spinhandspun designs

Caroline Lathan-Stiefel

Caroline Lathan-Stiefel

A decade ago, Caroline Lathan-Stiefel fashioned her first immersive installation from re-purposed craft and household materials, including fabric, yarn, fruit nets, plastic bags, bottle caps, and rice bags, which were sewn and pinned to elaborate pipe cleaner frames. These colorful upcycled nests are akin to three dimensional drawing, and imply connective systems in chaos.

Below are images from her Layer City (2009) installation at the Delaware Center for Contemporary Arts in Wilmington. During its four month exhibition, Lathan-Stiefel continually added new components to the work, conjuring references to urban sprawl.

More images below, this time from the “Microfibers” show at Philadelphia’s Locks Gallery (2009). Alongside Lathan-Stiefel, Danielle Bursk and Laura Watt exhibited compelling 2D illusory spaces.

Her upcoming installation entitled Hinterland for the Tiger Strikes Asteroid Gallery in Philadelphia, will incorporate sound components in a collaboration between Lathan-Stiefel and her husband, composer Van Stiefel. Over the next several months, Stiefel will be collecting the natural and man-made sounds surrounding their home, and combining these into computer-generated compositions for gallery visitors to hear.

Lathan-Stiefel’s one-story 1950’s ranch home is located in West Chester, PA, 45 minutes west of Philadelphia, in a neighborhood that is adjacent to a densely-wooded forest. In preparation for Hinterland, she has been creating a series of small outdoor installations for a project entitled the Roam Project. Installations range from the wooded community surrounding her home, to buildings and cars in urban Philadelphia.

This prospective work, its collaborative sound elements and guerrilla upbringing in the landscape surrounding her home, updates our modern conception of a Hinterland. Once defined as “the land behind a city,” for Lathan-Stiefel, a Hinterland is “a permeable, fluid entity where the urban, suburban and natural realms connect and seep into each other, creating a kind of thick, overgrown sprawl. A hinterland can also be a psychological realm that one either wants to escape to or escape from.”

Thus far, my interactions with Lathan-Stiefel and her work are solely digital, yet her images still evoke a Hinterland. I regress, escaping into her colorful nests, and feel like an imaginitive youth who, given unlimited supplies, has built myself a fort in the midst of the city. Despite the implications of urban sprawl, there is a playfulness about Lathan-Stiefel’s work that begs experiencing first-hand.

I have asked Caroline to do a show in the Midwest, to which she stated, “I would love to show something in your area, but have no plans as of yet. I may apply to the Kohler Art Center soon though.” Talk about escapism: cheers to seeing a red-hot cast iron bathtub suspended from a crane, and exploring a Lathan-Stiefel installation all in one trip!


Knitting from the Inside Out: Designs by Inmate #200244
February 15, 2010, 8:55 PM
Filed under: artists in review | Tags: , , , ,


Mutual friends brought #200244 to my attention last winter. At the time, I was writing a literature review on the effectiveness of art therapy in the prison system and yarnstorming Spinhandspun into screaming infanthood. #20024’s subversive dog sweaters intrigued me, and his big house crochet inspired many components of my thesis.

On the outside, #200244 created projects using the materials around him. A painter and mixed media artist, he learned to crochet in lock up through a program that teaches inmates to make blankets, hats, and mittens for charity. With enough practice, he took to crafting his own designs.

For #200244, creating is a privilege: “I am fully aware it’s all I have, so I appreciate it a lot more. I pretty much live to make the next piece better than the last.”

Recently, #200244 has made the switch from crocheting to knitting to save on yarn. He has also taken up veganism, and begun a pink stuffed animal series in addition to more sweaters.

In the future, he hopes to meet a farmer who will let him knit sweaters for his cows, and has a garment in mind for Yoko Ono. That said, he predicts Ono will be less receptive than the cows.

Below are a selection of images from his current collection. Each item is moderately priced, and available for purchase. Contact julie@shimonlindemann.com for information.

Photography by J. Lindemann & J. Shimon.

#200244, #200244

Smoking Skull, #200244

Skull and Pig, #200244

665 + 1 = Fun, #200244

Grenade, #200244

Pink Elephant Sweater, #200244

Yoko, #200244

Math, #200244

Potted Skull, #200244

Pink Elephant with Pants, #200244

Pink Elephant, #200244

Pig, #200244

Becky Stern’s Body Technology Interfaces
January 28, 2010, 1:40 AM
Filed under: artists in review | Tags: , , , , , ,

Becky Stern

Make Magazine blog writer Becky Stern of Sternlab.org has spent the past year knitting a humorous series of Body Technology Interfaces that spotlight our engrossment in modern technology. Unlike knitwear, which is designed to move with the body, Stern’s wares emphasize the lack of motion involved with technological interfacing, and are instead intended to provide comfort, warmth, and privacy in public settings. Her hope is to bring critical awareness to our absorption in personal electronic devices, and ways they mentally and physically dominate our everyday behaviors and public activities.

To encourage personal communication, Stern invites participants to design and sketch their own Body Technology Interface with her. These designs are then packaged as a kit containing parts and assembly instructions. She asks that participants photograph and document their thoughts and experiences using these creations to Becky@sternlab.org for the project website.

Laptop Compubody Sock for privacy, warmth, and concentration in public spaces

Cell Phone Ski Mask

Keyboard Interface for Computer Programming

More images are available on Flickr™.

Tide Pool Project: Call for Entries

Tide Pool Project: Call for Entries

Crochet Copper Sea Anemone submitted be Anna Kuchel Rabinowitz

Textile Nudibranch (Sea Slug) by Anna Kuchel Rabinowitz of New York, USA

Dungeness Crab by Elizabeth O’Donnell of Kodiak, Alaska USA

Felt stones by Inge Norgaard Port Townsend, Washington USA

Elizabeth O’Donnell has announced a fabulous new opportunity for fiber artists interested in drawing awareness to the importance of our coastal waters and their role in maintaining the health of our planet. She writes:

I am seeking submissions from fiber artists around the world to create a collaborative tide pool made up of textile stones, kelp, anemone, barnacles, octopi, crabs, shells and other related flora and fauna.

Submissions may be no smaller than 2 inches and no larger than 6 inches in any direction. Artists may work in any textile discipline (i.e. knitting, felting, sewing, crochet) and are encouraged to create 3 dimensional works OR 2 dimensional surfaces with raised detailing and embellishment. Recycled materials are also acceptable, as garbage and debris pose a threat to coastal wildlife that ingest or otherwise become entangled in discarded trash and lost fishing gear.

All objects received will be documented online with credit given to artists and links to blogs or websites. Please include your name, city/state/country where you reside, email address and URL you would like us to link to. There is no limit to the number of objects that can be submitted. Submissions become the property of the International Textile Tide Pool Project. Deadline for submissions is January 15th, 2011.

My goal is to create a textile tide pool that will bring awareness to the importance of our coastal waters and the delicate and critical balance they play in the health of our planet. This project has the potential to travel to destinations that are further removed from the sea to inspire and kindle the imagination, and bring the sea to people who might not have ever experienced the marvel of exploring the thriving biodiversity found in tidal waters.

I am currently working on a website for this project and will exhibit this collaboration at the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge on Kodiak Island OR in an actual swimming pool if I can obtain permission from the proper local authorities. We have a new public pool under construction and an old one that will eventually be demolished. Once the installation has been installed and documented, I hope to find other cities around the world that are interested in hosting this exhibit and drawing attention the importance of the health and sustainability of our oceans worldwide.

Please mail all submissions to:

c/o Elizabeth O’Donnell
P.O. Box 3075
Kodiak Island, Alaska
99615 USA

For more information, visit http://www.tidepoolproject.blogspot.com/

Laure Drogoul’s Amplified Knitting Orchestra

Laure Drogoul

Interactive artist Laure Drogoul conducts the art of knitting with an orchestra of amplified-needle instruments, and stitch-pattern scores.

The blonde 50-something New Yorker, has been knitting since childhood when her Polish grandmother, who didn’t speak English, taught her how. Because of the language barrier, Drogoul relied heavily on the sound of the needles to find her way through the process.

Roughly 10 years ago, Drogoul began attaching contact microphones to her knitting needles. After a few solo performances, she rallied a group of collaborators in her Baltimore shop front to perform the synchronized, knitted amplification of a sweater vest pattern she’d found in an old magazine.

Since then, the project has expanded and become even more interactive. In 2006, she packed a suitcase full of 10 skeins of yarn, and headed to a KnitKnit launch event at the New Museum for Contemporary Art in New York. The suitcase was placed amidst a circle of ten chairs, with each skein pulled out and attached to a set of needles. Participants were invited to sit down, knit for a while in synchrony, and come and go as they pleased. Though Drougal mixed a few echos and delays into the sound, she worked to “keep the sound close to the source.”

Drogoul has also used the internet to promote her concept, by networking a large-scale orchestra to the web during her 2007 Harvestworks residency. Ultimately, her goal is to expose knitting as a repetitive activity that connects us via sound. She dreams that one day we will be able to fashion a language from the sounds of knits and purls.

Drogoul is also the founder of the performance series The 14Karat Cabaret.

Daina Taimina’s Hyperbolic Planes

Daina Taimina

Hyperbolic space is a non-Euclidean geometic form described by Mathematicians as a shape with a constant negative curvature. Essentially, it is the opposite of a ball. They occur naturally in the curves of lettuce leaves, Chinese wood, and ear mushrooms.

For years, researchers believed creating a physical model of these spaces was impossible, until 1997 when Daina Taimina’s crochet hook proved them wrong.

Born in Latvia, Taimina had been an avid knitter and crocheter since childhood. She and her husband were on a camping trip when she first constructed a plane.

The concept is simple: the crocheter begins with a circle, and frequently increases stitches at a constant rate — for example, one increase for every four stitches — in order to create the ruffled edges which form as it enlarges.

Previously, Taimina had been using frail paper models to familiarize her Cornell University students with hyperbolic space. By constructing crocheted versions, students were able to pick up and handle their physical forms.

In 2006, Margaret Wertheim and The Institute for Figuring adopted Taimina’s technique, inviting crocheters to model our coral reefs in an effort to celebrate their beauty, their underlying mathematical structures, and to encourage conservation efforts.

Like a reef, which is made up of many various sub-reefs, the quality of yarn, style of stitch, and tightness of the crochet all affect the finished forms so that each becomes its own unique living organism.

Since 2006, the project has exploded. This past February, Wertheim presented their efforts at the 2009 TED Conference. The full video is available below.

I had the opportunity to see one of Taimina’s pieces at The Walker this spring for their conceptual show entitled The Quick and the Dead. Though I had already been warned by a guard in an earlier gallery for standing too close to a painting, it took every effort not to reach out and remove the tiny hyperbolic object from its shelf. I envied Taimina’s students — the medium itself proved familiar and inviting, with its formal elements begging to be turned over by hand and observed.

Perhaps the pattern I’ve listed above will come in handy. Sorry knitting… it’s gonna be me and the hook for a while…

For more on hyperbolic space, check out this interview with Taimina and geometer David Henderson.

John Binet-Fauvel’s Knitted Wire Sea Creatures

John Binet-Fauvel

Born in Jersey’s Channel Islands, John Binet-Fauvel’s oceanic roots have inspired him to craft sea creatures by recycling wire from slot machines, electric motors, transformers, and other found objects through the process of frame knitting. As a child, he fashioned tubing by winding wire around four nails stuck into a wooden cotton reel. Now, he uses the technique of French knitting, or spool knitting to sculpt his designs. The process is similar to finger-knitting, yet utilizes more elaborate, multi-pronged frames. While Binet-Fauvel creates his own frames in the shapes neededs to produce his elaborate forms, the wire’s stiffness allows him to further refine his figures.

He and his wife run the designer textile business “Melissa Warren”. His works are available on Etsy at: johnbinetfauvel.etsy.com.