April 8, 2008
One Row Purl, One Row Plain–The Personal as Political, Art as Craft–Secret Message Scarf Pattern
This weeks offering on the alter of art is an interactive blog based knit art project. This week I wanted to do a project that made specific use of the blog format in the creation of art, and I was inspired by recent discussions amongst my friends to revisit the idea of differing value perceptions for craft and art. My definition of art goes something like: art is a creative piece of work that is intending to explore an idea or to convey a message, I guess the key to what makes something art for me is that it is idea driven (but of course this is not always the case, but such is the contrary nature of art). The big mistake that I think is made when discounting craft as being different/less valuable than ‘hand of the master’ art, is that we appear to assume that just because it is not overtly idea driven (by a singular focused idea), that it is not exploring ideas or conveying messages. And doubly if the ideas that a piece is communicating are of a domestic rather than a more outwardly focussed nature.
Another way that craft is devalued is in dismissal of the value of replication. The nature of craft is to be replicated. There was a very good editorial–titled ‘copy this’ downloadable as a pdf from here–about replication and craft in issue 2 of craft magazine. But to dismiss craft because of this is not only to be only looking at its value in simplistic monetary terms, it is to misunderstand how extremely valuable replication itself is.
And of course it is also hard to ignore the fact that craft is primarily seen as women’s work.
I think that these reasons make the denigration of craft a feminist issue. Both for the fact that it is a dismissal of women’s skills and ideas, and because it highlights a different, but no less intellectual, way of thinking about and approaching the world. A way that is not exclusive to, but more common amongst women.
My playful contribution to this debate is One Row Purl, One Row Plain. A blog where I will upload 10 rows of a pattern for a scarf with a secret feminist craft message to be worn by anyone who would like to take part in the project and knit along.
As my skills are basic beginner level it is a very easy pattern, and I have linked to instruction videos for the techniques used, so anyone with a pair of needles and some spare wool can have a go.