Every city has different colored bags. The light blue ones with green dots are from Milan. In San Francisco you can't get brown ones very easily. White is everywhere. Solid colors are kind of hard to find.
With the bigger stitch you can read the writing on the bag.
After I learned how to crochet two years ago I went crazy with yarn. First I did a lot of hats, then switched to other things; gloves, garments, masks. The last thing I made before the bags was this really sexy pair of white fishnet stockings, but I washed them and they shrunk. For a while I had a project with a friend where we would send each other swatches from east coast to west coast and the other would add something to the swatch. We made wristbands, vests and some abstract pieces. It was a neat project because we weren't obligated to finish a swatch, just add on.
I started working with plastic bags when I was on tour with my old band Saint Andre. There was this piece of Saran Wrap leftover from a sandwich I had bought at a hippie store. I was bored in the van so I crocheted a wristband out of it. That gave me the idea of using plastic. I love yarn- but well, I was excited to experiment with a new material. My first thought was to buy Saran Wrap and cut sections of the tube to make instant spools of "yarn", but I didn't feel right about supporting the disposable plastic industry. So I thought, plastic grocery bags! They are everywhere, and in my house in SF where I lived with 5 people, we had a huge garbage can 4 or 5 feet tall packed full of them. I figured out a way to cut the bags to maximize their area without throwing much away: instead of cutting in strips I cut off the handles and the bottom of the bag so there is a tube. Then I cut the tube in a spiral- that way there's a continuous piece of yarn, and I granny knot the ends together. The thickness of the yarn can be varied depending on how big a stitch you want to use. I've often kept the handles thinking I'll make some kind of decoration out of them. Ideally I would use the entire bag.
I still have the first bag I made. I actually tried to sell it at a cash and carry but no one wanted it. It looks more like an actual grocery bag than the later designs. Since then I've made them cuter, more fashionable. With the early ones I was using smaller needles so it took a while, like 4-5 hours. Now it takes maybe three hours per bag, including cutting time.
The crochet hook I'm using now is a Susan Bates. I think it's an H.
I'd like to come up with another use for the grocery bags, but it's difficult to think of what would make as much sense as crocheting bags out of old bags! Maybe I need to move onto another material, but bags are free and plentiful and annoying. Everyone's so annoyed with them! It's nice to take them off of friends' hands and turn them into something useful and pleasing.
In my last semester at the Art Institute I was working mainly with Regular 8mm, creating small, low to the ground, hand-drawn animation loops. I didn't feel ready to make the leap into 16mm, I guess because I didn't have any film ideas that warranted four times the visual information. Also, I had been volunteering at the SF Cinematheque for a while and was feeling less and less interested in fitting into the community, maybe because I was distracted by other interests and wasn't focused solely on film like my favorite filmmakers were... but I was and still am inspired by some of the work that comes out of the experimental film community. I miss it, actually. I plan to tap into film again when I'm ready.
So I hid out a bit after graduating. Then I started a knitter's group with my friend Chiara called Craft Minions. It was a relaxed, female-dominated community that didn't have the pretence of art school or high expectations of the film world.
Since I graduated from art school I haven't made films at all- I've been doing the bags, playing music and drawing. It's funny, I think it's a dilemma a lot of people are having right now - is craft an art? Humble objects made to give to specific people have the potential to inspire on an individual level- but how does that compare to the film experience, which has the potential to move a large group of people simultaneously. Is it a question of scale or is it apples and oranges?
I saw Richard Serra on Charlie Rose recently and he said something that really plagued me for a while, something along the lines of... if an object has a function, it's not art. Art is purposely useless. I wish I'd written it down. Anyway, I thought, "oh great, I'm making these bags- I mean, they're aesthetically interesting, but are they art?" I still haven't resolved the dilemma, but I decided not to let my worries keep me from making things. Screw him! But at the same time I was thinking, it's Richard Serra: I should respect his opinion! After thinking about it I decided that art has a function, too. If its purpose is to be useless, then it still has a purpose, meaning it still functions in some way if a person is experiencing its uselessness. So I guess Serra's categories don't make sense to me, and ultimately I disagree with his idea. Charlie Rose was also pretty upset about it- and Charlie Rose doesn't usually get too emotional- but you could tell he was getting kind of pissed, especially when Serra started ripping on Frank Gehry. The interview wasn't in the studio, it was at Richard Serra's studio or something. It was a strange Charlie Rose episode. An intense interview.
Making crafts is a very humble thing to do. It may not have the impact of a Richard Serra piece that cuts a huge square in half and pisses a lot of people off and ends up getting taken down. You're doing a great thing but you're not doing it to make an attention-demanding monument. You're making gifts for people, things they can use that might give them little bits of pleasure here and there.
The bags don't need a frame. It's not like: we'll screen this here at this specific time and then there. Film can be so regimented. The idea with the bags is to just get them out there, so people can use them and be inspired to make their own or think about the material in a new way - as useful and not wasteful. I sometimes fantasize about producing a grocery bag machine that would automatically cut the bags and then knit them, but I think that if the handbags were mass- produced, they would make more plastic bags just to make the handbags. The machine would defeat its own purpose. My friend Jibz gave me some unused black bags once and I felt so guilty for using them.