“Irrational”: In Our Own Words Quilt

On International Women’s Day of this year, Kim Soper of Leland Ave. Studios kicked off a project called the “In Our Own Words” quilt: “We are workers, caretakers, survivors and creators who deserve to have our voices heard and our merits celebrated. We are strong, powerful, beautiful, talented, kickass… the list is endless.”

The word “irrational” has been used as a way to describe women in modern sexism. She’s emotional, she’s hormonal, she’s irrational, she’s crazy. For centuries, we’ve prioritize rationality over all else. We see rationality as a superior way to live. These have led to many amazing scientific discoveries and many other benefits to the world. But what have we lost by holding so firmly to reason?

I am an intuitive person. I come to ideas holistically. I can often feel that something is right, whether it’s quilt related,an outfit combo, or even a moral choice. With my quilt block, I want to re-appropriate the word “irrational”. I have really come to embrace the way I think. I’m wired to see a big vision and then figure out how that vision fits all the smaller parameters of the problem at hand after. It’s not totally irrational, but it’s not rational either.

I love hand lettering, so I welcomed the chance to figure out how to stitch my word. I’m not the most experienced at embroidery, so I drew out the 3.5″ x 6.5″ block on a larger piece of Kona white and used an embroidery hoop to help keep my fabric taut. Using a back stitch for the thinner parts of the letters and a chain stitch for the broader part of the “brush stroke.”

Back of the block

I had a professor in my first year of undergrad affirm that intuition was a legitimate way to come to a design solution. This felt completely foreign to me — someone telling me that it was okay to have a conclusion based on a vision rather than a well-laid argument that was synthesized. She went on to say that “post-rationalization” was ok. Why was this post-rationalization step necessary, after she told me that my design work was legit the way it was? I’ve come to understand it better in the many years that have passed since that conversation.

When I’m communicating or teaching, these are times when an emotion or intuition needs to be explained. If I’m trying to have someone else understand what I’m doing or how I’m feeling, I need to be able to explain it to them. If I’m trying to appeal to their rational understanding rather than their emotional empathy, I need to show them what I mean.

For example, I have a way of putting colours together,I’m told. Like many others, I just do it without thinking. But if I’m teaching students how to put colours together, I have to rationalize it so they can understand it. I can’t give them my intuition; I can only give them tools and a process to think through what they’re doing. In giving them that understanding and equipping them with tools, they can eventually do it on their own.

My block says this: I like being irrational. It makes me me. It makes humans human. We’re not robots or algorithms. We are human.

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