Stitching Together

A Pedagogical Model

I designed the course "Decolonial E-Textiles" trying to "stitch" together ways of thinking that reveal means to shape knowledge outside of hierarchies and binaries, that encourage relationality, and that integrate "soft electronics" in the making. Through these practices, I also wanted to generate dialogues with certain pieces in the museum's textile collection. The challenge was vast but inspiring at the same time. 

The students visited to see works not on view in the museum’s costume & textiles study center, where curator Kate Irvin and I co-facilitated discussions around works ranging from a 9th-century Incan tunic fragment to a 19th-century Kuba pile cloth fragment to 20th-century Gee’s Bend quilts, highlighting historical aspects and their cultural traditions as well as technical and aesthetic dimensions. They were then encouraged to select a piece from the collection and, by combining textile techniques (embroidery, quilting, and sewing in general) with simple, low-tech analog electronic mechanisms (LED lights, motors, DIY speakers, etc.), generate a formal, aesthetic, political, and/or poetic conversation with it. 

How to bring together such diverse dimensions so that they crystallize in practices that create vital and meaningful dialogues? How to emphasize the process in terms of dialogue and understand that if a final piece emerges, it is only one of the many signs of that dialogue? Feeling-thinkinga crucial concept in decolonial thinkingwas the key by which doing and being were mutually molding each other, together with emotion and affectivity, guiding actions and practices, bonds and reflections.

Going beyond the formal patterns of design to speculate about who is behind the creation, capturing isolated pieces of pre-Columbian textiles to poetically reunite them, bringing back quilting culture to think about new relationalities, and disrupting the institutional perspective around the collection were some of the gestures that the students articulated. The thinking and the emotional and experiential were thus intermingled to generate a praxis that suggests other epistemologies as opposed to hegemonic viewpoints.

Mariela Yeregui, Ph.D., is Associate Professor in the Digital + Media department and the Schiller Family Associate Professorship in Race in Art and Design at RISD.


Student Projects


The Back Side Story by Karlie Zhao 

RISD student Karlie Zhao harnesses the aesthetics and political power of Chilean arpilleras to create an embroidered zine that documents the documents suffering and resilience under the Chinese government's zero-Covid policy.


Untitled (I don’t think this textile has anything to say to us quite yet but when it does, it’s all mic’d up) by Colin Orihuela

Brown student Colin Orihuela proposes that we listen to the silence of textiles and think about what we’ve done.


Inheritance // Legacy by Emma Powers

RISD student Emma Powers shares a headpiece and video representing familial connection and community.


Tablecloth of Identities by Carmen Belmonte Sandoval and Isabela Chan

RISD students Carmen Belmonte Sandoval and Isabela Chan bring people together from across the world through a collaboratively-designed tablecloth, knitted with specially-dyed yarn that activates audio stories when touched. 


The Cycle of Healing by Parvati Vijaykumar

RISD student Parvati Vijaykumar reflects on the experience of grief and creates a quilt made from fragments of her mother’s clothes.