Freddie Robins has generously given permission to publish this text about one of her knitting pieces here. This is a textbook case of a generative system, with performative qualities that resembles Fluxus compositions (i.e. “draw a straight line and follow it”). The text is copyright Freddie Robins, and is NOT covered by the Creative Commons license that applies to the rest of this blog. Check out her newly launched web site for more goodies.
“How to make a piece of work when you’re too tired to make decisions.”
2004. Woollen yarn, dress pins, (knitting machine, table, chair, die and cup)
Freddie Robins: How to make a piece of work when you’re too tired to make decisions.
This piece of work was conceived of during the first few months of my daughter’s life when I was lying in bed, over tired but unable to sleep. I knew that when I did manage to make work again it would no longer be possible for me to approach it in the same way that I had before. My studio practice was built on continuity of time and thought, which was no longer available to me. My work is technically challenging and even during my pregnancy I had found it increasingly difficult to make the necessary decisions, let alone do the required mathematical equations. For sometime prior to this I had also been considering how I might go about making abstract pieces, up until this time all my work has been of a figurative nature. My work had also been increasing in scale and I wanted this to continue. With much less time available to me the only way that this was possible was to make smaller components which, when placed together, would form a large work. This piece aimed to address all of the above. It took the decision making away from me and let it rest on the throw of a dice. It also enabled me to make pieces of work in very short periods of time where continuity of time or thought was not necessary. I could make work when I was tired or even give the dice and instructions to someone else and they could make it for me, no pattern necessary!
Although in the past I have adopted a very controlled approach to my studio practice I have always loved serendipity. The idea of making something through chance held great appeal for me.
I used 3 dice, one to decide the colour of the yarns that I would use, one to give me numbers for stitches and rows (3, 4, 8, 12, 15 and 17) and the other to decide the actions: “knit”, “hook up side of knitting”, “turn knitting”, “make row of lace holes then knit”, “decrease 1 stitch fully-fashioned at the beginning of each row” and “increase 1 stitch fully-fashioned at the beginning of each row”. Each individual piece was made using 10 actions. The instructions, numbers dice and actions dice were modified after several experiments to give more consistently successful results. The finished piece is on going. The arrangement of individual pieces can be changed and it can be added to at anytime. The instructions and dice are open to modification should it become necessary or should I feel like it. As Constance Spry said, “Accept no rules”.