The role of ritual in Art

March 26, 2010 at 11:48 am (Uncategorized)

My art projects almost always involve rituals. Before I write, I listen to a song that helps me capture the tone I want in my scene. When I bake, I sample the chocolate first. (I don’t want bad chocolate in my cookies!)

And when I knit, I conduct what I call “the squish test.” Here’s how to do it.

First, get your materials on hand—in this case, your intended ball of yarn. In theory, you can do this in the store, though some clerks don’t like you touching the merchandise. This isn’t a problem for me because I buy most of my yarn online.

Second, indulge your five senses. Enjoy the colors. Smell the yarn. Don’t taste it, that’s gross.

Third, and most important, squish. Use the yarn like a stress ball. Hug it to you. Tuck it under your chin. Roll it between your wrists. Squeeze it between your head and your shoulder.

This probably sounds—and looks—silly, but I never buy a new yarn line without conducting a squish test. Why bother? Let’s look at a box of yarn.

All this yarn is related: they're all different kinds of wool. The orange and white are highland wools of different sizes; the blue and black are same-weight merino, but the blue is treated to be machine-washable. The silver--the best yarn to practice the squish test on--is a laceweight merino/silk blend. Yum!

See the bright orange yarn? That’s fingering-weight highland wool, and I’m using it as an accent color for my new ski cap and hobo gloves. (The main yarn will be the same type but black). The squish test for this yarn focused on the wrists and the head. Holding the yarn against my head made my hair oily. (I have that problem with all wool; it’s not just this yarn). If I didn’t intend to shower after every outing where I wear this hat, that would be a problem. Playing with the yarn let me know how light and thin it is; it also isn’t scratchy against the sensitive undersides of my wrists.

Compare this to the white yarn. It’s the same highland wool as the orange, but the strands are more than four times thicker. The threads are heavier, which means projects will go faster, but I’ve found that the yarn is also more scratchy. I hate having this stuff on my neck! This isn’t a yarn that I would want to have next to my skin. (Luckily, I only use it for felted accessories.) The squish test cues me in to how to not use my yarn.

The squish test is all about finding out what does—and doesn’t—work. As an artist, I can’t imagine finishing a project only to find out that I’m incompatible with the media. I don’t make acrylic socks because they itch and they don’t wick sweat away from my skin. I handwrite stories instead of typing because technology is too distracting. These are unique to me, and I’ve figured them out by the squish test (or an equivalent).

In short, if you’re having trouble in your medium, experiment. Creating art is an art of its own. Do what you can to enjoy that process.

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1 Comment

  1. L.T. Elliot said,

    I never thought about squishing yarn. You learn something new every day!

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