Monday, June 11, 2012

Yarn Bombing and other crimes against crafts

Worldwide Knit in Public Day was last week. There are events all over North America to promote and encourage the fibre arts, mostly relating to, as you might guess, knitting in public--on the subway, at the library, in a park, en masse. I like this idea fine.
I love knitting, I love crochet and embroidery too. But mostly knitting. I always have something on the needles, usually two or three things. Summer creates a bit of anxiety as I'm not sure how I'm going to get through it without succumbing and suffering the horror of sweat dampened yarn and some furtive knit 'n' purling.
But I'm not a public knitter, never have been. I guess I'm excited enough about knitting that I feel like there is something braggarty about doing it in public. Plus, people like to talk to you when you knit on public transportation, and I already have earplugs and a book in use to make sure that doesn't happen. There are often also too many little fumbly accoutrements to knitting, the stitch markers, stitch holders, scissors, tape measure, you have to count, concentrate--it's not bus stuff in my mind, unless i'm on a long trip.
WWKIP day also seems to incorporate one of my many pet peeves--yarn bombing. I can't bring myself to describe it, please use the link to familiarize yourself. Basically it's knit graffiti. The other day I asked my partner rhetorically why it irritated me so much--his answer was perfect 'It's meaningless misappropriation.' Yeah, that's it.
To clarify, something like Olek is fantastic. I saw her crocheted room in New York last year. It's all tailor made, she's covered everything in the room in crochet including the plumbing under the sink.

I also love this knit tank from Marianne Jorgenson, which I have seen lots of places. There are great examples of knit art that takes knitting out of the usual context and makes it interesting in a new way.

What I DON"T like is just making a huge blanket out of hand knit squares draped over something like a car, meaning....WHAT?

The story in particular that raised my hackles was about a regular local yarn donation spot. Every month they accept donations of unwanted yarn. I thought they donated it to school knitting projects or to long term care facilities, for teaching knitting or doing occupational therapy or what have you. Nope. This is what was done with the donations. I'm not linking anywhere because it's possibly I'm being a little bitchy.
do you see the difference? it's just a bunch of mismatched squares draped willy nilly on a car.
Ok, whatever. The amazing thing about these kinds of fibre art is the akill and attention to detail. Both absent in the care above. 

Cultural misappropriation. I don't get the purpose of a knit 'tag', which is basically a sock on a lamp post. I like graffiti or even street art, I don't ask for Banksy level skill or social commentary. I think it's nice when communities promote murals, even to combat graffiti (much of which is ugly and or dumb). But something about this knit/crochet graffiti just seems like stupid white people tricks to me. 

I joined StreetKnit when I first started working with homeless populations. They've done some yarn bomb/knit graffiti type stuff that was intended to bring attention to homelessness. I also took a sculpture class years ago with Janet Morton, a Canadian artist who is great. She did this piece. It was an installation in downtown Toronto about homelessness, home and warmth. It's not draped over a house, it's an armature as far as I know. 

Anyway I remember tabling for StreetKnit at a City of Craft event in Toronto, where we were accepting knit donations for homeless organizations. A woman dropped off a pair of handknit mohair mittens in WHITE. Just what a homeless woman needs. I've worked with homeless people for years--I can say with confidence that they do NOT want to wear handmade delicates, or wacky mismatched knit stuff. They want thinsulate hats and gloves in navy and black. Anything you donate that deviates from this will probably be a warmer of absolute last resort. You would be MUCH better off to knit the stuff, sell it to your pals and donate the cash to your favourite non profit. The thought is admirable, the sentiment beautiful, but NO ONE wants to wear a yellow handkinit tam when they're homeless. Sorry. 

What's cute about my handknit scarves, hats and mittens, is that they are intentionally mismatched. You wear the handmade stuff proudly, it's the DIY third wave feminist aesthetic. If I was living on the street, the last thing in the world I would want to wear is a hodge podge of mismatched stuff that possibly make me look poor. On middle class me, with my tailored overcoat and kitschy handbag, sure, it's cute. On someone who has to wear a donated ski jacket, who is outside in all manner of precipitation and cold, who truly has very little choice about what styles of clothes and accessories they might have access to, I feel like it's almost RUDE to want them to wear your olive and orange striped toque! 

No comments:

Post a Comment