As a person who spends much of their time making things out of wool I often feel as if I am parked illegally on the hard shoulder of life. I watch from the sidelines as others whiz past and occasionally find myself on a direct collision course with other people’s pre-conceptions.
I am, however, an understanding and accommodating person. I realise it can be difficult to take seriously things that are woolly……..or fluffy.
I have ‘issues’ myself about the value of making, creating, crafting and decorating. Schooled in Western doctrines of modern art my knees often tremble as I struggle to stay standing under the weight of contemporary art teaching and practices.
The discourse and language that circulates around art often pipes up in my head as I am working- trying to pick an argument about ‘mindless making’, the ‘disease’ of ornament and anti-aesthetics.
This has been a recurring theme recently as I worked my way, repetitively, through several hundred crochet squares in preparation for a new blanket. At 1am, with 420 more squares to make, the creative impulse and the criminally insane develop an especially close knit relationship.
I guess it isn’t surprising then that I am not naturally drawn to monumental, labour intensive acts of decorative crafting. Yarn bombing and graffiti knitting generally leave me feeling slightly irritated so I tend to avoid conversations about such things. It feels like not quite the accepted response – from ‘a knitter’
It is not the ‘graffiti’ aspect that irritates me – from Jean- Michel Basquiat in the 1980’s through to the likes of Banksy and Ash, I love the irony, the skill and the humour that accompany graffiti art. But there’s something about the hours and hours of labour and the miles and miles of yarn involved, that makes me question the role and relevance of ‘yarn bombing’.
So when a friend asked me recently if I’d seen the knitted pergola in The Forum, Norwich I politely replied “No….I haven’t”
Then she said “Words can’t really do it justice –it’s beyond incredible and so beautiful. Do go – you’ll love it”
Convinced that I probably wouldn’t, I went – and I collided headfirst with my own pre-conceptions.
I loved it.
It was the most extraordinary thing. Standing 10ft tall and 10 ft wide The Knitted Flower Pergola challenged me not to love it’s honest cheerfulness.
The hexagonal frame is completely covered in a riotous jungle of 10,000 hand knitted flowers, leaves, butterflies and birds of every colour, and fibre type imaginable. The knitted items range from the exquisitely crafted to the rather wobbly, and collectively they are extremely powerful.
The Knitted Pergola has the power to banish all righteous, intellectual responses and works directly on ones natural impulse to smile and feel happy in it’s presence.
What makes this monumental project so significant, however, is it’s true community spirit. It is the product of many thousands of hours work by crafters from all over the world brought together on this installation by Ann Meijer to raise funds for John Grooms Court; home to a small number of disabled adult residents, just outside Norwich. Her previous project, The Knitted Christmas tree has already helped to raise over £10 000 for the centre.
As I studied the detail and considered the makers of the pergola I could hear those Western Canons attempting to pick an argument in my head; criticising my emotional response with their cynical intellectualising. The Knitted Flower Pergola has the power to silence thier voices and stands as a public flower memorial to all those dead Western art critics – and as a celebration of human generosity and the primal urge to decorate.
It can be difficult to take woolly things seriously. There is a serious message in this work- but it is delivered in such a cheerful and light hearted manner it challenges it’s audience not to love it.
It is truely awe inspiring and photographs cannot do it justice.
Thank you Charlotte for urging me to visit it and making me collide head-on with my own pre-conceptions.
The Pergola is no longer at The Forum but financial donations can be made payable to “the Friends of John Grooms Court, Norwich” and should be sent to the Knitted Flower Pergola, John Grooms Court, 215 Sprowston Road, Norwich NR3 4HX.
If you’re feeling inspired to make your own cheerful flowers this spring we’ll show you how to make these gorgeous little crochet forget-me-nots in Issue 13 of The Mercerie Post.