My History with Craft

# of jobs applied for – 2
# of rejection letters – 1 (damnit)
# of days hubby has been away in Edmonton – 5
# of balls of wool purchased for my new artwork – 4

Today I picked up some beautiful wool from our local shop, The Beehive. I am going to try my hand at crochet, a skill that I once learned from my nana but have since forgotten. With the aid of a book and a lot of trial and error, I am hoping to use crochet in my new ‘Island Project’.

Growing up I was surrounded by creative women using crafts to create gifts, save money and entertain the little ones. While it was lots of fun, at some point I decided that it was also a waste of time. I wanted to attend university and be a serious artist. Painting and drawing were where I placed my artistic hopes. Until a couple of years ago.

First, I was given a new tool. My sister, fed up of my hemming and curtain making requests, gave me a sewing machine of my own for christmas. She has always had a passion for crafts that included her making her own graduation gown, a beautiful copy of the red dress Nicole Kidman wore in the movie Moulin Rouge. Her gift provided me with a tool I had never considered using in my art practice.

Next, I was accepted into the Visual Arts masters degree program at the University of Victoria. The first few weeks were a panic, as I tried to work out what I would do for two years of constant studio practice. I began drawing and painting maps on unusual materials. When this was less than satisfactory, I cut them up and (determined not to be beaten just yet) brought the sewing machine to the studio to put them back together. The jagged line from my unskilled use of an old machine, was exciting and started me on a new path. To reclaim the lost skills of my childhood and put them to a new use.

In this acceptance and investigation of my past, I have found much food for thought. What was I running from in leaving behind what I had been taught? In what ways do the crafts we learn inform the places that we grew up in? What do we gain from using our hands in a labour intensive process that slows our brains to the speed of our bodies? In what ways do our crafts also hold our memories?

And so my goal for this weekend is to reclaim crochet. To learn enough, through trial and error, that I can use this old/new skill to create a new kind of garment drawing and wear my history in my art.

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