Artist’s Statement: Ashley Dunn

Ashley Dunn:Communication Sciences & Disorders ‘18

During the spring of my freshman year, I finally reached the peak that was my mountain of depression. Being hospitalized after a night filled with suicidal thoughts and muffled phone calls made me understand that I needed to make a change in the way I approached my overwhelming sadness. Instead of taking my frustrations out on myself, I picked up a needle and thread and got to work.

The first hoop I embroidered was 6 inches of wood with floral fabric and the words fuck you in bold cursive. I was angry with the world, angry with myself, but knew that anger belonged embedded with thread rather than etched into my own skin. I wanted my art to make a statement, and found something satisfying in pairing traditionally feminine fabrics with harsh words and empowering phrases.

In a way, my interest in embroidering became an empowering medium in itself. Embroidery wasn’t something I had ever considered an art form growing up. My grandmother knitted, sewed, crocheted, and did every kind of cloth craft you could think of, but that’s what they were considered. A craft. No one ever labeled my grandmother an artist, just an old woman with a hobby. Society conditions us to see paintings and sculptures as art, but works like embroidering, quilting, and knitting a “crafts.” When I started my own embroidered pieces, I knew I wanted to reclaim this art form for what it was.

I’d love to say everything I make has a purpose and meaning behind it, but frankly, that would be bullshit. While I do love displaying feminist slogans and curse words, I love making random pieces like the smirking emoji or some iconic phrase uttered by a friend in bed just as much. Ask me to embroider you a Kanye tweet or a picture of a cigarette carton and I’ll do it. I like to create art that makes me laugh, that can be a tangible joke between friends, and that’s just plain weird and unexpected. It’s not always about what’s on the fabric but the process of reaching that final product that I love.

My love for making embroidered hoops and shirts truly stems from the relief and safety it gives me, something I struggled to find beforehand. There’s something incredibly satisfying about stabbing a fabric with a needle over and over again. And when I’m finished airing out my emotions, I end up with a pretty cool thing to hang up on the wall and remind me that I’m stronger than I think.

A&E, In The MagazineAshley Dunn