The Gnomes

The Gnomes
the gnomes

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Felted Gnome Knows gets blogged!!!

So some amazing stuff has happened! I got some terrific attention from On Fire For Handmade
The Felted Gnome Knows Meet The Team and Meylah's blog  Interview with Susi Ryan from The Felted Gnome Knows!
Woot Woot!!!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Felting: Why is it Art Versus Craft?

 Imagine my surprise after creating "the girls" (that is what I call my sheepskin nudes) that I was thrust into this philosophical debate of art versus craft. Apparently the Art World in certain circles whispers the word Crafty as if it is Art's ugly step sister who should be kept in the backroom.
I have been struggling with body perspective issues since I was a teenager. As I have gotten older I find myself wanting to confront my demons and emerge with a better sense of self. The best way I have found is to make bodies in my felt work. Now I consider this work, Art work. For me it is thought provoking and cathartic. Fiber is a  great way to show women's bodies, the softness of the wool, the stiffness of the sheep skin background, the solidness yet softness of the needle sculpted wool.  Having done a series I thought it would be wonderful if they were grouped together in a gallery to be seen, to stir and create discussion. So I started pursuing various avenues to make it happen. And then it happened. My work was called Crafty. What? What does that mean? And why does it mean it would not belong in a gallery among other Art work?
 Mary Ann Kohl, an author and educator  explains it in this way:

creative, unique, original
similar (or identical) to other people
comes from within the individual
directed from a teacher
open-ended, end results unknown
closed, directions-oriented, end results known
process is valued over finished product
finished product is valued over process
copying and imitating

Now not everyone agrees with this assessment.
Kate Themal wrote a beautiful piece on Ragged Cloth Café that I want to excerpt here:
"CRAFT is technique; it requires discipline, practice and repeatability. A Craft is a learned skill; it can even be used to describe an action. To craft something means to make or build an object. Whether or not an object displays good or bad craftsmanship can be determined by specific and measurable standards.
Art is not a separate “world” from Craft. These two things are not entities themselves but rather they are specific aspects of all creative work.
ART is not a physical object. ART is an expression of thought, emotion and/or intent. ART is communication. When we create a work of art, we are reaching out to the world because we have something to say. Sometimes the viewer understands our communication. Maybe our execution of certain techniques gets in the way of our message and the viewer misses it entirely. Other times, the viewer interprets the work with their own unique perspective, adding nuance to our original intent. ART depends on that moment of connection between two or more people: the artist and the viewer(s). It cannot be measured or judged by a set of precise standards. Whether something is “good” or “bad” art is a completely subjective opinion. Therefore ART can never be truly “perfected”.
To create art is to be vulnerable. We expose our deepest feelings and thoughts, and we put them on display. It takes courage. And each one of us has to build up our nerve, explore our souls, find our passion and strive for honesty in our work. We all search for ways to express ourselves. Developing a craft is just a way to connect with our work and expand our communication skills. "

Now when asking lay people in our community after viewing the girls if they thought it was Art or Craft there was a resounding Art response.
Other artists responded that if it has a function it must be craft. One artist stated that my nudes could be viewed as art because they had no other function but to be seen but my masks served a function so they were craft.  
Another artist said that textile, fiber or other traditional materials used by women denotes a craft even if it doesn't "serve a function".
Now interestingly enough, I am self taught so there has been no teacher directing me in my work. I do draw inspiration from others as do other artists and craftspeople. I never know how a sculpted piece will end up. Process definitely takes precedent over the final product and the final result is original and one of a kind. Very few of my pieces can be replicated.. So in many ways defined by  Mary Ann Kohl I would fall into Art category if I have to be categorized. But my medium is wool and I am a woman so in some minds I will always be Crafty which I find a silly type of bigotry. Kate Themal's piece makes the most sense to me. It is respectful of both Art and Craft and can see how they can entwine and meld.
My artist statement is the best way for me to explain my processes and choices:
Sheep’s wool is what most people would consider an unlikely medium to express a feeling or perception but that is what felting and wool sculpting is for me. It gives me the power to express my worldview through a natural substance. My journey combines both a new way of manipulating wool, through needle felting or sculpting wool and an ancient tradition, wet felting. It combines Art and Craft.
Through felting the transformation is magical, whimsical and powerful. The fleece becomes what I see or want to see in the world while staying firmly rooted in the natural world.
All that is important to me is an inspiration. My daughter’s strong belief in magic and magical beings, the noticing of titmouse’s visit to the bird feeder, the curvy softness of my body growing older…these all come out of the wool.
Whether it be a piece of functional art such as hand felted slippers decorated with my impression of snowdrops to a Red bellied Woodpecker to a soft woman’s body emerging from a sheepskin it brings me an indescribable feeling of anticipation, excitement, joy and power.
What are your views on Art versus Craft?