I love street art, especially of the unusual kind. Whether it's coming across a lovingly handcrafted toy carefully protected in a plastic zip lock bag thanks to the Toy Society or walking past a street sign with a knitted cosy as the work of Knitta Please, there's something magical about finding like that on the street. I remember walking down a laneway in Melbourne a few years ago and coming across a tiny baby doll that had been made over into a Bondage Baby by Ghetto Kitty. The feeling of finding something secret that someone had left jsut for people like me was thrilling.
On a sort of side note, but not really, I remember being in London and walking back to the hostel only to find a Banksy stencil painted on it's wall. In it, the rat holds a sign in which someone has scrawled LONDON DOESNT WORK and I remember spending some time standing there trying to figure out if the person who painted it wrote that or if someone else had come along and written it after. Either way, I was so excited I photographed it. Of course, I was so happy to be in London, somewhere I've always wanted to visit, that I pretty much photographed everything, up to and including every meal I had. I was only there for three days, so there isn't that many photos of meals, but still...
ANYWAY, I found a new and incredible website today that I wanted to share. Little People is exactly the stuff I love. Tiny littlestreetscapes, moments captured in miniture and left in London streets. Like the the photo to the right. Just incredible work. And for nothing but the art. I love the idea of people working long and hard to create an amazing and magical experience for someone.
Actually, it reminds me of something I witnessed in 2002, a sort of unintentional street peformance. I wrote it up as a poem. It was 2002 after all, we were all poets back then.
Magic in the strangest places Coming home from work Tired Leaning my head against the glass A tramp got onto the tram His hair was wild His jacket open He wore no shirt. His movements were jerky, High speed As if someone had the fast forward button Pointed only at him. He bent over an empty seat And quickly, Quickly Reached into his huge bag And pulled out a little toy clown With a porcelain smile. He bent it into sitting shape And plonked it unceremoniously down. He quickly shuffled to the next empty seat And repeated the process. To a third Then a fourth seat He plonked another sitting clown down. Then, without seeing to their fares Or their comfort He got off at the next stop and shuffled down the street. [his work here was done?] And the other commuters turned to each other A little bewildered, and smiled Caught each others eyes And grinned They started talking, where before there was only empty stares out blackened windows. A broken man with a powerful smell had somehow united the travellers in a way I have never seen before A magician with insane hair casting a spell with clown dolls.
By the time we reached my stop Still no one had moved them From the seats he had placed them, As if moving the dolls would shatter their newfound bubble.
What the poem doesn't relate was that when we got to my stop, no-one had touched any of the clowns, and I couldn't bare the thought of the tram getting to the depot and someone who hadn't witnessed the event jsut tossing the clowns out. So I walked down the tram collecting all the clowns and I took them home. I even used them in an exhibition, Dirty Wonderland, years later.
Craft is an odd thing. Society isn't sure where it's placed or how to think about it. For example: I was talking to a gallery owner about maybe organising a craft exhibition a few years ago and she was behind the idea but said several times through out the conversation "Now, you'll make sure it's high craft, wont you. I don't really want low craft in it. Only really good craft." And I assured her the craft would all be of the highest quality, but secretly inside I was wondering where the line is drawn.
It was actually the first time I'd heard the term "high craft" and "low craft". I come from a fine arts background, so I've heard of High Art, but you don't hear much of Low Art. There is Lowbrow Art, but that's different again. High Art is really Fine Art, the upper end of the scale in quality and subject matter. Lowbrow art is on the other end of the subject matter scale, stuff that's snigger worthy. Of course, there are people that transcend this, Jeff Koons leaps to mind as a man who makes High Art out of lowbrow subject matter.
But to High Craft and Low Craft... When she said it, I quietly went home and did some research on the net, and spent a lot of time thinking about it after that. It seems on the net that the popular opinion is that older crafters see older crafter's work as High Craft and the new wave of indy crafters as Low Craft. There are arguments out there that if it doesn't come out of a university degree, it aint High. The problem with researching it on the net is that the arguments are all one sided. The older guys who seem to be fighting off the indy crowd don't really blog, and so it's the indy crowd telling everyone their version of what the other side thinks.
Not really the best way to understand the argument, and it turns out, not really the argument I'm looking for.
What I'm trying to find is the definition of what is High Craft and what is Low Craft. And thus, in finding that maybe I can find the reason why it's important. I understand that the gallery owner didn't want crap in her gallery, only quality craft. But it seemed to me she was asking more than that.
Who is to say what's not gallery-worthy? I've seen some dreadful things in galleries over the years, often under the label of Fine art. Who says that all crafters make things for galleries? A number I know make things for the joy of it, make things to put in shops and would never think of putting their stuff in a gallery. But who is to say that craft does not belong in a gallery? Walking past Craft Victoria's shop front on Little Flinders you can always see the craft through the window. Craft Victoria only deals with High Craft, and crafters who do it full time, they're not interested in people who craft for a hobby (direct quote from a friend of mine who was told that by CV). But surely that's not where the line is drawn.
I come up against pregidous with my craft. Art dolls have secured their place in the art community, there are some truly exquisite dolls out there (and again I point you to Beth Robinson as an example) but it's hard to find exquisitely beautiful knitted dolls. Knitting, from its very nature, is chunky, and chunky dolls end up being cute.
So that makes me wonder if I knitted a doll with tiny needles and 2 ply wool, would she still end up being cute? The same gallery owner who didn't want Low Craft kept asking me "So, when are we going to see an exhibition of your knitted monsters?" That never helped my ability to find the line between high and low craft. Monsters were high craft enough for her?
It's a strange concept, and one I'm still wrestling with. I don't have any answers at this stage, I"m still jsut kicking around concepts.
As for craft itself, I'm not really interested in the scrap booking, primitive kind of craft that stores like Lincraft seem to be geared towards, although it's usually the subject matter rather than the style. Painting a set of drawers in various shades of pink or scrapbooking images of cats doesn't really inspire and excite me. Anything with googily eyes makes me wary. Children making that stuff, that's fine. But when you find adults making it, that makes me wonder why they never progressed. But then, it's unfair to judge crafts that people make for themselves against my higher standard of craft of a quality to sell or exhibit. Maybe that's, at least in part, where a line should be drawn. The purpose of the craft has to be taken into account when deciding where on the line it goes.
But whatever conclusions I finally come to, I'm beginning to find that in every group in society there are a) people who look down and up at everybody else and b) sub groups of same. So in craft there are people fighting a war to find where on the hierarchy they are placed, and at the same time, identifying themselves with smaller sub-groups, and doing the same there. I first noticed this mentality in the goth community. Yes, I know its hard to believe, but I was once young and angsty too, and you'd walk into a room of other goths (usually at a club) and everyone there would instantly measure you against their mental Goth Ladder to find where you were placed, and, more importantly, where you were placed in reference to them. It was also called the Gother Than Thou mentality, and as I recall, there was a card game and everything.
So, to sum up. - There is High Craft and Low Craft, although I don't know where the line is or really what checkpoints to use when assessing something - There is a rift between the old guard of seemingly academically educated older crafters and the hip new indy guys - There seems to be a Crafter Than Thou attitude from some crafters, although this is pretty much across the board of humanity in everything people do - and for people who take themselves so seriously, goths are pretty damn funny
Oh, I'm so excited... (Hmm, this blog is starting to sound like an child on too much red cordial) I've finally gotten photographs back of my latest burlesque doll, Miss Suga D'Flirt.
My camera died a while ago and I borrowed a friends to photograph her, but then his computer died and it was all a terrible technological tragedy, but everything is back up and running and I bought myself a new camera yesterday as well, so everything is fine fine fine.
Now that you've had enough build up, please welcome to the stage, Miss Suga!
Ladies and gentlemen, roll up, roll up to see the flirtatious and delectable, the sassy, saucy, sexy siren herself, Suga D'Flirt! She'll warm your heart and tingle your bones, she'll hipnotize and heal with her twirlin' tassels and swingin' hips! Come one, come all, you wont wanna miss this Miss!
Suga is dressed in thigh high light pink fishnets and the sauciest pink frilly knickers you ever will see. Who knows if the collar matches the cuffs, but her bright pink hair certainly matches her shoes and tassels! She wears a half sized top hat and, like all good burlesque performers, huge false eyelashes frame her saucy wink.
I love Suga. She's one of my favourites. I love her real shaped boobs. I had the ideaof a tassel twirling doll since I started, but I needed to perfect boobs first. No point going to all the trouble of stockings, knickers, boots and the rest if her tassels twirled from a flat doll chest.
I did a lot of research on burlesque a few years ago for a solo photography exhibition I was doing called Kitty Serendipity (I know that's also the name of one of the dolls, I liked it so much I re-used it and hoped no one would ever notice). You can see some of the resulting images here
I found a huge amount of information and photographs which I went back to when I was thinking about The Knitted Sideshow series, and I went researching more. I found an incredible photo of the American burlesque performer Amber Ray. It was the photograph on your left, taken by Dale Harris, and it inspired me to knit Suga D'Flirt. It's a beautiful action shot and as soon as I saw it I knew that knitting tassel twirling burlesque girls was in my future.
Oh, how exciting! I've jsut been approached by one of the local Community Houses to whip up a workshop for their Turkish ladies knitting group. Oh, how ace! I'm going to create a generic doll for them to knit and then create a number of costumes so they can pick what they want to have their doll wearing. It was suggested that they could make Turkish dolls, so I've been looking on the net for pictures for research. The Turkish have some incredible costumes! And of course, a long tradition of belly dancing, so it's right down my burlesque dolls alley!
Check out a couple of photos I found: The gentleman in his ace costume comes from here and the lady in her dancing costume comes from here. How cute are the dolls going to be?
The ladies are going to be knitting between 2 and 4 dolls each, which will then go on display in the local justice centre.
The other option they'll have is to knit modern clothing, so they can knit a little doll of themselves, or their grandchildren. My grandmother used to knit dolls of us when we were little, which is what inspired Totem, and I'd love if I could carry on her legacy by encouraging other people to do the same.
I had a look at other projects people from the Neighbourhood House, one of which were dioramas of old Richmond shops. They were incredibly detailed and lovingly crafted. Some used merchandised dolls, there was a bar scene with a huge muscled doll that I recognised but couldn't place, and an incredibly detailed two story Dimmeys store comeplete with signs, bolts of fabric and shelves. Each one came with a little story of entering the shop, or what the artist remembered from visiting the store years ago. I fell in love with the craftsmanship and artistry of these amazing artworks from people who have never had any formal art training at all.
I really think it's something I want to persue, community stuff like this. Its organising local communities into making art like I do with artists. And the stuff they make is so beautiful. It's a really interesting avenue.
Actually, although to crafters alone, the title of this post "Toy Graffiti" works perfectly well, in the graffiti community, 'toy' in an insult for a newbie who isn't very good. So if this was a graffiti blog, the title would not be a compliment.
Welcome to Sayraphim's wonderful world of facts.
I met one of Melbourne's royalty of graffiti artists one day, New. I was working with him on a job. I managed to insult him by a miscommunication using the word 'toy' (hence why I now have the above knowledge). I looked up to see this horrified look on his face and he asked me what the hell I ment. So I restated the sentance, his face cleared and we had a chat about graffiti related terms in general and specifically how I'd managed to insult him. All of which I found fascinating but really has nothing to do with the topic of today's post.
I want to introduce you today to The Toy Society, which is a society that is fast spreading around the world dedicated to uplifting someone's day by leaving toys out for people to find. How beautiful is that? Imagine walking down the street and spotting this
So you go closer to have a look and inside you find this beautiful doll.
I love the look of serenity on her face and her relaxed pose. How happy would that make you?
I love finding things on the street. I blame it on reading Pollyanna when I was young, especially the passage where she explains her preferred hobby of "turnup stuffer" which, when pressed for an explanation says that anything that turns up, she stuffs into her pocket. My sister and I spent years after that scanning the ground everywhere we went for things to pocket. I still do it. Yesterday I found $9 in 1 and 2 dollar coins outside an empty cafe, and I constantly find discarded jewelery, necklaces, broken dangly earrings, broken bracelets, I pick them all up, figuring somewhere, someday I'll find a use for them. I'm going to end up a mad old woman in a house filled from floor to ceiling with boxes of craft supplies.
But back to the Toy Society. I don't know how they accept people into the kabal, it's not really specific on the site, but I'd love to be a part of it. I love the thought of making someone's day by leaving something beautiful for them to find.
That's ace. Spreading a little anonymous joy through out the world, one toy at a time...
Oh, how cute is she? I love her hair and her cigarette was a really bold choice, how often do you see smoking dolls?
I love how crafty this doll looks. And I love how different she is to Beth Robinson's doll. Every doll that comes in is so unique, which makes for a really strong exhibition. I think it'll really encompass just how wide ranging the umbrella term "craft" actually is.
I've photographed the next in my burlesque doll series, please meet Saskia the Snake Charmer!
Ladies and Gentlemen, roll up, roll up to see the daring and danger that is Saskia the Snake Charmer! Thrill at her her twirling and spinning, marvel at her dancing and weaving, all while being wrapped in her 53cm (20") snake, Simon!
Saskia is dressed in a dark blue figure hugging dress with split skirt and light blue trim. She is wearing elbow length evening gloves and brown cowboy boots, has an elaborate hair style and huge false eyelashes. She comes with her posable snake, Simon. Simon is dark green on top with a mottled green and yellow belly and a bright red forked tongue.
I'm really pleased with both how she turned out and how she photographed. I was photographing her at night under a tungsten light and at 1/2 shutter speeds without a tripod. So I was resting the camera on a bean bag, which meant I couldn't see through the view finder to compose the photo. But for all that, I got some lovely shots. This one I am especially pleased with. Shows some of the action while leaving a little unexplained.
One of my favourite things about Saskia is that she has real boobs. Unlike Kitty who is totally flat chested and therefore more toy like, Saskia has breasts that curve out and then in again. It makes her more of an adult doll, rather than a childs plaything. I'm looking to knit more breasted dolls in the future. Dolls that are not toys but little art creations fascinate me.
I'm curating a show for Fringe at Fed Square called Totem: Dolls with Souls through my artistic company, Omnific Assembly. I'm asking artists to create self portrait dolls, not of how they look on the outside but how they feel about themselves on the inside. I've had an incredible response, over 110 artists have signed up and are busy creating dolls in their studios and homes all over the world.
The dolls are slowly trickling in, and every time I receive one I am blown away by the artistry involved. I feel like a kid on Christmas eve every day, and this'll continue until we install the dolls in the space at the end of Sept.
Ive curated 6 shows in the past 3 years and I'm always honoured by the artworks that are created. Seeing so many beautiful works based on themes I've concocted is always humbling.
And thus today's post. The amazing and talented Beth Robinson, of Strange Dolls fame is one of the artists participating, and this morning she posted her Totem doll on her blog.
The doll is an incredible art piece and I cannot express how beautiful it is. I watched with awe the flickr slide show of images of her doll.
This is the part of the job I love the most. I ask the artists a question, in this case it's How do you feel about yourself? And their answers always fascinate me. It's why I organise shows. I could have made 100 dolls about how I feel inside, but I already know the answer to that, I already know what I'd make and how I'd do it. I'm interested in other people's answers, what other people have to say, what other artists create. I'd never in a million years have made a doll like Beth's, or indeed any of the other artists who have and are contributing to the show. And that's what I love. Standing in the venue on the day everything's due and seeing for the first time the incredible art every artist has contrubited to the exhbition.
Totem: Dolls with Souls is on at the Fracture Galleries in the Atrium at Federation Square from the 22nd of September to the 13th of October as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival. Totem is part of the Fringe/Fed Square resedency program and opens offically on the 24th of Sept with the other two resedency shows. Opening is from 5:30 - 8:30. So if you're in Melbourne at the time, come on down and join in the festivities.
My sister alerted me to this post on craftster by Jane Doe the other day, and I thought it stunningly beautiful.
I'm a big fan of the anotomically correct heart. And this has an ye-olde-worlde type feel to it with the embroidery and the sepia colouring. Jane mentions in her post that she stained it very so slightly with tea to make them all the same range of colour. I especially love the lace poking out the bottom in the first photo.
I also think the addition of the tubes is masterful. I love to contrast between the handstitched, soft material part of the muscle itself vs the hard clear and clinical looking tubes of the veins draws the viewer in and makes the soft material even more inviting. I always think that crafted hearts are just crying out to be held. They fit so nicely in the palm of the hand.
I knitted a heart a few years ago, I was feeling totally heart broken and crushed and I figured the best way to make myself feel better was to knit one. I wanted it to have a good weight so that when you held it in your hand it felt right. It's stuffed with rice, as I recall, to also give it that good squishy feeling.
I was never fully happy with the 'rim' around the top of the muscle, but back then I couldn't figure out any other way to do it. It doesn't look too bad, but it was just one of those things that annoy you when you make something. I loved the veins and arteries though. I'm always on the look out for anatomical hearts, having made one myself I now take a professional interest in them :)
I've started on a reorganisation of my website, www.sayraphimlothian.com. So far it's been an online CV of all the work I've done, photography, graphic design, art, curating, digital art, sculpture, props and puppets and sets. It's a big site full of photos and, I like to think, well organised. But things sort of disappear, nothing really stands out. So because I want to focus on my knitting and dolls more, I'm reorganising the knitting side of things, building a whole new sub-site to showcase it all.
Oh, it's a big job. But website-ing always is. I've spent all day on it, and I'm only about a third of the way through. I'm a old fashioned hand coder, building it from scratch in Notepad++. Occasionally I wonder if I should be embracing the new age and do it in some kind of program, but I am an old woman, set in my ways.
My eventual plan is to sell not only the dolls but patterns of them as well. Currently I'm knitting the prototypes of each of the dolls. I should knit a single doll a few times, write down the pattern and sell it all, and then move onto the next. But I'm easily bored and always ready to leap onto the next great idea, so instead of the sensible way, I've finished the prototype of 3 dolls and currently most of the way through knitting 3 others. Nothing has been re-knitted yet. But I'll get back to them.
In the meantime, here is the first of the dolls, Miss Kitty Serendipity. To let you in on the secret, Kitty is dressed in a red bustier and mini skirt with black trim, black opera length evening gloves with red edging, fishnet stockings, garter belt and if you’re lucky, she might just flash you her tiny black g-string! She dances and titillates her audience with her hand knitted red ‘feather’ boa and her sexy red boots. She has an elaborate hair style with two bunches of roses woven in and, like all burlesque performers she is wearing huge false eyelashes.
Welcome to my blog. I am a early 30s professional artist who is interested in crafty type things as well as arty type things and I love what the net has to offer in networking and inspiration opportunities. I'm a member of Craftster the world wide crafty community, Red Bubble an online photography community and marketplace, and etsy the online craft community and marketplace. I'm an art mercenary, making anything anyone will pay me for, however for the last couple of years I've been focusing on digital art and knitting. And no, there is no real connection between those two things.
So hello, come in, have a cup of tea and do try some of this excellent cake.
Sayraphim Lothian is an artist and independent curator who works in a range of media including photography, digital manipulation, mixed media sculpture, craft and soft sculpture and site specific installations. She is currently focusing her practice on digital art and craft/soft sculpture, primarily knitting. Touch the Exhibits is her reviews of art exhibitions and Page 63 is her craft blog.