Olivia Johnson uses cross stitch to highlight discrimination women face at work


The Portland-based designer chose the cross stitch medium because it is “something that tends to be labeled as ‘kitsch’ and as a feminine hobby” and so “emphasizes that women’s work is systematically rejected and underestimated “.

Olivia chose hard facts about working women, especially women of color. One of those delicious articles reads: “The number of days women have to work to earn as much as white men.” Others show how having children “has a negative impact on wages and income” and how “women are much less likely to be promoted than men, especially black and Latino women”. It’s depressing, but that’s the point; it packs a punch.

“As a female designer in the agency world, I wanted to create work that highlights the fact that we still have a long way to go when it comes to gender equality in the workplace,” Olivia told Creative Boom. “And the recent protests around police brutality and racism have been a stark reminder that there is even more disparity among BIPOC women, as the data shows.

“Cross stitch was a hobby that I chose during my forties, and I felt using the medium to visualize data added an extra layer of meaning. Cross stitch and other shapes art that is traditionally considered “woman’s work” is not usually taken seriously in the art world and I thought the medium’s reputation only underscored what the data revealed. “

Of course, data is not new to Olivia, as it often forms the basis of her graphic and digital design work which aims to have a positive social impact on society. She has been featured in leading magazines such as Print and Brand New, and has exhibited at Greater Good: Social Design Invitational, AIGA Boston’s New Voices Unique Visions, and the Shenzhen International Design Festival. Olivia is currently a designer at Instrument.


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