Extreme Craft is going to turn FOUR YEARS OLD in a few weeks. One of the best parts about keeping the website up is seeing how artists I wrote about in the early days have evolved over the years. Many people who started out with crackpot ideas have spun their obsessions into interesting and tangled careers. I wrote about Atlanta-based artist Matt Gilbert back in the early days of the blog--particularly his geekalicious "scrollbar scarf". I even ordered a scarf for myself, wearing to death, until it finally looked like a tattered baby blanket.
Gilbert has moved up in the world! He's getting his Master's degree in Human-Computer interaction at Georgia Tech University (go Yellowjackets!). His most recent project combines his love of computers (did I mention that he is the son of rogue mathematicians?) and crochet. Gilbert started digging into the history of crochet and the history of computers, and found surprising parallels:
While the Jacquard Loom allowed for the beautiful and elaborate patterns to be woven again and again effortlessly, it automated the process of textile production, putting many people out of work and separating the producer from their product. Most of the weavers (or "spinsters") who lost their jobs were women. Knitting was also automated in 1589 by William Lee, out of sheer jealousy that his wife was spending more time with her knitting than with him. Surprisingly, a similar historical event occurred in computation; the term "computer" was once a job title and those workers were also often women. Much of computation was seen as a kind of clerical work on par with typing and many of these jobs were lost once computation was automated.
Gilbert built on the work of the Institute for Figuring by creating a computer program that generates very complex radial crochet patterns. With this project, he's using the technology of mass-production to create work on a more intimate scale. These gorgeous sweaters would stand out from the crowd with their unusual design alone, but when you know about the thought behind them, they become wearable art of the highest order. I wonder if you could hypnotize somebody with these!