Is knitting art?
It’s a big question, isn’t it? The community of knitters and crocheters have so many terms we call ourselves: crafters, makers, designers—but people tend to shy away from artist. Why is that? Is the term just too lofty, too highfalutin’ for what we’re all doing? There is a sort of homey comfort in words like crafter and hobbyist, and there is a strong network already built around maker. So are we all set, or should artist be folded in?
People who have been following me for a while might remember my conversations about this very subject. I have strong feelings about the notion of knitting (and crochet of course) as art. To get to the heart of the question posed above, let me give a short answer: yes! I fully believe that knitting is art, worthy of the same levels respect, admiration, and consideration as any other visual media. Fiber art combines elements of fashion, design, handmakery, and good old fashioned showing-people-pretty-things (and maybe even selling them).
Here is what knitting as art means to me. I approach knitting as a craft with room to constantly grow. My hunger to learn more about knitting, to perfect my craft and be as strong and creative as I can possibly be, drives me more than having any finished object. Every project is a commitment, in time, effort, and resources. If I’m going to be making a commitment so great, I want to grow in doing it. That’s why every project that I decide to make has to truly inspire me. Whenever I decide to make another person’s pattern, it’s for one of two reasons. The first is that there is some technique used that I don’t know and I’d like to learn. The second—the one I strive for in my own designs—is that I’ve seen something and immediately thought, I have to make this!
I think that there are three main ways of treating knitting and crocheting. Some people treat it as a hobby, making for the sake of the finished product. Others approach it as a business, with the ultimate goal to sell products and designs. Then, there’s approaching it as an art; to me, this means treating it as a creative craft that needs to be practiced and cherished to grow and evolve with time. For most of us, what we do involves several or all of these things.
What’s important is realizing how you treat knitting and crochet—or rather, how you want to treat it. For example, I am always thinking of my art, my craft, above the finished item or the business of it; but that doesn’t mean my business means nothing to me, and I obviously love a good finished object as much as the next person. I also know others who are more item-focused, and others still who are talented and practiced businesspeople.
With all that explanation out of the way, what should you do if you want to treat your fiber crafting as more of an art? Here are the guidelines I work by to ensure that I’m continuing to grow as a fiber artist:
- Knit or crochet every day! This is so, so important. You need to carve out a space for your craft as an important part of your life.
- Always be dissatisfied. What I mean by this is that you should always want more out of your craft. There should be some new technique to learn, some new product or fiber to use, some method of collaborating to explore. Celebrate your growth, then grow more!
- Learn as much as you can about your craft; not just about how to do it, but what goes into it as well. What are the different properties of various types of fibers? What’s the difference between using metal and wood needles/hooks? This might be a bit self-indulgent, because I tend to geek out on this stuff anyway!
Do you think of your craft as an art, or do you approach it from a different point of view? What does that mean to you, and how does it affect the way that you work? I’d love to hear your thoughts!