FrenzyKnits

life in an artisanal world

Archive for the tag “artisanal”

Traditional Crafts Explained

The entire series, Disappearing Acts, in the Guardian is good information for anyone who cares about craft.  It hits exactly the points we’ve been discussing on this blog recently but does it 1000 times better and with great pictures.  (It helps to have funding and a talented staff!)

Here’s a link to draw you in: Traditional Weaving: http://gu.com/p/2hcm4

Well worth it.

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Statement of Work

This blog started as a rage against the misuse of the word artisanal. As anyone interested in American craft knows, this word has been bastardized by corporations to the detriment of true artisans honing real skills. It should only be used for handcrafted items, and I thought this blog was a way to protect that usage.

Wrong. That ship has sailed. Long ago.

I found I had more to say as a practitioner of craft than as a gadfly of language. I’m an urbanite practicing a craft that depends largely on rural capacity to raise, produce, and market my raw materials. I can’t even find most of what I need in the Chicago area. I must go rural. And much like the city kid who suddenly realizes where her food comes from, I’ve found great benefit in knowing what makes my yarn possible.

The Internet makes this rural dependency easy to ignore. What can’t you buy online? I could easily purchase everything I need in a few faceless transactions every year.

But spinning is tactile. It’s present. It’s immediate. It’s not a craft of intangibles. I could buy my fleece online or I could go out and get my boots dirty. I could–gasp–leave the city.

While this flipped dichotomy is not wholly unique (again, think of food production), it is unusual in a modern landscape that provides almost everything for the urban consumer within a few minutes.

The intersections of these flipped worlds–the urban handspinner and the rural materials producer–is what interests me. Towards that end, this blog will never be about my latest project. You won’t read details about why I only knit 8 rows last night. You won’t get updates on my latest random thoughts. What you will get are articles that touch on and around the relationship between urban practitioners of an ancient craft and rural producers of the raw materials we use.

It seems to me this is a largely contemporary phenomenon worth thinking and writing about. I hope you’ll join me.

Do Knitters Dream of Electric Sheep?

Images of yarns and fiber from Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival last week in Jefferson.  This fiber fest has everything a spinner or knitter could want: a fleece show and sale, two barns of vendors, three days of classes, and plenty of sheep.  Oh, and inspiration!

Braided Roving for Spinning

Braided Roving

hanging yarns

Long Skeins for Big Projects

dyed locks

Dyed Locks

Colorful Batts

Hot Off the Drum Carder

Fiber Artists at the Fair: A Sampler

Hooked Rug

Hooked Rug from the Foxy Lady Rug Hooking Guild

As soon as you walk in the door of Midwest Fiber & Folk Art Fair, you see the colors just beyond the gate and hear the noise.  You realize that this is a big show and that it’s probably going to overwhelm you and that you don’t care.  It’s exuberating when you set out into the vendor booths because you know it’s all ahead of you: hours of joy.  The more you lose yourself in this world, the better.  This is why you work hard all week.

I had the pleasure of attending the MFFAF this past weekend with my cousin and her daughter, a beginning knitter (and as of Saturday, a spindler, too).  Not having children myself, this was the first time I’d had the pleasure of seeing a young person take an interest in a craft I love.  I had little to do with her taking up knitting, but it was a singular treat to be present as she discovered firsthand what the world of fiber arts has to offer.

The MFFAF is a good show to make your first because it showcases fiber artists along with musicians and knitters, crocheters, quilters, spinners, and rug hookers.  As I’ve said before on this blog, we can’t lose sight of the artists.  They inspire us and–I firmly believe–we inspire them.  Just like my cousin’s daughter who has newly taken up her needles, I, a knitter of some twenty-two years’ experience, draw inspiration from her excitement over the new world she’s entered. As she discovered that she already knows all the stitches it takes to make a sweater, I was reminded that there are still many ways to push my own skills.  No doubt the fiber artists who entered their work at the exhibits felt the same way when they saw so many hundreds of fair goers crowding the booths, enjoying their work, thinking up new projects.

Here are a few of my favorites.

Felted Tunic by Cynthia Boudreau

Felted Tunic by Cynthia Boudreau

Cynthia Boudreau fashioned this Felted Tunic from Nuno silk and merino wool.  She used the wet felting technique to mesh the wool to the silk and then added beads.  Besides the design, which reminds me a little of Monet’s waterlily paintings, I love the shape and presentation, which reminds me of Japanese kimonos.  I wish you could see firsthand how light and refreshing this piece is–like a breeze.  Here’s more about Cynthia:

Principal plans return to her roots as an artist – The Doings La Grange.

Two entries in the handbag exhibit caught my eye.  To gain entry, artists had to construct a handbag by riffing off an older pattern–this year’s pattern was from 1945.  Click the link for a picture of the pattern and exhibit details.   You’ll be astonished at how different these entries are from the original.  But believe me: all the entries were wildly different.  In fact, in all the years I’ve been attending, no two bags are ever alike, like–not even close.

The beaded purse (below), entitled Dancing Abundance, by Marianne Biagi, was made using an altered peyote stitch.  Biagi describes, “I don’t have a plan.  I design as I go, letting the colors and shapes of beads guild me.”  And this I love: “I finish when the art tells me to stop.”

Dancing Abundance by Marianne Biagi

Dancing Abundance by Marianne Biagi

The reverse of this bag is in a different color scheme, which is equally beautiful.

Beyond color, texture plays an important part in Biagi’s work.  Her beaded art deserves a more careful look.  Here’s an article I found that provides more pictures and background information on this artist from thecity1.com.

Another piece that needs mention is Boa Bag by Judith Reilly.  It’s a knitted and crocheted piece that uses Reilly’s own handspun wool along with commercial novelty yarn.  I love the colors as well as the creative use of mitered squares.  (Modular knitting is great for free-form knitters and satisfying for anyone who only has a small amount of time to knit each day.)  Equally inspiring is Reilly’s description of how she created it: she started with the beads.  In her words, “I thought they’d be a nice echo of the diamonds on the top of the bag.  Then I found the perfect colors in the roving. . . and the rest is history.”

Boa Bag by Judith Reilly

Boa Bag by Judith Reilly

Just like Biagi, Reilly’s approach reminds us that we don’t always need a pattern or plan.  What we need is to be open to inspiration.  Fairs like the Midwest Fiber & Folk Arts Fair help us all–hobbyist and artist alike–find ways of pushing our craft and our skills.  As important as it was for my cousin’s daughter to attend as a new knitter, so it is equally important for longtime practitioners to refresh ourselves, see the latest trends, and connect with the vibrant community that makes up the fiber arts.

Artisanal Flowchart Postscript:

Incidentally, all four of these pieces featured above are artisanal (did you expect anything else coming from me?).  They all express the artistic vision of the fiber artists who made them and they all possess utility: they can be used.  Will they be used is another question.  Sometimes the potential for use is enough.

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