Crafting for the Heart of It
Review staff writer
When most of us think of the word “art,” certain images come to mind. Sculpture. Michelangelo. Art majors creating masterpieces. We often don’t realize there are other artists out there, students who are not art majors and who create art with yarn or other materials.
For these crafters, art doesn’t just include the Mona Lisa. Perhaps their scarves will be displayed only around the necks of others. Perhaps their crochet creatures will never find a home in an art museum. Nevertheless, the art these Linfield students create may belong right next to Picasso’s.
“Art is a way to express yourself,” junior Jamie Mertz said. “My art comes from my heart, and it is very much a part of me.”
Mertz’s art does not hang in galleries or on walls in the art department. She said much of her work is displayed in other ways. Her apartment, for example, boasts a hand-painted floor mat and several framed drawings and photographs. She said she also designs the labels for the homemade jam she sells.
Despite her experience, Mertz said she never considered herself an artist.
She grew up the daughter of an art teacher and spent a lot of time doing craft projects. Regardless of her background, she has only taken one art class in her life. Mertz also said she has never been particularly interested in selling
“I’d rather just give my pieces away,” she said. “I enjoy my work, and if others enjoy it, that’s great, too.”
Senior Kelly Willits said she loves to see others appreciating her work. However, selling her work just made sense.
“I ended up with so many projects at home,” she said. “I didn’t know what to do with them all.”
In 2005, Willits began selling her pieces online through her business, called Concertina Pieces.
The type of art Willits makes is no less difficult to create than traditional works of art, she said. One of her crochet pieces takes several hours to make.
Most of her work is crochet, but she has experimented with making rings and necklaces from vintage buttons. Willits also crochets traditional purses and scarves; however, most of her work deviates from standard crochet patterns.
“I make crochet characters,” she said.
These characters include everything from aliens to animals to coral reefs. Willits said she previously worked with sculpting, and when she learned to crochet she decided to combine the two.
Willits’ creatures are usually small and can be held in the palm of the hand. She said she tries to make her pieces child-friendly and to use a variety of textures.
Although some of Willits’ pieces are sold individually, she said she sells many in groups with a common theme. Her largest project was a crochet coral reef, a creation that included more than 25 crochet fish, plants and other sea creatures. Willits said she has made other pieces that were inspired by memories, such as the three-legged gerbil she made to immortalize a pet she had as a child.
“The gerbil actually sold,” she said. “It surprised me.”
Junior Jenny DeMoss has sold pieces, but family and friends have encouraged her to try and sell more. However, DeMoss said she tends to look at the practical side.
“Every hat I make costs about $25 in yarn,” she said. “Add to that the time I spend making it. And what if it doesn’t sell?”
She spends most of her time crafting for charity though her position as president of Wildcats with Sticks, a knitting club on campus. Currently, club members are knitting squares that they will, upon completion, combine into afghans for the Warm Up America charity.
DeMoss said she also enjoys creating pieces for others, not just for profit.
Other artists find it difficult to market their work.
“I’d like to sell it,” junior Sarah Poppino said. “I know I could because people have suggested it several times. But I don’t really know how to get started.”
Poppino said if she were to sell her work, she would probably try to market the pieces she knits and the birthday and Christmas cards she makes. For now, Pippino crafts primarily for gifts, charity and occasionally for herself. She is presently knitting scarves for a charity in Minnesota.
Poppino said she grew up in a crafty family.
“My mom taught me to knit, crochet and sew when I was young,” she said.
Her card-making stemmed from a Sunday school activity. Pappino enjoyed the activity so much that she kept making them on her own.
Poppino said she also enjoys getting creative with her work. One of her projects was a crochet bag constructed from plastic grocery bags.
“I cut the bags into strips and crochet with them,” she said.
Poppino said she is looking into selling some of her pieces, but hasn’t thought about it too seriously because of time constraints.