It's pretty near impossible to predict what's waiting around the next corner here at Daily Grommet ... whether it's a company that's reinventing water bottles or college kids turned entrepreneurs who developed a new kind of paint that lets you write on walls. The best part of my job is that I get to share those stories with you.
But Kate Pokorny has one of the most unusual stories I've ever come across. I found Kate just last week on Twitter. She doesn't have a product to sell, but she's embarking on a truly curious and ambitious adventure: She's going to crochet a traditional Mongolian yurt.
Here's the first of what we hope will be many updates from Kate - we think you'll be as inspired as we were to follow her progress.
by Kate Pokorny
The last month of the year is upon us and for me, it's an especially exciting time, as it’s the last month of fundraising for my yurt project. I've decided I'm going to crochet a full-sized Mongolian yurt using locally grown materials from New Hampshire.
The yurt, when complete [I’m aiming for Summer 2010], will be 10 feet tall and 10 feet in diameter, and it will look somewhat like a wooly igloo with a small door and oculus for smoke release. We’re sourcing the wool locally from nearby farmers to my parent’s farm in Southern New Hampshire and using a local mill as well.
Unlike historic yurt construction, this one will be built out of one continuous “thread” of felted yarn. We built the prototype in August of 2009 and made 40 feet of this cording – it ended up being about 1.5 - 2 inches in diameter, making the crocheting nearly impossible, even with the special hook I whittled. I decided to use my arm as the “hook” from now on and it's working perfectly.
The whole yurt project was born out of visit to the Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York to see their Fashioning Felt exhibit. The exhibit included some of my favorite knitters and felters as, in the last few years, I’ve been increasingly fascinated by oversized works by artists including Kwagho Lee and Christien Meindertsma. I also was crocheting quite a bit myself at the time, as I had watched the TED Talk by Margaret Wertheim on the crochet coral reed project, which proved to me that anything was possible when it came to crochet.
As luck would have it, the other large exhibit at the Cooper-Hewitt was Design for a Living World, which paired artists and designers with regionally-specific, renewable materials. The artists were charged with using these new materials to create something out of them whether it was wool, wood, salmon skin, tagua nuts or other more obscure materials. The message I took away from that exhibit was the concept of exploring the potential of creatively using not only your local resources, but your renewable resources as well.
I also sit on the board of Build a Nest, a no-interest, micro-finance loan group aimed at elevating female artists and artisans out of poverty by creating a new market for the sale of goods that they’ve been making for generations. By building a unique, online marketplace for these women’s works, we’ve learned a great deal, and had many discussions about creative directorship and how much a traditional, heritage craft can or should evolve to serve markets. These issues are also important as I think about how the yurt willl come together.
In Mongolia, nomads have been successfully making felt for their yurts for years. The process I’m using probably isn’t viable for them, however, I like to think it does bring their traditions, styles, and culture to a new audience much as Nest does for the groups that we work with around the world.
As a Skidmore College graduate I can safely say that sustainability and responsibility are things that I’ve been aware of for a long time. Our campus was notably environmentally conscious and active. With this project, however, I want to make a personal contribution, both to my growth as a crocheter and to the ongoing conversation on sustainable design. Interestingly, some people have criticized the project as not having enough depth – saying that it’s art without purpose and others have come to the yurt’s defense. What’s most interesting to me is the difference between sustainable art and art about sustainability and I hope that in time the yurt touches both of those areas.
In order for the yurt project to be realized, Kate needs to raise $5,500 for wool and materials by January 1st ’She's getting closer with $2,899 to date, but is looking for help. To learn more about Kate's ambitious undertaking, you can watch this video or visit her Kickstarter page to make a donation.