Monday, July 29, 2013

Profile: Patrick Ahern, Crochet Artist

Monday, July 29, 2013
As I said in my book, The Fine Art of Crochet, at the conclusion of the introduction: "Fortunately today there are many, many artists who choose to express themselves through the medium of crochet. Although space constraints prohibit me from featuring them all, my hope and my dream is that this book will be a springboard to the understanding, not only for crocheters but for the public at large, that crochet is a valid and vibrant medium in the field of art!"

My plan is to continue to educate about crochet as art here on my blog and today I am featuring fiber artist, Patrick Ahern from Los Angels. He is a kind soul and it was a pleasure getting to know him by phone.
Patrick Ahern, of Los Angeles, was a musician before he was a crocheter. He likens both skills to each other because he says, “The chords in music are patterns and crochet patterns have rhythm to them as well.” Patrick further explains that he gets a sense in his head, but he doesn’t have to follow a rigid framework to create his artistic and complicated tapestries.

As a child growing up in California, he attended an all-boys Catholic high school where football was stressed. In art class, Pat learned drawing, but careers in the arts were never encouraged. “There was so much negative emphasis in my school,” he recalls. “They told us we would be poor if we didn’t get into an Ivy League college. I ended up going to community college because I believed I was not ever going to make it as an artist; and I stayed there for ten years!” Pat explains that he took classes in color analysis, fashion and drawing. “I use everything I ever learned;” he says; “and I don’t want to go back to college.  I just want to crochet.”

Now, at age 32, Patrick’s goal for 2013 is to market himself and his work. “My life goal,” he says “is to be comfortable and to have the time and inertia to move my art along. That’s the hard part; it is all up to me.

Inspired by tapestries in the many museums he has visited, Patrick found that the majority are woven. He loves to use tapestry yarn because it is 3-ply and strands can be added to or it can be made thinner as needed. “I also use chunky yarn as filler where needed. Stitches are the foundation of my crochet tapestries, just like the woven ones I studied.”

Creating his portrait tapestries since 2005, Patrick creates stitch by stitch looking at a photograph. “I am painting a ‘picture’,” he explains. “Paint has its own texture. Crochet is kind of like sculpting, but my works are flat. When one takes a close look, there is texture like brush strokes. Crochet is the original 3-D printer – from cozies to the hyperbolic plane, anything can be made with the right stitches. Counting is an important aspect of my crochet design, especially when it comes to gauge. I always use one size hook and two or three stitches. By counting, I get the proportions right.”

Inspired by his love of Norman Rockwell, the clean lines of Hollywood portraits and Impressionism, Patrick often questions himself and his method. “Am I just re-creating a photograph?” he ponders. “My challenge is always this - Can I create this picture in crochet and not have it be an exact replica?” He explains that his method is free form yet, he puts a lot of structure into the piece and has to know how the stitches work in order to do so. “Incredible creativity comes from rules,” he believes. “Yet one needs to know the rules in order to break them.”

Patrick sees so much potential with crochet; he is still amazed after all this years with what he can create that he says he will never leave it behind. “I can crochet better than I can draw and when I give myself problems to solve during the creative process, it is better than complete freedom!”

To see more of Pat's work, so to His work has been compared to that of Jo Hamilton, who is highlighted in a chapter of my book. See for yourself  in this profile of Patrick at:    

Friday, July 26, 2013

2013 Chain Link Conference Report

Sunday, July 28, 2-13-So, I found the camera in the refrigerator in the bag with corn on the cob, but that's a whole other post in itself!
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
I was a teacher of 4 classes at this year's Knit & Crochet Show in Indianapolis last week and I did book signings during the lunch breaks at both the Indy Chapter of CGOA and at Crochetville. So, it was pretty intense and I really didn't take the time to do many photos.

Anyway, with or without photos, it was an amazing conference. The registration numbers were high at this wonderful venue, Sheraton Hotel at Keystone Crossing. there were many familiar faces of the CGOA loyal fans, Past Presidents, Amy Shelton, Marty Miller, Karen Klemp, Tosca Mark, Pam Oddi and me! Delma from Alaska has now attended her 19th conference without missing a single one!! She deserves a reward. There were faces from the past and faces I get to see once a year: Nancy Nehring, Joyce Wyatt, Mary Harris, Joan Davis, Jenny King (from Australia), Lily Chin, Nancy Smith, Kate Steinke, Andee Graves, Shari White, Kathryn White, B. J. Licko Keel, Susan Lowman, Edie Eckman, Don and Jean Neff and quite a gang of people who went on the first CGOA trip to Ireland in 2000 with me.
Carol Alexander, Ed. of Crochet! magazine shown here

I got to meet a lot of the members of the Indianapolis chapter and they are an amazing group. They were meeting and greeting and promoting their meetings to any crocheters who like to meet with like-minded enthusiasts.  I wish I lived closer to this vibrant and enthusiastic group of crocheters!

I had wonderful students in all my classes! They were enthusiastic and there because they wanted to learn. No doubt about it, Crocheting with Wire is tough on the hands. I had a few complaints in that class just because it is tough to do if you are not used to it. One woman who suffers from arthritis had to take some breaks to rest her hands, but she really didn't complain. Others really enjoyed the look of adding beads to wire and sooner or later they will develop some callouses and be just fine crocheting with wire!

Current President of CGOA, Cari Clement, was in two of my classes and she is a joy to talk to. During the Thursday night business meeting, Cari described a lot of work that is being done in the "background" to our website and for the benefit of chapters. Be watching the CGOA website, Cari is going to end her term as in style come Dec. 2013! During this meeting, I reminded everyone that next year marks the 20th anniversary of CGOA and unveiled the winning logo for our celebration.
This wonderful design was created by Donna Wolfe and she won $250.00 from Crochetville! Thank you Amy Shelton and Donna Hulka for your Crochetville generosity and big congratulations to Donna for this winning design. You will be seeing it all year long during 2014 as we celebrate "Proud Past, Brilliant Future," our theme conceived by Pam Oddi. The 20th anniversary colors are emerald green, platinum and white; and as you can see, it will be a brilliant future as we use this logo to get the word out about the celebration of 20 years of CGOA!

I was so pleased that all the people in my Crocheting with Cabochons class had experience working with thread and steel hooks! They took to the bead-crochet easily and were very excited about their new skills and being able to embellish the exciting and colorful cabochons.

Some of the cabochon pins created in class. Good job!

"Patience" was the name of the game for the Flatwork Bead-Crochet (tapestry bead-crochet) class. Everyone DID have patience and after the first hour of tedious bead-stringing while following a graph, they were pleasantly surprised at how, like magic, the design in 2014 celebration colors began to appear as they crocheted.

Students in the Bead-Crochet Primer were obviously there because they wanted to expand their skills beyond the scissor fob we made in class.
They were interested in jewelry making and came decked out in creations they had made in other needlework techniques, like peyote stitch, polymer clay and bead stringing for necklaces.

There's nothing more elegant than hands crocheting!

Our banquet and fashion show was held on  Friday night this year which is a departure from the usual Saturday night. Over 150 were in attendance and it seemed like almost everyone got a door prize! Our sponsors were generous. We enjoyed fashion show creations modeled by the makers , and Rita Weiss was inducted into the CGOA Jean Leinhauser Hall of Fame but sadly she wasn't even present to enjoy it! It was announced that she will be attending the next conference in Concord, NH in October.

My local chapter had a great showing this year with 9 in attendance: Bonnie, Ellen Sindy, Jeanee, Pam, Robin, B.J. (who we hadn't seen in months), Annie (at another table), Nancy Nehring (honorary chapter member)

It was also announced that our summer 2014 conference will take place again in Manchester, NH where we will kick off the festivities for the CGOA Anniversary celebration.
(Blogger note-when I find my camera, I'll add pics)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Guest Blogger: Kathryn Vercillo - Crochet Art History

Monday, July 15, 2013
I'm delighted to announce today that I'll be introducing a series of guest bloggers who will stop by here periodically to contribute essays on subjects near and dear to their hearts (and mine). Often it will include crochet-as-art as a topic which I hope will be of interest to many.

Today I welcome  Kathryn Vercillo. She is a prolific blogger  and a passionate crochet advocate.

I guess, if nothing else, I should be known as someone who enjoys the unique and even the odd. For that reason alone, I had to get to know Kathryn and to have her tell me the meaning of "concupiscense"!

In 2011, she awarded me the Awesome Crochet Blog award for my Free form Crochet and I wrote about it here
In 2012, I introduced Kathryn as my "cyber-friend" and reviewed her just-released book, Crochet Saved My Life

Please enjoy Kathryn's essay that follows and many thanks to her for an interesting read!

Crochet Art History Resources: 1970s, 1990s, Today by Kathryn Vercillo

Crochet is a craft that comes and goes in waves of popularity. While true devotees stitch quietly day in and day out over the years, the media and publication attention to the craft waxes and wanes. During the times of great attention a few amazing resources get published and these are the resources that we can turn to again and again to understand the true art of our craft. Three waves that have produced such great resources came in the 1970s, the 1990s and then there’s the wave happening right now.

1970s Crochet Art History Resources

A couple of years ago I began to research crochet art history and I came upon a wealth of information about the crochetart movement in the 1970s. What I learned, in brief, was that there was a big movement in art schools at this time (especially the Pratt Institute in New York) to accept and include crochet as a fine art form rather than viewing it as a lowly craft. Crafters (mostly women but also many inspired men) pursued creative approaches to utilizing crochet in new ways and elevating it to a greater art form. Many of the unique techniques that we use today, especially in freeform crochet, were born during this time.

Two books written during that time have really captured my attention: Creative Crochet by Nicki Hitz Edson and Arlene Stimmel (1973) and The Crocheter’s Art by Del Pitt Feldman (1974). Each of these books shows a collection of truly inspiring original crochet art designs from a variety of different artists. I love being able to look at this aggregation of the unique work of a number of different crocheters who were influencing one another but each creating one-of-a-kind designs. It shows the variety of how crochet can be used in sculpture and wearable art. Creative Crochet weaves the work of different artists throughout the text whereas The Crocheter’s Art features a section of individual profiles of different artists.

1990s Wearable Art Resource

About two decades later another similar book was published – Julie Schafler Dale’s Art to Wear. Dale ran a fiber art gallery in New York where many of the crafters featured in those 1970s books first exhibited their work. Schafler created the wearable art book to showcase the bold designs of those artists along with many other of the era’s fiber artists. The book explores crochet as a wearable art form and also looks at artists working in knitting, weaving, appliqué and other fiber art niches.

Art to Wear is organized by category and within that category (such as crochet) there are individual artist profiles. We get to see the colorful work created by these masters of the hook, most of which is freeform crochet work. We also have the opportunity to learn more about each artist. Book publishing had come a long way from the 1970s and this book is filled with bigger, more detailed, color photos that really show off the crochet work of the fiber artists. Visually it’s a stunning coffee table book. Historically it adds to the small bit of information available about the developing history of crochet as an art form.

Today: Yarnbombing and The Fine Art of Crochet

Crochet has seen a great resurgence in popularity in recent years. Craft publishing has also gained traction. This is a wonderful thing. However, most of the books that are published about crochet today are pattern books and “how to” guides. Those books are invaluable for the crafter but don’t provide a lot of information that adds to the literature of crochet history. Since learning about those multi-artist books from the 1970s and 1990s, I’ve been lamenting the fact that although there are plenty of books today that do show the work of different crochet designers in one resource, there aren’t too many at all that specifically profile the work of different artists.

Gwen Blakley Kinsler’s new book, The Fine Art of Crochet, helps fill this missing hole. The book profiles the work of twenty different contemporary crochet artists. Some of these, like Arline Fisch, are artists who began their work decades ago and who were actually originally featured in those other books. Others are new artists who are bringing their own modern voices to the fiber arts scene. The collection expands upon the existing literature in crochet art history and then adds to it by showcasing the developments of each individual artist in a way that shows us how the whole of the crochet art movement is more than just the sum of the parts.

Another recent book that adds a voice to this movement is Mandy Moore and Leann Prain’s Yarnbombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti. This book delves into the specific niche of the yarnbombing movement, a movement also covered in brief in The Fine Art of Crochet in a great crochet history chapter called “the era of collaboration”. Hopefully as the craft continues to hold the attention of the publishing world we may see more resources covering the varied niches in crochet art history!

Can you think of any other past or present books that reveal the multi-dimensional developments in crochet art history through profiles of individual artists?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Chicago Means Art!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013
Art abounds in the world-class city of Chicago, my new home as of July 7! I consider gardening an art and we can thank former Mayor Daley for enhancing miles and miles of streets, medians and parkways with gorgeous plantings. In addition, businesses add to the floral profusion by sponsoring sculpture exhibits periodically among the plantings. Public art is a part of daily life as the many outdoor sculptures enhance an incredible skyline. "The Picasso" is thought of by residents as more than art; this untitled piece exudes pride and has become an icon that represents this wonderful city.

Fiber art is an important component of the vibrant arts community in Chicago; and it is no surprise that I found 20% of the artists in my new book, The Fine Art of Crochet, living right here in the city.

This past weekend, I was pleased to visit one of my favorite artists in the book, Pate (pronounced Patty)
Connaway at a "performance" he was doing at the Defibrillator Gallery.
Pate teaching me his finger-crochet method

Crocheted chair webbing
Pate crochets with unusual materials!