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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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?

A recap of Spring 2017- better late than never

Phew… well it has been a while since I’ve posted.  Each time I have stopped into the studio I have reminded myself to get on here and post my end of semester work with an update and yet somehow it always manages to get tossed aside.  So, alas! All those that have been anxiously waiting, (no one), here it is!

 

 

I finished the semester with 4 finished pieces.  There are some questions remaining, things that could be further pushed and/or explored but overall I am happy with the result and was confident in what I had produced.  Just a month or so before the end of the semester I was having a total mental breakdown thinking I would have nothing to produce, so although 4 pieces may not seem like much- they felt like quite an accomplishment to me.   Below are images of the works before they were installed in the Beeler Lobby for the 2017 CHROMA exhibit.  If you live locally in Columbus I encourage you to stop by and check them out.  I won’t say much as I could really write forever about the struggles that I had throughout this semester and the resulting works, but instead I will leave you with my artist statement a brief description of the process and materials along with photos of the works allowing them all to work together and speak for each other.

Materials/Process:

A series of 4 crocheted photographs printed on silk and cotton fabrics, cut up and created into a yarn like structure, then finger crocheted.

Statement:

Over the past year I have watched my twin sister transition from college graduate to full time teacher, fiancé, and mom to two pets. She shares a home with her partner and they plan to be married in October of this coming year. Within this home structure she fulfills a very typical housewife role completing all the traditional domestic chores while her future husband tends to the “outside work.” I have observed her frustrations and stresses as she struggles to fulfill the role of “housewife” on top of her daily regime and very much have been frustrated by these expectations that have been set for her.

Using a camera to document this personal history as well as a collective of couples around the Midwest these photographs depict domestic interiors cut up, crocheted, and restructured creating a new image entirely. The crocheting process serves as a means to bring power to women’s craftwork while reconstructing and reconfiguring the domestic space offering redefinition of roles, ideas, and expectations within that setting.

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Keep grinding

Welp, my final critique with a small group of faculty is a short 10 days away.  I am anxious as I have a lot of work to do, but also keen to get the critique finished so that I can then focus on really preparing my work for final install for CHROMA.

I am currently TAing a photography course, Material Studies, and we were just recently introduced to a very interesting alternative photo process called Mordant printing.  Essentially a photo sensitive liquid is made from a mixture of Potassium Dichromate and water.  The liquid is applied to fabric, dried, and then a large negative is sandwiched between the fabric and a piece of glass and exposed to UV light.  This produces the image directly on fabric.  The image is then rinsed and the final process involves hand dying fabric using natural dyes- synthetic dyes do not work for this process.

Since I have been using the textiles printer a lot to print images directly on fabric- this method provides an alternative avenue and also incorporates an interesting piece of domestic work that I think could be a very interesting process piece for my work.  Let me explain…

 

Lately I have been using my images from the textile printer and finger crocheting them into large crocheted photographs.  The images themselves aren’t totally recognizable, however, I am interested in the idea of breaking down the domestic space through ripping and cutting of the image, and then reconstructing it through the crochet process. This is fairly simple but makes slight reference to a domesticated craft or work process through crochet that I find relevant.  With the Mordant printing I can take it even a step further.  By printing images on fabric through this alternative process there is hand washing of the fabric involved- similar to when I use the textile printer, but then the last step- hand dyeing- is where I believe my process can really also speak to the content of the work.  In order to use a natural dye, I can buy them online, OR I can take actual existing objects and “cook” them in order to prepare the natural dye.  For example, onions skins are great for fabric dyeing, avocado pits, flowers, carrot tops, leaves, insects, roots, etc.  In order to create the dye the aforementioned objects need to be heated to a certain temperature and “cooked,” in which then the liquid produced will be used as a dye bath.  The idea of having to complete the domestic task of “cooking” in order to produce the work creates a compelling layer in relation to my interests of woman’s work and domesticity.

I have some concrete ideas that I am going to pursue this week and really hit the ground running.  I almost feel hesitant to make something that I want to without having run the idea by someone yet- which is odd, because as an artist I have always made things on my own but I think a little part of grad school has embellished some sort of need for approval into my thinking- but not today!  (And no one at CCAD has ever said to me that I need their approval to make something, to be clear).  I am excited to really grind things out and get the week going!

Stay Tuned!