(Apologies. I got sidelined by an unexpected guest, and never did get back to the recs.)
There’s another category of craft book which I find tremendously appealing: the books which expose the reader to the idea that a craft may also be an art form. Some of these are more “coffee table” type books, such as The New Beadwork which, though they impart information about the history of an art or craft, its current state, featured artists, etc., function more as inspiration than learning tools. Still others inspire and teach, and this is the category in which my second pair of recs belong.
The first is Crocheted Wire Jewelry by Arline M. Fisch. When I was searching for a good, solid book on crocheting/knitting with wire, all of Fisch’s work was highly recommended, and once I began to look through this book, I understood why. While there are good sections on materials, tools and crochet basics, the projects themselves look daunting even to someone who is more than passing familiar with all of those things. They are, in fact, dazzling. The notion that you can spend some quality time with this book and recreate the projects shown is almost unbelievable, and yet, most of them have instructions which take up no more than a single page. And once you begin to realize that these pieces are, perhaps, not much more fearsome than a granny square, the inspiration sets in and you find yourself thinking “Hey, I can do that! But… I think I’d change this bit here, and try something a bit different there…”
Along with the instructions, Fisch includes photos of crocheted wire jewelry made by various artist as more food for inspiration. “See what can be done?” they say. The siren song to any artisan.
Three-Dimensional Embroidery by Janet Edmonds is, to put it bluntly, not your granny’s embroidery book. In fact, I doubt granny would even recognize Edmonds’ work as embroidery. Even I had some problems in that area until I started paying close attention to the process instead of the result, and recognized that the extensive information about design and construction was a necessary prologue to the more familiar aspects of surface embellishment that we expect when we see the word “embroidery.”
Edmonds’ work is extraordinary, and, like the pieces in Fisch’s book, it really does make the reader aware of the links between craft and art, between function and form. From stark woven pieces to fantastically embellished ones, this book is all about the scope of stitched fiber work, and how the reader can explore that broad territory.
Both of these books teach, they inspire and, for me at least, raise my expectations of what these forms can accomplish, what I can accomplish working within them. I recommend them both very highly.