Dedicated to Walter James Moore, one of the most inspiring creative people I ever knew who inspired and nurtured a creative hunger in me.
Just over a year ago, I attended Ignite for the first time and was delighted to find a rich concentration of people with similar outlooks and approaches to learning. I was inspired and excited. Something else amazing also happened thanks to the power of Twitter and a proactive art curator looking for something a little different.
While taking part in a “hack your classroom” workshop, I shared some pictures of yarn bombs & hash tagged them “craftivism” (activism through craft). I had dispatched a “bomb” with a friend to the US, where he ran amok by installing it briefly on the White House fence, and on sculptures by Gauguin, Picasso and Moore among others at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA).
By the time I hit the road to head home that day I had received a request via Twitter from Coral Short, a Canadian art curator, asking if I would consider submitting work for an exhibition in New York. HELL YEAH. I completed 6 doily spiderwebs to be hung in trees but was entirely “hooked” on the rhythms and meditation of repetition and coding that is crochet.
I am a compulsive maker, so I took the skills I had honed crocheting lace, and decided to try encapsulating 3D forms like rocks, stones and other things in lace. It was amazing how each rock led and guided me through how to work around it. It got to the point where I could encase any shape.
The first run of creations followed a similar vein and style while I mastered the basic skill set. White thread and black polished river stones were soon expanded to include flatter schist forms and unusual shapes. Each as piece was as individual as a fingerprint. You can’t copy and paste this form of code.
No matter how hard I tried to recreate any pattern or design, it wasn’t possible and would never be, due to the large number of variables – hook size, stone shape, gauge and texture of thread. The art of teaching is the same, you can’t teach the same course year in and year out. It’s not responsive to the students and effective teaching must always have room to respond.
I embraced all the happy accidents that occurred when I was actively making, taking each new “mistake” and finding a way to hack it into a success. This taught me new techniques and developed new concepts in the work. It taught me resilience and creative problem solving. It made me think.
Crocheting stones has reinforced the knowledge that my students are unique and individual. It also revealed that we must all take the first step first, some will run on quickly making rapid progress while others navigate their way more gently. I can accommodate all tempos and paces.
Sometimes it is the serendipitous combination of individuals that creates a magic learning space, where like a murmuration of starlings, the group moves and responds as though it was one being, with all individuals contributing to the overall success of huge group.
I started to clarify that my students are like the stones I have wrapped in lace. Each one is unique unrepeatable form, and it is always the stone that dictates the form through its own set of tensions and angles.
Soon I had a collection of riffs on a theme. I found myself wanting to work with smaller hooks and finer thread to get greater detail and a finer effect.
This desire to keep exploring led me to continuously reflect on and respond to successes and fails. New forms and shapes began to emerge which continued to add more detail and to push the boundaries of what was possible.
By following a path to begin with, confidence built up to allow me to step from chartered territory to unmapped places. At the end of a 1km cone of white embroidery thread, a new desire began to nudge me.
Despite my natural inclination toward bright bold colour and patterns, I hadn’t covered any stones in colour and so a new pathway branched off. It allowed for new “tonalities” and expanded the frontiers of creativity.
Excited by colour, I also became excited by form. I started crocheting the fist side first and then turning that piece upside down to create protuberances, splashes and frills. Because I know y students well, they are the rocks I weave around, being led and guided by THEIR needs, skills and interests.
My students are excited by my maverick approach to making, they see me model it frequently, they see my yarn bombs in the wild and are slightly impressed that I haven’t asked for “permission” to make, they love that I HAVE to make.
To me to make is to live. Making creatively expresses my ideas, concepts and emotions outwardly. As I make each piece, I love that piece more than anything I have made before and feel driven to work on it.
Seeing students develop the same desire to create is extremely rewarding. As I write this my head is full of the original songs recently performed and submitted for SMOKEFREEROCKQUEST and Play It Strange (authentic learning moments that can also be assessed).
This white stone in the centre was gifted to my dear friend Walter James Moore in the hours before he found out his condition was terminal. We had the privilege of spending his last innocent hours of blissful ignorance. This piece became the “rock” that speakers at Walter’s funeral held as they spoke about his life and their feelings at the loss of his remarkable being and creative soul.