Friday, August 28, 2015

Pooja Saxena - Fiber Artist

I am a new weaver joining a community of very enthusiastic, talented, and creative individuals. I am excited to use weaving as a means to understand mathematics and how mathematical minds work through the intricate craft patterns. I am a mathematician by profession, a constructionist in approach, and an ardent lover of numbers. For six years I taught mathematics to both high school and undergraduate college students. Over a decade ago, I began my work to integrate education and technology for developing curriculum for math learners in the US and low SES (Socio Economic Status) students in India. My life is enriched with stories of female students and their mathematical experiences; particularly in understanding specific techniques that motivate them. During my third year as a doctoral student in Educational Policy Studies with a minor in Learning Sciences at Indiana University, I took a course taught by Prof. Kylie Peppler. I was truly intrigued by the course and the techniques she used to ignite gender-specific motivation for enhancing mathematical abilities. During this course, I worked with Justin Whiting to design a roller coaster made out of paper as a part of a Creativity Lab activity. We focused on tacit and explicit forms of play and collaboration to enhance individual, and in some cases tangential, learning. Our project raised a set of questions requiring further exploration; questions such as: (1) In what ways can participants learn physics concepts through the use of a paper roller coaster?; (2) To what degree do participants demonstrate greater understanding of the concepts after building and using the paper roller coaster? Additionally, it generated many complex questions about Physics in the real world and how people make knowledge claims based on what they already know.

A key focus of my current weaving task is to understand what motivates or deters young female students to engage in the STEM fields. I have joined a weaving class in Bloomington, to enable me to effectively explore this subject through the Re-Crafting Math project. I am looking forward to researching how weaving can motivate mathematical thinking in girls. 

Look out for my incredible threading, tie-up, and treadling experiences that I plan on sharing with you on this blog!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Let's watch a movie. A knitted movie.

Greg Climer is creating a short film, and he intends to use a knitted scarf as the reel for the film.

Climer, a faculty member at Parsons School of Design, does not knit by hand. In fact, he admits he is "terrible knitter", which is a surprise, given the complexity of this undertaking. Climer creates pieces on knitting machines. He learned to use this technology at a factory, where he was able to distill frames of his films into knit.

Have you ever heard something like this? Me neither.
Climer has a movie sample for the curious.

Here, Climer answers a few questions about his making process:

KS:  How and when did you learn to knit?

GC: I don't know how to knit. Ive been collaborating with a knitting factory for this project. They taught me how to set up files for the software their machinery uses but the actual running of the machines is something they have not taught me. Understandably, they don't want a layman using their incredible equipment. 

KS: What was the inspiration or motivation for the knitted project?

GC: Knitting is just pixels. Knitting machines and jacquard looms are the predecessors of computers. There is a direct evolutionary link between the loom and computer graphics so it just seems logical to knit a film. 

KS: What draws you to art and making? How did you find yourself in a creative field?

GC: I've always worked in creative fields. I studied Theater design in my undergrad and Design Technology for my MFA. I've always been happiest using my hands. Most of my career has been working with other artists or craftsmen. For this project, I started with a film clip. I broke it into individual frames. Those frames were compressed down to the four colors of yarn and the individual pixels per perl. These files were then knitted, photographed, and restored to video. 

KS: Is knitting a new skill? If so, why did you pursue this traditional women's craft?

GC: Is it traditionally women's? Knitting and weaving machines were the province of men during the industrial revolution. When the Luddites smashed the machines, they were men working under a male leader in an attempt to protect a male trade. I've never thought of knitting as gender specific. 

That said, I understand what you are getting at. I've noticed that when a craft moves from domestic to industrial, it ceases to be gender specific. Anonymous housewife vs Alexander McQueen. It's a hypocrisy in our society about what women can do and should do. Women can do crafts at home but if it expands to the realm of fine art or high fashion, its a man doing it.  There is a great book about the guilds and the evolution of sewing from men's guild to women's craft.

Traditionally women's should not be a slur. it should be a badge of honor. History is filled with amazing women whom most men would be lucky to be compared with.

KS: Can you share a bit about your making process? 

GC: I have a studio space in my home. Its a loft in Brooklyn. I have a cutting table and industrial sewing machine. Parsons is an incredible resource for making facilities. At work I have access to laser cutting, a wood shop, and industrial machinery that I would normally not be able to access. In the summer time, when the school is less busy, I will frequently go there to work.
I work for a few hours at a time during the school year. Part of my job as faculty at Parsons to have an active creative practice, so its something I make time for either at the end of my workdays or dedicating a day to it each week. During periods where it is entirely implementation, such as when i'm sewing a quilt that's completely laid out and designed, then its extremely meditative to spend a few hours sewing pieces. When it's the more creative, problem solving periods of a piece it is also invigorating but in an entirely different way. I always have multiple projects going on at once so that 

I can move between those different experiences as needed. In the summer I consider making art to be a 40 hour a week job. I'm about to workshop the script for the knitted film with some collaborators, then I am heading to Florida to film it with a high school drama class. After that, I will spend the rest of my summer editing and refining it so when I begin knitting it we do not waste any effort. During this time I'm also working on other pieces, some quilts, which will help me stay refreshed when my brain is exhausted from thinking about film making.

KS:  Is there something about fiber arts that is of particular interest to you?

GC: My career has always been in costume design and fashion design. I work as a fashion designer who teaches creative pattern cutting techniques. Our relationship with clothing is extremely personal. The way we use garments and the narratives we instill in them are incredibly strong. They are artifacts of communities and narratives. Because of my work as a fashion designer and pattern cutter, textiles are the medium i am most confident using for expression. When I'm trying to convey an idea or explore possibilities of a medium, it makes sense for me to work with textiles since they are where I am most facile. 

I am looking forward to watching how this knitted story unfolds.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Tink again

"Why is important to fix mistakes?"

"Can I give this as a gift if a few stitches are dropped?"

"Do errors really 'add character'?"

These are the thoughts I have as I knit, tink, and reknit the stitches that will someday work together to create a shawl for my Mom. This shawl has taken some time, which comes as a surprise, for I have knitted this pattern before. The difference this time is that this shawl is not for me; it is a gift.

When I knit a garment for myself, it seems acceptable - and maybe even charming - to leave errors in the piece. Instead of fixing each mistake, I often keep small, less-noticeable mistakes in the textile. These errors can be meaningful, as if I am in on a secret that no one else knows about. I know where the small hole in the hat is and no, I will not go back to darn it. Yet these subtle flaws seem to carry a different weight when present in knitted pieces intended for gifts.

What is the role of an error in a piece made for someone other than self?

It seems that these errors do not have a place in garments for gifts. To tink is to knit backwards. "Tink" is quite literally "knit" spelled backward. So, I will tink and knit and tink again until the shawl for my Mom is complete.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Thinking outside of the yarn shop

What happens when you look beyond the yarn shop to find your material?

Anne Mondro does just that. Wire is her medium, the human body her muse. Not only has she figured out how to crochet with copper wire, but she has managed to create and anatomically-accurate human heart out of this material. 

This is not your typical crochet done with yarn. It’s wire. And it’s 3D. Anne Mondro, the Artist in Residence at the Icelandic Textile Center, is using crochet to make us think about illnesses and diseases in a whole new way. 
Using narrow-gauged tinned copper wire and a crochet hook, she created 3D sculptures in the shape of anatomical hearts. Mondro spent a year researching the anatomy of the heart, including time at the U-M anatomy lab and using 3D modeling software to learn how to create the heart forms with her crochet hook.
The idea of the sculpture is to reflect on the strength and challenges of relationships during times of illness and disease. Mondro believes creative work and healthcare play integral roles with each other. In 2006 she developed a course called Retaining Identity. In it, art and design students pair with persons with dementia in order to explore the role of creativity in the healthcare setting. The course works with the U-M Geriatric Center to explore the potential of art to lift the human spirit in times of illness.
"This piece is very personal. I’ve been working with older adults with memory loss and their caregivers. It’s so intense to be a caregiver. When you care for a loved one, the two of you become intertwined. You take on their vulnerabilities but also their strengths. As I thought about that relationship, it was important that these forms be tied together somehow."