…Where we are up to our tuchusus in TP
At this point, some of you may be starting to wonder when the original question that prompted my blogging farrago—”How did you get to be a cybercrone?”—will actually be answered. It is being answered. Slowly. These stories are all steps along the way to that benighted state…
An art gallery, full of knitting? Surely you jest!
As part of the Year of The Needle Arts, we had the opportunity and a little bit of cash to clothe the Mary Black Gallery (a provincial arts and crafts gallery) in its first ever knitting exhibition, to be curated by Lucy and me. It was our first joint knitting venture, our first curating job, and a phenomenal amount of work to organize. Afterwards, we were still friends. As you may not be surprised to hear, the entire exhibition was so much easier to execute in our heads than it turned out to be in practice! Looking back on it now, I am amazed that we pulled it off, and even more amazed at how well it was received by the public.
We had worried about getting enough large local submissions, but there were so many that we filled our gallery space very quickly. There were sweaters—pieces of art in the shape of sweaters, actually—and blankets, a large wedding album cover of fern motifs knit in the finest white silk thread, sculpture and other major works. More about those in the next blog.
One of our goals was to allow all Canadian knitters to be able to participate in this exhibition, since gallery-hosted knitting exhibits were (and probably still are) a rare event in Canada. To make this possible, we decided to open up a special category of small things, open to all knitters in Canada.
The small things in life
These small submissions would need to be easily set up for display, inexpensive to ship, require minimal yarn and time commitment (so as to allow as many people as possible to participate) and, of course, had to be original designs. What sort of uniform category could fit this bill? I can’t remember which of us came up with the idea of toilet roll covers, but it was an absolutely brilliant idea. I remember how hard we laughed at the idea, just thinking of all the um.. interesting… patterns for this particular objet-d’art out there in the wild, from the phentex-phantastics to the bottomless ladies—the sort of knitting much of the world made fun of. We just knew knitters could come up with better stuff than that! Toilet roll covers as ART? Why not? Which knitter can resist serious play?
We were not disappointed. Surprises, of the good kind, started arriving—and kept coming. We received wonderful knitted toilet roll covers from knitters across the nation: many of them knitted sculptures, each one a thing of beauty, and many with an ingenious way of disguising their actual function.
One of the funniest submissions in the toilet roll covers was that of Debbie ‘I can’t think inside the box‘ New: she sent us a proper blue and white Wedgewood roll cover (a container with a fitted lid), knitted at a very fine gauge, utterly charming…but it was sized to hold an empty roll. Wonderful—I wish I had a mind like that!
Then there was the ‘there’s no job so simple that we couldn’t use a gadget to do this thing‘ toilet paper inflorescense (by Jane Whitten, a Nova Scotia artist), which was hand-activated to politely present The Roll from within its bowels.
The inspiration came from Edwardian/Victorian eccentric contraptions (here is a BBC article about a collector of such toys: Timeless appeal of antique gadgets). Some of us liked it so much, that we soon realized that it was very difficult to stop playing with it while we tried to figure out how it worked.
(We had to put up a sign asking people to pretty-please not touch it, as we were worried that it would get worn out well before the exhibition ended—it was that much silly fun!)
Lucy and I were totally amazed by the number of TP roll cover submissions we received. It was fantastic, but……we had a problem. We had put aside a very nice glass-topped table to display these gems on: now there were far too many submissions to fit on the table! There was no money to acquire display plinths or new tables; we could not just line them up like a bunch of doorstops along a wall…
We needed a cheap, easy-to-set-up display surface. We thought as hard as we could. What would Debbie New do? A hilarious idea bubbled up: we would display these roll covers on a multi-level structure built of rolls of toilet paper! OK, that would work. Now where do we get that many rolls of TP without spending any money?
We asked a maintenance person who worked in the provincial building where this gallery was housed: “Does the province keep a closet-full of spare rolls anywhere?”. They:”We do have a supplies room. There are some large boxes of rolls.”
We:”Really? Great! Could we borrow them for a few weeks?”
We got permission to borrow them, probably because nobody had ever had to deal with such a ridiculous request before, so there was absolutely no ‘protocol’ for handling this! We were just very lucky that the provincial washrooms used regular rolls, instead one of the other toilet paper formats, such as the giant hamster-wheel rolls that go in a box dispenser, or the separate flat sheet(s) packs.
Hundreds of rolls of pristine TP arrived in the gallery within the week. We needed to unwrap the rolls from their hideous paper covers in order to make the display look good. That part—the unwrapping—was easy. The kicker was, we had to save all the wrappers and, once the show was over, we had to re-wrap all those hundreds of rolls. Oh yeah…that was was fun. Not.
Setting up the larger knitted submissions was much easier!
To be continued…