Monday, December 9, 2013

Review: The Fine Art of Crochet by Gwen Blakley Kinsler

I had the good fortune to meet the author at Vogue Knitting Live Chicago last month, and we ended up exchanging emails and hatching some plans for future promotions together (you can read my recent guest post on Gwen's blog here). Gwen kindly gifted me an eBook version of her beautiful new art book, The Fine Art of Crochet, so that I could share a review with my dear readers.

First, let me say that I always have a hard time getting into reading digital versions of books. I know I'm old-fashioned, but I just love a real printed book - the smell of the paper, the turning of actual pages, the experience of sitting somewhere and reading something that you can hold in your hands (not that you can't hold a Kindle or an iPad in your hands, but it's just not the same). I was a little worried that I'd find it hard to get through a hundred-or-so page book that I only had access to on my laptop, but it turns out that the subject matter was so fascinating, I was practically giving myself eye strain to keep reading.

This is Gwen's third book; the author learned how to crochet in Honduras while serving in the Peace Corps and went on to immerse herself in the fiber arts world by researching art crochet, making her own art, and founding the Crochet Guild of America.
Desert Doily by Carol Hummel.
Used with Permission.

This is an exquisite art book featuring 20 crochet artists; each profile includes background information, interviews, and full-color photographs of the artists' work. The introduction provides a brief but fascinating history of the craft to set the mood, from ancient beginnings to the early days of the crochet revolution through the present-day collaborative community of artistic endeavors and yarnbombing. Each turn of the page will surprise and astonish, giving new respect for a craft which is not always given its due.

The author with artist Pate Conaway.
There is such a huge depth of terrain covered; each artist has a unique style and philosophy which underpins their work. You'll find pieces created not only with yarn, thread and wire, but with more unusual materials such as found objects, a garden hose (yes, it's crocheted!), plastic bags and even human hair, but it's not always the materials which take center stage. Many artists choose to combine surprising imagery within a more 'traditional' context. Nathan Vincent's "Men at Work" piece comes to mind: a delicate triangular-shaped doily version of the "men at work" road sign which is crocheted with fine cotton thread. Another piece by Karen Searle entitled "Body Bag" is also an interesting example: in this piece, the artist has filled a crocheted flax bag with cast paper body parts, an arresting image indeed. Of course, these two examples are but a few of many interesting, beautiful and thought-provoking pieces of work explored throughout this book.

If it sounds like I am gushing, it's because I am! I have always had an interest in fine art, even though I didn't pursue an Art History degree in college (it's a long story, but I had an instructor who was obsessed with fingernails in Peter Paul Rubens paintings which ultimately caused me to change majors). This book is absolutely perfect for art lovers and fiber artists alike - and if they're both, you'll definitely score some brownie points. If you are looking for some new patterns to crochet, this isn't the book you'll find them in: what you WILL find is endless amounts of inspiration and creativity to motivate you in your next project.
Table Husks by Tracy Krumm.
Used with permission.
The Fine Art of Crochet is available in softcover and eBook formats at AuthorHouse, Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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