I’ve spoken before about the show I saw at The Drawing Center with textiles as its theme (http://www.drawingcenter.org/en/drawingcenter/5/exhibitions/9/upcoming/806/thread-lines/). It was interesting to me that a few of the artists used sweaters and sweater graphs in their work, but I was put off by the fact that they used sweaters that other people had designed, once again exploiting the creative work of those mostly anonymous and underpaid textile artists.
It occurred to me that I could exploit myself. I’ve been re-purposing my unsold swatches from my own design work for pillows and dolls–why not make an artistic statement derived from their original purpose? Over the 20+ years that I designed and made these miniature sweater fronts, I must have produced thousands of designs. I have hundreds that were returned from my reps (because they didn’t sell) to choose from.
Animal skin as a motif is perennially popular; I decided to combine some of those patterned sweater designs with my concern about endangered species. I embroidered in black and white duplicate stitch a statement–“there are less than 4000 wild tigers left in the world”–and a ghostly tiger face on top of the knit sweater front.
What do you think?
Its motions are chary and deft.
Stitch by stitch. Right to left.
I’m a warp. You’re a weft.
Time weaves a life canvas…
© All rights reserved 2014
Tetiana Aleksina’s poem of last December proved the perfect muse for an idea I had in the back of my mind at the time. I arranged and cross-stitched it onto one of the working graphs done during my many years as a knit designer.
I probably have several hundred of these graphs, along with knitted swatch samples, that I haven’t repurposed or discarded yet (I threw out many of the graphs and now I’m regretting it a bit…). What to do with them? I’ve made dolls and pillows and masks from the swatches, but haven’t done anything before with the designs on paper.
Tia (aka Unbolt) always provides vivid images in her poetry. She also enjoys collaborations. Her poem”A Canvas” takes fiber work and puts it into the larger human context.
My sister-in-law (a weaver) and I went to an exhibit at The Drawing Center last fall called “Thread Lines” that explored the connections between drawing and fiber. I was familiar with some of the artists but many were new to me. And, as always, I did not agree with the curator on the validity of all the selections. Several of the works represented took working patterns for weaving or knitting and made them into art. The one I had the most problem with in that situation was also the jump start to an idea about my own knitted designs.
Robert Otto Epstein took a graph from a knitting book and copied it “by hand” in pencil. OK…maybe he is making a political statement about the fact that designs are not done by hand any more, but on the computer? If so…couldn’t he even come up with his own design? or combine it with a computer-generated one? or make it more interesting, exciting, thoughtful, beautiful? It didn’t resonate with me, that’s for sure.
My knit graphs (all done “by hand” and designed by me), and those of the many designers (mostly women, paid a pittance) that I worked with over the years, seemed much more suitable for framing and hanging on a wall in a gallery than something copied by a philosophy student from a knitting book. So I began thinking: how to present them? What could I do to enrich the work I had already done? I thought first of quotes that related to the design, and I may do some of those too, but Unbolt’s poem actually got me working. I work slowly (as I have often lamented), and cross stitching on paper is also slower than on fabric, but I was pleased with the (months later) finished result.
Thank you Tia, for your inspiration! And for those of you not yet familiar with her blog, check it out here:https://unbolt.wordpress.com/
A week with visitors: many places to see, familiar and un. maybe in the future I’ll talk about some of them in depth: the world yields, as always, an embarrassment of riches. In the meantime…