Art, Artistry and Artisans
I’ve been diligently knitting my way through A Treasury Of Knitting Stitches. Well…I haven’t really been that diligent. In fact, I’ve been down right distractible. The trouble is, the stitches in the beginning of the book are really simple. So simple my mind wanders and I begin to make mistakes on things I should never make mistakes on. And the mind-wandering component leads to thinking up all kinds of ways I could use the stitch I’m working on…which makes me want to put down what I’m doing and go start a project. *sigh*
Still, I’ve been working my way through Sand Stitch, Reverse Sand Stitch, Broken Rib, Double Broken Rib, Roman Stitch (which I think is cheating because it’s just two row seed stitch stripes on a filed of stockinette, and that would actually look pretty on a baby sweater, or maybe as a substitute for traditional ribbing at the cuff of a sleeve, but then would I do the same thing at the neck line? And that would mean picking up stitches and working a band rather than incorporating it into the body, unless I did short rows… well you see what I mean about getting distracted) And I keep thinking about an idea Jennifer had. She wanted to use Maine art to inspire yarn color and pattern/stitch choices. She’s brilliant. And I can’t stop thinking about it as I’m watching how Ripple Stitch gives way to Ripple Rib on my swatch.
See, here’s something you might not know about me. I’m a multifaceted woman. I have many, many interests. I am a wine connoisseur, a movie buff and an appreciator of a wide range of music. I love old cars, fine food, live theater and vintage costume jewelry. And I love art. Not just pretty pictures that go with the sofa, but real art, true art, art that compels and evokes and unfolds the more you look at it. I won’t say that I love all art. Indeed, there are many genres that leave me flat. Cubism, Abstract Expressionism, Pop, and nearly all Minimalism, to name a few. And it’s not that I don’t get it. I’ve taken my Art History and Appreciation classes; I get it. It just doesn’t blow my dress up.
And what does this have to do with knitting? As I’m working my way through the stitches, thinking about Jennifer’s idea, my mind wanders to paintings I love, and how the lines of my stitches might remind me of certain lines in certain favorites. And I think about all the yarn we have in the store and how the colors or structures might lend themselves to the pallets of certain artists.
Which has lead me to thinks about needle arts in general and whether we, as knitters or crocheters, can call ourselves artists. To be sure, there are artists who use yarn as their medium and knit or crochet as their preferred technique. But does that term apply to anyone who knits a hat? Is there a line between folks who follow a pattern and folks who write a pattern? If I go with my definition of art as a communication from an artist that evokes an emotional response from a recipient, I would have to say, “No.” Not that there isn’t artistry in the creation of a pattern, or the working of it. The formation of each stitch has the potential for grace, and the working of thousands of stitches can make a transcendent experience…for the knitter. But if it doesn’t evoke a response in the recipient, I would have to say it’s artistry without being art, and the knitter is an artisan without being an artist.
But then I go the other way, and wonder how I can add a little true art to my knitting, a little something evocative and compelling. There is an art museum right outside our back door which houses some of the most recognizable paintings from one of the most recognizable family names in the American art world. And I’m going to start there. I’ve been a deep appreciator of the Wyeth family since I was a little girl. Andrew in particular draws me in with his almost eerie colors and theme’s of isolation, alienation and longing. These are things that inspire me. I’m not sure how I can translate those things into my knitting. Maybe if I use some of the colors and pair them with stitches that remind me of the lines and shapes, I may be able to carry the inspiration with me. And maybe that’s art, too. Or maybe it just reminds me of art. And maybe that’s enough.
For now, I’m moving on to Escalator, Waving Rib and Quaker Ridging, while I contemplate the meaning of art. I’d enjoy someone else to discuss this with, too, so tell me what you think. How do you define art? Are knitters or crocheters artists?