Confidence in Crochet

My mom taught me how to crochet when I was younger, maybe around 11. The first project I ever made was an afghan blanket with a chevron pattern. It was a cream color with maroon and navy stripes and it took me ages to complete. I struggled to get it just right- dropping stitches here and there, not sure exactly how or why that happened when I swore I was counting every 12 stitches. It wasn’t until 2015 that I started creating a garment business from crochet- selling scarves and headbands. In 2016 I went as far to really start branding myself more as a small business- expanding my product line, creating a specific style and texture within each scarf/garment, using a specific brand of yarn throughout each piece. It wasn’t until as recently as 2017 that I actually started considering crochet as a medium to also create fine art objects.

I entered graduate school in the Fall of 2016 yearning to combine craft and photography. Not sure exactly how I might do that, I stumbled through my first year of graduate school until finally Molly Burke, the Assistant Graduate Director, looked at me and said in so many words, “why aren’t you crocheting?” At that point in time I didn’t have an answer. Crochet for me had always been a hobby and a side hustle that made me some extra cash throughout the holidays and winter. What would it look like to create fine art objects via crochet? What would it look like for me to be a craft/fiber artist? Could I combine crochet and photography in some way?

Since last Spring, I have began to more heavily investigate these questions. My love for crochet has only grown and I have come to really appreciate the beauty of a stitch, as well as the object that is created when all of those single stitches come together for a greater whole. Although I am still adjusting in being a more full time craft/crochet based artist, I’m growing more confident each day as I continue to work in this medium. Crochet has a strong sentimental value to me and what more appropriate for the work and content I am currently trying to navigate which so closely surrounds my family dynamic

Using a craft taught to me by my mother, I am using crochet to create objects that investigate the relationship I have with my father: creating conversation about his career as a firefighter, the pride in his work, and something he loves most by using what I find pride in, love most, and have chosen as my career. I labor over these objects in a similar way to which he labored intensively as a fire fighter. A very different kind of labor/work and yet still the diligence and excellence of my work is what drives me in paying homage to the very same diligence and excellence that he required of himself.

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More WIP …

I came to graduate school with a project proposal stating I wanted to incorporate craft and photography. I think I’ve finally found the craft … not quite sure where the photo is though.

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Over and Out … but not quite yet

Finally the last week of the semester has come!  And Lord knows I can’t wait for Friday to get here, but not for the reasons one might initially think.  Was the semester a little hectic and crazy?  Well… I had two internships, my GA with the photo department, I TA’ed a night class twice a week, played rugby until the end of October, and also worked at  brewery tap room when I found the off chance, so you tell me!  Jokes, jokes … each of those opportunities has taught me an immense amount about myself as a person and have provided great learning opportunities.  I loved every second of it for the most part and although yes I am looking forward to a break from it all, the biggest reason I am looking forward to the semester’s end is so I can REALLY dedicate myself to my work for thesis.

As usual, I am a bit behind the 8 ball, but maybe the best part about that is being self-aware and knowing that now I need to just put my head down and work.  Naturally I have always been a procrastinator and unfortunately Grad school has been no exception to that.  I found myself in a similar place last Spring semester – questioning whether I still even knew how to make art or not, just trying to make whatever I could to get myself propelled forward into something that felt right.  With an entire semester come and gone, I finally feel like I am on track to get somewhere.  Better late than never is what they say right?  This time though time is ticking and my thesis show is slowly but surely on its way.

With that in mind I have a productive and exciting “break” planned.  On Monday of next week I will begin my 72 hour project.  In attempts to see what it feels like to work for 72 hours in one week, replicating my dad’s work schedule, I will be in my studio crocheting for 72 hours.  I’ve purchased material and am excited to get it started.  It will be daunting, trying, most likely even boring at times, but something interesting will come out of it I’m sure.  I also went and spoke to the Battalion Chief of the Columbus Fire Department today about receiving donated fire hose from the Columbus Fire Department.  During my progress review a few weeks back there was mention about how content of a work can be found within the material and choosing which material to use within my work has definitely been something I have been mulling over for some time.  What is something that is referential to fire fighting and could be used within my work?  My first initial thought was turn out gear- but staring at my dad’s jacket I can’t seem to take much away from it and altering it in any form would feel disrespectful and detract from the pride I see in that coat.  The second material I’ve thought of is the aforementioned fire hose.  I put out a call to my family and friends in the fire industry about acquiring donated hose but my dad was quick to recognize that shipping fire hose to Columbus from Eastern PA and New Jersey would be quite the feet.  After speaking to the Battalion Chief today it is looking like I may be able to get the material I need.  Working with woven hose will be interesting and I am excited to see what can be done with it.  It will be heavy, no doubt, and put up a fight in my attempts to crochet, weave, or manipulate it, but I am up for the challenge.

After weeks of thinking about crocheting for 72 hours and also figuring out how to get fire hose donated, I have taken the jump and am going to begin.  (In the interim I have been spending time reading and researching – making sure not to neglect the behind the scenes of the making.)  I’m not sure what holds me back from getting fully started, maybe fear, uncertainty, or anxiety, but all I do know is that I no longer have time to let any of those things side track me.  Time is ticking and I need to get to work so here goes.  What have I got to lose?

 

 

1000 Feet

I’ve begun testing out some materials to see  which will provide the most “bang for my buck” if you will.  Not necessarily in relation to literally cost but in how the material begins and then translates into a crocheted object.  For example, last week I purchased 3 yards of fabric (1 yd = 3 ft … so 9 ft in length).  The fabric itself is around 1 yard in width as well, you’d think that is a pretty good amount of material and should translate into a decently large crochet piece.  After spending a couple hours cutting the fabric into 1-1.5 inch strips and sort of slip knotting them together to create a yarn like structure and crocheting it together, I discovered the exact opposite.  The piece essentially came out to be approximately 24 inches in width and maybe 6-8 inches in height/length.  I recall having similar sizing breakdowns last spring.  A 6ft by 10ft silk image, once crocheted, became approximately 33x 22 inches.  The shrinkage of material just really isn’t worth all the work and effort that goes into it.

Remembering that I had a 1000 ft. spool of rope, I decided to see how that would translate as well as to see what the crochet stitches would begin to look like and how it could function as an object specifically with the weight and body of this material.  It took me just about 2 hours to crochet this piece and although there is still quite a bit of shrinking happening within the substrate (it’s not a 1000ft or even close to 1000 ft finished piece) there seems to be more room for development with this material.  Some things I found interesting about the rope as a material are it’s heavy weight once crocheted into a larger object, the looseness and free flowing nature of it even as a crocheted object, its potential for manipulation through wire and layering, as well as its potential for different texture and size via the diameter of the rope.  Below are some images of the rope piece and ways I have begun to think about it’s potential for manipulation and created context through layering via hanging methods.

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Fast Forward

My final crit was last Wednesday, which also happened to be my 26th birthday.  All in all it was a beneficial and fruitful critique and a decent day.  The work I presented involved the display of the patch images I posted previously (see The Importance of a Patch), and I briefly discussed with my classmates the conceptual thoughts and questions I am considering as a maker.

The remaining work I presented consisted of pieces created through collaging imagery on a fabric surface that was reminiscent of my dad’s fire gear.  Using super sauce I transferred older family photographs along with some of the letters my dad has written me onto the fabric.  In efforts to create a sense of absence I also replicated the patch shapes in black fabric and placed them on the quilted collages.  All of the items were attached using appliqué techniques seeing as these were more test pieces than anything, which allowed me to remove and move things around easily.  I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the work presented.  The black patches felt like a representation of death or mourning more than absence.  I think often a large sense of black can do that.  In addition, some of the materials added to the piece just started to make it feel like there was too much going on.  (photos to come soon)

Some of the key points that really stuck with me in regards to the critique were related to 1. Making sure I am making work that I love and enjoy- despite the content, what do I want to do and what do I love to do?  2.  How can the passage of time be represented in the work, either through material or representational within the content?  (Time related to my dad being away working — time spent with and without my family).

Thinking about these things I came to two conclusions; crocheting, which I did last semester, is what I love to do and perhaps should be the direction that I should go in and secondly, perhaps time can be represented in the amount of time I dedicate to a piece, it’s length, or its stitch count, etc.  My dad worked for 72 hours a week, generally, as a fire fighter. Would it be possible to crochet for this amount of time each week from now until my thesis?  What would the object begin to look like?  More importantly, what materials will or can I use that are going to relate to or emphasize the content of the work?

As I began to think of these ideas I also have been thinking about what role imagery can play within the work or if it is even necessary to have an image within the work.  Some of the older family photographs I have acquired, in a way, have begun to shut me out of making.  I find myself drawn to certain pictures and then begin to wonder why I am drawn to that specific photograph as well as what can I do with the photograph to create a new composition that will be relatable to an audience and to expressing my relationship with my dad. Daunting to say the least… and often leaves me feeling frustrated and a little lost.

For now, I am going to explore crochet as a medium as well as the materials that can be potentially used within it.  How can I metaphorically use the material to create an object that represents a narrative between my father and I? What role does the crochet play?  I look forward to researching artists for inspiration as well as researching and learning a bit more of the history of craft.

Diving into an entire new medium in a completely new context than before is nerve-wracking, especially when I have spent the last 7+ years developing my skills and knowledge as a photographer, but it’s grad school, so go big or go home right?

Ready for Thesis…

Ready for Thesis.

Ready for Thesis?

Both the same set of words, yet one obviously a statement and the latter a question.  Currently I am at the second and working towards the bold, strong, statement that is the first.

My show, Blue: A love affair is finally up and nearly ready to go.  The photographs are all pretty much set where they are with a few tweaks to be presented here and there.  I painted an entire wall blue, which wasn’t as daunting as one might think and it came out surprisingly a beautiful, solid, fresh navy blue.

The show will be up all this week, until Saturday with a closing reception happening at 6:30pm on Friday in Byers gallery.  If you’re around, come check it out and say hello.


 

Now it’s time to start really working into my thesis.  I’ve been planning to use appropriated imagery and reprinting them through alternative photo processes like salt printing or Van Dyke printing to create a new composition, so the work I recently completed for Blue, technically was very helpful in getting me ready to work in those processes.   Content wise I am still struggling as far as where exactly I will go.  I know I’d like to discuss my family and fabricated memories built through photographs, but just how I will do that is still up in the air.

I grew up in a great home in a wonderful region of the Pocono Mountains of North East Pennsylvania.  I spent a lot of time outdoors with my sister and brother, played sports, had a ton of friends, and great parents that supported me in academics, arts, and after school sports.  There are moments in my childhood, however, that things were not so picture perfect.  Moments that are lost and unrepresented in the photographs that fill the family albums in my parents home.  I wonder what role photography can play in exploring these lost memories and how they have effected me emotionally.  My relationship with my Dad has always been a rocky one.  Two strong Type A personalities with a ton of things to say just generally don’t get along super well and as I got older I got less and less patient with my father and more eager to argue back with him when the opportunity arose.  (Very typical teenager of me you’d say, but the arguing definitely stemmed from things that are rooted much deeper).  Despite this, my Dad is an amazing man.  A hard worker, who has sacrificed immensely for my family and in ways that I will never be able to repay him for, but in his efforts to provide he also became absent.  I’ve always been proud to say my dad is a fire fighter- a hero to me and my siblings and even to strangers, but the long shifts and far commute didn’t always make a ton of time for being at home with family.

As an artist and in general, I have never really taken the time to think about all of these dynamics that have been created within my family and the way they have effected me.  And as stated previously, I have never been one to make highly emotional or personal work, but grad school is all about change and challenging yourself right?  So here are some of the questions I am asking myself and ideas I am trying to work through as I navigate through my own personal narrative in efforts to create new work.


 

What does it mean for someone to be physically present in life but also absent emotionally?

How can I express my own perspective on my childhood without being insensitive to my family?

My dad being a fire fighter has always been something I am extremely proud of, but it also kept him away from getting to know me and my siblings better, how has that changed or challenged me growing up? How can that be brought forward in a visual and physical object?

How does having such a similar personality to my Dad effect me?  What does it mean to me to be so much like him?

What do I want to portray or say about my childhood?

What memories do I want to explore? How can I explore them without be exploitative?

 

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