ArtTalk: 'Crochet is a people's art,' writes Genevieve Howard

Thursday, June 5, 2014 | 7:59 a.m. CDT
From Genevieve Howard: The vest I'm wearing is inspired by the hippie spirit born from Woodstock. It's made of cheap acrylic yarn — my favorite of course — in a mesh-type of crochet with a variegated rainbow yarn and took me more than a month to complete. I got the idea from the project after a quick conversation with faculty member Mary Grigsby in the hall. A few months ago, I was mentioning my retro crochet work for the upcoming show and she described a long vest she had worn. I went online and searched old photos to get a sense of fashions. I modeled my vest on her story and the photos I found.

This is part of a project called ArtTalk, which aims to highlight and celebrate local art and artists. To submit one yourself, fill out the form at the bottom of the story.

This story was contributed by Missourian reader Genevieve Howard.


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Q: What kind of art do you create? Tell us about your medium and style.

A: I use yarn to make art! From prayer shawls to 1970s-inspired afghans, the yarn is the starting point.

I prefer cheap acrylic yarn and simple crochet stitches. With little expense in materials, I never fear making a mistake. I can do no wrong with a $3 skein! Plus it is washable and will survive the decades. My mother was a big believer in cheap acrylic yarn, so she passed on her belief to me. Her pieces have outlasted her lifetime. I'm glad for that. I treasure them.

I stick to the simplest of stitches because simple is more meditative. I want everything I make to be easy!

Q: What is it that inspires you? And why do you create art?

A: Crochet is a people's art. No matter where I am, if I'm crocheting in public, my work is a conversation starter. Everyone knows someone who crochets or knits. The conversation will start something like, "My grandmother used to crochet all the time! Every piece of furniture in her house was covered in crochet ..."

I relish hearing these personal stories, but sometimes they have a sad ending. The person might regret never having learned from the family member, saying, "She wanted to teach me, but I didn't have time." I encourage everyone to sit down with family members and learn from them while you have them with you.

My art not only connects me to people, it also cheers me up. Crochet is good for my health and well-being. Doing a repetitive and rhythmic action with my hands such as crochet has positive psychological benefits. It reduces my stress and gives me a sense of calm. Looking at the color of yarn and feeling it in my hands is a multisensory process. I'm reconnected to the physical world and the present moment through creating my pieces.

Q: Can your work be found around the community (or has it been in the past)? If so, where?

A: My most recent showing has been at the 2014 MU Staff Arts and Crafts Showcase. For this show, I used the 1970s as my theme. My son and I love to visit thrift stores. I find old pattern books, and use them as the basis for the yarns I choose. The 1970s color palette in a word: bright!

Q: What sets you, or your work, apart from other artists?

A: My goal for my art is to bring me closer to others, and encapsulate my love for life into my yarn pieces. I make prayer shawls for people grieving or struggling with an illness like cancer. If they are blue, they can wrap themselves in one of my shawls. It's the best way to mail someone a hug!

I revel in the process of creation. Yarn is very forgiving. You can crochet in your own style, and it will turn out alright. Hold the hook how you want to and make the loops your own. I'm always hoping to recruit new fiber artists! In this age of rectangular screens, the work of our hands becomes rarer and more important.

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising editor is Joy Mayer.

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