Art+Design

The feature post last week by quilt artist Chawne sure did raise a few issues and I would like to discuss a few of them here. First up though I want to say that I admire Chawne and her work and her artistic integrity, she is a wonderful skilled crafter and she creates from the heart. I featured her work on whipup for precisely those reasons and will continue to feature artists and makers whose work is real and raw, as well as the nice and practical and the thoughtful and artistic, just as I have done since whipup first launched over 6 years ago.

We have featured a variety of art/craft over the years – everything from crochet coral reefs to knitted poo, penises and boobs (yarn body parts warning), from knitted tank cosies to radical cross-stitch (language warning), from crafting politics to human hair as yarn, from knitted graffiti to public embroidery - if you are interested in exploring more check out our art+design category.

A few issues that were raised in the comments included those discussing the ‘quilt’ and its place in politics and art, many people were offended by the use of certain words but many others found the work to be as thought provoking as I did. Many quilters and crafters may not realise that quilting has a long and strong tradition of political and social activism, when I posted a series of Obama crafts a few years ago there was a strong reaction to politics raising its head in the craft world, so I want to reiterate that women throughout history have used craft as a way to have a voice in a male dominated world and I am sure that women will continue to claim their craft to voice their opinion or protest or to just speak their creativity.

You might like to read this thoughtful essay at the Quilt Index by Marybeth Stalp and titled In the Shadow of the Quilt: Political Messaging in Quilts

…those quilts that do not incite “fuzzy” and “comforting” feelings, but instead those that highlight and address publicly the social reality of inequality, racism, sexism, oppression, and the like.  I also examine quilts that communicate subversive, ironic, and sardonic messages. [Excerpt from essay]

A few folks were worried that their children might happen upon a few crass words online and as a parent myself I didn’t think twice about sharing those images with my kids and in fact it was the catalyst for a really interesting discussion about American history as well as the way language is used in our society.

Many readers were down on whipup for posting this and some even suggested that I remove the post as they found it ‘offensive’ and ‘disgusting’, and there were a few more ugly words thrown in there that I personally found way more upsetting and distasteful than the words that appeared on the quilts. Of course I won’t be removing the post, and I will continue to defend and showcase a wide variety of crafts here at whipup, just as it is your right not to read this website if you choose. However one point did emerge: it seems that many of you wanted a more defined language warning — that I will rectify for next time.

Thanks for reading
xx

{ 57 comments }

Chawne is a multi-craftual quilter who channels all her nervous energy into making blankets and quilts to keep folks warm. She blogs about the processes at Completely Cauchy.

This post comes with a language warning: [be prepared for some thought provoking (some might say shocking)  images - ed]

The diversity of the crafting world can often surprise crafty folks and astound non-crafters. Among us there are young and old, male and female, able-bodied and physically challenged, tall and short, and conservative and liberal. The public stereotypes are blown away by visits to sites such as Mr X Stitch and Craftster, where featured crafter-artists are shown expressing themselves in unique ways. There is a sense in which one need not self-censor if there is a principle to explore and more of us ought to embrace this spirit of individuality and fearlessly show it in our work.

Did you know that some crafters verbally express themselves using curse words? This is the non-stereotypical behavior (by that I refer to the externally constructed stereotype) that currently interests me.

With the publication of Word Play Quilts, more and more quilters are including text in their quilts, whether to emblazon with the name of the giftee or to send a sweet special message. It has opened up a whole new way to express oneself in textiles. But are there boundaries? One must eventually wonder if quilts are somehow a sacred space on which certain profanities must not be uttered. My own recent quilts have tested this in a small way. Reactions have been mixed and, surprisingly, the negative reactions are deeply personal even when the message is a positive affirmation.

 

Find out more about this quilt pictured above: Chawne has written a follow up post on her blog 

I needed to know how other crafter-artists felt about the act of cursing in cotton. So I invited a wide swath of textile artists in the US, Canada and England to participate in an ongoing communal Give a F*ck quilt project back in November 2011. Using a variety of techniques—patchwork, embroidery, and filet crochet—they are expressing their potty-mouths by making profane quilt blocks. There are few restrictions, including a size range, a “decency” level, and the requirement that the word “fuck” appear somewhere so that it is legible at a nice distance.

The diversity of interpretations of the request has been impressive and will make the ultimate quilt all the more interesting.

Sample Block Artists: Daniel Rouse :: Corrine Bayraktaroglu :: Jeni Baker 

The blocks are still arriving in the mail, but the artists have been telling me of their experiences while making them. Most common are comments about the cathartic effect, releasing anger or frustration. Yet others express youthful glee about doing something they perceive as “naughty.”

The blocks will be assembled into a quilt, likely a cacophony of f*cks. And we will then see what it is like when several crafter-artists express themselves at once. This project aims to face the issue of language boundaries head-on so that we can all return to free and nuanced expression in the future.

 

Edited to add: Chawne has written a follow up post on her blog – head over there to read more about her work.

Please read my response to the comments on this post here and Chawne’s response here.

{ 154 comments }

Gilding the City by Sayraphim Lothian

Sayraphim Lothian is a craft and visual artist interested in exploring playful and participatory experiences. She co-runs Pop Up Playground, an urban games collective; recently participated in a playful residency at the National Gallery of Victoria and some of her work can be found in the archives of the NGV, the collection at MOMA and now, on streets around the world.

When I was young one of my favourite books in the world was Pippi Longstocking. Pippi, the strongest little girl in all the world, had a number of interesting hobbies but the one which appealed most to me was her game of Turnup Stuffing in which she would walk around outside and keep an eye on the ground for ‘Stuffs’ that ‘turned up’. Anything she found she would happily take home. Although as a child I thought the things she found were a bit rubbish (from memory they were a rusty cake tin and an empty spool of thread), I decided I would become a Turnup Stuffer too and find much more interesting things and lots of them. From that day, whenever I was outside, I would spend most of my walking time carefully scanning the ground for anything I might find.

Over the years I’ve found and brought home a myriad of interesting, useful and (I have to be honest) not so useful things. You tend to see a lot of leaves and rubbish, bits of broken glass, cigarette butts and chewing gum but in between all the trash you’d be surprised how often you find other things. If you’re not already a Turnup Stuffer, try it next time you’re out and about and see what you discover for yourself.

A few years ago I noticed that I was regularly finding bits of broken jewellery; pendants that had snapped in half, twisted rings that didn’t fit anymore, stray beads that had made brave leaps off bracelets and necklaces and fake jewels that had come loose from their moorings along with random items that I couldn’t really place but had clearly come off something somewhere. I couldn’t just let all these things get swept away into the trash, it felt like such a waste! These were beautiful, if twisted and broken, and I reasoned that the world hardly needed more rubbish lining its streets. So, I collected up all these tiny, shiny, interestin’ bits and took them all home.

For years I didn’t know what to do with them. They all sat in a big clear glass jar slowly filling their way to the top. I was a bit worried that I was collecting all this stuff for no purpose at all but I couldn’t throw them out. The collection sat on my bookcase and quietly continued to grow as I went about my daily life.

Then one day I saw an interview with Daniel Lynch, the Melbourne street artist behind Junky Projects. “Junkys” are charming little figures created from flattened cans and beer bottle lids which are nailed up around Melbourne. In his interview, Daniel mentioned that he doesn’t introduce anything more to the streets when he makes his pieces; he only uses what he finds and rearranges it into these little creatures.

And then a light went off in my head.

I love Melbourne and I wanted to show my love for Melbourne by making it jewellery to wear and, since Melbourne is a city, jewellery created from broken bits found in the streets seemed the perfect type of jewellery to give. I think the city is beautiful so adding jewellery to it was almost like gilding the lily. So I called the project Gilding the City and I got down to work.

The first ‘Gild’ I created was the Victorian Mourning Brooch, inspired by an ivory coloured resin rose which I found in Dandenong (a suburb on the outskirts of Melbourne). I added black glass beads found in South Melbourne and a crystal bead found outside the Melbourne Theatre Company and finished it off with a pearl drop earring at the bottom. I should clarify that, though I remember where I found most of these items, I’m not obsessive about the collection of broken bits. Instead everything that went into this piece, bar the earring, were found only recently which is why I still remember where they came from. Looking over the photos of the other pieces I couldn’t tell you where most of the other bits came from!

I’ve never worked in the medium of jewellery before and I’ve found the process both interesting and inspiring. Every Gild is created around a central piece that dictates the piece’s theme. For instance, ‘The Garden’ started with the silver spiral bead at the bottom which made me think of a snail shell and I went into my collection and found green beads and other interesting, garden type items to match it. ‘The Night Sky’ was created around the broken semi-circular silver earring, which to me was absolutely a moon, that I then wired to a cubic zirconia still in it’s setting to create a star hanging from the top of the moon.

It’s really important to me that I am not introducing anything new into the environment in the creation of these pieces. I don’t want to create more litter; what I want to do is refashion the things already on the streets into beautiful and interesting works of art.

I see the Gilds as secular versions of the ritual items hung off trees and thrown down wells in earlier societies; little trinkets that hold wishes and hopes, prayers to gods big and small. They also echo the natural debris and rubbish that gets caught in low hanging river trees after a flood. At the same time, they’re little decorations hung on the streets; surprises for those who see them, tiny magical moments bubbling through the city.

This project was released on the streets of Melbourne on January 2 and it’s already evolving. With the help of members of the Agency of Coney, a UK based company whose three principals of adventure, loveliness and curiosity helped inspire this project, Gilding pieces will start appearing on the streets of England and America in the next few weeks which is a thrilling development.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go out and Turnup more Stuff. Gilding the City has just become Gilding the World and that’s going to need heaps more discarded and broken bits to create enough pieces!

{ 1 comment }

November: Month of books at Whipup.net

Pinhole Cameras: A DIY Guide. By Chris Keeney, Published by Princeton Architectural Press (June 8, 2011).

This is avid photographer and pinhole camera expert, Chris Keeney’s first book, nicely published by Papress – I love their quirky and quality mix of design, diy and architecture books. In Chris’s book, he claims that you can turn any container into a pinhole camera – exciting to experiment with – there is something about this old style of photography that is very raw and very real – and such a contrast to our digital age. Great for kids to experiment with these projects too – teaches about light and lenses – good diy practical science at work!

Images from left: SPAMera Medium Format 120 Film Pinhole Camera :: Lavazza Espresso Coffee Can 5×7 Photographic Paper Pinhole Camera :: Romeo y Julieta Cigar Box Pinhole Camera

Publish Your Photography Book by Darius D. Himes and Mary Virginia Swanson, published by Princeton Architectural Press (March 23, 2011).

Insightful and informative guide to getting a photography book published. Industry insiders Darius D. Himes and Mary Virginia Swanson, take you through the steps of producing and publishing a photography book.

This book will help you to understand the publishing world and the process of getting a book to press – from submissions to contracts and the digital revolution you will come to terms with what you need to do to get started. Once you have that contract or you have decided to self publish then the authors take you through the next stage – the design and production. From there it’s onto marketing and selling your book in this very competitive market. Along the way you will hear from industry professionals and be able to read case studies and access a multitude of resources. Good luck my friend!

{ 1 comment }

Victoria Gertenbach is textile artist living in Lancaster County, PA. where her story continues to unfold. To learn more please visit her blog.

Finding Your Creative Voice

Hello Everyone! I’m Victoria from the Silly BooDilly, and I am delighted to be filling in for Kathreen today as one of her guest bloggers while she is on vacation.

When Kathreen first asked me if I would do a guest blog post, I wasn’t sure what I would write about it. So, I started thinking about various topics which are important to me in regards to creativity, and that led me to the topic of finding one’s true creative voice, something I feel very strongly about.

"Work Quilt #1" 2010. Inspired by the surrounding farmland where I live, as well as old patched utilitarian quilts.

It’s common for most of us, when first learning a new craft, to look around at what others are doing. In fact it’s usually seeing what someone else is doing that first sparks our desire to learn about a certain subject. The next obvious step is to try and recreate something similar in look and style to whose ever work it is that we admire. And if we can find any how-to’s provided by them, books featuring them, or take a class taught by them, all the more wonderful, for this helps us learn about process, techniques, and methods.

But too often, (in my personal opinion) folks can easily get stuck in this apprentice stage, embracing and taking on the style of the teacher/influencer to such a degree that they forget to move forward into the next stage, which is where one takes the technical information that they have learned and figures out how to apply that information to express something that can only come from their own unique perspective, which is how true art is born.

So, how does someone find their own creative voice? Well, I think one of the best pieces of advice that I have ever heard about this topic was in regards to writers. You probably have heard it too, at some point…

“If you wish to be a good writer, write about what you know.”

I would suggest that the same holds true for the visual arts. Create what you know. Create what you care about. Create what you are drawn to. Create what you resonate with. Create what you love.

If you follow your heart it will lead you to your soul.

"Barn Door" 2011. Inspired by the beautiful worn and weathered old white barns near where I live.

Start paying attention to what in your environment makes your heart skip a beat. What do you find yourself looking at, photographing, collecting, thinking about? And ask yourself, “why?” Why do you like what you do? Break it down… for example, if you find yourself photographing close up shots of flowers and insects, ask yourself what it is that attracts you to them… is it that you love the relationship between the two? Their colors? Their shapes? If you have a collection of found bird nests on your mantle and artwork of eggs and feathers hanging around your home, ask yourself why… do you like the freedom that birds seem to have? Are you attracted to their ability to weave a nest, (I know I am). Is there something about the shape and/or color of their eggs that lifts your spirit? These types of questions can help you define what it is that you want to explore and express in your art.

Remnants #5 and #4, 2010. Inspired by the lines and shapes found in the old farms near where I live.

If you are attracted to architecture, (as I am) ask yourself, what style of architecture you are drawn to, and what aspects about that style are you most drawn to? And for the record, don’t be surprised if you find yourself drawn to more than one type, even if those types seem to be completely different. (This just proves that you are multi-dimensional!) I for one am very drawn to mid-century design for it’s clean esthetics and use of line. For me it represents order and simplicity, the ability to say more with less. However, I am also extremely drawn to old farm structures, primarily for their worn exterior with peeling paint, their holes and broken windows, their patched and mended areas and their wonderful odd lines and off kilter shapes. For me they represent quiet beauty, endurance, an undying strength of spirit and a life well lived. I also daydream about owning a darling little beach cottage one day, as I love the seaside and associate it with true bliss. And last but not least I have a real attraction to cute vintage trailers as I associate them with one of my favorite childhood books, “The Boxcar Children” which sent my 8 year old self day-dreaming of young independence found in the act of setting up housekeeping in a small place of one’s very own.

Embroidered Miniature Houses, 2011. Inspired by my attraction to little beach cottages and small retro trailers.

Regardless of how many different architectural structures I am attracted to, I know that each one holds something personal for me, and that’s the key…

As soon as you start to examine what truly resonates with you, and figure out why it pulls at you, you will begin to create your own personal foundation that you can then build upon with a body of work that reflects you as an creative individual.

Everybody has a story to tell. What’s yours?

{ 12 comments }