Functionless art:

David Cooke

This project over the summer has given me the chance to study what art means as a whole and more specifically to m e. By producing work through such media as knitting when I’ve never even used any form of textiles before has opened what course I am participating in vastly.


I managed to explore the tactile sense and the aid given in galleries; “The misconception lies in the idea that touch is devoid of its own aesthetic values that “it is too close to the body… too little connected to higher cognitive functions,” as Rachel Zucker, a philosophy professor at Northwestern University, puts it. I enjoyed looking into the touch tours and although they are greatly lacking in the possibilities of what they could be, they will get better.

Bubble Quilt

I also touched of functionless art: that not all art is just to look at; it has an obvious purpose, a function by design to produce a particular outcome, that is predetermined to be useful. I found out that art is a machine, a functioned piece of equipment to cause a response to its outcome.–cooke



the tactility of art

WP_20140923_001I had a brief wander into sewing; I converted an image into a grid, then to sewing. Which then prompted me to start thinking about blind art; art made for the act of touching to recognise. Pinterest has a whole area dedicated to this; not ‘proper art’ but objects and images made for people to touch and recognise through shape and texture. Mostly this is for children; to involve them in this world, although what they do when their older I’m not sure. But objects like this; brightly coloured, multi-textured, to play and interact with are used often for therapy and play of children with problems; in a sensory room.

The colour, sound, texture and shape are important; its how we view the world around us and how we react to it. Hence these sensory rooms.

I had a look around online for some art galleries for the blind or otherwise impaired; there’s a few interesting places made specifically for touch. Getty Villa has a series of ‘touch tours’ designed around the fact that”Art museums privilege sight over any other sense. Touch, the sense by which many blind and low vision individuals negotiate the world, is considered taboo and against proper museum etiquette.”

Whereas the Moma art gallery has ‘visual descriptors’ that accompany their touch tours; people who “paint the picture in the mind’s eye,” they talk about paintings and sketches whilst being able to touch some sculptures throughout the entirety of the gallery. Within a report of the touch tours; which are largely damage free and are viewed as being comparable to a sighted person visiting the gallery, Daphnée Denis, the writer of the report, says that “The misconception lies in the idea that touch is devoid of its own aesthetic value—that “it is too close to the body…too little connected to higher cognitive functions,” as Rachel Zuckert, a philosophy professor at Northwestern University, puts it.” However Denis contemplates that with the extra, more intimatea ction of touching it is the seeing that are missing out.”It’s hard to deny the appeal of tactile tours. “Most people would agree that it’s what everybody wants to do, but no one can,” says Francesca Rosenberg, MoMA’s Director of Community, Access and School Programs”, which, it seems, why the tours are becoming more popular.

This is a blog I found about a Tactile museum in Athens made for the blind; they make up replica statues, frescoes, figurines to display from the entirety of Greece’s artwork, all made to be felt. They also teach braille, and help schoolchildren to understand what it means to be blind.

Whereas this file contains an in detail theory on the sense of touch, the disability discrimination act and on the reality of sculpture and its inner workings.


WP_20140911_005In my use of Ravelry, I found a set of gloves that were designed to look like Ori’s gloves from The Hobbit series. The pattern was a simple glove, although the result had stripes of purl and knitted loops in a sort of chainmail style puffiness.

The extra thickness of the gloves, were due to the awkward if not controlled knit style of; purl one, knit int back of second knit stitch, then knit into the front of the second knit stitch and remove them both from the left needle together and rep. Which caused the loops of spare wool, from the first knit stitch to push out right side, forming the chainmail like loops.

In my hunt through various patterns of ravelry found me a blanket with a chart for instructions as the previous hat. It called for knits, purl, yarn overs, slip stitches in various repeat formations on dpns. The result so far is quaint, in the endearing way a mother looks at a childs painting with potatoes.

WP_20140911_008But the point of it is the texture, the pattern has caused bumbs and gaps in the material, while the wool is soft, there is a knot in the middle where I started that is near solid. This made me realise that there isn’t much art that you can touch, most, even sculptures, are off limits. So I did a little research and even artists who used fabric and wood like Scott Radke, or embroidery like Terri Mitchell, there is the barrier of not knowing what it feels like to hold, to use, Radke makes some amzing dolls and marionettes, but there untouchable. Otherwise not fit for purpose; which is part of what makes it art and not just another doll, but can we really keep calling it a doll if it can’t function as one?


Stranded Knitting:

WP_20140825_001So I found a rather festive hat pattern on a site called: Ravelry, which is a cache of patterns from toys to jumpers, crochet to knitting in all shapes and wools.

This was the first, and hopefully only item I’ll ever make in stranded knitting, since it was ridiculously awkward to keep control of. The red wool, as the dominant colour was online, on the needle, most; with the white wool being held behind, loose enough to allow the hat to give a little, but tight enough not to cause holes.

Whilst I did struggle with it, the stranded part of it is easy enough to understand and replicate, and makes for easier merging of two colours, and at the end and actual hat. I did use a pattern from raverly for this and although it’s not my own design, I did tweak it a little. I changed from knitting flat to in the round, which caused for fewer holes, and no folded line where I had to stitch the edges together( in my first attempt of the hat). And since I changed to in the round knitting I used only purl knitting, no need to knit/purl.

chart ii

This was also the first time I followed a chart style pattern rather than just written instructions, and it is a lot easier, most probably because I can see what I need to do next rather than trying to imagine it. That I’m rather attached to the image as it reminds me of pixellated art, and the knitted pattern version has its own unique pixel quality to it.



casting on:

WP_20140825_002Using giant 15mm needles, I experimented with the effect needles and wool size have on the gauge and pattern, and chucky gauge wool, I knitted a scarf cowl, with basic knit row purl row. This produced the traditional ‘v’ shape, although with much larger gaps between the stitches, creating a fishing net like pattern.


I also experimented with the casting on methods; Italian tubular cast on, average cast on, and long tailed cast on. The first, “Italian tubular cast on” means creating a slip knot, and keeping the working wool (that still attached to the skien) on your forefinger and the tail end around you thumb. You pull the needle under the working wool and over the tail and back under the working one. Then back under the tail, then over the working and back under the tail and repeat.

The ‘average’ cast on is the best known and most used; by wrapping the wool around your thumb, insert the needle into the cross at your palm and pull, before repeating. Whereas the long tailed cast on requires you to hold the tail on your thumb and the working wool on your finger, put the needle through the wool on your thumb and over the wool on your finger, then back through the hoop on your thumb and repeat till the number of stitches you need, make sure you have twice as much wool as stitches for your tail.

In-the-round Knitting:

practice in the round 15 stsKnitting in-the-round, is where you used three or four dpn’s (double pointed needles) to knit in a circle without a gap, unlike a normal pair of knitting needles which only allow for the creation of rectangles, unless otherwise made up, and requiring stitching. I tried the dpns with 15 stitches on three needles to produce this small hoop. Knitting in the round meant, that three dpns had five stitches on each and the fourth needle you knit with like normal onto one of the three needles, which it then replaces. in the round hat dpn

The first item I made in its entirety, was a hat. The hat had a knit one, purl one rib, and had small ‘braids’ separated by purled patches with three holes stepping up with every turn of the braid. The holes were made by wrapping the wool around the needle and continuing on, the next row will secure the wrapped wool as a stitch again. Whereas the braid is made by 6 knit stitches, the first three stitches would be moved onto another needle, the second three stitches would be knit, then you would return to the three stitches on the other needle. When you continue knitting like normal, in this case for another 10 rows in which I would create the pattern of the three holes; over six rows.

first try left gloveThe hat was loose and the rib was sketchy at best, I’ve found that my ability to create a rib is not it’s best. However the pattern worked well, when the hat worked okay, I tried the same pattern with gloves. Using the same needles I made a pair of fingerless gloves with the same braid and holes pattern; the first few tries didn’t go too well, but eventually they turned out ok. Although the end result is a little tight around the fingers.
first try right glove

left glove