Raising Awareness About COVID’s Impact on Working Women One Crochet Stitch At a Time

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Many of us sought refuge in handicrafts during quarantine, whether as a makeshift form of therapy or simply because we suddenly had so much time on our hands. Designer Olivia Johnson crocheted her way through 2020, but she did so as part of a powerful project reflecting on COVID-19 called Women, Work, & Covid-19.

As a Senior Designer at Instrument in Portland, OR, Olivia crafts socially thoughtful work through design and data. She previously co-created Ball Magazine with funding from the Baltimore City Health Department to address the HIV crisis in Baltimore and led on True Colors, a collection of flags she designed with each layer reflecting information about the flag’s corresponding state.

Pre-COVID at the start of 2020, Olivia created Women’s Work, a digital compilation of 12 cross-stitched artworks representing data about the inequity women face in the workplace. Then COVID took hold, and Olivia decided to create a continuation of Women's Work that would serve as a commentary on the state of working women during the pandemic.

Women, Work, & Covid-19 is a poignant, multimedia depiction of how COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted women, particularly women of color. Olivia made crocheted panels in tan, dark green, marigold yellow, and grey-blue hues to visually represent staggering statistics that underscore the setbacks working women endured due to COVID, which have some referring to the ensuing recession as a “shecession.” The crocheted pieces have been digitized and compiled online within an interactive website that users can click through from slide to slide, with each reflecting a different statistic sourced from either the Pew Research Center, McKinsey & Company, or CNN.

“My use of textile art is meant to add meaning to the data,” says Olivia on the project’s site, “symbolizing ‘women’s work’ in both the content and the medium.” Olivia’s use of crochet adds greater depth and richer meaning to what would otherwise exist as numbers on a page.