Anything can be made out of anything, and in a limitless number of ways. ‘Stuff’ is what draws a lot of people to art, and how it is all put together. To get them engaged with it, have them make something - making is inclusive, making is empowering.
A good number of projects of mine have relied on participation for this reason. I’ve created spaces where the public are invited to make collectively. My involvement with the knitting collective Cast Off, and the Craft Rocks event at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in 2003, led me to conceive the ongoing Knitting Pieces and Garlands series of works. Whether stitching a circle or weaving an installation, these activities prompt social interaction and communication through the doing – looking, thinking, making, exchanging. Ideas about craft and the social and cultural histories relating to it, as well as art in general, are passed around between participants. If art is about communication, let’s make!
As far as imparting knowledge about how to make things, the less said the better. Being told exactly how to handle tools and manipulate materials is a dangerous thing. I’m interested in the Knitting Pieces and Garland installations providing a space where participants can develop their own way of doing things and their relationship with materials and processes. Making is not simply about skill and technique, but about an approach and attitude in relation to these. With this freedom, each maker is more likely to develop his/her own individual way of making.
In the light of this it is odd I've been involved in working on a book such as Practical Basketry Techniques, where set procedures are demonstrated to achieve determine outcomes such as a platter, a multifunctional bowl and hat or a plant cloche. However, projects in the book are but an introduction to processes that aim to encourage readers to get inspired and develop creative ideas. I led a 3D weaving workshop with design students recently. I urged them to bring a range of materials, and following brief demonstrations, I got them to plait and so dome interlacing. Wonders were created in no time, and I like to think their outlook of weaving and how it relates to their practice has been changed forever. The best thing to do with your know how is to pass it on. You’ll be amazed what comes back your way. I myself got so much inspiration from the session. So here is some advise: cross it this way, and that way, and pass it on…