Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Knitting is not art

I don't really think knitting is art.

There are people who make art with knitting, and there are pretty things that I can knit, but for the love of Pete, it is a craft, geared toward making useful things.

I keep my mouth shut when people talk about fiber artists, because I'm not one to flame intentionally. It is an easy way to lump knitting, spinning, crochet, tatting and weaving into one big happy family, but so is lovers of yarn.

Knitting was a cottage industry. People used to get paid for how much weight they knit up. Nupps were invented so Estonian women could make their shawls heavier for the weigh-in without significantly adding to the total time to knit, for when their finished pieces were collected to be sold. People wore belts so they could have a spare hand to do other things while simultaneously knitting. I'm not arguing that as a knitter I should exclusively make things with the idea in my head that I can sell it. I'm not arguing that there aren't skills needed to make awesome knit things. I'm not arguing that people don't make pretty things.

Art evokes an emotional reaction. Generally people will say that art is pretty things, but really good art can invoke horror, disgust, joy, jealousy, longing, and wonder without ever being pleasing to the eye. When have you had an emotional reaction to a piece of clothing? Maybe a well or poorly dressed person, but to specifically what they were wearing? I have a pair of socks I made that I hiked to the top of a mountain, got proposed to, and hiked down in. My boots are still stained pink. I have an emotional reaction when I see those socks, but that is for the memory of one of the hardest and most wonderful things I have done. It isn't specifically the socks, it is the event. People feel that way about pairs of blue jeans, or a favorite hat or blanket. Your emotions tied to the object bring back memories, but the object itself, brand new and unused, had no emotional response.

I wear the things I make because they are pretty, I worked hard on them, and they are useful. If a sweater or socks don't fit you don't wear them as often, if a hat doesn't block the wind then when it is freaking cold out you pull out one that will do the job, if a scarf is itchy it stays in the closet away from your tender neck. Useful is what gets knit things pulled out. Prettiness might get me to make it in the first place, but it will sit unused if it doesn't fulfill a purpose. When has art been useful? It decorates, it commemorates, it fills columned buildings, dusty attics and hallways all over the world. Art is admired, studied, debated and observed. Art is not used.

Knitting is not that far removed from its humble roots. And frankly, it would be ruined if it stopped being useful and started to become art instead.

Take care guys,
Molly : )

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