Monday, May 14, 2012

...but is it ART?

(Still recovering from the movie. Is going to require a visit with doctors, and may turn into quite an annoyance. Or nothing at all. Still, the movie rocked. If I got fucked up, at least I got fucked up watching an excellent movie.)

And so, inevitably, I come to "Art Yarn". I've been pondering this post for, oh, at least a year now, and still don't really know what to say. If you like, you can go read what I've said about art before, HERE. I've never quite gotten "art for art's sake" as a philosophy, applied to ANYTHING. In fact, I greatly prefer art that's useful, so I'm a huge fan of the decorative arts. Related, I'm never going to say a yarn or a textile or something made of fiber can't be art. Anything can be art if enough thought and effort and skill are applied to a project, and everything lines up just right, and the magic happens.

But that doesn't mean you can just call something art and I'm gonna believe it. (Please look at the Dada art movement if you want the foundation of my side of this argument. I get that they were trying to get people to look at things differently, and in that they succeeded, but Duchamp's "Fountain" is still a freaking urinal.)

The point of this blog post isn't to point and laugh. I'm using pictures of yarn (credited, of course) that is up for sale. I believe that when you put something up for sale, you offer it for critical examination, so for us to look at these yarns in such a way is fair. It's not like digging through someone's Ravelry page, finding their first spun yarn and sneering at it. And I'm not posting pictures of the really ridiculous stuff. You can hit Regretsy for that, or just search Etsy yourself.

So. Art yarn. Here's one I ran across last night that I thought legitimately fit the term:
This is called "Koi Pond" and can be found HERE. The spinner herself calls it a "Themed" yarn and I really think that's a better term - She tried to capture a koi pond during feeding time, and did quite a good job of it.

Themed yarns. I like that term. It covers a lot of relevant ground without going all "I'M AN ARTISTE!"

For instance:
This is "Vitreous Humor" from Insubourdiknit.

Or another of my favorites, "Clouds":
From Moonrover, HERE.

Is it art? Or just really cool themed yarn? I sincerely can't decide. The same goes for textured handspun. Is it "Art Yarn" or just nice, textured yarn?

I do think a lot of sellers are doing themselves a disservice by using the term "Art Yarn" because many people have begun to roll their eyes at the term.

I have a theory, or an analogy, or something, about yarns like this:
(From Pluckyfluff HERE.)

It's like freeform jazz. You can observe it, and you can appreciate the skill involved, but it's really more about the act of creation itself. It's a celebration of taking fluff and turning it into something else.

Maybe the celebration of Making Stuff is the basis of all art.

What's prompted all this thought is a set of books.

"Intertwined" by Lexi Boeger/Pluckyfluff:
And "Spin Art" by Jacey Boggs/Insubourdiknit:
Intertwined is an examination of the creative process, more than it's a spinning book. There is instruction in there, about technique, but it's mostly about inspired-by and upcyled-that.

Spin Art is one of the best technical spinning books I've ever seen. It's up there with Judith MacKenzie and Abby Franquemont. Really. There is physics and science in there, and a great deal of tech and detail, all presented in a way that's a thousand times more accessible than The Aldon Amos Book of Spinning. Seriously. Jacey explains the potential problems of twist in thick-and-thin yarns with two diagrams and a couple sentences that make way more sense than Amos' full page on the subject. I've already improved my regular spinning just reading the book.

Conclusion? I still don't know if it's art. But some of it's pretty cool, and the textured yarn techniques are interesting.

At least it's not a urinal.


Amy Lane said...

I like "themed" yarns, and I like "craftsmanship" when applied to something that involves color and texture for use... other than that, it's mostly just cool!

Unknown said...

Really intrigued by the Moonrover yarns. They are almost sculptural.

Anonymous said...

I thought "Clouds" would be quite beautiful wrapped around a simple pottery shape, like art... but as 'yarn'... well I'm essentially a practical person, so I wouldn't buy it as 'yarn'!

Btw, did you figure out the electron shell stuff? If not, let me know, I loved that stuff in school, perhaps I can explain in different words!

Sweet Camden Lass said...

Ooooh, some of those are lovely.

Somewhat off topic: can you recommend a book/youtube video for someone with a drop spindle, no clear idea how to use it, and no friend to teacher her (and the spinning guilds round here seem to meet while I'm at work - not helpful!). No worries if there's nothing that springs to mind....

Louiz said...

Cool books.

Hey, Sweet Camden Lass, with a name like that are you based in London? I am, I spindle (or I will again when my foot is fixed shortly). Drop me an email louiz_hutchings at yahoo dot co dot uk. Best book I found was the Respect the Spindle book by Abby Franquemont (

Sorry for thread jack, Julie!

Donna Lee said...

I like to look at art yarns and I marvel at the skill and thought processes involved. "Clouds" is beautiful to look at and probably beautiful to touch but what would I do with it? I am not one of those folks who buys yarn "just to pet it". I want to use it for something.

roxie said...

I, too, invest in practical yarn. Art yarn, though fascinating, does not tempt my pocketbook. I admire the skill, vision and control needed. I marvel at the vision, but I'm not going to buy it. I don't buy stuff to hang on my walls, either. Photos, and my own fiber experiments meet all my decorating needs.

nparis said...

You are my favorite blog. It started with the reviews of Vogue magazine, a temple I had previously worshipped at,until I read your blog.
So. Today. Art is a foreteller of the times. It can't be isolated from what was going on at the time- wars, etc. One should connect it to the history to fully understand the meaning.
I'm thinkin that the yarn photos,etc. you showed also are a reflection of the times. We are sick of slick black keys and having to depend on machines that we couldn't work on or fix if our very lives depended on it(ahhh, the anxiety!) Few can build a house, install electricity, or fix their car anymore.
But, the bright spot (in my life for sure) is the ability to take fleece and make something out of it with our own two hands. So reassuring.
Nancy Paris

Knit Wit said...

If you ever get a chance to take a class from Jacey, you should. I haven't made coils more than once since I took her class, but it improved my regular spinning a lot.

She tends to use the term "textured yarn" a lot more than calling it art yarn. And she's really good about making sure that first and foremost, it's YARN. Must be structurally sound yarn.

Anonymous said...

could you possibly finish up your KAL? you left off at the neckline and the armpits still need to be finiahed. please please?

Sweet Camden Lass said...

Ooh, thank you Louiz