Part 2


Culture Swap Research


Polish Traditions

Śmigus-dyngus (Wet Monday)

Don’t be surprised if you’re in Poland on Easter Monday and randomly get doused with water on the street. Śmigus-dyngus (also called Wet Monday) dates back to the Middle Ages and initially involved only girls being sprayed with water by boys (a kind of a courtship ritual). Today everyone can take part and use sophisticated tools such as water guns and garden hoses.

Smingus Dyngus © Augustas Didžgalvis / Flickr

Drowning of Marzanna

Originating from a pagan ritual, Poles burn and drown a life size straw doll of Slavic goddess Marzanna in a river to mark the end of winter and celebrate the coming of spring. The act is performed on the first day of spring (between March 19 and 21).


Another typical Polish custom is poprawiny, a follow up party organised the day after a wedding party (which usually involves lots of drinking and lasts until the early hours of the morning), making the whole event last two days. Today, not all newly weds throw poprawiny, but you will definitely get to experience it at countryside weddings.

Putting Hay Underneath Tablecloth for Christmas Eve

One of the typical Christmas traditions in Poland is putting bits of hay underneath the tablecloth at the Christmas Eve dinner. This is done to celebrate the birth of Jesus in a Bethlehem stable. In some parts of Poland, people used to cover the whole floor of their house with hay.

Sharing Wafer for Christmas

Another very popular Polish Christmas tradition is sharing thin pieces of wafer (‘opłatek’) with family members and friends, and wishing each other all the best in the New Year before sitting down to the Christmas Eve dinner. The flavourless wafer is made from flour and water and is a symbol of forgiveness, friendship and unity.


All Saints’ Day

All Saints’ Day is especially spectacular in Poland. It’s an annual bank holiday on November 1st, when millions of Poles gather at local cemeteries to commemorate their loved ones by laying flowers and candles on their graves. The most beautiful cemeteries to visit in Poland during the holiday include Warsaw’s Powązki and Krakow’s Rakowicki and Salwator.


Poles also have a unique way of celebrating St. Andrew’s Day (November 30). Festivities include a host of fortune telling games and rituals such as pouring candle wax through a key hole into cold water to create a wax figurine (whose shape is then used to make predictions about the future) or taking part in shoe race across the room, which involves people placing their shoe one at a time in front of each other in a row. The first shoe that reaches the wall or the door, means its owner will get married soon. 


Polish Catholic Church

The Polish Catholic Church in Poland came into being through a missionary campaign launched in Poland after the First World War by the Polish National Catholic Church in the USA. The latter originated in North America as a protest by American Poles who felt abandoned and exposed to Anglo-Saxon Catholicism under Irish bishops and priests. Polish members of the Roman Catholic Church demanded from their English-speaking bishops the right to participate in administrative matters and in the election of priests, and more worship services in the Polish language. This led to a schism, and a separate Polish Catholic community was organized. A Polish liturgy and communion with both elements were introduced; clerical celibacy was abolished. Bishops and priests were consecrated by the Old-Catholic Church of the Netherlands in Utrecht. After the title of the head of the church, Hodur, members of the PCCP were often named Hodurowy (Hodur people).

The PCCP has maintained its close links with European Old-Catholicism. It is a member of the Union of Utrecht of the Old-Catholic Churches. It is also united in faith and practice with the Polish National Catholic Church in the USA and Canada. Since 1998 the church is engaged in an official dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church.

The PCCP is organized in three dioceses: Warsaw, Wrozlaw and Krakow. A considerable number of the members live in the Lublin area. The highest authority is the general synod composed of clergy and laity, which meets every five years. The synod council is the executive body in between meetings of the synod. Priests are trained at the Christian Theological Academy in Warsaw. Following the political changes in Poland in the 1990s the church has adopted new regulations for its relationships with the state and with the Roman Catholic Church in Poland. 

Paper Folding Techniques


Paper Folding Techniques

All designers fold.

That is, all designers crease, pleat, bend, hem, gather, knot, hinge, corrugate, drape, twist, furl, crumple, collapse, wrinkle, facet, curve or wrap two-dimensional sheets of material, and by these processes of folding, create three-dimensional objects. These objects will perhaps not be origami-like in appearance, or the folding may only be a detail, but most will nevertheless have been folded – wholly or in part – in some way. Since almost all objects are made from sheet materials (such as fabric, plastic, sheet metal or cardboard), or are fabricated from components used to make sheet forms (such as bricks – a brick wall is a sheet form), folding can be considered one of the most common of all design techniques.

And yet, despite being so ubiquitous, folding as a design topic is rarely studied. Perhaps this is because the folded content in a designed object is often unrecognized, or merely incidental, or because folding is synonymous with origami, with brightly coloured squares and children’s hobbycrafts (an image of origami now several decades out of date). Folding is rarely an inspiration

for designers.

At least, that is how it used to be. In recent years, more and more designers of all disciplines have turned to folding to create a wide range of handmade and manufactured objects, both functional and decorative. A little time spent looking through design and style magazines will reveal a significant number of folded products, from apparel to lighting and from architecture to jewellery. Origami is one of the most vibrant buzzwords in contemporary design.

1. Folding by hand

Folding by hand is as low-tech as any making activity can be. You are making something directly with your body (your hands) without the intervention of a third-party tool such as a pencil, mouse or needle.
It is an almost unique making experience and perhaps unfamiliarly primal. This very basic, hands-on activity – especially in today’s high-tech design studio environments – can be a very powerful and rewarding experience for both the rawest student and the most seasoned professional, and should not be underestimated or regarded as unsophisticated or inadequate. You can think of folding by hand

as an alternative to designing by computer (which means that aside

from the design benefits, folding by hand is of itself an excellent educational experience).

Think of folding by hand as the norm, and resort to using the other methods described below only when necessary.

2. Using geometry equipment to draw the folds

Simple geometry equipment such as a scalpel or craft knife, ruler, pair of compasses, 360° protractor and a hard, sharp pencil is sometimes necessary to help construct unusual shapes of paper, precise angles, incremental divisions etc. However, be careful that using them does not become habitual, so that you find yourself using them when folding something by hand would be quicker and easier.

To make a fold using a scalpel or craft knife, turn the blade over and make the crease line by running the back of the blade against the side of a ruler. Never try to cut through some of the thickness of the paper to create a fold; just compress it with the back of the blade.

3. Using a computer to draw the folds

These days, most of us would prefer to draw folding patterns on a computer rather than draw them on paper with geometry equipment. We seem to be losing the hands-on habit. However, drawing on a computer does have its advantages: scaling is easy, as is symmetrical repetition, or skewing and stretching, and drawings can be kept and copied endlessly.

The biggest drawback is having to print out your drawing. If the drawing is bigger than the size of your printer, you may have to collage sections together, which can be messy and imprecise. The alternative is to use a plotter. If you do not have ready access to one, many walk-in print and copy shops have a plotter and can make inexpensive black-and-white copies a metre or so wide.

4. A combination of the above methods

Being pragmatic and switching between the three methods described above is probably the way that most people will make most of the examples, most of the time. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, and experience will tell you which method to use,

and when.

Textile Folds


Southall - Neighborhood Research

Southall is a large suburban district of west London, England, and part of the London Borough of Ealing. It is situated 10.7 miles (17.2 km) west of Charing Cross. Neighbouring places include Yeading, Hayes, Hanwell, Hounslow, Greenford and Northolt. The area is identified in the London Plan as one of 35 major centres in Greater London.

Southall is located on the Grand Union Canal (formerly the Grand Junction Canal) which first linked London with the rest of the growing canal system. It was one of the last canals to carry significant commercial traffic (through the 1950s) and is still open to traffic and is used by pleasure craft. The area is home to London's largest Sikh community.

Mayor of London (February 2008). "London Plan (Consolidated with Alterations since 2004)" (PDF). Greater London Authority. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 June 2010.

Neighborhood Research


Draping Workshop - Neighborhood Research


Pocket Research


Colorstory - Neighborhood Research


Lanyard Project - Police Violence

Under the guise of a judiciary reform, the ruling PiS party, aided by the president of Poland has destroyed the basis of Polish democracy -- the separation of powers into three branches: a legislature, an executive, and a judiciary.

As of Wednesday, when president Duda signed the bill on Supreme Court, the Polish judiciary is no longer independent. This bill, which is a breach of the Constitution, subordinates the Supreme Court to the executive branch.

There was little that could be done to counter these moves but protest, so for the past weeks, each evening, people have gathered in front of courts across Poland to show their dissent.  

Protesters in Warsaw have been getting particularly audacious. They cross fences, sneak into the Parliament hidden in the trunk of cars, throw people over the barriers, write on walls, cast eggs at government limos. As a consequence, police are becoming more forceful.


The big news on the weekend was the rough handling and arrest of Klementyna Suchanow, writer, feminist activist and one of the faces of the anti-government protests. 

Lanyard Project - Black Protest

Thousands of people have joined protests in Warsaw and other Polish cities against the latest attempt by the conservative government to restrict access to abortion.

In Warsaw on Friday, people held banners that read “Free choice” and “A woman is a human being”, and chanted slogans demanding reproductive freedom.

Poland has one of the strictest abortion laws in Europe. The procedure is allowed only if the life of the foetus is at risk, there is a grave threat to the health of the mother or the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest.

An attempt to ban all abortions in 2016 sparked mass nationwide protests by women dressed in black, forcing the government to abandon the plan.

The latest proposed legislation would allow procedures in cases where the mother’s life was at risk or the pregnancy resulted from a crime, but would ban abortions of foetuses with congenital disorders, including Down’s syndrome.

In Warsaw, protesters gathered at the seat of the influential Roman Catholic bishops, who are urging the further tightening of the law. They marched to the parliament building and later moved on to the headquarters of the ruling Law and Justice party.

A protest of hundreds of people in Wrocław included a sign that said “I will not give birth to a dead baby”.

Małgorzata, 58, a psychologist, told Reuters: “I am against treating woman as an inferior type of human being. I support women’s rights to decide about their bodies and their lives.”

The Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights, Nils Muižnieks warned on Friday that the new measure ran counter to Warsaw’s human rights commitments.

“If adopted, the draft law would remove the possibility of terminating the pregnancy in case of severe foetal impairment, including in cases where such impairment is fatal,” Muižnieks wrote. “This step would be at variance with Poland’s obligations under international human rights law.” 

Police Vest


Police Lanyard


Abortion, Church and Politics in Poland

In early 1991 the abortion debate in Poland entered its new stage. The prolife and prochoice options had already clashed in the early 1930s over a new penal code and backstreet abortions. According to the code of 1932, induced abortion was allowed in cases of rape, incest, or for medical indications. Abortion was legalized in 1956, but subsequently it came under attack from Catholic circles, and by 1989 the Unborn Child Protection Bill was drafted which criminalized abortion. Only 11% of Polish women use modern contraceptives. The less efficient methods are the most prevalent: the natural method (Ogino-Knaus calendar), 35% of couples; coitus interruptus, 34%; condoms, 15%; oral contraceptives 7%; chemical spermicides, 2.5%; and the IUD 2%. According to size of Catholic Church estimate there are 600,000 abortions yearly. In contrast, official statistics indicate that the number of abortions is decreasing: 137,950 in 1980; 105,300 in 1988; 80,100 in 1989; 59,400 in 1990. In January 1991 the Constitutional Tribunal dismissed the motion of the Polish Feminist Association against the restrictive regulations of the Ministry of Health concerning abortion. After a parliamentary stalemate on the Unborn Child Protection Bill a commission consisting of 46 persona (1.2 of them women, 20 persons from the prochoice and 24 from the prolife lobby) continued the debate on the bill. Public opinion polls conducted by independent groups in November 1990 showed that about 60% of citizens were against the Senate's draft. Since then interest in the abortion issue has dwindled, and only 200 women and men took part in a prochoice demonstration in front of the parliament on January 25, 1991. In the spring of 1989 and in September 1990 thousands had participated in similar demonstrations. The prevailing attitude is that if the antiabortion bill is passed nothing can be done.

Neons in Warsaw

In independent Poland, advertisements made of luminous light bulbs and neons made a significant impact on the appearance of the city. This was especially true for the devastated and looted capital, which had previously been adorned by handmade signs.

After a couple of years of battling street ads, the Warsaw magistrate approved regulations in 1933 that made the city's shops and streets more permissive to neons than, for example, Berlin. Luminous signs had to be "arranged in a way that would not affect the appearance of the facade of the building and the view of the street". They were supposed to embellish the street and be safe for traffic. Blinking red lights harmful to the eye were forbidden, while interrupted lights eluded the regulations. In Berlin, where red was also out forbidden to shopkeepers, green and yellow which would mirror traffic lights were also outlawed. 




Corrupt Church in Poland


The Basilica of Our Lady of Licheń. By Czechu81, Creative Commons, from Wikimedia Commons

As it turns out, you can make a blockbuster on the topic of paedophilia and corruption in the Polish Catholic Church in overwhelmingly Catholic Poland. Watched by over four million people in the first two weeks since its opening, Wojtek Smarzowski’s Clergy (Polish title Kler) has become one of the biggest hits in the history of Polish cinema, rivalling Jerzy Kawalerowicz’s Quo Vadis, based on the Nobel Prize winner Henryk Sienkiewicz’s novel, and James Cameron’s Avatar.

The question many are now asking is whether Clergy will change the Polish Church, and if so, how? It is accidental but perversely perfect timing that less than two weeks ago the Church lost a court case and was forced to pay one million zlotys (more than 200 thousand pounds) to a woman who had been repeatedly raped by a priest as a child. It is not a good time for the Church in Poland, and people appear to be more than happy to see its hierarchs suddenly looking ever so frightened after decades of arrogance, greed and hypocrisy.

At the same time, 92% of Poles declare themselves as Catholic, and apostates are barely noticeable. Still, the number of people attending Sunday Mass has been steadily declining in the last three decades, from 51% at the beginning of the 1990s to 39% today.

Although the Polish Catholic Church is known for its conservative views, particularly visible in contrast to Pope Francis’s modernising ambitions, it is in many ways successfully adapting to the needs of today’s worshippers, examples of which I describe in my recent book, Reshaping Poland’s Community after Communism: Ordinary Celebrations.

One example that has been gaining significant media attention is the sanctuary in Licheń, notably its new gigantic basilica, officially opened in 2004. Two-thirds the size of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, its architectural style has been labelled “turbo-baroque”—a deeply contemporary mix of baroque-ish ornaments, folk-like paintings and numerous symbols referring to Poland and the Polish land such as crops in place of acanthus leaves on Roman-style columns. Also imitating baroque, oil paintings such as the Nativity Scene place religious and national heroes next to each other, including Polish kings, Pope John Paul II, and Lech Wałęsa, all waiting to see Baby Jesus in the stable.

This symbolic mix can be found all around the sanctuary, as the aim of the space is to provide a black-and-white, familiar and comforting narrative of Polish-Catholic unity. What’s more, the entire area within the sanctuary walls is filled with elements that make it feel almost recreational: gazebos, barbeque pits, a children’s playground, not to mentions shops, cafés, and two sizeable pilgrim’s houses, all located inside the sacred space. Indeed, the visitors, especially locals, enjoy hanging out there and relaxing in the sun, long-sleeve jumpers in hand in case a priest comes by. The sanctuary is well aware of its recreational appeal and even offers New Year’s Eve parties, regardless of the fact that it is not necessarily a Christian celebration.

Another method the Polish Catholic Church has been using to gain popular appeal outside church walls is its presence at Woodstock Station (Przystanek Woodstock, renamed Pol’and’Rock Festival this year due to copyright issues), one of the largest free summer rock festivals in Europe. The festival is an extension of a major Polish charity drive, Grand Orchestra of Christmas Charity (Wielka Orkiestra Świątecznej Pomocy), now 25 years old. The winter appeal (during which money is collected on the internet and by volunteers on the streets for hospital equipment) and the two-years-younger summer festival are hugely popular, the latter especially among young people. Thus, the appeal and festival present secular competition to the Church in the framing of charity and empathy.

This is most likely one of the reasons why the Church decided to become present at Woodstock Station, establishing its own event, Jesus Station. In the first couple of years, it was located right next to the music festival and was openly hostile to it, accusing Woodstock Station attendees of Satanism, substance abuse, sexual immorality and generally rock-and-roll-style evil behaviour. Unsurprisingly, this message failed to attract the attention of the festival-goers. After the tone of the priests softened, Jesus Station was invited to set its tents on the premises of the main festival. Although it gathers a tiny fraction of the hundreds of thousands of people present at Woodstock Station, the priests there hold the Holy Mass, offer Christian film screenings and engage in conversations with the festival attendees—critically-minded, doubting, yet often searching for God.

However, in striking contrast to the Hare Krishna tent located several hundred metres away, known at the festival for its tasty and inexpensive food, at Jesus Station the food is reserved solely for the priests, nuns, and a few secular volunteers, while others are turned away. The Polish Catholic Church, while successful in carrying out grand projects such as the basilica in Licheń, continues to struggle with small gestures.

The reactions of the Church hierarchs to Smarzowski’s film have ranged from outrage to calls, much quieter, for the clergy to reconsider its attitudes towards the secular members of the Church. It is an extraordinary time for the Catholic Church in Poland. On the one hand, the current right-wing Law and Justicegovernment has been granting the Church unprecedentedly large sums of money, as the ruling party needs the religious institution’s support. On the other hand, people are more than happy to watch a movie where the Church’s dirty open secrets come to light. It is particularly telling that the stories shown in Clergy, sometimes shocking, sometimes terrifying, are all based on facts.

Even if an anti-Church revolution in Poland is currently unlikely, people’s ‘ordinary celebrations’ are already changing, and the falling numbers of baptisms and Church weddings are telling.

Denim Project - Fiorucci

Fiorucci is an Italian fashion label founded by Elio Fiorucci in 1967. The first shop exposed Milan to the styles of Swinging London and American classics such as the T-shirt and jeans. By the late 1970s and early 1980s this would be reversed and the New York store would become famous for the fashions it introduced to the United States. Known as the "daytime Studio 54", it attracted trendsetters from Andy Warhol to a young Madonna.

As a leader in the globalisation of fashion, Fiorucci would scour the globe for underground trends introducing a newly affluent mass market to styles such as thongs from Brazil and Afghan coats. The label popularised camouflage prints and leopard-skin prints before creating the designer jean market with the invention of stretch jeans. The iconic advertising usually featured a woman's buttocks in skin-tight denim, or in one case obscured by pink fluffy handcuffs, whilst the company logo is two cheeky angels modelled after Raphael's cherubs. However, mismanagement of the company led to receivership in 1989 and the brand was subsequently dogged by legal battles over the trademarks. Several relaunches failed to make much impact.

Elio Fiorucci was found dead in his Milan home on July 20, 2015, at the age of 80.  A month before his death, the brand was sold to Janie and Stephen Schaffer, who had founded the high street chain Knickerbox together in 1986. Following an on-line Fiorucci launch and campaign featuring Georgia May Jagger, a 5,000 sq ft destination store opened on Brewer Street in London's Soho in September 2017 during London Fashion Week. The launch party saw the Theo Adams Company transform L’Escargot, London’s oldest French restaurant, into a world of disco, hedonism and horror, and was described by WWD as "the kind of party that many brands would kill for: achingly cool, outrageously oversubscribed and lots of fun." The following month Rizzoli launched a book entitled Fiorucci to celebrate 50 years of the brand with a foreword by Oscar-winning director Sofia Coppola.

Babitz, Eve (1980), Fiorucci: The Book, Milan: Harlin Quist, distributed by Dial/Delacorte, p. 144, ISBN 978-0-8252-2608-3 


Love Motels/Hotels

A love motel/hotel is a type of short-stay hotel found around the world operated primarily for the purpose of allowing guests privacy for sexual activities. The name originates from "Hotel Love" in Osaka, which was built in 1968 and had a rotating sign.

Love hotels can usually be identified using symbols such as hearts and the offer of a room rate for a "rest" (休憩 kyūkei) as well as for an overnight stay. The period of a "rest" varies, typically ranging from one to three hours. Cheaper daytime off-peak rates are common. In general, reservations are not possible, and leaving the hotel will forfeit access to the room; overnight-stay rates become available only after 22:00. These hotels may be used for prostitution, although they are sometimes used by budget-travelers sharing accommodation.

Bornoff, Nicholas (1991). Pink Samurai: Love, Marriage, and Sex in Contemporary Japan. New York: Pocket Books. ISBN 978-0-671-74265-2. OCLC 0671742655.


Anna Skladmann - The Man with Midas touch

Rediscover the beauty of Narcissus flowers in photographer Anna Skladmann’s new exhibition, The Man With The Midas Touch – A Botanical Index Of Narcissus, showing at the Garden Museum from 14 February – 1 March 2019. The exhibition will be in the central ‘Nave’ of the Museum, filling the building with spring blooms and saying goodbye to the winter months.

Located in the central nave of the Museum, the exhibition highlights issues around sustainability and the relationship between technology and nature. The photographs depict the gold-medal winning Narcissus flowers from the Chelsea Flower Show in 2016, grown by Johnny Walkers, who is known for his champion displays at the Show, having won his 25th consecutive gold medal in 2018. These specific breeds are made by man rather than nature and carefully labelled for the viewers’ attention.

Through the use of scanning techniques, Skladmann further challenges the beauty of nature and its place in contemporary life, which is heavily influenced by technological advancements. As humans control nature, tailoring and perfecting what was once left to its own order, the need to reflect our place in the ecological system is crucial in times of natural adversity.


Edward Weston

Edward Weston was a seminal American photographer whose radical approach to composition, lighting, and form changed the history of the medium. The photograph Pepper No. 30 (1930), evinces Weston’s ability to transform landscapes, portraits, and still lifes into visual enigmas. “The camera should be used for a recording of life, for rendering the very substance and quintessence of the thing itself, whether it be polished steel or palpitating flesh,” the artist once stated. Born on March 24, 1886 in Highland Park, IL, he was given his first camera by his father at the age of 16, sparking a lifelong interest. Weston enrolled at the Illinois College of Photography after having failed to start a photography career in California without a degree. Finishing the course in six months, he returned to California better prepared and began working as an assistant in portrait studios around Los Angeles. The artist opened his own studio in 1909, where he would work for the next 20 years. In 1932, Weston helped form the influential Group f/46 alongside Ansel Adams and Willard Van Dyke. The purpose of the group was to further their common aesthetic interests by establishing a formal rubric for photography. Over the course of his career, the artist’s style shifted from the Pictorialist’s blurred painterly effects to the crisply focused images of Alfred Stieglitz. The artist died on January 1, 1958 in Carmel, CA. Today, his works are held in the collections of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the Art Institute of Chicago, among others. 


Linder Sterling

Linder (born 1954, Liverpool, UK) is a British artist known for her photography, radical feminist photomontage, and confrontational performance art. Emerging from the Manchester punk and post-punk scenes in the 1970s, Linder focuses on questions of gender, commodity and display. Her highly recognisable photomontage practice combines everyday images from domestic or fashion magazines with images from pornography and other archival material. Cut and collaged by hand using a scalpel and glue, the juxtapositions recall a rich art history harking back to Hannah Hoch and the Dadaists.

For her solo shows at the Hepworth Wakefield and Tate St. Ives in 2013, Linder collaborated with choreographer Kenneth Tindall of Northern Ballet for a major performance piece, The Ultimate Form(2013), inspired by the artist’s research into the work of Barbara Hepworth. Her residency at Tate St. Ives, also in 2013, was recently followed by her appointment in 2017 as the inaugural artist-in-residence of Chatsworth House where Linder created four installations that explored the female voice at Chatsworth in the centenary year of the Act of Representation. In 2018, Linder was commissioned by Art on the Underground to create her first large-scale public commission consisting of an 85 metre long street-level billboard at Southwark station.

Recent solo exhibitions include Nottingham Contemporary, Kestnergesellschaft, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, and Museum of Modern Art/PS1, and Linder’s work has been included in group exhibitions at Tate Modern, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Museum of Modern Art, Tate Britain, and Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. In 2017, Linder was awarded the Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award.


Ellsworth Kelly

Ellsworth Kelly (May 31, 1923 – December 27, 2015) was an American painter, sculptor, and printmaker associated with hard-edge painting, Color Field painting and minimalism. His works demonstrate unassuming techniques emphasizing line, color and form, similar to the work of John McLaughlin and Kenneth Noland. Kelly often employed bright colors. He lived and worked in Spencertown, New York.


Pussyhat Project

A global women’s movement, created almost overnight. Millions of women, men and children at over 600 rallies in countries touching virtually every continent. Young and old, rich and poor. Educated and not, religious and secular. Straight and LGBTQ, every race and color. All wearing hand-made, knitted caps on a single day, awash in a sea of pink, arm-in-arm in solidarity for women’s rights and in protest against the rhetoric used toward women and minorities in the previous year’s state and federal elections.

And it all started with two sticks and a ball of yarn.

In late 2016, artist and design architect Jayna Zweiman was rehabbing from a serious injury. Unable to work or engage in strenuous physical activity, Jayna wanted to find a creative healing modality she could do for recuperation. She roped in Krista Suh, a screenwriter, to take a crochet classes at the Little Knittery, a local yarn store near her home in Los Angeles. The two were hooked.

During many lengthy conversations in knitting circles, the two women found common ground in their passion for women’s rights and the inspiration they found in the pro-women’s rights language of the pending Women’s Marches.

Krista was planning to attend the Women’s March in Washington DC that January of 2017, and needed a cap to keep her head warm in the chill winter air. Jayna, due to her injury, would not be able to attend any of the marches, but wanted to find a way to have her voice heard in absentia and somehow physically “be” there. Together, a marcher and a non-marcher, they conceived the idea of creating a sea of pink hats at Women’s Marches everywhere that would make both a bold and powerful visual statement of solidarity, and also allow people who could not participate themselves – whether for medical, financial, or scheduling reasons — a visible way to demonstrate their support for women’s rights.

Little Knittery owner Kat Coyle designed a simple and brilliant pattern that would allow people of all knitting levels to be part of the project. The name Pussyhat™ was chosen in part as a protest against vulgar comments Donald Trump made about the freedom he felt to grab women’s genitals, to de-stigmatize the word “pussy” and transform it into one of empowerment, and to highlight the design of the hat’s ’pussycat ears’. Leveraging social media and the close-knit nature of the global knitting community, word was spread and the fuse was lit.

A Pussyhat now resides in the Rapid Response collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, the permanent collection of Michigan State University’s museum, and other collections as an important piece of feminist history. What started as a simple means of protest, participation and solidarity, has become an iconic global symbol of political activism. 

Guerilla Girls

Guerrilla Girls is an anonymous group of feminist, female artists devoted to fighting sexism and racism within the art world. The group formed in New York City in 1985 with the mission of bringing gender and racial inequality into focus within the greater arts community. The group employs culture jamming in the form of posters, books, billboards, and public appearances to expose discrimination and corruption. To remain anonymous, members don gorilla masks and use pseudonyms that refer to deceased female artists. According to GG1, identities are concealed because issues matter more than individual identities, "[M]ainly, we wanted the focus to be on the issues, not on our personalities or our own work."