spotted by the entrance to Madison Wool, in Madison , Connecticut.
Handcrafted and monumental are not normally words that go together, but that's the combination that inescapably came to mind when I stepped into the main gallery of Labour and Wait, the new exhibit at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art that is a mind-boggling "must see" for anyone interested in craft, art, and contemporary ideas. (Actually, for anyone, whether they've got a DIY bone in their body or not.) For one thing there was the gigantic weaving called Mammoth and Poodle, by Daniel Dewar & Grégory Gicquel, a pair of collaborative artists who turned their Paris studio into an oversize loom to create the most wonderfully tactile rough-wool image of, yes, a mammoth and a poodle that covers most of a big, big wall.
In the center of the room was Allison Smith's towering Stockpile, in which colonial-style furniture, fabrics, and artifacts are layered and heaped onto crates till the assembled mountain of stuff approaches the ceiling.
Allison Smith, Stockpile, 2011-13. Unfinished wood and mixed media. Courtesy of the artist and Haines Gallery. Courtesy of the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco and John White/Phocasso.©Allison Smith
Is this a hoard against disaster? Material for a Williamsburg-like re-creation of craftier times? The installation is open to interpretation, but the fact that most of these objects are now manufactured abroad suggests some kind of artistic comment on our consumerist quest for everything artisanal.
In the next room, Tim Hawkinson's Orrery is not a model of a solar system but a larger-than-life-size representation of a woman spinning.
In this case there's a lot of spinning going on. The whole sculpture is on a turntable, and the lady's head is rotating as well. And while the image clearly evokes a cherished crafter's activity, the fact that the spinning wheel is constructed of plastic bottles puts a different spin on things entirely.
In another gallery, Andrea Bowers has drawn her Lady Liberty-like figure promoting One Big Union with black marker on a colossal expanse of flattened cardboard evoking a historic call to action with Occupy overtones.
Not everything in this thought-provoking exhibit is on that scale, but the ideas behind these works of fine art are clearly huge, addressing the use of traditional materials and methods like ceramics, wood-carving, tapestry weaving, quilting, lace-making, and glass-blowing combined with contemporary points of view and issues, from political action, feminism, and consumerism to urban planning and the value of labor, among others.
The title, "Labour and Wait" comes from a psalm by poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, urging readers, as SBMA curator Julie Joyce points out, to "be hardworking and to do one's best." I was fascinated, therefore, by one of the show's final installations, by video artist Mika Rottenburg and Jon Kessler. Entitled SEVEN (Cecil), it apparently depicts a rather surreal experiment about capturing and transforming sweat. To me, that seemed almost like a metaphor for turning the best hard work into art.
A recent exhibit at The Arts Fund in Santa Barbara introduced us to the textile "wall paintings" of Penny Mast McCall.
"Music of the Spheres," by Penny Mast McCall; all photos by Wayne McCall
A collage artist and jeweler, Penny took up the traditional craft of hooking rugs with a group of women in 2001, using wool from recycled clothes she found in thrift stores. "I started out using plaid Pendleton shirts," she says, which gave her nice mottled colors to work with. An avid recyclist, she adds, "I also like using plaid stadium blankets; they give a piece nice body. I have also used other materials, such as silver spandex, in one of my favorite rugs" – a representation of a TV dinner.
The current series is abstract, however. "I really liked the small 14-by-14 format. They went fairly fast, and I didn't get sick of a particular color palette, since I was changing with each work."
Penny says she enjoys the entire process, from working out the initial original design, to cutting the fabric with somehing she likens to a pizza cutter, to hooking the strips into a monkscloth backing.
Penny Mast McCall at The Arts Fund.
If you're in or near Santa Barbara, the exhibit, Double Trouble Redux, will be up through February 23.
Calling all craft activist knitters* ! Our friends at afghans for Afghans have a quick campaign on right now, with a call for wool socks and mittens for young people ages 14-21.
The Sleight of Hand mitts give you a good basic mitten shape. You can mix & match the repeating charts as much or as little as you wish, thanks to designer Mary Lou Egan's cleverness. If time is tight, you could colorwork the cuff and do the rest solid.
The deadline, according to their website: "Best if your item can arrive to us by January 24. Please check back for updates."
* Nothing against the crocheters amongst us. You know we carry a torch for the granny square! Crocheted mitttens should be just fine. Not so sure about crocheted socks though....
This is a good time of year to be looking forward, and I’m going to interpret that as thinking about future crafters. A friend recently told us about the Needle Arts Mentoring Program (NAMP), which is dedicated to passing on knitting, crochet, and other needle crafts to youngsters. Facilitated by the Helping Hands Foundation (HHF) and supported by TNNA, whose members generously donate supplies, NAMP now involves more than 5,000 children in 36 states.
For any of us who remember being taught to knit or needlepoint by a mother, grandmother, aunt or anyone else for that matter, and want to pass that feeling forward, it’s not hard to start a program. All that’s needed is a group of kids, mentors, and a place to meet. NAMP can provide startup supplies and mentoring materials. photo courtesy of NAMP
Says Penny Sitler, executive director of HHF, “Many mentors share stories about the benefits of NAMP as they find that the needle arts improve reading and math skills, the ability to focus and follow directions, and self-esteem. NAMP is the perfect way to teach a whole new generation the needle arts. People are continuing to return to the basics, which translates into working with their hands.”
For more information, go to www.needleartsmentoring.org.
And here’s to a crafty new year!
* It's just a bit past the deadline but you can still send a red scarf in to Foster Care to Success for this year's care packages.
By the end of the week, they had over 1000 pieces to donate! Check it out on their FB page. While this craftalong has ended, the need for help by those affected by Hurricane Sandy, hasn't. Losing all your warm clothes, dolls, blankets is no fun in this chilly season.
Here's where you can stilll make & help, especially blankets and warm items (and please, hold the used clothes donations):
• collecting toys/dolls for children
• compilation of New Jersey aid efforts list what they need
While Gale was out yarnbombing on WorldWide Knit in Public Day, I was in New York, sans needles, meandering along the High Line (an unparalleled achievement in urban life, imho).No wonder Gale chose the elevated park as a backdrop for the Craftitude Vest photo shoot. an out from the shoot above, and a little behind-the-scenes, below
There's always a wealth of sculpture tucked among the greenery along the way, but since April the works of art have featured a series called "Lilliput," which includes a lanky metallic creation by Alessandro Pessoli, entitled Old Singer with Blossoms,
And that – appropriately enough for my WWKIPD stroll – just happened to be festooned (by the sculptor himself) with a knitwear bonnet and streamers. Alas my iPhone photo makes the charming work look more like a giraffe in a mob cap, but you can get a better look at Scoboco's Flickr site or on the High Line's page about the Lilliput project.
And I can take inspiration for some future yarnbombing foray.
-posted by Joan
What a joy! Here's the yarn bombing at the Arkansas Literary Festival as part of the our book's inclusion, earlier this month. So many photos I want to share that I'm embedding a slideshow. I was so honored to be a guest author! Details of my adventures, and how we planned the yarnbombing, blogged here . Enjoy!
-posted by Gale
The Arkansas Literary Festival embraces Craft Activism this weekend, April 14th. You can join Gale for a slideshow at 11 am. Or be a craft activist yourself by yarnbombing at noon. Bring knitted/crocheted swatches to attach or just get your craft on with us . We'll be making flowers from recycled sweaters and afghans. See you?
Last month, after wrapping up in Los Angeles, I headed north to join Joan at her home in paradise. I mean, Santa Barbara. Same thing, really.
Joan met me for the end of a class at Loop & Leaf, lending a hand with a backdrop on a borrowed porch, followed by a Craft Activism booksigning. Thanks for having us, Celeste!
The next day, we traveled a bit south to Carpinteria, for a booksigning at Roxanne's, a quilting, crafting, knitting and all around colorful shop. I know I shot photos of this sprawling store with overall views of the many, many bolts of fabric, quilts on display, ginormous mosaic counter, yarn rooms, tempting projects everywhere, and all the color----but I cant find them. (for you Kaffe fans, they have all of his fabric. Let that sink in for a minute. ALL.) At least I have some details to share. Super lovely people, and so inspiring. Thanks for having us!
The day ended with some tourist-like behaviour, and a rare joint portrait (courtesy of a kid I grabbed on the wharf who did a nice job with my new phone).
What d'you think? New author photo? If so , then we're calling this 'Co-authors in Search of a New Book Project". Suggestions for topics, anyone? --posted by Gale 4/9/12
Crafting for Charity was one of the first categories Gale and I thought of when we were researching Craft Activism, and we were thrilled to highlight the group called afghans for Afghans in that section of the book. Their next campaign for knit and crocheted objects – due date FEBRUARY 29 – is on, and a4A founder Ann Rubin has been kind enough to do a guest post for us:
Dear Craft Activists,
We'd love to have you join the afghans for Afghans project's campaign for youth in the schools run by NGO Help the Afghan Children!
Our call is for newly knit and crocheted WOOL blankets, sweaters, vests, socks, mittens, and hats for ages 7-16. The girls and boys need to be dressed properly for class so they can focus on their studies and not the cold. Our blankets and garments are practical gifts of friendship and respect during wartime.
In Kabul, a handmade wool blanket warms a child in a hospital.
Campaign details are here for your review —
Our due date is February 29. With time running short, consider making mittens or socks (no crochet socks, please) or a hat. It's easiest enough to whip up one of these items (during the Super Bowl?) and pop it in an envelope to us.
Let us lead you to community knitter Elizabeth Durand's very reliable knitting pattern for 4-needle mittens, and she also provides an on-line tutorial—
Please send only what is requested in our guidelines. Overseas cargo space is precious, and we can only send what is specifically requested and needed in Afghanistan. The current campaign will get to Kabul in time for next winter.
Volunteer Emily packing up mittens at our AFSC Collection Center in San Francisco.
This is a special opportunity for us — we're not sure how the rest of the year will unfold because our relief agency partners work in very unstable conditions, which makes planning for reliable transit and distribution very challenging.
afghans for Afghans — in partnership with the American Friends Service Committee — started as a response to the war that unfolded after 9/11. Ten years later, our wool blankets and garments are still needed, and we're determined to continue remembering the Afghan people with the work of our hands and hearts.
Our volunteers meeting with Suraya Sadeed in San Francisco; her schools in Afghanistan will receive our handmade wool gifts.
Each garment means one more child suffering under conditions of war in one of the poorest countries in the world will have a new gift for her or his very own and be warmer and more comfortable in Afghanistan's harsh winter. Our people-to-people project welcomes new participants to keep up the momentum after all these years!
Ann at afghansforAfghans.org
Thanks, Ann, And, of course, you can also follow one of the Sleight of Hand mitten patterns in Craft Activism. Just be sure to use a variation with a ribbed cuff, since the extra warmth is crucial!