Lately I have been thinking a lot about crochet and the Swedish notion “förspilld kvinnokraft”, a rough English translation would be something like “wasted efforts made by women”. (What follows below is a generalized picture).
The notion came into use during the 1900’s in Sweden and was a critic against the work made by women in their homes. Both men and women have used the Words to criticize the time and the effort women spent working with their hands mostly to crochet and to embroid.
During the 1800’s the Swedish society and culture, as many other European countries, went from being agrarian to industrial. In the agrarian culture the people were poor, if you see to the level of earned Money. People mainly lived of the land and raised cattles. Knitting, weaving and sewing were the dominant crafts used by women and the things that were produces were every day objects. There is a story about the artist Lina Eriksson from Jämtland that shows how strange and wrong it was for a girl even in the beginning of the 1900’s to spend time doing something else than producing useful things. When Lina Eriksson was watching the cattles alone at the pasture she started to carve in woods. She liked the material and was drawn to it. But her mother protested: Why spend time on something so unuseful? Her mother told her to return to her knitting instead, which was much more useful.
When the industries were able to produce more and cheaper goods more people could and were forced to move to the cities. A new social class, borgerskapet (the bourgeoisie), grew bigger. This meant for many women that they were given a new role – the role of the housewife. Earlier women had an important role at the farms, but when living in the city she lost this position. Instead woman had to stay at home.
She was both locked in, without any possibilities to earn her own money, and faced with a lot of spare time (if she could efford it). So for example crochet and embroidary became the way for women to get use of their time.
Later, this that can be seen like an unuseful and pointless occupation, was criticized both from feminists and from the male society. Feminists thought crocheting was a prison that kept women silent. Feminists wanted women to go out on the streets and fight for their rights instead. The male society regarded crochet as something completely unuseful. Why crochet laces? For what reason?
Feminists had a point, yes. But crochet has suffered enough now!
To me crochet and all the laces all you crocheters out there, and during the history, have crocheted is art. Crochet is not a sign of wasted effort but a sign of an extreme will to be creative.
It is an old and disrespectful and judging opinion to say something else. Of course, this subject also concerns what we see as art. Many today say that the concept art is socially constructed, that means that it is the society that decide what is art and not. Still, in Sweden, we talk about handicraft when talking about certain techniques like crochet, ceramics. But never we use that term when we talk about painting. Why is it so? Why are we still caught in an opinion which disrespect for example crochet?
I believe my crochet is art. And during the last few weeks I have been exploring how to crochet and to express the term waste. I believe we are wasting, in the rich parts of the World, enormous amounts of human effort. In our socities consumption is premiered. Even the Swedish politicians request us to take our reponsibility as Citizens – we have to consume to keep the society in motion. To me working – shopping – working is the worst prison ever invented. I believe we are trapped in an eternal circle of wanting more, and futhermore, we are told to stay in the circle otherwise we are irresponsible to our World. Why do we not say just stop?!
My purple crocheted lace discusses this, I have chosen the colour because it is faitful and symbolizes both spirituality and to refrain. Because of our acquisitivness (habegär in Swedish) we spend our time earning money. And a lot of knowledge will be lost! Crocheting is a rare knowledge today.
My black crocheted lace also discusses this but in a different way. Black is a colour that symbolizes death and mourning. I mourn the loss of knowledge. Society becomes much more narrow and boring and unfriendly without creativity, without crochet.
Yes, I know, there are other ways to be creative, one doesn’t have to crochet. The Point is: Stop consuming, start being creative!