Crochet language and time travel

When you enter an art practice that has its own vocabulary you’re crossing into history. Using the words and meanings specific to crochet connects you with people across time and space.

‘Crochet’ is an old French word for small hook. If we trace the word back to the medieval period it also means ‘canine tooth’.

Like musical notation, or an editing mark-up, crochet stitches have their own symbols, their own language. Crochet symbols operate like ideographs. A slightly flattened circle represents chain stitch. A half double stitch looks like an uppercase letter ‘T’ with a sloping top stroke. The symbols, read in sequence, are a secret code that is unlocked by looping a spun fibre with a small hard hook.

We use the word ‘crochet’ when we do the activity and when we refer to the objects made by the activity. ‘Crochet’ is a verb and a noun like the word ‘echo’ and ‘dye’ and ‘fold’.

Are you hooked?

Dianne’s pattern, tips and tricks for making your own sweet bear (pictured), and learning all things crochet is scheduled to run soon. Expect luxury, good company, world-class teaching and a canine tooth of your own to take home. Message for more details.

 

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You have autonomy

Your autonomy, as the author of your ideas, is your locus of power. Autonomy is control over the form of your work. If you write, you do not have to write novels. If you sew, you do not have to sew garments. Your story, your ideas, your narrative, voice, words, thread will dictate their form to you.

Could The Bayeux Tapestry have been anything other than the form that it takes? Could it be other than seventy scenes embroidered on 68 metres of linen. No. Could The Merchant of Venice have been anything other than a tragicomedy? Could it be a three act play rather than five? No.

Your work—in textiles or text—shapes the commercial arm of your medium, not the other way round. For example, the long written narrative form we call ‘the novel’ did not emerge because Barnes & Noble needed merchandise they could sell for profit. No one held focus groups in the 4th century BCE to test if the long legs of an Etruscan bronze horse would sell well in Target. Crewel work, dying, carving, penning are activities done for the sake of themselves. That is their point, their purpose.

Some people scour fashion shows, or Kindle analytics, looking for the Next Big Thing; they chase trend waves to ride by producing passable commercial products generated for a market. Yes, there is a place in society for commercial needs to be fulfilled. Entertainment needs content. Let’s not, however, misname content production. Let’s not use words for content production like ‘weaving’, ‘writing’, ‘creating’ or ‘crafting’.

Write what has never been written before. Felt fibres that have never been struck before. Braid articles that have never been woven before. Make your own market.

 

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Private dreams in public spaces

The private dreams we hold for ourselves can be the most timid, submissive and easily silenced part of ourselves.

Monica is happy to report that after many empty intentions, and several false starts, she submitted an embroidery for judging to the Royal National Agricultural Show. She did not win a ribbon, nor was she awarded a place, but her work was framed, and hung, as though it belonged and deserved to be there.

The best thing about realising her aspiration, about turning this small dream into application, is not the sense of achievement but the new space that opened beyond the ‘I wish I could…’ and the ‘One day I will…’. Seeing the artwork hung in this peculiarly special venue opened a door into new chambers of possibility that Monica never realised were there, all the while waiting for her.

Check back with us in February 2020, or sign-up to have these posts emailed directly to you, as rumours indicate Monica may have something spectacular taking shape on the hoop.

What’s the point?

There’s a lot of stuff out there. We’ve reached peak stuff. In the city where Monica lives, people have so much stuff they have started to leave the excess on the kerb. Almost every second house has furniture, kitchenware, whitegoods, manchester, electricals or toys stacked on the kerb with a handwritten sign ‘For Free’.

But it is not for free. Something, someone, somewhere picked up the tab for all this stuff. Materials mined from our earth, animals displaced or species made extinct, waterways polluted with the waste from production, good air turned toxic. Our living breathing biosphere pays for all this stuff.

The point is not to stop making stuff.

  • The point is to make the stuff that we need. NEED.
  • The point is to reclaim those skills that we’re losing. SKILLS
  • The point is to relearn the real-world knowledge that we’ve forgotten. REAL WORLD

Dianne’s new weekly face-to-face classes, ‘Crochet an Octopus for a Premmie’ are about need and skills in the real world.

Prematurely born babies need additional physical comfort and a sense of tactile security to grow strong. The design of Dianne’s umbilical octopus toy fills this need.

Over the past few weeks, dozens of women have walked into Dianne’s studio never before having picked up a crochet hook. You won’t believe what they haev achieved. They are reclaiming the skills of their grandmothers and great-grandmothers. They are making something that we need. They are mending our broken world through the humble craft of crochet. Will you join us?

Why poverty? Why excess? Why numb? Why neglect?

At Magic & Medicine we think art, creation, is for its own sake. Often, our art is a reply to the world; we make to be heard, to broaden the conversation. We answer the Why that we read every day in our worlds. Why poverty? Why excess? Why numb? Why neglect?

We do not create in order to bring about change. Art is not a means. Dianne and Monica live in two very different worlds, different cultures, different nations. Our reply to the Why is from two differing, but coinciding, spheres. We both speak to the destruction in our worlds with the creation of art as an end itself.

To thine own art be true

Dianne was recently commissioned to design and create a promotional poster for an upcoming British Women’s Association charity event. The feature image of this blog post is the ingenious outcome of her principled approach to process.

The poster is consistent with Dianne’s method for all her creative work. It conveys not only the details of the BWA 2019 Recycle-A-Ball, but also evokes the essence of the event too.

The medium is the message.

Remaining true to meaning, while arousing a ‘Mend and Make Do’ aesthetic, Dianne created the poster wholly from recycled, ready-to-hand materials. This artistic constraint was a deliberate ambition of the project.

  • The background is an old tablecloth
  • The paint is mixed from what was available in the studio
  • The letters are left-overs from an iron-on lettering kit
  • The drawing is from free-hand markers
  • The skirt is gathered sheets of newspaper
  • The top is fashioned from packing tape printed with the repeated red word ‘Fragile’

Do you feel compelled to create with materials in harmony with your meaning? If not, try it. You might find that deeper resonance you’ve been searching for. We’d love to hear your ideas on harmony in process and material.

 

Embroidery speaks evidence

Embroidery is a busy stillness. It is a full silence. Each day so many mouths talk at us, so very many fingers point towards our deficiencies and our needs. To pick up a needle and attend to our fabric is our blotting paper for the excess of existence. Is your husband ignoring you for a perceived misdemeanor? Embroider through it. Are your children pressuring you to buy buy, supply supply? Feel the quiet completeness of curling thread into a French knot. A friend wants to talk herself through her problems, again? You can listen and sew. You can embroider together.  At day’s end nothing may be solved nor secured but you will have, at least, lived out some moments in creation. You have stitches that show you lived through this day.

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