crochet body project

A writer and art educator sets out to crochet a full-body self portrait.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

update: practice head

Last night I worked on the practice head in the company of a couple of artist friends, and added eyebrows and some hair. I still think the lips are too large, but my friends like them as is. What do you readers think?

We each had a project we were working on, and it was so good to get together and discuss our work. I got some great feedback which I think will help me as I expand on the crochet body concept. We also bandied about ideas for a performance/film aspect of the crochet body.

I had such fun chatting and working on the head that I managed to stay out well past my usual bedtime, which I hadn't at all intended to do. Today I am very very tired.

Monday, August 07, 2006

practice head: some ideas for improvement

I've done a bit of reworking on the practice head. I'll post a photo later, when Winston's free to take one.

I took off the misplaced ear, but haven't replaced it yet.

I made the eye, nose, and mouth holes smaller. This improved the appearance of the nose and mouth quite a bit, but something is still off about the eyes--they pull down at the outer corners. I'm going to have to rethink how I create the eyeholes, maybe doing a more defined gradation of stitches to create more almond-shaped openings.

I added lips to the mouth. They look a bit too cartoonish, though, so I need to scale them down. The right side (my right when wearing the head) of the upper lip is nice, but the left is not so graceful. I think I have an idea for using a different stitch to create a texture that approximates the vertical lines of the lip. I'll have to do some practicing to see if I can figure out how to create what I see in my mind's eye.

I also started the back slit too high on the head. On the next practice head, I'll start the slit further down, below the "hair" color, which I think will make the head fit better.

As I've noted before, the chin and jaw are too large. I need to move into the chin about one row earlier, and join it into the neck more quickly. (This shows that the skin below my chin, which I hate so much that I've considered plastic surgery, may not be as large as I think it is.)

I still need to add ears, eyebrows, and hair. I want to get these elements in before moving on to the next practice head.

Also, right now, the entire head is worked in double crochet stitches. I'm wondering whether to switch to single crochet for the face to create a smoother appearance. However, my experience is that single crochet takes so much more time, and I worry that I'll get frustrated with the slow progress. Part of me likes the more homespun look of double crochet. I've got to think about this issue for a while, especially since I'm not sure whether it would make shaping the orifices easier or more difficult.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

inspiration from Andrea Zittel

An artist friend of mine, Christine, recently reminded me that I need to include another influence here: Andrea Zittel. While working in an art gallery, Zittel came up with the idea of creating a "personal uniform" that she could wear every day, thereby eliminating the hassle and expense of maintaining a large wardrobe. This spurred a series of "personal uniforms" that grew increasingly simplified as she imposed constraints upon their creation. One series is the "single strand" uniform, which she crocheted (sorry, but I could not find any clear digital images of those--they're toward the back of the installation pictured). I remember seeing the Zittel show at the CAMH and being particularly enchanted with these pieces. Although I am a big fan of her work, I bought the show catalogue mainly so that I could have a good look at her stitchery any time I wanted.

Zittel's uniforms are the convergence of visual art, design, craft, performance, and conceptual art--and that convergence is part of what fascinates me. I'm also wondering how my crochet body will become a convergence of several aspects of art and craft.

While Zittel's uniforms are, in a way, tools for presenting oneself to the world, my crochet body conceals as much as it purports to display. The nudity of the crochet body is also deceptive; it is really a covering for my body. I will not be nude while wearing the nude crochet body, even though my crochet body will be created as a nude. The nude crochet body will cover my own nudity.

The crochet body is more akin to a mask than a uniform, I think. Already, when I put on the practice head, I feel imbued with a certain sense of freedom and elevated humor that one gets from wearing a mask--even though it's a mask of myself.

This, perhaps, is what has always drawn me to performance: the chance to play myself as a character. I'm a very shy person face-to-face, but am never shy about speaking or performing in front of an audience. At an early age, I found comfort in making people laugh because then I knew that they weren't laughing at me, but at my performance. They were laughing at what a character, a version of myself that I invented on-the-spot was doing, and therefore I was protected. I could divert derisive laughter by causing amused laughter. I'm sure that's the story behind many a ham like me.

I've been thinking of ways to incorporate performance into this piece. I have several ideas, but need to "sit on them" for a while to see what hatches. And of course, I need to actually finish the body before I can perform it.