Feminist Felt is a collaboration by Melissa Potter with women in the Republic of Georgia, Miriam Schaer, the Women’s Fund in Georgia. It grew out of a Soros Arts and Culture grant program, Felted Lives: Crafting Women’s Stories. The works embrace feminist activism for women’s basic rights to safety as well as advocacy for women craft artisans, whose skills are endangered, underpaid and under recognized.
A collaboration with artist activist groups and women craft unions in the Republic of Georgia engaged the ancient Georgian craft of felt making to explore contemporary artists books, as well as protest banners and masks, which have been used in Georgian feminist and LGBTQIA marches and protests. These craft practices are in urgent need of intangible heritage preservation. Simultaneously, women's empowerment movements have taken Georgia into its second wave of feminism, and they oppose the oppressive gender regulations of an Orthodox society, at times to their personal endangerment.
Equal Pay for Equal Work, designed with Ida Bakhturidze, Miriam Schaer, Nana Magradze, and Clifton Meador
Equal Pay for Equal Work, designed by Melissa Potter in handmade felt
Melissa Potter and Ida Bakhturidze in a Georgian village credit union.
No Violence, designed by Ida Bakhturidze and an Alvani workshop participant in handmade felt.
Ida Bakhturidze and Melissa Potter in front of the Alvani school.
My Body, My Choice, designed by Ida Bakhturidze and Melissa Potter
Listen to Women! Designed by Independent Group of Feminists members in Tbilisi, Georgia
Women's Rights are Human Rights, designed by Ida Bakhturizde
Tbilisi's first International Women's Day march with banners
From the collection of ethnographer, Robert Chenciner
Women in Alvani share their Tusheti traditional design
Ida Bakhturidze, Melissa Potter and Miriam Schaer at the Georgian border of Daghestan.
Jersey Devil felt mask, designed by Melissa Potter
Ida Bakhturidze wearing bunny mustache mask designed by Melissa Potter
Women's Fund in Georgia founder, Nana Pantsulaia and her feminist mask.
Felted masked activism at protests against virginity testing in Tbilisi.
Boy Brides & Bachelors
Boy Brides & Bachelors is an animated video by Melissa Potter shot on a cold January night in Southeastern Serbia during a ritual called Surovari in which men dress as women (large breasted peasants, grandmothers, and brides), and engage in pretend sexual acts with village bachelors. Little is known about the meaning of this pagan ritual, but its contemporary gender role-play implications are profound. I use stop motion animations to engage my questions about the underlying meanings of the ritual, and make a connection between my inability to translate much of what was going on with the strange language of gender itself.
Boy Brides & Bachelors
As part of the exhibition, Construction at Columbia College Chicago's A + D Gallery, Melissa Potter created an interactive project using the BEM Sex Role Inventory to engage audiences on the topic of gender roles, play, and stereotypes. The Gender Assignment blog explored the findings from a personal, artistic, and collaborative interview process. The findings from more than 100 tests during this exhibition are here.