What is ‘Art’ about ‘Art Yarn’?

What is ‘Art’ about ‘Art Yarn’?

What makes a yarn creation ‘art’ rather than ‘craft’? Is craft art? Is art crafted? I could go in circles over this for quite a while! But it IS something I have put a lot of thought into over recent years, and it stems partly from the age old debate about ‘what is art’. Traditionally, spinners have been considered craftspeople, we have learned skills, techniques, and knowledge that has been gathered over years and honed into something we can turn into beautifully crafted yarns. Often what we craft as spinners is the key ingredient in something that IS made as ‘art’ – tapestries, weavings, art installations.. However, to my thinking, there is also a time when we can call our handspun yarns ‘art’, I think there is a threshold we cross that moves what we spin from being a ‘craft’ product right into the realm of being ‘art’ in and of itself. I think it needs a few specific elements to take it beyond the skilful activity of crafting and into the expressive activity of making art. And it is of course as always, in the eye of the beholder, or rather for us, in the intention with which we create. I have an idea about the specific elements I believe ‘art yarn’ needs to have in order to be called art (and remember I view this as being is different from ‘textured’ yarns,’themed’ yarns, ‘intuitive yarns’ or even ‘no rules’ yarns). What follows is an overview of the approach I have worked on developing and solidifying over some years of spinning, from teaching art yarn workshops around the world, and as a result of my experience in co-creating and running the Journey to the Golden Fleece Creativity course (plus others) for Fiber artists at Fiberygoodness.com. I want to share this approach because inside it I have found some specific methods for taking abstract ideas, feelings, and notions and turning them into concrete, tangible expressions = art. I hope this is a useful approach for anyone wondering how to take their spinning beyond the craft and into something that reflects who they are and what is important to them, beyond making something wonderful to knit with and into making something that is unique, distinctively ‘you’, and that expresses something important to you. My Woolwenchy approach to spinning art yarns: This is a threefold approach that includes concept (inspiration), design (construction), and technique (execution). Concept The yarn you are spinning is not just for the sake of spinning, for this yarn you are wanting to express an idea, a theme, or a concept in your yarn. To do this, you want to fill your yarn with elements that reflect your theme (ie an architectural theme...

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The ups and downs of a creative life.

The ups and downs of a creative life.

It is not often that i talk about things going on in my life, my non-fibery life, I am a very private person. While I do post pics of my kids, my outings, and pics of things that inspire me and I want to share, I do not post details online anywhere about the things that might be looming large in my life that maybe make me sad, or scared, or stressed, simply because I am not comfortable to be that public with it. Its just me.  But I have had  plenty of all of those things over the last year, which seemed to be a year that simply lurched from awful to truly awful on and on. I am posting about it now because (i hope!) it is now behind me and I have the time and space to reflect on it and where I am at the moment because of it.  Having said that, I am still not going to write about everything that has happened! But I did want to share that at times this last year I have been MIA, I have been here but simply not present as I would wish to be. I feel like I have been swimming through a tank of glue, and while I could see you, I struggled to speak or to interact in they ways I used to. It started on the day my Mum passed away, and continued for some time after my Father also passed away within that same year. Some of the ‘things’ occurred as a consequence of those major events and some happened purely coincidentally yet rather unfortunately at the same time. I will not go into more detail, but the end results of the series of unfortunate events is that on top of losing my parents,  I moved house three times in the last six months, including the buying and selling of property, we had unexpected family issues of some import that caused a degree of pain, and I remain here in New Zealand with my children on my own, which was also not really part of the plan.  Yet while I say the ‘end result’ and list a bunch of pretty majorly negative life events, it isnt actually the end, and those events themselves are not actually the real results. And this is why I am writing this now. It is very true that what doesn’t kill you does make you stronger. I already felt that I was a relatively strong person, I never got stressed much, I took biggish risks with the knowledge that if things fell apart I could put them back together. I think I am lucky to be pretty resilient and self...

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Branding for Fibre Artists

Branding for Fibre Artists

I recently made a blogpost on the Fiberygoodness blog on my thoughts about how we go about branding our fibre art works. I think that as artists and crafters we are naturally most focussed on our creative projects rather than how the rest of the world might see it, and in fact I see that as one of the keys to successfully branding what we have made when we do take it to market. In my eyes, what makes your work different from mine, or anyone elses, is the culmination of who you are, what you have done, the things you have experienced, and the way you view the world. The goal of branding is to make that obvious, to create something that is recognisable as ‘yours’, so when people see it they know you made it. And then, like me, you might wonder what makes your beautifully spun natural coloured Merino from a commercial top prep any different from the next persons. How about this.. it is the way you feel about it that makes it different. It is the wheel you spun it on, the room you sat in, the people around you while you spun it, the love you felt for the fibre in your hands, the place you got that merino from, and your own enjoyment of your final skein. These are all difficult abstract things to try and embody into a single photo of your yarn when you put it online to sell it! In my blogpost I have started with some ideas on how you can start to identify and pinpoint the things that shout ‘this is me’ in your yarns and fiber, and the next post will be about how to highlight those things in your product photos. I hope you find something useful! Head over to the Fibergoodness blog for the...

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Majacraft Fusion Engine Drum Carder

Majacraft Fusion Engine Drum Carder

  A couple of weeks ago I wrote a review on the Majacraft Fusion Engine Drum Carder, and I thought it might be a good idea to follow that up with a video showing some of the cool features it has. One of these features is a special favourite of mine, partly because I had a role in its development! When I was out in NZ in 2013 I was able to use the prototype carder that Majacraft had developed at that stage. It was pretty much as you see it now (although there have been invisible changes and ‘tweaks’ since then), and there has since been one addition that I am very proud of, the Direct Injection Tray. This is an accessory for the carder that allows you to make super textured batts for creative yarns. It came about as I was playing around with the carder, Andy had asked me to put it through its paces, (he also told me to try and break it because they needed to know it would handle anything that was thrown at it.) I had made some lovely smooth and blended batts on it, and then wanted to make some really textured ones, with lots of locks and add ins. I figured if it was going to break, it would happen if it got jammed up with lots of fibre. I found that the carder was actually so very efficient, it was difficult to get it to ‘stop’ opening up the texture in the locks I was feeding in, as it beautifully spreads them out over the big drum in even a single pass. I looked at the clever design with the feedtray placed up high and how it increased the time fiber spends on the licker by feeding it in at the top. So I bypassed that tray and held the fiber at the bottom of the licker-in to see what would happen. And there it was! From that position the fiber gets whacked directly onto the main drum, retaining most of its textured locky glory! I told Andy about this and suggested that it was an ideal position for feeding in ‘fiber sandwiches’, stacks of fiber that effectively stash the textured stuff between two smooth layers. In no time Andy had created the Direct Injection feedtray that allows this feed position to be used with no danger to fingers or fiber. And it works brilliantly! This feature gives me the option of creating any kind of batt I want on the one machine. Using the standard 72tpi cloth I can create beautiful smooth blended batts AND crazy, highly textured fiber batts suitable for all kinds of creative yarn spinning. There is one...

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Back to Basics

Back to Basics

What do you do when things get complicated? Me, I revert to simple. I have noticed this tendency in myself recently, and how it comes out in my fiber work, and actually quite subconsciously. Over the last couple of years I have done a lot of what I think of as ‘yarn architecture’, complex constructed yarns made with multiple plying passes and layers of techniques. These constructions fascinate me and I have enjoyed pushing myself to create new yarns and combine textures and fibers and colours and techniques in different ways. Stuff like this:   But today, and the last few weeks, I have been yearning for spinning simple yarns, smooth and gentle and uncomplicated. I had some corriedale I had sourced from a local farmer, and it just called to me with a quiet voice asking to be spun fine, you know the sort, a tempting cloud of softness that promises to gently glide through your fingers, undemanding and easy and willing to last the distance of at least three Dr Who episodes. It was just what I needed, back to basics spinning, simple, straightfoward, back to basics and not asking me to think hard 🙂 I realised it was in direct relation to my current feeling of being over-full of tasks, responsibilities, demands from children (school holidays, yay) and general, well, life stuff. So while part of me was trying to guilt trip the other part of me into making some new and exciting multi-plyed yarns to go with an article I am meant to be writing, the other part of me just said f**kit, relax and enjoy 🙂 So I did. And it was good. I have to make a note-to-self somewhere obvious as a reminder that I actually do have permission to simply sit and spin and spin and spin and let the world go by....

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And the Circles go on

And the Circles go on

Its Sunday today, and I am not very well with some mysterious something that is making me shaky and feeling very blah. I dont get sick very often and when I do it easily sends me into the depths of self pity. So instead of that I decided to spend some time blogging instead 🙂 I shall attempt not to wallow in misery and find something much more interesting to share! Here is something I was working on last week and I am very pleased with the result. Remember a while back I shared my Neckwear Tutorial with you? (available now at Fiberygoodness). Since then I have been playing around with a bunch more circular loom stuff, and there is a big treat coming up! I can’t show you that yet, but I can show you something I made with a variation on the neckwear warp I shared in the tutorial. I am very pleased with this piece, and it has a story 🙂 Fond memories. I found this amazing paper yarn with a super fine silk wrap around it at Habu in New York on our whirlwind tour of the city (of course we stopped at the most important places!). Habu was amazing. It was inside what seemed like an office building, through the doors, up the elevator onto a fairly deserted floor. A few doors along the corridor and there was Habu, fairly non-descript, until you go inside of course and discover yourself in this treasure trove of fibery goodness! Its a smallish place, but the walls are lined with shelving thats full of stunning Habu products. Habu is a Japanese brand that creates yarns that are just incredible to weave with, although knitters and crocheters also find plenty to do with these yarns too. There were rolls of stunning fabrics with such beautiful prints on the tables in the centre of the room, baskets covered the floor, overflowing with fine mohair in every colour and the shelves were neatly stacked with cones of fine silks. It was impossible to decide on just a few things. But I finally narrowed it down to a few gorgeous colours of silk and this amazing paper yarn, which just fascinates me. There were a range of colours but I chose this one because it reminded me of woven flax, something we see often in New Zealand as flax weaving is a traditional Maori art. So I made this: This variation on the neckwear warp in my tutorial creates a shape that I think is more necklace like, its a bit finer and the clasp has to go at the back, while on the other design it could be either front or back and could...

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