building covered in wire mesh. My piece recontextualizes the “women’s work” of needlepoint by making it large, meant for outside the home, and political.

I experimented with a way to create my own giant needlepoint, using plastic mesh fencing. Since this was designed for community participation, I first sketched out the design on paper, then laid the mesh over the design and painted the mesh with the corresponding colors in acrylic, so that it would be easy to know what color yarn to use. The very simple outline of a home, with the words “A SAFE HOME IS A HUMAN RIGHT” embroidered inside the shape of the house speaks to several levels, which I highlighted in an accompanying zine. First, it addresses the current surge of refugees and asylum seekers around the world and in the US. The message also calls to mind homelessness and the current housing crisis in Santa Fe and other parts of the US. Finally, it is a reminder of the ongoing problem of domestic violence.

The main purpose of the piece is to gather community and create dialogue on these topics. I took the needlepoint to a large conference in Albuquerque where it drew a crowd at each break, with people asking questions and sharing information about efforts to support refugees in their communities. Many people took photos and asked how they could do a similar project. I then brought the project to several community gatherings where neighbors eagerly joined in the process. After carrying the piece with me to all these events for several weeks, I began to feel that it was also a performance.

At least 50 people worked on the needlepoint, ages 5 to 98, both women and men. The irregularity of stitching and technique is a testament to the many hands involved, and gives a greater sense of variety to the final piece.

The Commons community was so inspired by the giant needlepoint project that they co-designed a companion piece with an environmental theme. Both pieces are installed on the coyote fence surrounding the neighborhood, where they are seen from the bike path and the bridge to Frenchy’s Park. The neighborhood has long supported a great deal of activism, but has not had any outward display of this. The giant needlepoints may be the start of a new, more visible commitment as a community.