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There's something magical about a women's sewing circle. Age-old, the sewing circle as been a space for women to share knowledge, stories, encouragement and create items that provide warmth for families and friends for centuries. My mother began developing The Moses Project at a women's correctional facility about 2 years ago. With The Moses Project, prisoners volunteer their time to learn to knit, cross-stitch, quilt and sew to have their creations donated to low-income mothers and fathers who can't afford bibs, blankets, toys and bedding for their newborns. When my mother asked me to photograph The Moses Project I jumped (in squirmy discomfort) at the opportunity. 

I jumped because I was given the opportunity to be a fly on the wall in a place where many people never set foot. The discomfort kicked in when I realized the responsibility I had as a photographer to not make these women feel objectified or dehumanized in anyway. It's easy to place "prisoners" in a "the others" category. But I made my intentions clear to myself: to shoot to learn and to shoot with a bit of playfulness, because sadly there is not a lot of joy in a women's prison. 

I learned though that there was a decent amount of joy brought to the prison by this project. Women excitedly talked about patterns, gossiped, helped each other trouble shoot, and created artful things for people in need. 

After speaking with some of the girls, their intentions with this project became more clear as well. Some want to learn a new skill. Some need to feed themselves creatively. Some have children at home and gained a sense of motherly nostalgia and fulfillment in the work. Some just want to socialize and get away from the day to day. The same intentions, I suppose, as with any woman who joins a sewing circle on the outside. That celestial feminine mythical sewing circle power penetrates even the thickest walls and barbed wire. And I have to give props to my mama for understanding the importance of it all and making it happen at this women's prison in the middle of nowhere Texas. 

ashley randallComment