Hannah Lesser (2023)

Tilt Flip-through from Hannah Lesser on Vimeo.

Lesser’s project Tilt, takes the gendered labor of beadwork as a starting point to develop a critical text assembled reflecting both her research and craft as laborious meditation on the intersections and discriminatory siloing of art, craft, scholarship.

She writes, “beadwork is traditionally and historically women’s work. Like other modes of knowledge originating with women, the production and transmission has historically been characterized as nonintellectual and lesser compared to that of their male counterparts, thus undermining and invalidating it. Another obstacle is the historical categorization of women’s knowledge as “non-knowledge” by the West because of the domestic nature of women’s work, which continues to prop up hierarchical and patriarchal structures. Beading and other craftwork has a long and rich feminist history, which led me to my most recent endeavor of creative research, my beaded book. Through my use of beading as a method for creative inquiry, I follow in the footsteps of thousands of years of women across the world who used beading to heal, build community and relationships, tell stories and share knowledge.

I was unable to find anyone creating a book made entirely of beads, so venturing into this uncharted territory has been motivating. I have enjoyed adopting this practice into a more contemporary context, illustrating my own artwork which I then translate into patterns. The story is a reflection on love, a concept which has become complicated in more nuanced ways because of technology and patriarchal notions which continue to embed themselves subtly in every aspect of society. Tilt is a beaded comic book which tells the story of two people who are drifting apart from each other, both literally and emotionally. One tries to fight the drifting by chasing the other. Because the story is not reflected through words or dialogue, I convey this push and pull between the two characters through scale and perspective shifts. The first half of the story is set inside their shared space. In the first half, the two figures manifest themselves through objects. Specifically, reflective objects like glasses, windows, mirrors, and screens. Once the setting moves outdoors, the entities form as people-like figures. They drift further and further apart, but eventually end up back in their old habits, for better or worse. Because you get a mirror image when you flip a page over, the pages connect as you move through the book. Each bead is individually stitched, which results in an incredibly strong final piece. The feelings and emotions I experience as I perform the act and process of beading are reflected in and embedded within the finished beadwork.”

This project was made possible through support of Frank-Ratchye Further Fund Grant #2023-004.