Art and Crochet

As you can tell by this website, I am a big proponent of recognizing the so called crafts as art forms. But what about recognition in the formal sense. Can crochet really be a work of art? It all depends on how you define art. I believe that a lot of the argument stems from the fact that many people don’t accept that the word art can have more than one definition. We readily accept that other words, like review have more than one meaning. So why not art? It is mainly a line in the sand. The art aficionados, intelligentsia, and most of all the high end museums and collectors want to be able to have the last word. When asked how the various incarnations of Startrek qualified Gene Roddenberry used to say, “It’s not Startrek until I say it’s Startrek.” In a way, those powers at the top want to be able to say when something can be called art.

But artists are always pushing the envelope, questioning what it is that defines art. Women artists, in particular often approach the question, “What is Art?” by questioning what it has to be made of. Judy Chicago  explored ceramics and embroidery in her feminist installations in the 1960s and continues to do so today in other media. Young artists today are crossing that line, too.

The one line that is most difficult to cross it the monumental element of high art. For centuries, if it wasn’t oil on canvas, then it had to be marble or bronze. And it had to be large. Thus, monumental, large and built to last. Today, we see many other media recognized in art, from acrylic sculptured to video films.

Fiber art is a little more problematic. It can be made large, but it can be very labor intensive. Making a textile last takes a great deal of care, too. A few monumental textile pieces have lasted through the ages. The Bayeux Tapestry (c.1070) is one which has survived, probably because it was in storage for many years and because it was usually displayed only once a year in the Bayeux Cathedral, for which it was named.

Today, young artists are still challenging the definition of art. And crochet is among the textile art forms being used to cross the boundaries and question our cultural and aesthetic values through art. Olek, a New York artist, very active in the Occupy Wall Street movement, has used yarn bombing as an art form.  Particularly notable was her yarn bombing of the Wall Street Bull sculpture, which is so symbolic of New York Stock Market and all it stands for.

Across the Atlantic, Joana Vasconcelos,  a French artist who now lives in Portugal, mixes crochet, hand knitting, manufactured knit fabric, and various other fabrics, even feathers, with steel and ceramics. She has shown her work at Versailles, Lisbon, Venice, London, Budapest, and the list goes on.

In Japan, one of my favorites, Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam, created large scale crocheted nets for a major art show in Japan. After the art work was taken over by some rambunctious children, with her blessing, she and her husband decided her art work should be for everyone. The developed a company that designs playgrounds, as well as helping to produce Toshiko’s large scale art installations for gallery and museum shows.
Check out the video of the kids playing on the crocheted networks, tunnels, and hanging globes. I’ve never seen so much joy! I loved watching them navigate the tunnels by standing on each others shoulders, seeing how they helped the younger children along to the different levels, and even some parents were letting infants crawl on the lower levels. The children became a part of the art work.

These are just a few of the artists who are showing us how to make our craft into art. It is only a taste. So many other artists are doing, wearable art, toys, and jewelry, as well as gallery art. For an excellent collection of interviews with crochet artists go to Kathryn Vercello’s website: Crochet Concupiscence. Please post links to some of your favorite crochet or textile artist!

PS: I hope the lack of visuals in this blog are not discouraging. Most of the images in the links I have noted are copyrighted. I wanted to respect that. For a magazine or professional article, I would take the time to request permissions. But blogs have to be put out there pretty quickly. So, here are the links again.

Judy Chicago website:

Website for the Bayeux Tapestry museum in Reading, UK (a replica)

Olek’s website:

Joanna Vasconcelos images:

Joana Vasconcelos’ website:

Images: Toshiko Horiuchi

Toshiko Horiuchi Macadam and husband Charles Macadam’s company website:

Colossal Art and Visual Ingenuity, Crochet Playgrounds by Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam,

Crochet Artist Interviews by Kathryn Vercillo:

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  1. joyharmon said,

    September 11, 2012 at 10:09 pm

    This new format/theme is not working well either. Today the entire article is showing up on the front page, instead of just an except. Anybody tried a theme that actually works without upgrading?

  2. summerlarson said,

    September 11, 2012 at 10:54 pm

    FYI…I can’t get your “links” to actually function as links. It may be just me somehow but thought I would let you know in case it is an easy fix for you.

    • joyharmon said,

      September 12, 2012 at 1:00 am

      Thanks for letting me know Summer. I thought they didn’t look right. But when I used the Add Link tool, it put it in the title.

      I’ll see if I can fix it. I did put a post asking people for suggestions for themes that really work well. Right now, I’m just using trial and error until I find one where all the functions actually work.

      I hope some of the readers will make more suggestions. I’m pretty happy with my writing, but the formatting at WordPress is not as simple as IWeb which I learned on.

  3. joyharmon said,

    September 12, 2012 at 1:24 am

    Most of the links work now. I will give it a try again tomorrow. I am getting too frustrated with it tonight. I think my wireless link is also adding to the problem.

  4. September 12, 2012 at 10:26 pm

    Thanks for mentioning my page (Crochet Concupiscence). I feature a new crochet artist on my blog at least once per week.

    Just to let you know, the link that you included to my page isn’t working. It looks like it has an extra “http” at the start of it so it functions as broken.

    • joyharmon said,

      September 13, 2012 at 1:09 pm

      Thanks, I will try to get that link fixed today. I am still getting used to wordpress, it’s not as user friendly as I am used to.

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