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An Illuminated Feminist Seed Bank

In a Nutshell

An Illuminated Feminist Seed Bank is a new publication that will tell the story of Seeds InService, a unique Chicago garden project where plant fibers are cultivated for art works, research projects, and public interventions. For the past five years, we’ve been collaborating on this work that combines feminist and ecological concerns with the art of hand papermaking. “Radical craft” is a term we use to describe our art practice because it stems from a rich tradition of feminist craft particular to Chicago. With this campaign we have an exciting opportunity to document our efforts through a book that will serve as both a scholarly and poetic reflection on hand craft and social practice in uncertain cultural landscapes. The book will blend critical writings, research, illustrations, paintings, hand papermaking, and photography. Our plan is to have a self-published prototype of the book available to commemorate an exhibition and garden installation at Compound Yellow in Oak Park this July as a project of the Self Reliance School. Funds from this campaign will help cover subsequent printings of the book, as well as recoup costs of editing, writing fees, and design. By donating to this project, you are supporting a unique artistic project that combines seeds, plants, and papermaking in resistance to industrial agriculture and global patriarchy. The book offers inspiration as well as an informational guide for you to start your own seed revolution. It also promotes Chicago’s history in craft activism—a feminist tale that weaves back to the Jane Addams Hull House.

The Full Story.

We believe that crafts heal: they can restore us from the hardships of overwork and systematized labor; help us consider the unrealistic productivity expectations set forth by our capitalist society; break the myth that value is determined by number, size, and speed; and create a different relationship to time and means of production for a material—paper—which is industrially ubiquitous, yet environmentally devastating.

In our gardens, papermaking plants are tended and curated each year around ecological and feminist themes including women’s reproductive health and natural healing, indigenous rights and decolonization, environmental racism and climate change, and conflict zones and imperial warfare. Thematic garden beds range from Bosnian herbal magic with kombucha plants in collaboration with ethnographers, to agricultural waste for papermaking in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin plant pathology department. They animate the political discussion on plants, seeds and food sourcing, and create conversations around the complexities of the GMO debates and agricultural and social exploitation of plant production. Fibers grown from these plants become raw material for art works, collaborations, research, and workshops that explore concepts of social equality and environmental justice.

Our craft of hand papermaking stems from a rich tradition of feminist craft history particular to Chicago, including the settlement house and Arts and Crafts movements, post-WW2 GI Bill that expanded craft in higher education, Marilyn Sward (founder of the paper program at The Center for Book and Paper at Columbia College), and WomanCraft a micro-industry that offered creative employment to women recovering from homelessness. Both Seeds InService (SIS), and this forthcoming book project, carry on these legacies and build on them by examining contemporary issues through multidisciplinary projects and collaborations.

With funds raised from this campaign, we will create a book that preserves, studies, and illuminates this work. The book will feature essays by leading social practice Chicago culture workers, Tricia Van Eck and Claire Pentecost. It will draw on institutional collaborations with local and global organizations, including UIC Heritage Garden, Illinois Institute of Technology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Art Papers Magazine, Altgeld Sawyer Corner Farm, Experimental Farm Network, Jane Addams Hull House Museum, Schools for Chiapas, National Network of Abortion Funds, , Comfort Station, Read/Write Library, and Northeastern Illinois University’s conference, “Art in Response to Violence.”

We are so grateful to you for your support in making this project possible, it has been a labor of love, and we are passionate about spreading the word on the seed revolution.

Thank yous

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An Illuminated Feminist Seed Bank In a Nutshell An Illuminated Feminist Seed Bank is a new publication that will tell the story of Seeds InService , a unique Chicago garden project where

Melissa Hilliard Potter

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Melissa Hilliard Potter

An Illuminated Feminist Seed Bank is a new publication that tells the story of Seeds InService, a unique Chicago garden project by Maggie Puckett and Melissa H. Potter where plant fibers are cultivated for art works, research projects, and public interventions.

For the past five years, Seeds InService has combined feminist and ecological concerns with the art of hand papermaking. This book serves as both a scholarly and poetic reflection on hand craft and social practice in uncertain cultural landscapes and blends critical writings, research, project documentation and original artworks. It offers inspiration as well as an informational guide for you to start your own seed revolution. It also promotes Chicago’s history in craft activism—a feminist tale that weaves back to the Jane Addams Hull-House and the Columbia College Chicago Center for Book & Paper.

Artworks, writing, and curation by Melissa H. Potter. Melissa Potter’s artwork in gender, feminism, the Balkans and hand papermaking.