Meredith Corporation purchased Time Inc. for $2.8 billion, what does that mean for the media company based in Des Moines? Kelsey Kremer/The Register
Five years ago, a chance trip to Books-A-Million changed Jennifer Drinkwater’s life.
On the newsstand that day, her eyes first caught the cover of that week’s Time. Between the magazine’s signature red border, a photo illustration portrayed a military drone hovering over suburban houses. Next to it, the same week’s People posed a smiling Kelly Clarkson, who showed off an engagement ring above the blazing yellow headline “I found love at last!”
She saw two of the country’s most popular magazines telling the story of two different Americas.
So, she did what any tenured academic and professional artist would do. She bought one of each, went home … and started to cross-stitch.
“Sometimes things hit you, ya know?” said Drinkwater, an assistant professor in Iowa State University’s art and visual culture department. “That drones image was so powerful … especially next to Kelly Clarkson.”
Drinkwater took to the craft she learned from her grandmothers as a pre-teen in the Mississippi Delta to re-create the covers, deciding to stitch 12 — six from each publication in 2013. Each takes about 168 hours to complete, or roughly the same amount of time an issue sits on newsstands.
The cross-stitched covers have traveled to exhibits in Seattle and Denver, and now curious minds in Des Moines can see nine of the finished products on display at Cafe Baratta's, inside the State Historical Museum. Coined “168 Hours,” the exhibit runs through April.
For Drinkwater, Time and People — both purchased by Des Moines-based Meredith Corp. in a blockbuster $2.8 billion acquisition of Time Inc. last December — offer juxtaposed narratives.
Take her favorite pair, for example: An issue of Time published Aug. 12, 2013, depicting a couple cherishing the “childfree life” and an issue of People, published the same day, celebrating Kate Middleton’s first days home with then newly-born Prince George.
“They give you a snapshot,” she said. “Imagery is so important and powerful.”
People are drawn to the exhibit, said Iowa Arts Council artist programs manager Veronica O’Hern, because of its non-traditional use of cross-stitching, a craft typically reserved for weaving patterns on fabric inside an embroidery hoop.
“There are a lot of different layers to it,” O’Hern said. “People seem interested and able to connect with it.”
Set aside the big picture, artistic meaning of the project and cross-stitching, to Drinkwater, is a therapeutic pastime. She spins podcasts while she works; NPR's “Fresh Air” is a favorite.
“It turns my brain off,” said Drinkwater, an Iowa Arts Council artist fellow. “I think you have to have the personality to do it. … I love it.”
The project has expanded from 12 to 24 covers, one from each publication in every month of 2013. She’s finished 11 so far and the ultimate goal, she said, would be for the series to find a permanent home. But first, she needs to finish stitching.
“It’ll probably be 2023 when it actually gets done. The 10-year anniversary,” Drinkwater said with a laugh. “Maybe I can use that as marketing.”