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Final Project IS2: Visual Culture

Topic: Depression, anxiety, and suicide in American LGB* teens

Link to the project proposal 

Pinterest inspiration board

*Throughout this post I use LGB, not LGBT+ because my project focuses on sexuality. This is not to exclude trans people, but to avoid using queer in regards to people who are uncomfortable with the word. Trans people that are LGB are still a part of my project.

April 9th, 2018

The first draft of the interview questions.

April 12th, 2018

The finalized and typed interview questions:

Name and Age
Gender and Pronouns
When did you first suspect you weren’t straight?
When did you first come out to someone? How did it feel?
Have you come out to your family and friends? Do you want to?
Were you ever bullied for your sexuality?
Did you ever wish you were straight? Do you now?
How would you describe your sexuality to a straight person?

What mental health problems/illnesses do you struggle with?
When did this first become a serious issue in your life?
Do your family and friend know about your mental health problems? Why or why not?
Do you ever wish you were neurotypical?
Were you ever bullied for your mental illness?
How would you describe your mental health problems to a neurotypical person?

Do you think there’s a connection between your queer identity and mental health issues?
What would you tell other queer teens who are struggling with their mental health?

April 13th, 2018

After I completed the first interview, I typed a couple of things he said over a picture of my prototype to see how it would look. Other than that I left the prototype untouched because I felt my time would be better spent moving forward with my actual project.

If I do decide to move forward with this project in the future I’ll likely reinterview the people so that I can have video interviews, just to add another layer to the project. With the busy schedules of myself and the three other people I’m interviewing, it’s not feasible that I would be able to conduct video interviews at this point. The interviews are the base of the project and I need to complete them quickly to start the quilt.

April 14th, 2018

Seminar topic: Heteronormativity in our society raises the rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide among American LGB teens. This is shown using psychology journal articles, academic book chapters, and online newspaper articles. All of the LGB people mentioned throughout the paper are statistics from articles. The paper is meant to show that the problem exists and give a possible reason why.

Studio topic: Depression, anxiety, and suicide in American LGB teens.  Shown through interviewing myself and three of my friends who are all LGB and mentally ill. My project uses first-hand experience and the interviews to represent what it’s like to be LGB and mentally ill. Like the research paper, the quilt also shows that the problem exists, but on a much smaller, more personal scale. The quilt gives the problem a more human feel.

Since my Studio project is meant to humanize the idea of mental illness, specifically in LGB teens, I think that I could add another layer to the project to emphasize that feeling of warmth in spite of struggle. The two ideas I came up with our homemade cookies and/or a photo album, both things that could easily go along with the quilt and add warmth and humanity to something that is often seen as cold and uncomfortable.

Example of type of album  (a very traditional and simple album)
Possible cookie recipe (snickerdoodles feel like a metaphorically warm cookie)

April 16th, 2018

What to complete for next week:

  • Transcribe the interviews that I have audio recordings of and review/reformat the interviews with my other two friends
  • See if there is a way other than email or google drive to transfer the recordings from my phone to my laptop
  • Finalize a rough design for the quilt including color scheme
  • Buy most of the fabric and possibly the filler and backing
  • Edit the pictures for the possible photo album so that the faces of the background people aren’t visible (I don’t want anyone in my project without consent). Hiding the faces would also draw attention to the subject
  • Start to cut the squares for the quilt
  • If time allows, start to work on some of the squares

April 18th and 19th 2018

I went to the fabric and picked up a variety of cotton fabric: 2 yards of black, 2 yards of gray, 1 yard of blue, 1 yard of purple, and 1 yard of pink. I also picked up 1 yard of a red fleece-like fabric because it seemed interesting. I want to incorporate other colors into my collage (especially some yellow), but I wasn’t sure what shades or how much I would need so I went to the scrap fabric shelf in the University Center and grabbed some stuff they had there.

April 21st, 2018

I decided that instead of finalizing the design and cutting all the squares at once, I’m going to work on the quilt square by square.
For the square that I completed, I decided to embroider a sentence from one of the interviews. I wanted the sentence to be bolded so I went over each letter multiple times. It ended up taking me part of Friday, part of Saturday, and a large portion of my Sunday.

I also worked on editing the pictures, but I wasn’t sure how I wanted them to look so I tried a few different things. First I tried simply putting white circles over the faces of the ‘background people’ (aka. the people I didn’t interview). Next, I put white circles over the faces of the ‘background’ straight people and a pink circle over the ‘background’ queer person (in some of the other pictures I could expand this to putting gray circles over the ‘background people’ that I know are struggling with mental illness). In the third picture, I covered the whole body of the ‘background people’ with white.

April 23rd, 2018

In-class I started a second square of the quilt and received feedback from Trudy and Bianca.

Based on the feedback that I received from Trudy and Bianca, they think I should edit the photos using the white and pink circles over the faces of the ‘background people’ (I have to see how the gray circles look before I decide whether or not I’m going to incorporate them). The problem I’ve run into is whether or not the pink circles take away from the main people in the photograph. I also want to know if I should include a key with the album that says what the different color circles mean.

Throughout the week I also looked into different cookie recipes. I wanted to find a nut-free vegan recipe because part of the point of my project is that we need to be more inclusive
The three cookies recipes I’m currently considering are:
Banana Oat Cookies
Vegan Sugar Cookies
Vegan Snickerdoodles 

What to complete for next week:

  • Buy the ingredients for and try out at least two cookies recipes
  • Finish transcribing the interviews
  • Go back to the free shelf at the UC and see if there is any new fabric
  • Edit and print at least 5 of the photos

April 25th, 2018

I continued to work on the embroidered eye square of the quilt that I started the other day. I also bought the ingredients for the cookies and tried out the three recipes. The banana oat and vegan sugar cookies worked out, the sugar cookies could stand to be a little sweeter, but I misread the vegan snickerdoodle recipe and added too much sugar so that was a bust.

In regards to the pictures that I plan to use for the album, Bryan mentioned how Nazi camps used triangles to mark different people and how my project “is in a way stealing back those Nazi symbols by focusing our attention on other aspects in such a loving way”. He also suggested that I edit more of the pictures and bring them to class on Monday to help decide which way of editing them works best.

April 28th, 2018

I spent a couple of hours editing pictures until I felt that I should stop staring at my computer screen. There are 128 images total including the variations of various pictures and 92 pictures if you don’t count the variations. These are all the pictures I’ve edited so far.

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April 30th, 2018

So far this week I bought the ingredients for and tested out the three cookie recipes, I edited over 100 pictures, transcribed/reorganized two of the interviews, visited the sewing shop I got my machine from (because I was having trouble threading the bobbin), and finished 2.5 more squares of the quilt.

The Interviews 

I combined some of the pictures and printed them out so that I could bring them to the class critique.

During class, I received feedback from Bryan on the photos. He suggested that I include the gray and pink circles in the album. After listening to his feedback and seeing him trying to wrap his mind around the complexities of the multicolor circles I definitely agree with him. I like that it takes a bit of thinking to comprehend the album because then people will really have to think about what they are looking at rather than just taking it at aesthetic value.
Another thing that Bryan pointed out is how using only white circles risks coming off as white-washing.

To do for next week:

  • Retry the vegan snickerdoodle cookie recipe as well as a non-vegan sugar cookie recipe
  • Finish editing the pictures and print them out
  • Finish 4 to 5 more quilt squares
  • Finalize the size of the quilt
  • Experiment with albums

May 1st, 2018

Currently, I’m working on compiling the images onto pages so that I can print them on the procolor printer and cut them out. I considered printing them on photo paper but since they are going to be in an album, behind a thin plastic sheet, I don’t feel it’s necessary or worth the price hike.

May 6th + 7th, 2018

I finished 4 more squares of the quilt, bringing the total up to 7 decorated quilt squares. I’ve decided that the quilt is going to be 5′ by 4′ so  I need 20 squares total and since (around) 10 of those will be blank, I only need 3ish more decorated squares.

I printed out most of the photos and started experimenting with putting them in an album. I also printed the part of the interviews on yellow paper to compare that to the white printed paper. I wanted to also print them on some felt paper that I know I have, but I can’t seem to find it so that hasn’t happened. If  I don’t find the felt paper I just won’t try printing on it because I don’t think it will actually end out being that much better than printer paper (for my project), I had just wanted to try it because I already have the paper.

I bought three different albums into class to get feedback on which of the 3 works best for my project. After feedback from Dida and we agreed that the small navy green album works best with my project. Since the green album is the smallest of the three,  I won’t be able to include the interviews directly in the album (which I was considering if I used the black album). Since I don’t have room to include cut-outs of the interview, Hayley suggested that I write some quotes from the interview over the pictures. I liked the direction that Hayley was heading in, including the words that I was going to include in the larger album just in the smaller album, but I didn’t want to make the pictures too busy so I asked Brian and he suggested that I just take some of the pictures out so that the words and pictures both fit into the smaller album.
I feel like every time I’ve gotten feedback from my classmates (mainly Trudy) and Brian my project has transformed a bit and overall it’s become a more thought-provoking, put together piece through other peoples feedback and assistance.

To do before Sunday:

  • Visit the free stuff shelf so see if there is anything interesting for the last three panels
  • Try the cookie recipes out again
  • Finish the last three squares of the quilt
  • Buy the cotton batting
  • Assemble the quilt
  • Layout, print and cut the rest of the pictures/sections of the interview for the album
  • Figure out the order in which the pictures in the album should be in
  • Figure out how I’m going to set up the cookies, album, and quilt for Sunday
  • Tape/fix the back  of the green album (it is the one that works best but the back cover is slightly broken)

Time estimate: at least 16 hours (but most of my other classes are practically over so I’ll have the time)

Currently completed quilt squares:

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May 13th 2018

Reflection Post used for presentation

“Exhibition” postcard and album:

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Reflection on what I’ve learned/challenges

One of the main things that I’ve learned from this experience is that embroidery, quilt making, and organizing photo albums all take longer than I thought they would and in the future I need to give myself more time when working on projects. I also learned that even when I think I’ll be fine during a presentation, I should write down what I want to say because stage fright always come up, even when I know my project and my explanation well.
The main challenges that I faced were time management, baking mistakes, fighting with my sewing machine, and general anxiety around presentations. Time management and anxiety around presenting have been consistent problems of mine and this project just helped to show how much these problems affect how I work and how I feel about my art when I’m finished. Getting to know my sewing machine better helped with the difficulties that I’ve been having with it and trying out a few recipes helped me see which I liked best and gave me a chance to bake since I hadn’t had much time to bake recently. I was also a little frustrated at how few of the pictures I edited I actually got to use in the album, but this semester I’ve learned that just cause you’ve spent time on something doesn’t mean it should be apart of your final project. Sometimes you have to remove aspects you like for the project to work better.
Though this project I learned basic quilting techniques and the experience prompted me to want to learn more technical quilt-making skills. I also got to make snickerdoodles for the first time and experiment with some vegan cookies recipes (which will be great to use with my vegan aunt). The most successful aspects for me were how much I liked the design of the circles blocking peoples face in pictures (something that I’m excited to play around with in paintings) and how much I liked making a quilt. My mom even suggested that I learn to make pride quilts which was fantastic because I love the idea and it’s the first time that she has acknowledged my queerness since I came out.

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