Iviva Olenick

Stitchcraft: Threading Reproductive and Climate Justice, Resilience and Change.

Stitchcraft envisions matriarchal futures through “women’s crafts” of oral narratives, textiles, herbalism, earth- and plant-based care.

On October 22nd, 2023 Iviva Olenick led several collaborating artists in a Stitchcraft Ecofeminist Fashion Walk, a visual arts performance celebrating textile handcraft and herbalism traditions; local, native plants and human-plant interrelationships at Old Stone House (OSH) & Washington Park, Brooklyn.

Participants wore handmade costumes and textiles, slowly strolling the interior and exterior of Washington Park, pausing to share plant (hi)stories and details about our handmade wearable art.



Stitchcraft envisions a future where women and people with wombs, plants and the natural world are honored rather than politically weaponized. By reviving and centering “women’s” traditional textile handcrafts, oral narratives and plant-based knowledge, we can create self and community advocacy and care.

Stitchcraft includes bi-monthly, virtual embroidery circles, where we gather to share and receive feedback on craft projects; learn new embroidery techniques; and discuss an open-ended range of ideas, which subsequently feed our craft projects. Stitchcraft also includes a study of women’s herbalism through consultation with culturally diverse herbalists, reading and research, including Ashkenazi Herbalism by Deatra Cohen and Adam Siegel, The Art & Practice of Spiritual Herbalism by Karen M. Rose, and numerous scientific and historic articles

In spring 2023, Stitchcraft launched a reproductive health garden at Old Stone House (OSH) & Washington Park, Brooklyn in consultation with herbalist Danielle Moore and Director of Gardens Sam Lewis. The garden includes Paeonia lactiflora (Chinese peony), Vitex agnus-castus (chaste tree), Cimicifuga racemosa (black cohosh), and Verbena hastata (blue vervain), all with histories of aiding hormonal cycles to restore balance and alleviate menstrual discomfort. These herbs have histories and current uses of helping womb-bearers at all stages of life, including peri-menopause and menopause. 

Reproductive Health Garden at OSH & Washington Park, sponsored in part by the Greater New York Arts Development Fund of the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, administered by Brooklyn Arts Council (BAC) through the Charlene Victor & Ella J. Weiss Cultural Entrepreneur Fund and Brooklyn Arts Fund.


My Stitchcraft artworks  below are life-sized embroideries of women’s bodies, replacing reproductive organs with plants historically used to induce menstruation. Some artworks include female archetypes from pre-history along with mythologized plants, suggesting that humans’ sense of mystery and attempts to master the natural world often mirror attitudes towards female bodies.

My artworks often start with a base layer of natural dyes and/or plant imprints. I use a jewelry mallet to pound leaves and flowers onto fabrics. Plants include ones I responsibly forage—purple leaf sand cherry tree leaves, acorns, rose petals—and ones I cultivate, marigolds, indigo leaves, woad seeds. I then layer seed beads, embroidery stitches—French knots, chain stitch, satin stitch, backstitch—crochet and weaving onto plant prints. The resulting wall-hung textiles undulate and reverberate, creating movement rather than lying flat like conventional drawings or paintings.


Myths of Plants and Women from (Pre)History. 2023. Embroidery on fabric with plant prints and dyes (rose petals, avocado pits, indigo, purple leaf sandcherry tree leaves); handgrown and spun cotton thread; linen thread dyed with avocado, indigo, goldenrod, sumac, woad seeds, purple leaf sandcherry tree leaves, onion skins, rust and commercially dyed threads.

Detail of Aphrodite in Myths of Plants and Women from (Pre)History. 2023.
Detail of Asherah, Caananite g-dess, from Myths of Plants and Women from (Pre)History.
2023. Embroidery with naturally dyed yarns and fabrics.

Detail of Asherah. ancient fertility symbol, guarding my reproductive health in Myths of Plants and Women from (Pre)History.
2023. Embroidery with naturally dyed threads on plant-printed silk fabric.

Wild Carrot. 2022. Embroidery on fabric with threads dyed with indigo, woad, avocado skins and rust plus commercially dyed yarns.

Home Brew Healthcare. 2022. Embroidery and beading on fabric dyed and printed with marigolds and indigo leaves.

Mourning the Legal Death of Choice. 2022. Embroidery on fabric.

Women Birth Whole Communities (so keep your laws off our uteruses). 2022.
Embroidery on fabric. 7.5 x 7.25 inches. B&W pattern inspired by Polish folk art.