With all of this COVID-19 stuff going on I have been seeing many tutorials for making masks. Before COVID-19 I read that people were sewing and knitting for the animals affected by the Australian bushfires. Its been really interesting to watch the power of craft begin to show itself as vital again. All that being said, I was reminded of what is craft’s role in the art institute? How does it get a space and a voice. I feel that art institutions kind of look down their nose when it comes to craft. I think that this is a leftover patriarchal attitude that craft isn’t an art form. (Unfortunately there are many leftover patriarchal attitudes in the art world that we need to keep questioning.) What defines art? If an upside down toilet can be revered as an art piece why can’t work that has been crafted also be called art? For the sake of clarity, when I talk about craft I’m referring to sewing, embroidery, knitting and crocheting for the purpose of this post. I really believe that craft is art and I’ll tell you why below.
Craft requires a certain amount of skill and knowledge in order to create something. I can weld, paint, sculpt, build with power tools, but the baby sweater that I started 2 years ago? I finally unravelled it and rolled up the wool. I cannot read those knitting patterns to save my life. I don’t have the skill or the patience required to knit something. Those who work in craft such as sewing, knitting or crocheting in order to make art have to make something either without a pattern, or make a pattern. This requires spatial knowledge of how the medium will take form. It takes understanding of how the stitch will be constructed in order to make forms.
Knitting, crocheting and sewing can be used as mediums to build three dimensional forms, and therefore can be used as a way to make sculptures. These mediums are not limited and can make both organic and geometric structured forms.
What defines a line or a mark? Do we make lines with only pencil, paint or markers? Or those the only valid mediums for making a line or a mark? Absolutely not, a stitch in thread or wool by machine or hand, anything that can be used to make a mark on something is valid as a drawing method and tool. Every time a stitch is made in either sewing, crocheting or knitting this is a form of mark making. The stitch in sewing can be zigzagged, thick or thin, long or short, and can be built up to show tonal value and contours. The stitch in crochet and knitting can be altered to make a new kind of mark. You can make almost any kind of mark with crochet and knitting.
Craft has history, in the same way that art has been used through the past centuries, craft has as well. Not only has craft been used for domestic uses, but it has been used for both political and narrative uses, ie: quilts used in political campaigns, tapestries with narrative woven into them.
If you want to explore craft as an option in your work go right ahead, if your professor or classmates is a little unsure then feel free to print this post up and distribute it.
Oh hello, welcome to my blog, hacking a BFA. Is it an academic blog or is it just an art blog? I don't really know. Some of this might be relevant to art students only, some of it relevant to art amateurs......does it really matter? I invite you to treat this blog as an art buffet. If you want something more in depth...its here, something more geared to art newbies....it's here. Enjoy!
Melissa Cayford is an artist, designer and educator bent on making art and art education more accessible.