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Sept. 7, 2022

“Instead of thinking, ‘we should,’ I just said, ‘I will'” (w/ Shannon Downey of Badass Cross Stitch)

You’re skilled in the arts and you want to use those skills to make change, so what do you do? 

For Shannon Downey, a.k.a. Badass Cross Stitch, the answer was simple: Build a community of craft lovers and doers, and connect them with activists, issue-based craft challenges, fundraising opportunities, bystander training and advocacy workshops, and, of course, each other. Shannon tells us how she took her love of embroidery and lifelong passion for political action and combined the two.


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To the best of our knowledge, all audio used by What Can I Do is in the public domain or is used with permission. Our theme song is Good Deeds by Serj Anto, and we hold a license for use of the song through PremiumBeat.

Original artwork is by Matthew Weflen and used with express permission. 

Shannon DowneyProfile Photo

Shannon Downey

The short story is that I am an artist, activist, craftivist, community builder, and general instigator. I blend my politics, activism, and art into projects that are designed to inspire others to take action, think, discuss, engage with democracy and their community, and find some digital/analog balance.

I create art to inspire other people to create art.

I am queer, anti-racist, feminist, anti-capitalist, highly political, and committed to growth, learning, honesty, and doing whatever I can to make this an equitable world. My art generally tackles what I call “the big three” systems of oppression: white supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalism. I am nomadic, living in my R.V. and traveling the U.S. You can read all about that here.

I’ve lived a million lives so far and all of them have brought me to right now - doing EXACTLY what I’m supposed to be doing in this world. I live for community, equity, art, and adventure.

My work is meant to disrupt. I disrupt via the medium, the application of the medium, the projects that I build, and by living and making outside of the rules.

I also LOVE embroidery.

It is an amazing tool for:

creating digital/analog balance in your life

providing the opportunity to express yourself

slowing down

creating space to think substantively about real issues

using your hands much in the same way you use your devices, thereby bypassing the tactile need that our digital addictions demand

stabbing shit over and over

Plus, it’s easy to learn, fun to do in community, the material cost is minimal, and most importantly…

It is joyful to use a medium that has historically been used as a tool of subjugation as a tool of subversion.

The most important thing you should know about me is that coming up with and executing on big ideas is my jam. I am ready at a moment’s notice to get to work if I am inspired by the potential of an idea.