Supreme Court Nominee Knits to Manage Stress

Judge Brown Jackson During the Senate Confirmation

Last week, during a rare lighthearted exchange in an otherwise understandably serious and sadly often contentious Supreme Court confirmation hearing for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, Senator Hirono of Hawaii asked the Judge how she tended to the creative side of her life.

Judge Brown Jackson, the first African-American Woman to be nominated to the Supreme Court,  replied that she had taken up knitting several years ago because it kept her mind off the stress of being confirmed for judicial roles.  (See below for the detailed transcription of their conversation).  

The Judge’s mother, Ellery Brown, at the hearings

She also recounted that she’d grown up with a talented mother who modeled creativity through fiber arts.  From the way the Judge describes her mother “trying to teach me but it didn’t turn out,” one suspects that she did not share her mother’s natural artistic proclivities. 

Nevertheless, like many people who do not consider themselves to be formal “Artists”, she intuitively knew that a creative outlet would help manage her stress.  In another charming moment, the Judge invited the Senator over to enjoy her basement full of yarn.  Any crafter who heard that recognized another crafter having amassed a reserve of cherished supplies to make her craft.   

Creativity is not a topic we’ve ever heard in confirmation hearings (and we have listened to quite a few) so it was refreshing to see that it’s critical role was getting some attention.  Not just for stress management as was the case with Judge Brown Jackson but also, as Senator Hirono rightly identified, because we need it to adapt to the rapid changes that we are facing in the world today. 

We would go further to say that creativity plays innumerable roles in governing—problem-solving, planning, etc.—and that it might help build bridges and help form consensus in the divided halls of the Senate and Congress.  So we hope that the Senator’s bow to creativity goes beyond a nod and is a tool that is more actively engaged. 

We imagine that if Judge Brown Jackson is confirmed and  with the weight of the decisions the Supreme Court faces, she will be going through a lot of that yarn in her basement!

Positively yours, Rebecca and Gioia  

Art Directive:
If you don’t have a regular art practice (or even if you do, it might be fun to step outside of your repertoire) go to a craft store or art supply store, look through the craft projects there.  Find a simple project (or complex if it intrigues you and you’re up for the challenge) that appeals to you—could be a kit for decorating Easter Eggs, or model painting for cars, for making origami, or for embroidering wildflowers.  Experiment with that project and see it it’s a good match.  If not, explore others.  See if doing creative activities has an effect on your overall stress level.

Transcript of Senator Hirono and Judge Brown Jackson’s Discussion re: Creativity
Senate Confirmation Hearings for the Supreme Court Justice Nomination, March 23, 2022

Judge Brown Jackson and Senator Hironi

Senator Hirono:  I also talked to you about the importance of the creative part of our lives because I think that lawyers tend to be very left-brain and I know that you are a very well-rounded person so I asked you what do you do to pay attention to the creative side of your life?

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson: Thank you for the question.  I took not too long ago but took up the “fiber arts” as they say.  My mother is an expert crochet artist.  She makes beautiful pieces of all kinds and I always wanted to do that, I always wanted…  She tried to teach me when I was younger and it didn’t quite turn out.  But as I have gone along in my career and wanting to have some sort of creative outlet and especially during times of high stress I started pining for something to do to express my creative side and I bought a book on crochet.  I talked to my mom.  I started making hats and scarves and then I moved to knitting during one of my confirmation um hearing scenarios because I needed something to.. to keep my mind off of keep my mind off the stress so I, I have a basement full of yarn if you would like to come over.

Senator Hirono: I think that’s another way that you’re connecting to the people who really meant, mean a lot to you.  The creative outlet is really important to me because in a changing world I think it is our ability to be creative in our approaches and how we think about things that will enable us to deal with the rapid changes that happen everyday these days.