Wednesday, September 1, 2010

If the stitch works.

Sorry things have been a little quiet around here, I've been busy stitching clocks and working on a project for Leanne Prain's new book, Hoopla: The Art of Unexpected Embroidery. I'm super excited to be a part of this book, partly because Leanne's last book on Yarn Bombing was fantastic but also because I love the idea of using traditional methods or mediums in non traditional ways. I tried my hand at cross-stitch when I was younger, and it was always a bit of a nightmare. I just don't have the greatest patience for following patterns (which is unfortunate for me when it comes to sewing, I'm a bit more.....experimental) and the back would always end up a total mess. But after seeing this back stitch tutorial at Meet Me At Mikes and giving it a go, I discovered I really loved embroidery! I still don't follow patterns, I'm not totally sure that I'm using real stitches and the backs of my work is still usually a mess, but I love the meditative nature of stitching and as Richard said to me when I was worrying over writing up my pattern for the book - if the stitch works, it's a real stitch. 

I've always wished I could draw. I sketch out ideas, and can copy fairly well, but I've never been able to draw in a way that I could make what was in my head come out on to the paper. This always frustrated me, as while I've usually considered myself to be a creative person I never felt like I could do art or call myself an artist because you know, to be an artist you needed to be able to draw or paint and be good at it (whatever that means). I think that's why I gravitated to photography in high school, a medium that for a long time also wasn't considered fine art, because I could manipulate the camera and play around in the darkroom to get images I was happy with without having to rely on the seemingly intricate technique of drawing. Of course, you could argue that photography also uses intricate techniques and requires a high level of skills that are just a relevant to art making as drawing/painting/sculpting - and you'd be right. It just took me awhile to accept that truth. 

Embroidery has been the same for me. With a needle and thread I've been able to express myself artistically in a way I never could with a pencil and paper. Creating texture, making up stitch patterns, choosing fabric, mixing threads are techniques that I understand, enjoy and can manipulate to create something visually pleasing to me. Really, this is no different from choosing brushes, learning to shade and cross hatch or working with water colour but it often surprises me how still quick I am to call what others do art but not look at my own process that way. The art vs. craft debate is an old one, and probably one where there will always  be contention. I'm of the mind that it is up to the individual to decide what label, if any, to give themselves. However, I think this discussion is still worth having so that instead of creating and maintaining a hierarchy of artistic value people feel free to see themselves as valuable, creative, artistic people in any medium they work in. Be it making a collage, landscaping a garden or baking a cake. 

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