Archive | reading.

What I’ve been reading, what you might like to read, what other people have recommended I read.

How Much Does the Craft Resurgence Owe to the Growth of the Internet?

One of the cool things that I get to do at times is speak about craftivism, and the various disciplines it intersects. Next month, I will be talking at 2 different venues in The Netherlands, both part of the CRISP Network (CReating Innovative Sustainability Pathways).

Whenever I start to think about craft’s connection to technology, I always return to Sadie Plant’s 1997 book, Zeroes and Ones: Digital Women and the New Technoculture. In this book, with solely words, Plant spins and weaves together our textile histories and the beginnings of technoculture in a most fascinating way that I haven’t come across since.

What’s most remarkable about this particular book is that it was written so early in what we consider the technological age, all the way back in 1997. Using the binary system of zeros and ones, Plant draws a likeness to the similar binaries of weaving’s warp and woof, which can then be easily turned into knitting’s knit and purl. Breaking the world down into two streams of consciousness almost as we find binaries throughout our world, despite our best intentions to convince ourselves that everything is multiplicitous and that what makes our world and its possibilities infinite, Plant argues that it’s even more stripped down that we think, that infinity can be found in the binary system itself.

Women are brought into the picture as the champions of technology through the story of Ada Lovelace and women’s experience of craft as both data sharing and data creation.

Quoting John Heathcote “who patented a lace-making machine just after Jacquard built his loom:”

It seems that “the women of prehistoric Europe gathered at one another’s houses to spin, sew, weave, and have fellowship.” Spinning yarns, fabricating fictions, fashioning fashions …: the textures of woven cloth functioned as means of communication and information storage long before anything was written down.” This is not only because, like writing and other visual arts, weaving is often “used to mark or announce information” and “a mnemonic device to record events and other data.” Textiles do communicate in terms of the images which appear on the right side of the cloth, but this is only the most superficial sense in which they process and store data. Because there is no difference between the weaving and the woven design, cloths persist as records of the processes which fed into their production: how many women worked on them, the techniques they used, the skills they employed.

I love how she makes the argument how the maker is inextricably connected to the product which which they make, how there is no separation, despite physical separation… echoing what happens in current technology as we send our crafted emails and projects and illustrations and photos out into the interwebs and they become disconnected from us, yet forever connected nonetheless.

The quote above continues:

The visible pattern is integral to the process which produced it; the program and the pattern are continuous. Information can be stored in the cloth by means of the meaningful messages and images which are later produced by the pen and the paintbrush, but data can also be woven in far more pragmatic and immediate ways. A piece of work so absorbing as a cloth is saturated with the thoughts of the people who produced it, each of whom can flash straight back to wherever they were thinking as they worked.

Effin’ blinding as well as brilliant. I wonder what Plant thinks (and Lovelace would think) of the world of craft being so shared and propagated and fomented by technology over the past decade? Because craft’s resurgence owes as much to intangible binaries (zeros, ones) as it does to physical binaries (warp, woof; knit, purl) as technology eradicated geographic distance and made it so easy for crafters to find each other instead of being relegated to obscurity? Would the craft resurgence happened were it not for the simultaneous growth of the internet? I’d like to think, as Plant writes, that the two are intwined together, both simple and impossible to separate.

Unpacking Kafka and Why Your Creativity Needs You (Sometimes) to be Still.

Related to my post yesterday about why taking a break is okay (and so is re-entry), I found this quote by Franz Kafka.

Because in order to “remain sitting at your table and listen,” you have to first, be willing to sit at that table and then, gather your easily distracted mind enough to listen. Easier said, than done. Especially when Kafka wrote it, pre-internet!

And then once you’ve done those 2 things, you then realize that you don’t even have to listen! You can just wait, if you so desire. Waiting?! We hate waiting! Waiting is the worst!

Except when it isn’t.

Because, as Kafka notes, you really don’t even have to wait, if you think that’s stupid and (literally) a waste of time. Aha! You can have it all if you only… only… “be quite still and solitary.”

Still. You want me to be still? I have ADD. I’m like that small child that can get into trouble in an empty padded room so is my crazy monkey mind. This is a bad idea.

When you find yourself doing the above. It’s time to take a break. And breathe. Because, as I tweeted yesterday “Our #1 job as crafters/artists/makers [is] to be permission givers. To make freely and bravely, inspiring others to do the same.”

And how in the hell can we do that if we can’t settle our minds enough do what Kafka (ultimately) asks and “be quite still and solitary?” Because once we can do that, “the world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.”

And it will.

But only if we remember to give ourselves permission to take a break, just like we need to remember to give ourselves permission to freely create.

But only.

Sounds simple.

Except when it isn’t.

So, just a reminder today, to think about where you need to be: taking a break or willing “to be quite still?” And a little nudge that, whatever you decide, it’s okay, it’s natural, and it’s just where you need to be.

Recent craftivism-related links around the world…

…That you may not have read.

Over the past few months, I’ve been thinking a lot about online consumption vs. online production, and wondering how my view on both went so askew. As I’ve been puttering around with my own work, I’ve sorely been neglecting passing on what feeds me creatively, so here are a few examples. There will be more like that soon when the 1st newsletter finally goes out in December… forestalled by well, life, and family health things.

It’s ridiculous how often we forget that usually when it’s we start freaking out because we think we need to post/blog/tweet/reply and are having a hard time finding the time/energy/wherewithal, it’s generally because we’re worried much too much about production and not enough about feeding ourselves… Which leads to nothing much but feeling worse and hungry for sustenance.

While I know full well that craft and creativity can feed us, now that I work a full-time job and no longer have the time to devote that I did in academia (sniff!), I neglect to take the time to read and learn and digest and take in because I’m fretting about what needs to go out. [Note to those of you out there in academia who work and research full time on craft-related things: Embrace it. One day, perhaps I’ve have the chance to join you again!]

And thus, as it always does, the fretting takes 5 times the energy out of you than taking a few hours out to read, question, scribble and think. Maybe things in your world have gotten a little askew lately, too. If so, here’s a few bits and bobs that have helped me start to get back to balance.

1957. Rio de Janeiro. My mother, aged 15, looks out the window. She’s waiting for a chair. A chair that has been measured, designed and handcrafted in Jacaranda just for her by the local maker down the road. When my grandmother died, this chair was shipped from Brazil to Sydney, then down to Tasmania for my young daughter. Although she shouldn’t, she swings on it the just as her grandmother’s did fifty years earlier.

This is furniture with a story. Furniture made to last. Handcrafted, to be used and loved. In my mind this is deep sustainability. After all, an item that is made well can be mended and re-made again.

Fuad-Luke* nailed it in 2005 when he wrote: “What is clear is that modernist, organic, post-modern or any other doctrine with recognisable semiotics, is easily subverted in the service of industry and to the glory of consumerism and economic progress. … Corporate ambition, encouraged by the capitalist political doctrine, continues to ensure that inbuilt obsolescence, the touchstone of industrial design, keeps producers producing, consumers consuming and designers designing.” …. the question then becomes, what am I going to do about it?

Read the rest here. [Article written by Laura McCusker, which you can learn more about via @McCusker_Design or her website. Post written for Craft Australia Link: HT @namitagw.

Whenever yarn is donated to the group – which happens a lot – Evans has a rule they all follow: donated yarn becomes a donated project.

“It’s my opinion that if it’s donated yarn, you need to pay it forward and use that yarn not for yourself but for someone else,” said Evans, who became coordinator last year.

“Some of these people (in the group) are on a fixed income. They would love to make things for other people, but they can’t afford to go out and buy whole a lot of yarn.”

I think one of my favorite quotes of the article is, however, “Knitting is not just for grandmothers,” Evans said, “but we have lots of them, too.”

More here.

Also on the radar: Counter-Craft.org was recently created by for her DIY Cultures class.

*Alastair Fuad-Luke





Extra/Ordinary is Here!

One of the most beautiful and delightful things about being involved with craft is that I have had the incredible luck to work with some amazingly talented people along the way. The recent release of Extra/Ordinary: Craft and Contemporary Art (cover below), edited by Maria Elena Buszek is no exception!

[featuring Marianne Jørgensen’s Pink M .24 Chaffee on the cover!]

The super special thing about this book (to me!) is that there is a CRAFTIVISM SECTION! A whole section, mercy me!! Not only is there a separate section, but it includes some brilliant essays: “Rebellious Doilies and Subversive Stitches: Writing a Craftivist History” by Kirsty Robertson, “Craft Hard Die Free: Radical Curatorial Strategies for Craftivism by Nicole Burisch and Anthea Black and “Loving Attention: An Outburst of Craft in Contemporary Art” by Janis Jefferies! Yeah!

If you ever want to learn about the long true beginning of craftivism, I knock it all out in an essay called “Craftivist History.” While the history of craftivism is not about me (don’t be silly!), it’s about what happens when you’re attributed to coining, fostering or publicizing a word that no one has ever heard of. Not to mention a word they’re not sure how to spell, pronounce or define. If anything, I’m a custodian of the word, so eloquently put in Greek here as the “godmother of craftivism.” As even though I don’t have a wand or can fly or even have a fancy, willowy dress, I am glad that there were some people out there who got sprinkled with a bit of ‘craftivism dust’ and agreed with me. To be added in such a book, with such astoundingly talented academics in a separate section is just mind-blowingly rad, it’s words like theirs and yours that constantly astound me every day, it’s such a beautiful things!

Speaking of beautiful things, here’s a beautiful documentary of the making of the Pink M .24 Chaffee, also featured on Marianne’s website, with the words below:

The pink covering consists of more than a 4000 pink squares- 15 x 15 centimetres – knitted by volunteers from Denmark, the UK , USA and several other countries. People were invited through Cast Off Knitting Club, from friend to friend either by word of mouth or over the internet, and by a number of knitting groups made for this specific project, or other already existing knitting groups.. The physical and personal acknowledgement in all of these knitted patches are, when joined together, a powerful visualization of thoughtfulness. The main impression of the knitted tank is that it consists of hundreds of patches knitted by many different people in different ways: single colored, stripes with bows or hearts, loosely knitted, closely knitted, various knitted patterns, … They represent a common acknowledgement of a resistance to the war in Iraq.

Between the 7th – 11th April, 2006, the tank was placed in front of the Nikolaj Contemporary Art Center in the heart of Copenhagen. There were 4-5 permanent volunteers sewing the squares together to cover the tank and many of the people that passed by also helped sew and crochet the pieces together.

Along with the essays mentioned above, the book also includes work by M. Anna Fariello, Dennis Stevens, Louise Mazanti, Paula Owen, Karin E. Peterson, Elissa Author, Betty Bright, Jo Dahn, Lacey Jane Roberts, Andrew Jackson and Maria Elena Buszek!

**The book holds a special special joy for me, as many years ago, Maria, Dennis Stevens, Garth Johnson and Tsia Carson and I started some amazingly powerful email conversations on craft. We dubbed ourselves the Craft Lab. Those conversations fueled me at a time when I was really needing it, and for that, I can never thank my Craft Lab co-conspirators enough! I love you kids and miss our conversations!**

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