Author: Gibb, Lindsay
Date published: January 1, 2012
Hoopla: The Art of Unexpected Embroidery Leanne Prain, 400 pgs, Arsenal Pulp Press, arsenalpulp.com, $29.95
Having read Vancouver-based knitter and author Leanne Prain's first book, Yarn Bombing: the art of crochet and knit graffiti (which she co-wrote with fellow knitter Mandy Moore), 1 knew what to expected from Hoopla. While Yarn Bombing tackled the well-trodden ground of knitters who scatter their cities with knitted lamppost covers and tree cosies as a form of both public art and activism, Hoopla looks at embroiderers who use a needle and thread to create subversive art.
Prain begins by explaining why embroidery as an art and activity is so important now: "Not only have we built industrial factories to replicate embroidery, we can clone animal DNA, use mobile devices to manage our schedules and unlock doors with a retinal scan. We seem to have little in common with those who stitched through the centuries for reasons of economic and marital security." And yet, because of all these developments Prain believes we need to slow down. She highlights the importance of embroidery as a slow art that results in the creation of physical objects: "It serves to mark an occasion when the embroiderer was fully present in their craft." Her intension with Hoopla is to inspire readers through profiles and interviews with a handful of embroidery artists such as Sherri Lynn Wood and her Tattooed Baby Doll Project, Brazilian artist Liz Kueneke and her embroidered maps of people's relationships with the environment, Jenny Hart (who runs Sublime Stitching) and her needle and thread portraits and Sarah Haxby who uses embroidery to create a unique version of Canadiana imagery.
However, the focus on how crafts like embroidery and knitting are stereotypically the stuff of older generations has gotten old itself. Treating it like it should come as a surprise that people are using embroidery to create phalluses out of drawings of weapons leads me to believe that this book was made not for the authence the dedication references (the book is dedicated to "those who embroider and those who wish to learn,") but for those who really are surprised to find that anyone except 80-year-olds are embroidering.
If you set aside this hyperbole, however, Hoopla is much more inspiring than it is patronizing. For those of us who are familiar with, or even active participants in, crafting and sewing communities, Hoopla, at the very least, gives us new projects to pick up and creators to bring us inspiration. (Lindsay Gibb)