Bra/Breast Challenge
Co-hosted by Susan Storey and Delores Hamilton

Women's breasts and/or the varied contraptions designed to hold them have long been a source of interest. Augmentations, including exercises and creams to enlarge them, have been endlessly advertised. Surgeries to reconstruct them or to reduce or remove them have been endured. Emotions associated with one's own breasts run the gamut, not to mention the fascination most men seem to have with the female breast.

Women have been offered the tools to train them, push them up, carry them around with or without straps, and lift and separate them (for eighteen hours at a time)! Bras have been embellished, burned, and bemoaned, and finding a really comfortable one still eludes many!

So, a challenge has been born. Say what you will--or should we say, sew what you will--about female breasts and/or the bras that contain them. Everyone is welcome to participate.

Requirements for the challenge:

Theme: Whether offering whimsical interpretations or social commentary, creatively express yourself using bras and/or women's breasts for your inspiration.

Form: Art quilts, art bras, or art dolls constructed using 80% textiles. We encourage you to use all or parts of actual bras, but that is not a requirement.

Size: Art quilts--make one side at least 12 inches. Art bras and art dolls--any size. There is no restriction on the maximum size.

Click on primary images for a larger view.

"Breast-Reduction Angel"
"Tea Cups and D Cups"


Frances Holliday Alford
Austin, Texas, USA

Artist's statement for Breast-Reduction Angel:
While I contemplated my forthcoming breast-reduction surgery, I thought about the kinds of scars that would ensue. I was happy to be doing this but apprehensive as well. I painted this angel as she was revealed to me in my imagination. She is standing at the pearly gates of heaven reminding me that I am perfect regardless of the status of my breasts.

Artist's Statement for Tea Cups and D Cups:
Two very feminine forms emerge together in this piece. I made this quilt prior to breast-reduction surgery when my oversized breasts seemed to get into the way of every day life. I painted the interior portion as a goddess, mermaid, voluptuous woman. I bordered her with bra images and the very feminine images of hot tea, steaming in teacups. The bottom border is hand stitched in a manner reminiscent of the old stitched quilted padded bras we wore in the Sixties.


Carol Bruce
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
"Neil's Bra" 40 A(?)
Artist's statement for"Neil's Bra" 40 A(?) : One memorable belly- dance experience was in putting together a routine and costumes with a small group of dancers and the wardrobe crew (all former dancers) for the Siegfried and Roy reunion a few years ago. We were a hit! And the star of the show: Neil McGee, in a bra and belt I designed and made just for him. (It is modeled here by someone else, who I promised would not be named.)
"My Bra"

Artist's statement: This a bra and belt I made and performed in many times as a belly dancer.

A note on belly dance:
Start with American dance. Is there one specific dance that says America? Square dance? Rock and Roll? Hip Hop? Who can say where the origins of
a dance come from? Is American tap from a combination of Flamenco and something else? Is it fair to denigrate any dance form because of the region of the world it comes from, or because of an undeserved reputation?

Belly dance has evolved as a combination of dances and body language from various cultures and countries around the Middle East. Belly dancers in the USA have embraced it because it is fun. Like any dance form, it is an unwritten language that can encompass any feeling, from grief to joy. Unfortunately, when an idiot capitalized on its sexual aspect at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, that image was so locked into the American mind that it has been almost impossible to correct.

Ironically, as a belly dancer in Las Vegas (who has performed for schools and youth groups as well as at Caesar's Palace), I have been treated with suspicion and skepticism while billboards for X-rated men's clubs flaunting barely clad women are on the main streets.

And, sadly, in some parts of the world where the dance originated, a woman belly dancing in public can even today be put to death.

To me, belly dance is fun, a celebration of spirit, and a symbol of freedom. I have been out of performing several years because life intruded, but I can turn the music on now and still feel the joy!

Colleen Maria Casey
Marietta, Georgia, USA
"Mirror, Mirror"
17-3/4" x 19"
detail 1 / detail 2

Artist's statement: In the past five years my breasts changed in both form and function. Becoming a mother changed my body concept and improved my personal sense of self. Every part of me received a new function and my breasts play a stand-alone role as providers of food and comfort to both of my children.

To wax elegant about the beauty of breast-feeding is not the inspiration for my quilt; if anything, my quilt reflects a more humorous aspect of breast-feeding, the amazing letdown: Mommy as a fountain of food. As my universal mother waters (milks) the flowers (her children), she personifies my amazement with the abilities of the female body to create and to sustain life.

Even as I write this statement I am smiling because another aspect of this quilt is the use of mirrors in the face of the flowers, and those mirrors reflect back everything they see in their world. "Mirror, Mirror" is an illustration of pride in my body’s natural abilities and fear of what my children sometimes reflect back to me: ME.

"The Fifty-Boob Salute!"
Office installation
"Artist": Leslie Walker,

Tomme Fent
Sioux City, Iowa, USA

Submitter's statement: I turned 50 years old on March 9, 2004. When I arrived at work, my friend and coworker Leslie Walker had strung my office (in the United States Courthouse, no less) with a colorful "installation" of 25 bras, plus balloons and black streamers. A large sign proclaimed that I had qualified for a "50 Boob Salute"!

Although I had joked about getting a "boob job," this wasn't exactly what I had in mind. Needless to say, the whole thing was really a hoot (or should I say "hooter"?). Ah, the puns are flying -- but what do I care? I'm 50!


Wendy Foster
Ottawa, Canada

Artist's statement: The exploitation of our assets!

Construction techniques: I added coins to the heavily beaded bra along with feathers and stars for trim. To give it a chained, prison effect, I also added silver metallic fabric.
"Money Shakers"
34C bra (with matching thong)


Delores Hamilton
Cary, North Carolina, USA

"Perky Tits"
36C long-line bra
Artist's statement: My first bra at age 8 or 9 was a B cup. By the time I was 12, I was wearing a DD, and the boys in my class...well, you can imagine their comments. By college, guys inevitably talked to my chest, commenting often on what a great body I had. Huge breasts cantilevered from a tall, thin body didn't exactly strike me as "a great body."

Fast forward now to my mid-50s, when I started gaining weight, unfortunately all over. My breasts, now pendulous, started plummeting. Harness-like bras--wide shoulder straps notwithstanding--cut into my shoulders, and the weight of my breasts caused enormous pain in my upper-back, shoulder, and neck. Although I lost weight in my early 60s, my breasts didn't change, much to my horror.

Desperate to eliminate the pain, I consulted with a plastic surgeon. He assured me I qualified for breast-reduction and my insurance company agreed. Hope, at last! My request? Perky tits. When I went in for my surgery, I used a black marker to write "Perky" on my left breast and "Tits" on my right breast--which I then echoed with beads on this bra.

This surgery created a new me. I can stand erect now (although I had to learn how again) and most of my pain is gone--a true metamorphosis. To reflect these changes, I added a butterfly to my bra. Its body is in the shape of a nude woman with her hip thrust out. After all, it just seemed like someone with perky tits would have a sassy stance, too!
Construction techniques: The words and butterfly are beaded, with every bead sewn down individually. Compulsive, I know, but if I have the nerve, I will actually wear this bra, probably with an over-blouse. So I wanted to make sure the beads would withstand multiple wearings and hand washings.

Delores Hamilton
Cary, North Carolina, USA

"Fanny, the crone"
18" x 27"

Artist's statement: Fanny commemorates four significant events in my life: My croning ceremony at the age of 60 three years ago; my alter ego, complete with fat body and humongous breasts; my decisions last year to go on a low-carb diet (now, a size 10) and to have breast-reduction surgery (now, 36C); and my first-ever art doll, the result of Gretchen's round-robin challenge on QuiltArt some time ago.

Construction techniques: I made Fanny's head and body--note the pig fabric used for the torso--and members of the round-robin challenge added the blond hair, appropriately done up in rollers and tied with a scarf, the glasses, the rose tattoo, and the bunny slippers. They also offered a variety of clothes, including a see-through lacy thong and a wonderful robe in red satin, which I stripped off of Fanny for the photos for the Bra/Breast challenge.

Fanny's list of 10 things to do before the Final Curtain
1. Produce, direct, and star in "A Geriatric Chorus Line."
2. Write the Great American Novel: A Really Old Affair I Think I Remember.
3. Conquer my obvious case of anorexia by taste-testing every chocolate in the known universe.
4. Convince Richard Gere, Jimmy Smits, Sean Connery, Denzel Washington, Pierce Bronson, Edward Norton, and/or Robert Downey, Jr. that all they need is this good, ol' broad to make their lives complete.
5. Win the North Carolina lottery. (It currently doesn't even exist!)
6. Go on a round-the-world cruise, first-class, all expenses paid. Hunk included.
7. Space-walk and space-dance the tango with the astronaut of my choice.
8. Make the Triple Crown of quilting with my "Knock 'Em Dead" art quilt: Quilt National, Visions, and the International Quilt Festival.
9. Sing "I Am Woman" with Helen Reddy at the Met.
10. Keep my wits about me until my last moment.

Susie Kline
Roselle, Illinois, USA

Artist's statement: Stamping the circular images on this whole-cloth quilt was a way to get irregular circles. Every circle is different, as every breast is different. No circle is perfect. There are blotches of paint on the non-circular parts, just as our feelings about our own breasts dribble on to other parts of our lives.

The quilt is odd-shaped because I decided to serge the edges. It worked like a charm! And the quilt took on an odder and odder shape...and I kept looking at the "leg" on the bottom right thinking, "it's heading south," just as I hear women refer to their bodies. So it seems apropos to use the odd shape to my advantage.

Construction techniques: I stamped the circular with a bowl from my kitchen using Createx paints. I love Createx paints and am very happy to find a way to incorporate them into my fiber work! The free-motion quilting was done with a variegated thread.


"Boobs, Bazooms, Tits & Tatas"
23 inches wide x 29 inches high
detail 1 / detail 2 / detail 3

"Boobie Traps"
40" x 44"

Susan Lewis-Storey
Austin, Texas, USA

Artist's statement: This piece whimsically addresses the love/hate relationship many women have with their bras as well as with the ideals of a society that objectifies women and the female form.
The top of this quilt reads:
"If I must mold something, let it be my character. If I must shape something, let it be the attitudes of an enlightened society. Let me not conform for the sake of fashion, so that I might fashion myself an instrument of activism....that women be recognized rather than objectified. If I am to be bound, let it be to my convictions, that I am more than perky
tits, tiny waist and rounded ass. Let me learn to embrace the relaxed and
rounding nature of my wisdom years, with all the enjoyment that I celebrated
the taut and perky nature of my youth. For this is the legacy I leave my
sisters and my daughters, the lessons I leave my brothers and my sons."

To each of the Maidenform ads I have injected the models thoughts which are in direct opposition to the statements in the ad campaign they are posing to promote. For example, the first ad states, "I dreamed I was a knockout in my Maidenform bra." The model’s thoughts are, " Knock out?! I'd like to knock out the jerk who designed this ridiculous contraption!"


Susan Lewis-Storey
Austin, Texas, USA

"Saint Aggie"
9" x 9"
Artist's statement: After seeing the show "CLEAVAGE," I was so shocked by the tale of this 12-year-old girl who was later named a
saint that I had to create an art piece around her story. It commemorates the life of St. Agatha, who was born in Catania, Sicily, at the foot of Mount Etna.

Agatha decided to remain a virgin and dedicate her life to Christ. The Prefect of Sicily, Quintian, hearing of her great beauty, tried to seduce her. Faced with her rejection, he sent her into a brothel, but even there she miraculously preserved her virgin state. She was then subjected to a singularly cruel torture. She was attached head down to a column, and her breasts were twisted or torn off with a pair of pincers. The next day, St Peter visited her in her dungeon and healed her wounds. She was then brought before a court and hauled over hot coals until she died, crying out her thanks to God.

Protector of Sicily, St. Agatha is invoked against the eruption of Mt. Etna and other volcanoes, as well as against lightning, fires and earthquakes. Her cult quickly gained the mainland and is strong in central and northern Italy (Cremona, for example) and as far as eastern France, Germany and Spain, where she protects against fire.

She is also the patron saint of nursemaids, and of bell-founders (the latter apparently because of the resemblance in shape between bells and breasts). St. Agatha is normally represented as a noble young girl carrying her severed breasts on a platter, as depicted in the painting by Zurbarán.

This small rendition will probably become the prototype for a larger work on this subject.

Construction techniques: The imagery on this tiny art quilt was rendered digitally, printed on cloth, hand-painted and machine-quilted.
"Pastel Nude"
38" x 36"

Susan Lewis-Storey
Austin, Texas, USA

Artist's statement: For this whole-cloth quilt (with added border), I wanted to exalt the female form as in the classic nudes of fine art.

Construction techniques: I painted it using Chromacoal Powder and Setacolor fabric paint. I found the Chromacoal Powder to be an exciting addition to my "toolbox" and very easy to use. It was very much like painting with pastels, and it offered the look of pastel paintings as well. I added Setacolor to my palette only because Chromacoal does not offer white among its colors.

Susan North
Troy, Michigan, USA

Artist's statement: My quilt honors the joie de vivre, the celebration of being female, and the sense of humor of women who decorate their breasts as they do their earlobes, and then some. All the women (and one man) who posed for these photos did so with informed consent and are over the age of 21. Many thanks to all my wonderful friends.

Construction techniques: Commercial and hand-marbled fabrics and photos (all taken by the artist) printed on fabric; machine-pieced and appliqued, machine-quilted.
40" wide x 33" high

"Buttons & Beads"
detail 1 / detail 2

Edna J. Petty
East St. Louis, Illinois, USA

"Buttons & Beads" is an actual bra embellished with many buttons arranged in sizes and colors. It is also embellished with red, yellow, light and dark blue, light green and black beads.To me it is symbolic of the many colorful women that wear bras and the many sizes that we represent. Buttons are also symbolic of support, openings and closesure, which in and of itself is how we as women are for each other. We are there with our friends for the good times, we support each other in choices that we make in like. We are there when we are altered in surgery, etc. The bra is shown on a dress form draped in black fabric.

Cynthia Paugh St. Charles
Billings, Montana, USA

Artist's statement: This piece was inspired by a challenge to create something related to breasts or bras. By manipulating plain black fabric, then using bleach to discharge (remove) the black color, shadowy images were created. My research on mammograms indicates that such images are always made from the side--never the front. Nevertheless, everyone who has seen it has remarked how much it resembles X-rays of women's breasts!

"Mammograms from A to E"
32" x 68 "


"I Did My Breast"
14" x 42"


Julie Schlueter
Orange, California, USA


Artist's statement: This quilt started with putting my breast on a copier and reproducing it in living color. I transferred the image onto cloth and machine-appliqued it down. Black netting went over the drawn and stitched female image and is held down with acrylic medium and stitching. This is my first attempt at a nude self-portrait in cloth or any other media. I made it very generic because that's as precise as I can draw at this point and I'm a bit demure. No close-up shot of the breast, only the face.

Susan Schrott,
Mount Kisco, New York, USA

Artist's statement: This piece was inspired by an original photograph taken by Victor Friedman, photographer. My aim was to create an image of the naked breast that was luscious, textured and completely revealed. The intricate thread painting around the girl's breast creates both intimacy and vulnerability in this very serene setting.

Construction techniques: Hand painted with Procion dyes. The pears are appliqued and hand-painted. The entire piece is heavily thread-painted and machine-quilted with metallic, rayon, and variegated threads.

"Girl with Blue Mandolin" 23.5" x 30"

detail 1 / detail 2 / detail 3

"Wabi Sabi" 34B
detail 1 / detail 2

Sue Scott
Castro Valley, California, USA

Artist's statement: I chose "Wabi Sabi" as the name for my art bra with a mixed sense of the superficial attention breasts receive in this country and the Japanese meaning of beauty as a experiential/sensory experience. My intent was to recognize and appreciate the changes that occur during the phases of a woman's life--the times when she is nurturing others and then the opportunity to nurture herself and develop her own personal creativity, therefore the words inside: Nurture Creativity.

Construction techniques: This bra is entirely handmade with Timtex, manipulated commercial cotton fabric, shot dupioni silk, hand-dyed wool yarn, rayon thread, hand-painted cotton scrim, cotton tape, and wool and acrylic felt stitched, painted with oil sticks, distressed, and embossed.

Meena Schaldenbrand
Plymouth, Michigan, USA

Artist's statement: The curves of the word "Bra" are formed by actual metal underwires and other parts of the bra .

Bras imply sex appeal..thus the lip fabric.

Beads imply nipples.

Thorns imply discomfort.

The "R" is formed by the bra strap. Scissors represent the bra cutting into the flesh.

Red devilish horns represent the padding of the bra.

The black-and-white jail fabric for the border represents being trapped.

Breaking out of the bra underwires definitely implies Freedom to me!

"Imprisoned Under Wire"
21 in. wide x 18 in. high
detail 1 / detail 2

Michelle Verbeek
Dover, Pennsylvania, USA

"A Tit of a Different Color"
40" x 40"


Artist's statement: For centuries women have been of the mindset that in order to be beautiful or desirable, they must transform their bodies. Often times this process of achieving perfection was painful and damaging to their physical and mental health. Corsets often left a woman weak and infirm by lacerating organs and weakening muscles, thus creating the very weakness men believed them to have. To this day we have been conditioned to believe that we are somehow less than perfect in our original form. That if we could only change this or that, these things would be all we need to be a complete woman. It seems to be inherent in our society that there is always something about our bodies that we could change in order to fulfill the complete female image.
The female body is used in all form of media as a lure to sell something. Because of such images we set an unspoken standard of what we all deem to be the perfect woman and all too often have a poor body image as a result. Instead of ignoring the media-perfect images, which every woman could never achieve, we turn to the modern snake-oil salesman to heal our imperfections with a cream, pill or surgery.
Breasts are a part of the female body that many people seem to think are in need of improvement. We seem to be obsessed with making them bigger, rounder, fuller, perkier; it is the first thing people notice. We are upset to see a woman nursing in public, something so natural, and exactly what our breasts are for. A public outcry of impropriety spurs an investigation if we view them on prime-time TV for a split second.

I think we are all beautiful the way we are. We should celebrate ourselves as women and take a moment to realize that there are a great many more things that make up being female than just making sure the physical part fits in some perfect mold.

Construction techniques: Hand-dyed and commercial cottons. Hand-appliqued and both hand- and machine-quilted.

"Women's Foundation for Peace"
72" x 70"

Sabrina Zarco
Little Rock, Arkansas, USA

Artist's statement: Grandmother says bras are women’s foundation garments. Here I joined them together to form a Peace symbol. Women are risking their lives and many have lost their lives to violence in war. On the battlefield, as civilians, and at home, remember them, honor them, and love them.
This work contains signatures and comments from individuals who believe in the concept of peace: at home, among diverse community members, and with others around the world. Signatures are from individuals from across the United States. Artists, poets, activists, students and people of all ages from my 4-year old grandson, Domenic, to Eve, an 89-year-young nudist.

Materials/Construction techniques: Women’s foundation garments, commercial fabrics, machine-applique and -quilting, hand-quilted, painted, embellished with painted buttons, paint, glitter, and signatures and comments in support of peace.

2004 Quiltart Web Design
Thursday, 04-Jan-2007 14:49:42 EST