One of the prime missions of Spin Artiste.com is to answer the question, “What can you do with ‘it’?” Recently, Michelle Snowdon, the fabulous artist known as Wooldancer, shared some thoughts on this subject in connection with an inclusion of one of her pieces in an art exhibit being held in Sydney, Australia. Her observations are especially timely for your publisher who has been working with a Baltimore hospital to install a significant handspun fiber piece in a new area of the facility (keep your fingers crossed — working through the logistics). Michelle has also sent in some images since many of us won’t be able to see the exhibit in person.
Now, over to Michelle:
“In Which a Yarn is Meant to Be Just Yarn”
As a spinner I’m sure you are familiar with the questions, “what can you do with handspun art yarn?”, and “will I have enough yardage to actually make something?”. They are reasonable questions to ask. The history of yarn is rooted in functionality and usefulness, yarn being a mere step in a process of making cloth, the very fabric having manifold practicalities for humankind.
What happens when you take the functionality of yarn and put it aside? You are drawn to seeing the colour, texture, lustre of the fibre, the filaments, twist and form of the yarn itself. It is these structural properties that add aesthetic beauty to the form of yarn, and are the qualities that a fibre artist sees, even before its function. As a yarn designer, these qualities become the principles of design. Light & shade, movement & solidity, texture, pattern and direction are concerns that become essential elements in the next new handspun yarn.
From the moment I was drawn to spinning I entered an experimental playground in which my creative juices could flow with the rhythmic energy of the spinning wheel. It seemed only natural for me to call my studio Wooldancer. Spinning yarn for me was a full-body art-practice that opened channels for creativity through the spiraling whirling energy of the wheel. In this space I could put years of art school training into practice, and at the same time fulfill an inner need to still my mind and body and replenish it whilst growing baby twins. Soon after the publication of Lexi Boeger’s first book ‘Handspun Revolution’, the world of online yarn artisans opened to me on Live Journal, and I began to meet fellow fibre artists who were as engaged with their yarn inspirations, and I felt I had opened a chapter in my life that was going to become larger than I could imagine.
One common theme in all our yarns is a love for texture and colour, especially the quirky undulating passages in the work. There emerged a tendency to be open to ‘creative possibility’ when spinning, one in which mistakes could become fruitful opportunities, a way of seeing when attentive to the forming yarn, and an inquisitiveness about how fibres behave uniquely. Similarities in styles of working in this way have drawn many global friendships together, and are gaining momentum now that more and more people are opening up to ‘seeing’ yarn in this way, and spinning unique ‘art yarns’.
When can yarn be just yarn? Does it need to be functional & useful, made into an item to wear? The phrase ‘Art is in the eye of the beholder’ has a certain ring to it, and I would add, that from my perspective, spinning yarn is essentially a creative expression of the maker. Each handspinner has their own signature spinning style that can become recognizable as theirs. I have been working with handspun as an expressive medium, and have also been known to throw on a skein of handspun and call it a necklace. Yarn wearing is one of my favorite pursuits, as it shows the yarn in it’s naked form, as it is meant to be. So, can we take it one step further and simply admire it as a soft-sculpture? I know many a fibre artist who props a skein into a vase, as centerfold for the table.
Can it also be art? Currently I have a skein of yarn in an art exhibition in Sydney. The exhibition called “Animal Collective Nouns” calls for artists to represent one of many collective nouns about animals in any medium. The piece titled “A Skein of Geese” was a collaborative effort between myself & painter Susie Dureau. It was spun using naturally colored wools: Polworth, Gotland, Blue Faced Leciester, Angelina and Goose feathers, and included Oil on Linen painted geese stitched onto the work. The piece happened very quickly, within 2 weeks of being invited to execute the collective noun as a yarn it was hanging in the gallery. It’s a thrill to see a skein of yarn hanging on a wall in a gallery, and I begin to imagine a whole range of yarn as decor.. in which yarn can be yarn.
ANIMAL COLLECTIVE NOUNS EXHIBITION
An exhibition by The Noun Collective
The Animal Collective Nouns Exhibition showcases a collective of Artists depicting their chosen Animal collective noun. A theme, we think, evokes and inspires wonderfully entertaining & quirky imagery.
Exhibition runs 7 April – 19 April 2011 in Gallery One at Gaffa Gallery, Sydney.
Michelle Snowdon lives in the Blue Mountains near Sydney Australia, is a yarn maker & designer and fibre art educator, maiden spinstress at Wooldancer.com and mother to three darling up&coming spinstars.