Simply because crochet is rapidly becoming a new medium for men and women trained in what we have known as “fine arts.” This is as true of various other areas traditionally called “crafts,” notably pottery and weaving, but crochet offers unique opportunities for freedom. You will hear one artist after another cite this as the raison d’etre of their work. Artists speak of the excitement of exploration suddenly made wonderfully possible with the “new” materials of crochet-the working with one continuous thread and the sudden changes of direction permitted through crochet.
Many artists have been quite articulate on this subject. Listen to Janet Decker: “To be completely free in my work is my objective. Crochet has succeeded in this respect as it is virtually limitless and is easily integrated with other media. Although I am employing a craft-oriented vehicle, the crochet stitch, I am not merely dealing with design and color. I am concerned with expression via sculpture. Crochet is not the primary medium, the medium is sculpture, but the fact is that the crochet stitch is the best to build with. There is always one stitch on the hook at a time. This freedom leads to a learning experience for me as I work.”
Or hear Camillo Capua: “To come upon a thing and to comprehend it in terms of its physical matrix leaves its purpose free to stand or fall on its own strength. The simplicity of crochet allows for minimization and a more basic reaction. Perhaps the nicest thing is that the product is made of one strand of material, mathematically maneuvered, and remains one strand when complete. I believe this is vital” as vial as the strand that all things are made of.”
Crochet is not really something new. It is a four hundred year old lacemaking art which became home and wardrobe decoration for generations, but it has only lately matured in its imaginative uses and technical approach to the heights represented by non functional art forms. In contrast to weaving, crochet has never been a textile craft necessary to man’s survival. Lacemaking and crochet, generally associated with a particular refined way of life, are relatively modern developments, creations of the grand period of the Italian Renaissance. For years doilies and delicate lace done with microscopic needles were considered the epitome of the crocheter’s art. Now embellishment is not done for its own sake but to enrich a form without destroying it. More and more modern crochet demonstrates a kind of integrity or wholeness.
In an important way, then, crochet is in its infancy; it is a new frontier that has not been regarded as such. Its newness makes it an exceptionally appropriate avenue to creativity. Artists break rules and crash through the old barriers between art and craft. In a nutshell, the whole debate over art versus craft is becoming increasingly irrelevant and unimportant. Other cultures and other eras made no distinction between fine and applied or useful art. The Maori people do not label an object practical or fine art; in their minds there is only good or bad work. Now, that makes the point clear and simple. A common bird perch may bear carved designs as exquisite or “fine” as the posts of ceremonial buildings. A tribal group in Kenya has a word for beauty that can be used for aspects of many kinds of objects including milk jugs. For this group, art is a state of being, a quality. We come closet to this usage when we call something a “work of art” and mean it as an appreciative judgment.
The point is worth repeating: We still have a long way to go. Crochet as art is now a fruitful and exciting subject because it is a most dramatic example of the need to look at craft in a new way.
Pick up your yarn, pattern and needle and let’s start crocheting, and it will become your very own art.