Four Angelenas co-created the Pussyhat Project, a collective knitting project that became a symbol of a movement. Jayna Zweiman tells DnA about what its success means for knitting, what’s next for the Pussyhat movement, and the inspiration she drew from architecture school.
One day after the inauguration of President Trump, millions gathered to protest the new occupant of the White House. Thousands of protesters, at Women’s Marches around the world, made and wore a woolly pink hat shaped to appear as if it had kittycat ears. This vivid, deceptively simple design subverted little-girl pink, reappropriated “pussy,” and became the symbol of the movement.
Called the Pussyhat Project, it was created in L.A., by four women: Jayna Zweiman, an architect; Krista Suh, a screenwriter; Kat Coyle, owner of The Little Knittery in Atwater Village, and Aurora Lady, an illustrator.
DnA spoke with Echo Park-based Jayna Zweiman about the thinking behind the project and lessons applied from architecture school.
Listen to the interview here or read it below.
DnA: The Pussyhat Project turned out to be a mammoth success. Were you surprised by the sea of pussyhats this past Saturday?
JZ: It was amazing. When we designed the project we were aiming for a sea of pink. And it was incredible to see so many thousands of people make these hats for each other as a form of solidarity and support. It was overwhelming and thrilling and just beyond fantastic.
DnA: Your training is in architecture (at Harvard Graduate School of Design). Did you learn anything in school that prepared you for this project?
JZ: In many ways it really did. I took a studio with David Adjaye who, by the way, was the architect of the Smithsonian African-American Museum on the Mall. And he had us go out into Boston and look at what was happening in a certain neighborhood of our choice and to really research and listen, and from there come up with a program of what would be an appropriate type of building or program or project for that specific area.
And I think with Pussyhat Project you are really looking at the fact that people want to participate. I think architecture school really helped think about the larger issues and how to make steps towards trying to make spaces more welcoming and open to other people.
DnA: You were the co-creator. What was the team’s design thinking behind the pussy hat?
JZ: It was a team of people. My friend Krista [Suh], who is also the co-creator and co-founder of the project, is a screenwriter and she was going to D.C. for the Women’s March and she was thinking that she would need a hat because from L.A. to D.C. — that is a weather change! So from there we worked with our knitting instructor Kat Coyle, owner of The Little Knittery in Atwater Village and we talked with her about creating something that was both distinctive and incredibly easy to make.
So Kat was the one who designed the hat. And when we asked her what it was called she paused and said ‘pussy power hat’. And that’s where that design comes from.
We also roped in Aurora Lady who is the illustrator and she did all the artwork for our project which I think really gave a wonderful image and clarity for what we were going for.
DnA: Clarity, even as it was multilayered in meaning — referring to Trump’s offensive statement, as well as the pussy cat, and pink. In addition to it becoming a remarkable political statement, do you think it has also elevated attention to knitwear?
JZ: I think so. So many people have picked up knitting needles for the first time ever. Other people learned as children, or it’s been decades [since they knitted], and the idea of the handmade and knitting circles as a place for a gathering and discussing ideas, I think it’s something that’s been part of our culture and it’s really wonderful to expand that community to more people.
DnA: On your website you state there’s more to come. What more will come?
JZ: Well, we think people should keep wearing their hats as a symbol of solidarity and support. And we’re discussing specific next steps. But in the meantime keep wearing your hat, keep making hats for other people and go back to your knitting circles and talk about next steps. We’re just getting a glimpse of what’s happening in this new administration and I think that there are going to be a lot of opportunities to be wearing these hats again. So I would say, hold on to your hats. We’ll be back very shortly.