A {Digital} Stitch in Time

An Exploration by Denile Doyle

http://www.newmediacaucus.org/wp/a-digital-stitch-in-time/

The relationship between Needlecraft and digital culture transcends traditional visual art and produces a new concept that combines craft and digital technology and creates a new digital arts and crafts movement distributed through mainstream media, and encouraging political activism, and DIY artists’ increased performance and embodiment of social media meme parodies. Artists have graduated from typical craft techniques to “an intimate participation with the digital through the laborious, and social processes of needlecraft …” (Mellor).

The author combined her interest in the relationship between craft and digital technology with the familiar memes of social networks, and started translating popular memes into cross-stitched tapestries. The themes used by artists who stitch memes have evolved to more contemporary ideas such as social media websites viewed on Smartphone screens and newspaper obituaries. Outside of memes, there are other ways artists can combine craft and digital technology; one artist’s highly evolved project involved “[stitching] the “unexpected poetry” that her “non-smart” phone creates when providing auto-correct options for text messages” (Mellor). Another artist focused on communicating the dangers of social media by finding images from social media sites that sexualize young women, and weaving these images onto hand-dyed wool. This artist also examined the exploitation that results when these images are publicized.

Artist Cat Mazza provides a public online space for discussion and sharing, and offers free software on her website for general use. Her craft projects serve the same purpose as a media platform, featuring legwarmers with corporate logos to raise awareness about sweatshops. Mazza’s latest project, “Knit for Defense,” weaved WWII images into a knit animation carrying a message about war’s social implications. Digital guild spaces like Mazza’s join other online circles, and websites like Twitter, to voice concerns on a larger scale, engage people, and shape communities when needed.

Mellor repeats a uniform idea throughout the piece, and frequently emphasizes the underlying connection between images produced by craft and existing digital images. She describes images in both categories with identifiable detail; these images are already common in today’s digital age and it is this same digital technology that opens the door for “New Media” images created with craft techniques, images which communicate messages more creatively than their digital originals.

When Mellor initially found herself converting social media memes to embroidered images, she described her perception of the relationship between digital and craft as, “a direct relationship between the cross-stitch and the pixel, juxtaposing the time and labor required for the embroidery with the rapid spread of the meme.” Mellor also found that the embroidering the image gave it new meaning, and the final product was particularly significant was because “the textile becomes the physical record of the moments shared.”

Mellor reiterates the connection between craft and digital again, this time citing the numerous “craft and technology terms permeating our vernacular, with phrases such as “weaving a tale” and “to Google,”” which reveals the importance of both methods in today’s culture. She describes needlecraft and digital as two mediums that are intensely woven together, both on operational and conceptual levels. The author continues to express her support of the link between craft and digital formats with a reference to pixilated images that are easy to replicate with the square structure of cross-stitching.

“Whether revealing the underlying relationship between computer coding and embroidery patterns, or documenting the digital landscape through portraits of cotton stitches, artists encourage an intimate participation with the digital through the laborious, and social process of needlecraft, questioning the meaning of “social networks” and participatory production while exploring collective meaning and ownership in the digital age.” (Mellor). In this lengthy, but powerful, sentence Mellor draws attention to the focal point of her assertion that the relationship between digital and craft has always been in existence, even if it lay below the surface and was not always common knowledge, before the noteworthy merging of needlecraft and digital media. Mellor includes the above sentence in the very first paragraph, and frequently refers to the main idea within this sentence in at several other places in the text.

A {Digital} Stitch in Time expresses the unique end product that follows when digital technology serves as the subject matter for needlecraft. This unlikely relationship between digital and craft proves effective and well-suited; such harmony between these different forms of media opens possibilities for other marriages between other forms of new and old media that have not been previously explored. Mellor demonstrates that hybridism is always a viable option, and there is no reason for reservations about its potentially successful outcome.

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