Well, that’s not a very catchy title, is it?  This is a new body of work, I’ll share them here in reverse order of being made.  I’ll work on the title.

Light-reactive Dyed Doilies with Quotes on Them by Elaine Luther

“I began to wonder: How much talent has gone uncelebrated because we feel entitled to women’s work?” from an illustrated essay by Sólveig Eva Magnúsdóttir. Vintage doily, dyed with light reactive dye by Elaine Luther, 2022.

This quote is from this amazing illustrated essay:  It’s time to appreciate domestic artistry like sewing and baking  Perspective by Sólveig Eva Magnúsdóttir.

Washington Post, August 28, 2022.  Read it if you can, it’s a lovely piece.

Doily with a quote on it by Elaine Luther.

“The idea that serious artists choose art over children is a misogynistic lie meant to exclude women and make them irrelevant.” – Anonymous. From a Report by Artists U. Vintage doily printed with light reactive dye by Elaine Luther, 2022.

Who said it? An artist and presumably, mother, who was interviewed by Andrew Simonet for the report Artists Raising Kids.

It’s a free report, get your copy here:


Doily printed by Elaine Luther in blue and white says, "Shadow work is work that you do that someone else used to get paid for."

Doily printed by Elaine Luther in blue and white says, “Shadow work is work that you do that someone else used to get paid for.”

You may have seen this one before on Instagram or here on the blog. This one was in the show at the Backspace Gallery at Northern Illinois University. But you could be forgiven if you missed it, as that show had dozens of art in the shape of circles, and this was a relatively small one.

I printed this same text on a fringed napkin for my solo show in May, but since then improved my method for making these prints, and now the text is much bolder and easier to read.

"An American Woman has Fewer Rights than a Corpse," doily by Elaine Luther.

“An American Woman has Fewer Rights than a Corpse,” doily by Elaine Luther, printed with light reactive dye, 2022.

This one is about rights and bodily autonomy. This one was also in the show at the Backspace Gallery, pinned with T-pins to the large 40″ quilt fragment. Here’s what that looked like:

The Rights Wall by Elaine Luther at NIU's Backspace Gallery

The “Rights” wall by Elaine Luther at NIU’s Backspace Gallery, October – November 2022.

These doily prints are an on-going series. And while I’m big on declaring one’s intentions publicly, this time, I’m going to go with the flow, see how this goes, and not declare a number of days or a number of works. I have a stack of doilies and a stack of quotes. If I run out of doilies, I have a stack of hankies and an eBay account.

I wouldn’t normally do a blog post on a series that only has 4 pieces in it. But I’ve been sharing these on Instagram, where the green one got a lot of love. Not everyone is on Instagram though, and I consider the blog the place of record to share about my work, so here it is.

I plan to print more doilies at least once a week. I print these indoors, with a UV light box and Jacquard Solar Fast light reactive dye. This is the same process I used for the May solo show at the Compassion Factory, where I had all the vintage handkerchiefs, printed with vintage doilies. Recently, I won a gift card to Blick Art Supplies! and picked out some brand new colors of Solar Fast. I look forward to trying those.

Why doilies?

I’ve written about this before on the blog, but in case you’ve just landed on this post, I use doilies as a stand in for women’s labor. Like much of the labor that women do, they tend to be un-noticed and under-appreciated.

Women do 75% of the world’s unpaid care work. I do some of that unpaid care work. Women’s labor is an on-going theme in my art.  And care work generally, done by anyone.  And paid care work that’s underpaid, such as nursing, early childhood education, and the care work done by teachers of all grades.

Despite the care and time that went into making these embroidered works, sometimes with crocheted edges, they’re out of style and people just don’t want them, even when they know who made them and it’s a family member.  This works out for me, as I have an affordable source of “canvas” that’s the perfect symbol to carry my message.

Here are some of the backs of these pieces, so you can see the embroidery a bit more. Once I overdye them, you mostly can’t see the embroidery (especially in photos), except for in the way that it disrupts and changes the text. I like the way that it disrupts and changes the text. All stains and tears are left as is. Though the blue “entitled to women’s labor,” has a rather large tear that might get larger as it hangs on a gallery wall, so I may have to repair that one. How to repair it, and whether to make it visible or not, is another decision.

Above: the backs (and one front) of doilies printed with light reactive dye, to show the embroidery.

Such skill!  That’s it for now! Stay tuned for more! And if you have a quote you love that’s about women’s labor or women’s rights, (or non-binary folks labor and rights), please feel free to leave a comment! I’m open to suggestions!


Okay, I’m back to update this post with new work!

Shadow Work Doilies by Elaine Luther

Actual Receipt that Says your Cashier today was self

An actual receipt from the grocery store that says, “Your Cashier Today was Self.”

This receipt is the inspiration piece for this series of “Shadow Work Doilies.” I was at a friend’s house and this receipt was on the kitchen counter. The text caught my eye, “YOUR CASHIER TODAY WAS SELF.” I’m sure I’ve had literally hundreds of my own receipts that say this, but I never noticed.

Well, that’s going on a doily. Here it is:

Your Cashier today was self doily by Elaine Luther

“Your Cashier Today was Self” doily, printed by Elaine Luther with light reactive dye.

I wondered, what else could I print, using this format? What other shadow work jobs?

Next up, I did gas station attendant.

Your Gas Station Attendant Today was Self Doily by Elaine Luther

“Your Gas Station Attendant Today was Self “Doily by Elaine Luther, printed with light reactive dye.

Here’s what I wrote about pumping gas on Instagram, to go with this image.

Today’s shadow work on a doily is all about pumping gas, and does not apply in New Jersey, where you’re not allowed to pump your own gas!

Depending on your age, and where you live, you may not remember the full service gas option, with the little “ding ding” as you drove over the hose that made the bell sound that called the gas station attendant out to your car.

It’s also entirely possible that you didn’t know full service gas stations ever were a thing, unless you’ve seen it in a movie.

What is shadow work? It’s when you fill out all those forms for the doctor’s office online, before your appointment.

It’s when you do self-checkout, pump your own gas, weigh your own suitcase at the airport. All of these are jobs that somebody else used to get paid to do.
Shadow work is also the title of a book by Craig Lambert. Subtitle is “the unpaid, unseen jobs that fill your days.”

I’m not saying bring back full service gas stations, but I do want to raise our awareness on Shadow Work. And for us to think about who suffers the most when services are reduced and more work is put upon all of us.

Next up!

Magenta doily says "Your Administrative Assistant today was Sel,” printed  by Elaine Luther.  The doily has elaborate crocheted edgework that extends beyond the doily itself by about two inches.

“Your Administrative Assistant today was Self” doily by Elaine Luther, printed with light reactive dye.

Here’s what I wrote about this one on Instagram:

Today’s shadow work on a doily – when you do data entry tasks on your own time, instead of someone else being paid to do that.

Filling out the forms at the doctor’s office on paper, when I’m there anyway, is faster. Dealing with each office’s particular software and dealing with its limits and annoyances, takes longer, and it’s on my time, in my house, when I’d rather be doing something else.

Where else do we do administrative and data entry tasks that used to be handled differently?

I’m not only grumping about all these businesses eating away at my free time. There’s another loss – human interaction and relationship building. When there’s no receptionist and I check in on a computer – that’s a loss. When there’s no staff, or less staff, to be friendly, supportive, caring – that’s a loss.

Okay, not all staff is friendly, but still. We’re human, we generally like humans. And humans, and jobs are fewer in our daily interactions, and that’s a less friendly world, where everyone is overworked and more frazzled.
Yesterday, I did self-check out and made a mistake. I thought I’d heard the “BEEP!” but I missed scanning an item. The lone employee had to politely let me know that I’d missed it. As I wasn’t trying to shoplift, this was a bit awkward and unpleasant.

Instead of a friendly chat with a cashier experience, I left feeling badly that perhaps they thought I’d intentionally not scanned the item. Apparently I’m a bad cashier! And I don’t want to work at your store! I want to chat with your employee.



Your Bagger Today was Self by Elaine Luther

“Your Bagger Today was Self” printed on paper bag by Elaine Luther.

Here’s the companion piece to “Cashier,” made from an actual paper bag from the grocery store! I wasn’t sure if it would hold up to the washing-out process, but it did!

Three Jobs Doilies by Elaine Luther

Three jobs – Your Housekeeper, Stock Broker, Furniture Assembler…Self” by Elaine Luther.

No shade to IKEA in this one, we love our IKEA shelves and wardrobes. We are own Task Rabbits though, we assemble our own. I’m sure folks have more sympathy for the cashier, bagger and housekeeper, but I added stock broker anyway, as it’s a field that’s been transformed by computers and the internet and automation. That’s a field that’s changed drastically.

And now! Merry Christmas. I’m updating this post on Christmas morning. I printed this hankie yesterday, so that I could post it everywhere this morning.

"Your Creator of Christmas Magic Today was Mom," vintage commercially printed handkerchief printed with light reactive dye by Elaine Luther.  Poinsettias are all around the edge of the handkerchief.  In the center, a green oval has been painted on and the text is in white.

“Your Creator of Christmas Magic Today was Mom,” hankie printed with light reactive dye by Elaine Luther.

Here’s what I wrote on Instagram:

This one goes out to all the tired moms on Christmas morning. I hope you put something nice in your stocking.

Do you remember that twitter post – a guy posted “If you experienced Christmas magic as a kid, someone worked very hard to create that.”

And I think he said that someone was probably your mom. Wish I could find it to credit the author, I may have a screenshot somewhere…

This is another hankie from @KraftyKash ! When I saw this Christmas hankie, I knew I had to use it in the “Your ______ today was self” series, but for what didn’t come to me until a few days ago.

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