Crochet as [badass] Medium.
Crochet art comes in more forms than just your grandmothers artfully studied bunny-patterned sweaters. As amazing as those are, now that it’s getting colder, and since my grandmothers most certainly do not knit, my sweater-loneliness has found solace in the strange and wonderful creations of three women.
My first encounter with crochet public art only a few weeks ago, looking up while I waited for some food sitting in a patio. It was a pair of shoes, laced together and thrown over some electric cables. Except these sneakers had a layer of crochet over each sneaker. Cute.
Some days later It happened again – in front of Domy Books in Austin – this time it was a lamppost. That day I felt sorry for the thing, it was about ninety degrees out. And so I asked about it, it turns out this is the work of Magda Sayeg, Austin-dweller and founder of the “knit graffiti” crew Knitta Please. And then I was scolded for living under a rock.
Knitta Please works to redefine a craft that has been relegated to the stuffy attic of people’s brains and dismissed by a limited vision for knitting’s purpose, its function, its practitioners. Sayeg’s work repositions this granny pastime in public spaces, streets formerly dominated by a hard, masculine public art culture. The fuzzy tags invoke entirely different connotations, antagonizing expectations and initiating dialogue about community-driven art and intersections between art and craft.
When Knitta Please first began tagging in 2005, yarnbombing was the collective’s response to the mass-produced. By inserting handmade art in a landscape of concrete and steel, they were cheekily adding warmth to our urban fixtures. Knit graffiti reengages us with our environment: the parking meters, buses, bike racks, lamp posts, car antennas, columns, statues, exposed plumbing, all of the furniture in our urban world that goes unnoticed every day. And of course, Knitta makes the streets prettier along the way.
There must be some badass yarn in Texas, because a few days later I stumbled upon another crochet artist’s work, this time, the place is Houston. Elaine Bradford, whose work, like Magda’s, has also been exhibited in Austin’s Women and their Work (coincidence? Conspiracy!) covers taxidermy in yarn. Bradford’s family was apparently big into deer hunting, meaning she grew up surrounded by decapitated Bambi’s mother and “she recognized that her own personal relationship to what she saw as familiar interior decor could confront a more complex set of cultural and political associations attached to the objects. For this reason she thought they would be ideal objects upon which to continue her earnest and perhaps impossible effort of offering comfort despite a ridiculously sad state of affairs.”
A recent post by Elaine on her site reveals that she’s taking the crochet-creations, already filtered through the medium of the unliving and the deformed, and slapping them back on humans. Proof:
Shauna Richardson lives far from Texas, in the UK, which also boasts a rich hunting heritage. Shauna’s crocheting is also inspired by taxidermy, but her work may well be the exact opposite of Bradford’s; her work creates desiccated animals… without the desiccated animals. She calls this “Crochetdermy”.
The intention behind the craft is different from Knitta’s idea of making lampposts and fire hydrants cuddly, or Elaine Bradford’s hopes of bringing comfort. She uses rough and coarse materials like mohair and puts in details like reproduction claws and glass eyes on her faux-taxidermy. She’ll create stitches that mold to the shapes she’s creating, and the work is amazingly intricate. Her current project will create three giant lions for London’s 2012 Cultural Olympiad.here, here and here]