Next Thursday, 25th July, 5-8pm, I'll be hosting a workshop in the Dingle Library, on crocheting lace with plarn, recycled plastic. Alongside me, there will be a local fisherman, demonstrating knotmaking techniques. This workshop is the first, of what I hope will be a series of workshops, as part of MÓIDE+, a public art project in Dingle.
MÓIDE+ is a Tidy Towns initiative supported by Údarás na Gaeltachta, NEKD and Leader. A cross-organisation, cross-craft, ambitious project to re-claim some of Dingles derelict buildings, and turn them into works of art.
The original proposal I submitted was to cover the front of a building in Irish Crocheted Lace. This lace would be made out of recycled plastic, turning the ugly; the derelict and the plastic, into lovely.
I have always loved traditional craft techniques, eg folk, native, fascinated by the beauty which comes from basic necessity and from poverty. The roughest of craft items hold more beauty for me than all the brand names in all the fashionable places. Its the nameless beauty, wabi sabi, the acceptance of transience and imperfection.
Usually its the poorest people in the world, who create the most beautiful, ornate, intricate crafts. In modern times its probably because these people can be paid badly to spend long, awful hours creating by hand. But in days of old, it was more due to religious beliefs and tradition. How many cultures, from Vikings to Maori, surrounded themselves with beauty and ornate? And why? Through my research and travels in Lace, I have become even more obsessed with these ideas of beauty, simplicity and poverty. It is only in the obsessive West, that the art of 'ugly' is acceptable. (A whole other can of philosophical worms, I'll open another day and blog post!)
Two of the places I visited on my recent trip to Italy were, at one time, very poor fishing ports. These connections of lace and fishing continue in Spain, in Brittany, and I'm sure many other places. I have a beautiful book, pictured above, about how Irish Crochet Lace was taught to the women of Brittany, during 'The Sardine Crisis', a period of intense poverty among their fishing community. The most beautiful crocheted baby clothes I ever saw, was made by a French man, who used to work on the trawlers, travelling across the Atlantic. He said, you needed some hobby, but it had to be portable, most of the men crocheted, knitted, knotted, etc. So, this project, combining lace and knotting, in a fishing port. Its perfect!
Crochet is just knotting with a hook, knitting is knotting with needles, macramé is decorative knotting, fishing nets are knotting with a shuttle. They are all the same principle, but just done with different tools, and by different 'kinds' of people. These ideas were also expressed by Guillermo Roig, a Spanish artist, who works with tatting, another form on knotting, "breaking gender boundaries of the traditionally female world of lace making by bringing tatting closer to the fishermen’s world".
For this community-based project, I'm going to try, like Guillermo, merge these worlds, the ultra feminine world of lacemaking and the ultra-masculine world of fishing. Lace and Knotting combined. I love this idea, because, lace is knotting. It evolved 100's of years ago, from decorative knotting techniques. So, it is coming full circle, knotting to lace to knotting.
In this workshop, we'll be crocheting and knotting small pieces, experimenting with styles and techniques, which will be worked into larger panels. These, in turn, be part of a large plarn-bombed building.