Giant Doilies come to Bristol

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Maritime history and crochet come together in this year’s Mayfest and Theatre Bristol commission, Hook, Skip, Repeat by Cornish artists Jeremiah Krage and Heidi Dorschler.

Appearing around Bristol during the festival will be several large-scale rope ‘doilies’, structures created by Krage and Dorschler in collaboration with the people of Bristol. Using brightly coloured rope and a giant crochet needle, the artists will invite passers-by to help them weave these eye-catching spider’s web-like creations – a playful and interactive celebration of collaborative effort.

Jeremiah talked to Richard Aslan from Mayfest about the piece.

 Tell us about Hook, Skip, Repeat

We’re constructing giant doilies, basically, with the assistance of the public. Myself and Heidi Dorschler will be working in situ around Bristol, moving from place to place. We will have an 8ft long crochet hook and rope with us. The aim is for us not to make the doilies, though – we want members of the public to make them. The doilies will then be left, dotted around the city.  

Why did you choose doilies, in particular?

Well, doilies are fun. And there’s also something really familiar about them – everyone’s seen one. But they’re also easily overlooked. At one point in time, they had a practical purpose too, which was to protect a surface and to set off a treasured ornament. You reinvent this practicality when you put them in a public place; lay them on the ground, and you become the porcelain figurine. A contemporary version at least – strike a pose, share skill, propose to your loved one, bring your dog … anything. Bits of everyday life and people are, when set on a doily, something special and set apart.

 Interesting idea!

People are really interesting! And if you frame anything, then we look at it differently. I like Anthony Gormley’s idea about it being a moment to state something. This might not be about having some specific to say, but we can celebrate ourselves as members of a community in Bristol, who we actually are. The doilies become a stage or a mini print.

I can tell from your accent that you’re not from these parts …

I’m originally from the US, but we moved around a lot due to my father’s work. I was born in Colombia as my parents were working there for the Peace Corps, then we went to Ecuador, and then back to the states for five years. Dad was with the State Department, so after that we moved every two or three years, all over the world.

So where was home?

Where was home? [laughs] There wasn’t really one. We didn’t have a home in the US any more … in the summers we visited family in Maryland, usually, but otherwise we were all over the place; in Russia for a while, then in Bolivia, Ecuador, Panama … I did all my schooling while travelling, and then went back to the USA for university.

You live in Cornwall now. When did you come to the UK?

 I came in 1999. I met my wife while we training in Paris. She’s from the UK.

Is all your work related to notions of community?

Not all of it, no. My common thread is interactivity. I really enjoy art that is engaging, and which encourages physical engagement, to touch it and enter it. Once someone has physically engaged with something, they will remember it long beyond the actual experience of it. We’re bombarded by visual images, but once you touch it and take that next step, you’ve really connected with it. That kind of experience impacts on people’s lives, even for a short period. I find it really interesting, that it makes us think a bit differently. The seed of that experience could encourage them to come back again and spend even more time thinking differently about things.

OK, weird question. I got a bit overwhelmed the other day by all the bad stuff that happens in the world and how little we can do to affect it. I chatted to a friend and she said, ‘when you feel that way, all you can do is make art.’ What do you think?

I think that’s fantastic – all you can do is make art. Humans in general are inherently creative. It’s how we have fire, wheels and cooking. It’s experimenting with things and being creative with them that makes us what we are. It causes trouble and interesting solutions. Anyone can be creative, and it’s an inherently positive thing to do. You are making something new, and that’s a positive and an exciting thing in itself. For the person making it, it’s exciting as you channel your energy, thoughts and ideas into something that then takes on a life of its own. Then you share it and engage with it on yet another level. This thing then not only has a life of its own, but it becomes an influence. This is almost always a positive outcome. In that way, yes, creativity is inherently positive – even if we create negative things! If everyone spent time making things, just having a go from a papier maché bowl to a new app, the feeling of having control over their lives would grow. It’s exciting and empowering. If things aren’t going well, take time to do something that empowers you. It redresses the balance.

What do you think people will get out of Hook, Skip, Repeat?

Fun! It’s going to be fun. It will encourage people to engage with their environment and one another in a fun way. We’re surrounded by dreariness, doom and gloom, but fun and humour are key coping strategies for human development and survival. We all need moments of lightness and fun. I hope people have a lot of fun, both trying to move the big long hook and coordinating with another person with a coil of rope. When you share an experience like that, the energy and enthusiasm spreads and builds, and becomes increasingly positive and feeds itself. We’re going to be in public spaces, so even just people walking past will have fun seeing us laughing.

Look for Hook, Skip, Repeat all over the city of Bristol.