Reaching out to others is very important. And it is a skill I don’t often use. So, this holiday season, I decided to do what is difficult for me to do and to reach out to others. Everyone in my family and close circle of friends received a sweater to help me complete my journey in raising awareness for the National Coalition for the Homeless. I chose to complete this project in part due to my own experiences. While I was never without shelter, the shelter I sometimes had as a child was not one I would imagine my own children experiencing. These shelters sometimes included cars, campers, old trailers, barns and dilapidated structures. Some did not have working plumbing, electricity, or other amenities such as a refrigerator or stove. While commonplace items for most homes, these were complete luxuries I lived without. And while it may sound as if I am having a pity party for one, the reality is that many people in my community also experienced similar living situations. And while I would never have considered myself or my mother as homeless as a child, according to the outlines provided by NCH, many of these conditions would have classified us as such. These same experiences also made me the person I am today: a person who sometimes struggles with the wants of society but is grateful for the luxuries I have including a well paying job that I love and worked very hard to obtain; one who has a loving family who supports me and my quirks, and has friends who put up with the creative reclusive impulses I put them through. This year was also one where I was able to reach out to supportive family in order to provide a home for my mother who had been living in less than ideal circumstances. Through this experience, I have also had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know a great family who is assisting with my mother’s needs as she continues her struggling journey down the path of life.
Having worked with several different populations of homeless adults and youth in previous community art projects, completing Found Objects is one in which I felt that I could directly impact people’s awareness of such social issues; question artistic standards of representation outside the main frame system of capitalist structures; and utilize a common collaborative oriented craft as an artistic medium for expression and activism. While I will not be knitting any additional sweaters for this project, anyone interested in participating through knitting and placing a sweater are encouraged to contact me for directions. Thanks to those who also participated by knitting and placing sweaters including Terri Minkin, Jill Mcilroy, Pam Murray, Kathy Schultz, Theresa Krivosheev, Louise Greenfield, Nita Mehnert, Leann Nassar, Patti Shield, Suzanne Arney and Patt Sheldon. I enjoyed getting to know all of you through this project. May 2012 be a great year for everyone!
To commemorate the project for posterity, I sent one sweater off to the National Coalition for the Homeless. Megan Hustings, the Director of Development, and I have been in correspondence over the past year and a half regarding the project and any proceeds that could be directly attributed to the finding of the sweaters. The letter outlines the completion of the project on my part and thanks the organization for letting ARTivention sponsor them for this collective endeavor. And while Megan has been keeping up with the blog, now she will have a sweater in person to look at and be reminded of all of us who have knitted and placed a sweater around the country in support for the organization and its mission.
I have traveled through Nebraska on many occasions but have never had the pleasure of visiting the International Quilt Museum and Study Center at the University of Nebraska. Seeing as I am in the field of textiles, it is a mecca for one who appreciates the hand made well crafted artistically designed item. For anyone who has not gone, I highly recommend taking time out of any travel schedule to stop in Lincoln, NE to visit the museum. One will definitely be inspired by the well thought out architectual references to quilting, including the eye of the needle used as the motif for the entire building to the stitches of the quilt found in the windows, it is a uniquely wonderful experience. The sweater here was placed in the storage cubbies at the entrance of the building and will hopefully inspire those interested in the hand made to joining the crusade of knitting and placing these sweaters of awareness throughout their community.
One of my favorite things to do is to visit knitting/yarn shops while traveling the country. Mostly, I like to pet the fibers and any person who works with yarn understands the need for this activity. And, best of all, this store also had a posting spot for announcements, causes and news. In the background, the words “challenge, change, cure” aptly fits the theme of this project. If you happen to be passing through Evanston any time soon, I encourage you to stop by Close Knit and see if the sweater is still there as well as pet the luxurious silk, mohair, wool skeins that adorn the interior!
This sweater was placed in Asheville, NC. This is a trendy location that looks very European inspired with bicycle racks lining the brick road with little shops while people strolled about and musicians played in the background. It was Mother’s Day, and as I sat there for some time on the bench, I enjoyed watching all the families strolling together enjoying the beautiful sunny day. It seemed like such a care free day, far away from the concerns of the trivial, or even not so trivial events that we all face in life. There was even a cute knitting store just across the way that I had to refrain from buying anything from as my stash is quite full of yarns yet to be spun with the addition of a new spinning wheel in the studio waiting for me at home.
As it is Valentine’s Day (or at least when I was able to finally post this!), I wanted to highlight this found piece in a thrift store in Mesa, AZ. Similar to the little sweaters knitted for NCH, this framed find captures a sense of wonder and awe for me. Upon first glance, it appears that this was crocheted for a doll, yet it has been framed which somehow changes how we interact with this object. But the love and care that went into the making of this blue and white cape is evident. While I am not sure if the finder of the knitted sweater I placed in this menagerie will be able to see that it is meant to be taken and not purchased, I still felt that it was a great place. The artist in me also can’t help but think about the composition of the photograph with the yellow candle stick that draws the viewer’s attention to the yellow square in the sweater. If, per chance the finder does purchase the sweater from this thrift store, I do hope that they also make a donation for a good cause.
It is photos like these that are sent into ARTivention that showcase what a great community based project Found Objects have become. Knitters from all over the country who meet on a regular basis have sent contributions to the blog and have shared many stories of their groups and places that they knit. The sense of community abounds among the knitters and crocheters and others who partake in many of the “craft” oriented fields of production which is why this project has been so much fun to promote as it highlights this amazing trait. Patt has taken a picture of one of her placed sweaters at a local coffee shop called Blue Sky where a regular group meets and knits things of all kinds. Patt writes, “We pretty much take over the place every week but his mother, who is 87, relocated here last year and he knew she’d enjoy our group. He even brought sweaters she knit for him years ago to show us and has displayed them there (you can see them in the background on the left). I wanted to leave a sweater there since we have such a positive relationship with them, so I placed it on the shelf where they display awards they’ve received (they’re also a nursery and landscapers, so the outside is full of plants to buy) and near Dorothy’s beautiful sweaters. In the picture with the knitting group, the sweater is way in the back, hard to see, but I wanted you to see the group (and my friend Leann Nassar with dark hair and glasses in the back is holding up her little sweater she’ll be placing soon). We’re really enjoying doing this and everyone loves seeing us knitting these teeny sweaters.” Thanks everyone!
As I am trying to inspire others to join in on knitting these sweaters, I am targeting places that knitters would go to purchase yarns. And, while I whole hartedly support local business, I couldn’t resist placing this sweater in one of the big box chains. It’s the first place that many people go to find the necessary supplies for various art making and craft activities which makes it a prime place for a sweater. As I was scouting for a prime place, this one seemed to fit the bill, especially with the notation at the bottom about “instant gratification” which is a culture in which we are submerged.
This sweater was placed on Main Street in Mesa, AZ in front of the Fiber Factory that supplies many locals with yarn, looms, spinning wheels and many other materials for fiber based projects. Outside the store, are trees covered with knitted samples and this giant purple chair. It was a great place to situate the sweater–hopefully to encourage other knitters to participate in this giant collaboration. Further down the street, I came across this store corner which seems to symbolize the state of Main St. in America in many ways. The sign on the left says, “Let Freedom Ring” and of course the other sign saying “For Rent”.
There are few sweater patterns that have made it difficult to part with, but this one in particular was particularly attractive. reminiscent of a woven structure, this knitted pattern plays with color in equal amounts that makes it more visually complex and fun to look at. This sweater was placed outside a prominent upper scale department store and in front of another store that specialized in home decor. Both stores provide the image of ideal American lifestyle that obviously requires a higher bracket of income to provide such amenities. Also, the act of consumption seems to be never ending as we are constantly reminded of the objects we don’t possess.