Friday, December 12, 2008


Many people, when you talk to them about tatting, see it as a frivolous activity. Hand knitting, while time consuming, does produce useful articles such as sweaters, socks and mittens. Quilting can make beautiful and practical bed covers, pillows and bags. Embroidery, including cross stitch can make beautiful wall hangings and embellishments to almost anything. Tatting on the other hand is woefully misunderstood. Mention tatting and the uninitiated will think only of doilies. Talk to tatters and you get a whole different perspective.

There are a lot of things that tatters make that aren't doilies. At this time of year there are a lot of snowflakes. Granted a snowflake could be considered a small doily, but as no two snowflakes are alike, neither are any 2 tatted snowflakes so there's a lot of room for variety. Then there are the things that make nice little gifts like bookmarks, hearts and butterflies. A whole lot of newer designs have shown up in the past few years for critters, "lions tigers and bears, oh my" to quote Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. Just this past year we have seen a lot of Jane's hippos
and Anne's dragons (pdf). Then there's the jewelery, from quick little earrings to the spectacular pieces created by Marilee aka Yarnplayer.
Beyond all of that, which the uninitiated might consider typical for tatting there is a whole range of three dimensional tatting like the flowers done by Linda
or the gingerbread house and pirate done by Carol which tatters and non tatters alike find utterly awesome.

Isn't it interesting that if someone takes up painting, no one questions the validity of it, even if they consider the product 'bad' painting. No one asks, why do you bother doing it when you could buy a print of the same thing to hang on your wall. No one thinks that the time spent painting is a waste of time. No one would call a painting, even an inferior one, worthless. What is it about textiles that seems to give people the right to judge it as worth less value and less appreciation.

Is it because it involves thread or yarn? Is it possibly because it is seen as "women's work" and therefore people feel free to be critical of it? Is it because of familiarity since it is something that was done by almost everyone's ancestors so that there is no feeling of "uniqueness" to it? Is it because it is seen as something "easy" to do? Is it because of a lack of understanding in the skill required?

I could slap paint on a canvas and call it art. (I'm not saying that it would be ART, just that I could do it.) So if, without training or skill of any kind I could throw paint at a canvas and not be criticized for calling it art, why is it that people can freely criticize fibreart as if it is some lesser form of art. Fibre is a more difficult medium than paint. Colour, shape and texture and more challenging to produce in fibre than with a paintbrush. So why is it that fibreart doesn't get the recognition it deserves?


Tattycat said...

Wonderful statements and questions. If you get the answers, I would be thrilled to know. I have never understood why this is true, but I know that it is. I can spend a couple of days knitting a poncho and get rave reviews everywhere it is worn. An intricate little piece of lace that takes many hours and lots of concentration is completely overlooked. Shame that.

LadyShuttleMaker aka MadMadPotter said...

This is a topic which I am hopeful we as tatters can change the perception of. I now take time to educate people whenever I get the chance about the value and quality of tatting.
If we all continue to uphold and value our tatting then eventually so will others.

TattingChic said...

Here, here, Lady Shuttle Maker! I couldn't agree more with the "if we all continue to uphold and value our tatting then eventually so will others." I know that the online tatting community has really helped me to come out of the "tatting closet", LOL!!! I now tell people up front what I do for a hobby instead of waiting to see if they're the kind of person that would appreciate it. Thank you all for giving me the courage to do that.
I think you've made a very valid point, Sharon...I have rec'd many a response like what you mentioned; where my tatting was "devalued" by others'. It's interesting as that doesn't seem to be the case as of late! :)

Iris Niebach said...

In ancient times trimmings and edgings were much used to embellish garments. Our human mind likes the geometrie of flowers, which are the principal inspiration for the marvellous geometries of lace. Why have we lost the pleasure to adorn ourselves with lace? Is it an economic factor? Not even machine made lace is much used by fashion designers. I will do my best to reintroduce tatted lace into fashion so that everybody can see and admire it,

Clyde said...

Like others I think it is a matter of people don't see it anymore so they do not know how to value it anymore.

yarnplayer said...

Very well expressed, Sharon! A long time ago, I studied painting, color theory, 3-D sculpture, etc. as an art major in college. Later in life, I studied cello - to me, it's all the same! It's all about developing a skill - a time-consuming skill, taking a very long time to develop - that few appreciate, and fewer still can actually make money at. I have never been able to make money using any of my so-called gifted abilities, until I started dyeing thread for tatters. I have only recently found a way to get national recognition as an artist by being accepted into "Belle Armoire Jewelry". Jewelry is not any more "useful" than other kinds of art, but it is popular. This is my way of bringing tatting into the spotlight, and making a little money to help my family. It seems that people don't respect a craft until it attains a certain prestige, and money can be made at it. So that is why I insist on being a "professional" tatter.