Fiber Art vs. Other Types of Art

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Dear everyone who is unaware:

Fiber art is just as valid an art form as sculpture or painting or photography. Just because you don’t think so, that doesn’t make it so. It’s not just picking up any old yarn and one or two sticks and going at it. You have to know color theory, you have to know how to pick the right pattern for the job, you have to be able to differentiate between fibers to find the right one, you have to have the skills to do it. Sure, it can be learned in an hour or two, but it does take a good long time to master the different techniques.

I’ve been knitting for almost nine years. It took about an hour to learn and get comfortable with the feel of the yarn and the feel of the needles. Over the last almost-nine years, I’ve learned how to make cables, how to make glorious lace, what makes people “ooOOOoooo…” over a project, how to tell the difference between silk, bamboo, wool, and cotton by look and by feel, what a colorway is and how to pick the right one for a specific pattern, how to tink what I’ve just made without having to frog the entire thing, how to read my knitting, how to do three or four cast-ons and a couple of bind-offs, how to read a chart, how to speak in knitting code. There are still a zillion other techniques that I’d love to learn that still scare the glitter out of me: intarsia, fair isle, entrelac, just to name a few.

Perhaps you didn’t know that this much went into knitting. That’s part of why I’m saying something. Saying that knitting and crocheting are the same thing is like saying that Lichtenstein just made comics, or that a Van Gogh and a Kinkade are equal, or that Jackson Pollack just flung paint at a canvas. Yarn sold at Joann or Michael’s or Walmart are not the same thing as yarn sold at a yarn shop. You can get modeling clay and watercolors at those places, too, but you wouldn’t.

You’re going to sell a painting that took you 20 hours to paint for $1000? Good for you. You’re going to sell a photo you took and developed and printed in about three hours for $250? Congrats. Why do you think my knitted garments shouldn’t sell for what they’re worth? Let’s take a pair of socks, shall we? Just plain socks in a colorway you love, no fanciness to them at all, just plain stockinette stitch. A good yarn for socks will cost anywhere from $12 to $25. Then it takes a knitter anywhere from 12 to 16 hours to knit them. And you want to say that paying me $10 is fair because “you can go to Walmart and get socks for $8”? That doesn’t even cover the cost of the yarn, let alone my labor and my skill. This is the reason why, when people say, “You should sell your knitting!”, I say no. There is a scarf that I make that I pay $40 for the yarn and it takes me about 12 hours to knit. And it’s an easy knit, a boring knit. But there is exactly zero way that I will sell it to someone unknown for less than $90. Because my time and skills are worth that much. Banana Republic has scarves that sell for $110 that are machine knit and identical to every other scarf that they sell. And people eat that shit up.

When you put down my creativity because it’s something that only old ladies do, you’re insulting the hell out of me and millions of other people. Sure, we have older women in our ranks. We also have women of all ages. And men of all ages, for that matter. Doctors, lawyers, administrative assistants, musicians, fashion designers, housewives, football players, ballet dancers, dog enthusiasts, cat enthusiasts, we’re all kinds of people.

Telling us that we’re “less than” because it’s something anyone can do? That’s a bunch of bullshit.

The Fiber Artists

4 thoughts on “Fiber Art vs. Other Types of Art

  1. WORD. Socks from you vs. socks from WalMart = the difference between Cheez whiz and artisanal made cheese from goats whose teats are lovingly stroked thrice daily to “clear their chi.” *laugh* It’s not the same and it shouldn’t cost the same. And not everybody can knit. I sure as hell can’t much as I wanted to. There’s definitely a “thing” in the collective out there about devaluing what artists do and one of the best ways to do that is to turn us against one another – vaunting one kind of art over another. Declaring one kind “high” and others “low” for various reasons. Erroneously stating that “anyone” can do it (whatever “it” happens to be) is another. I’m seeing similar things on all those D.I.Y. channels where people are hiring someone to decorate their homes and the interior designer says something along the lines of “We need art for this room. Art is something that’s easy to make and anyone can do it. Just get a canvas at your local art store and decide what color you want the base to be, then smear whatever other kinds of paint you like all over it like a monkey with some poo…and voila! Art you can hang over your sofa for about $30.” And then I scream “And lookin’ every penny of $5!” at the TV (as I’m sure you can remember) because damn. Way to devalue art there, dude who should know better – especially when they could be saying something wonderful like “Art is highly personal and since you only have so much space in your house, you should only hang things that truly delight you on the walls. We’re going to a local Open Studios tour to find some pieces that we really love and support some artists along the way.” I mean, they spend $500 on a sofa throw, they should know better than to cheap out on the art. Arrrrgh! Anyhow. I cannot state emphatically enough how much I agree with everything you’ve written here. A good quality hand made scarf shouldn’t -ever- be sold for under $150 because your time and the hours you spent acquiring that skill to execute that scarf beautifully? That’s VALUABLE. I wish we could make more people understand that.
    If you want (or can only afford to have) a house filled with crap that everyone else has too, by all means, knock yourself out with the WalMart options….but if you want a house filled with unique things that delight your soul, which were lovingly crafted by people whose names you’ve learned? You’re gonna have to pay more for that.

    • How is it that I have just seen this comment for the first time? Thank you, Rob. It means a lot. And that last paragraph is the reason that we go to the Artist’s Studio Clearance Sale here every year and the reason why my favorite teapots and cups and mugs are beautifully handmade and picked specifically at that show or at small ceramics shops.

  2. Preaching to the choir here. Totally agree with all you wrote.
    Also, those techniques that “scare the glitter out of” you, you can totally do them all. Like most knitting it just takes some instruction, patience and practice.

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