Fine Art Crochet?

By Caissa "Cami" McClinton – 14 Comments

What is Fine Art?

Photo Modified from (c) Ayaka Darkly.  License

Photo Modified from (c) Ayaka Darkly. License

(Can of worms: opened!)

Fine art is art developed primarily for aesthetics, distinguishing it from applied art that also has to serve some practical function. (Source)

What is Craft?
A craft is a pastime or a profession that requires some particular kind of skilled work. (Source)

So these things overlap quite a bit, don’t they? The reason this came up for me is that I was having a conversation with a good friend of mine. My friend is very educated, well-rounded, and somewhat ensconced in the traditional (Western) canon.

Here’s a quote from our conversation:

“All crafty creativity has a level that is truly breathtaking, but I have yet to see an example of crochet that I am just mesmerized by. I mean, I’ve seen needlepoint that has put a tear in my eye. And, watching some people sew/tailor… They’re wizards! And, while what my grandma produced was “nice,” even “pretty” at times, they seemed highly focused on being functional/utilitarian pieces.”

So my response was to send him a series of pictures of crocheted art: Olek, Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam, examples of Irish Crochet, and the Crocheted Coral Reef.

image

That up there? That’s ART! Am I right?

I should definitely mention here that a simple difference in taste, attitude, and opinion is at play here, but I can’t help but think there is something more to this argument. That is why I wanted to turn the conversation over to you, Crochet Spotters!

Send me your examples of fine art crochet! Help to convince my friend that crochet is a medium equal to painting. Or is it? Tell me your opinion about crochet as a medium. Should it even be considered a fine art? Why/why not? I am REEEALLLYY interested in hearing what you have to say and opening this conversation widely. Please contribute, pin, tweet, and share! Your opinion matters! :D

And, as always, THANK YOU for reading Crochet Spot! You make it all worth it!

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14 Comments

  1. Jodiebodie says:

    I would like to argue that the “Rhythm” yarnbomb fits the category of art if not fine art.

    http://lupeyloops.blogspot.com.au/2013/02/stitch-for-summer-colourful-rhythm_23.html

    The project was commissioned; it was facilitated by an experienced and formally qualified textile artist; the pieces were designed to enhance an existing work of art (sculpture) and had the blessing of the sculptor. It served no practical purpose apart from an aesthetic one, but I am questioning the definition of ‘practical’. To see the way passers-by would change from a blank expression as they walked along to bright smiles or to looks of intrigue showed me that the yarnbomb caused people to engage with a sculpture that is almost invisible for many who take it for granted, the sculpture having been at that site for many years. Isn’t that a practical thing – to affect people’s emotions? The work encouraged people to talk and engage with each other when they might otherwise not have, thus facilitating a sense of community. Bringing people together is a practical aim too. The yarnbombing elements were applied by the yarnbombers with a sense of order and connection with the sculpture below and not at random. This purposeful enterprise is a form of artistic expression. I agree that crochet can be a medium for fine art. How is it any different to mixed media artworks that one might hang on a wall in a gallery? The ability of crochet to form sculptural shapes makes it a versatile medium for 3-dimensional artworks.

  2. Cogaroo says:

    I definitely think crochet is a form of art. Some amigurumis are so complex you wouldn’t be able to do it twice, like the Orangutan on PlanetJune (http://www.planetjune.com/blog/about/crocheted-orangutan/). I’ve also seem some really impressive afghans made with tapestry crochet, that had to take so much time and effort (like this one: http://crochetparfait.blogspot.com/2013/01/harley-davidson-afghan-chart.html). Just because it can be useful doesn’t mean it’s not art!

    • Jodiebodie says:

      They are great examples. If you are interested in crocheted art made from charts, you should have a look at the work of “totallee” (Lee from Canberra) on Ravelry ( http://www.ravelry.com/people/totallee ). She makes tapestries and blankets using charts based on photographs and other designs.

      Have a look at this portrait of Twinkie Chan: http://www.ravelry.com/projects/totallee/twinkie-chan

    • Jodiebodie says:

      Would you consider the complexity of a project a criterion when defining whether it is art or not?

      • Cami says:

        Jodie, I am of the mind that complexity of thought and/or the ability of a piece to inspire is part of what makes art. Some art is simple. Some art is complex but looks simple. However, I think the idea that “fine art” is meant to “be pretty” is an important distinction. If it’s important that “fine art” is pretty, then other stuff (which could be mundane, shocking, or thought-provoking, but not pretty) is still art, but maybe not “fine art.”

        I also think the idea that “fine art” (as defined above) is the best, or a pinnacle of some sort is worth discussing.

  3. Cami says:

    I am loving these examples. It’s a great topic and my friend is so generous to have begun this rich conversation. Thanks for your contributions, Jodie and Cogaroo!!!

  4. Bailey says:

    It’s funny because I remember having to keep my mouth closed when taking a “fine art” required course in college because some of what my professor really loved looked much like what my education professor was having me evaluate as examples of children’s art showing signs of readiness for writing. So, I must say I’ve always believed art really is in the eye of the beholder. What looks like a Kindergarten drawing to me is a million dollar plus painting to a collector who views it with different eyes.

    In the same way as someone who appreciates crafts, I do tend to see the finally finished products as an art form. I just discovered there is a textile museum in the area that I’d like to explore as they do display more of this type of art form that you don’t see in traditional art museums.

  5. Lisa says:

    Irish crochet is a fine art form to me even though some of its uses are practical. The stitches and the motifs are incredibly intricate and beautiful. Also, there is free form crochet. Crocheters create wall hangings that have no other purpose than to beautify surroundings.

    http://www.freeformcrochet.com/2009/Pages/laurette.html

    http://ashleyvblalock.com/keeping-up-appearances-installation-series-2011-pres-

    http://www.pinterest.com/pin/238831586462841097/

    There is Crochetdermy:

    http://thorsonphotography.com.au/crochetdermy/

    Here is a beautiful example of tapestry crochet:

    http://www.tapestrycrochet.com/blog/?p=109

    Great topic!

  6. LuAnne says:

    Maggie Weldon’s lace pottery is absolutely beautiful.

    http://www.maggieweldon.com/?cat=12

  7. AnnieM says:

    As to the difference between “art” and “fine art”–well, I confess I have no idea whatsoever. But in more general terms, I think there’s a lot to the idea that beauty–thus, art–is in the eye of the beholder. That same needlepoint that made your friend cry might not have the same effect on me, but that doesn’t make it any less art. And my great-grandmother’s fine thread-crochet laces might not stir any feeling for your friend, but they are art to me because they are beautiful a step beyond ordinary.

    The same could be said for oil painting, woodworking, sculpture, masonry, or any medium or technique, I think. Different visions appeal to different people.

    Some crafters truly are artists. They have the mechanical skill (how to make this or that stitch) and the technical knowledge (why this material or that tool is best for a particular purpose), but they also have creativity. There’s only a degree to which you can *learn* design; the rest of what design takes is talent, an innate sense of what will draw emotion. That’s art.

    I craft almost incessantly. I crochet, knit, sew, bake, etc., guided by someone else’s pattern or instruction or recipe. I like my hands to be busy, and it amuses and delights me that those same little movements of a crochet hook can turn out something as useful as a dishcloth or as large as an afghan or as sweet and soft as a baby garment or….

    It’s a lot more rare that I take on art, not just applying but designing, making construction decisions, working toward an end product that hasn’t been done *that way* before to my knowledge. Art requires a certain confidence that I don’t always have (but am thrilled to find when I do!), but craft alone offers a certainty and routine that’s comforting and entertaining and, yes, often practical.

    But they certainly do overlap!

  8. Laura says:

    Here’s a crocheted womb: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/uterus-and-ovaries
    a crocheted zombie: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/classic-zombie
    and a crocheted fetus-in-a-jar: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/fetus-in-a-jar

    These serve no functional purpose and (while they might be of questionable taste) are therefore fine art.

  9. This reminds me of a conversation I had with Diva Dan of The Crochet crowd. He is a talented musician. He was saying it is a skill, not a talent. I said the act of attempting to play and playing technically is a skill. But when you play with heart and feeling moving the listener to tears turns it into a talent.

    It is the same way with crafts. Crafts become an art form when it touches the viewer emotionally.

    Happy Crocheting!

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