ARTICLES ON MAKING
All texts © Monika Auch.
The Zen in Stitch and Bitch
On Health and Crafting, published 2020 in TxP
The zen in stitch and bitch The most commented on episode of the American sit com ‘The Big Bang Theory’, shows super nerd Sheldon Cooper at a loom, furiously weaving poncho’s. For the uninitiated: Sheldon, the most brilliant in a group of scientists just got sacked. He is under severe stress. With unique logic he explains: ‘I was working with luminous fish and thought - LOOM’. Labelled with Asperger’s syndrome he is incapable of managing sudden change. However - through weaving, i.e. engaging in a meaningful, productive and repetitive action he reorganizes his brain. He calms down, stabilizes and goes back to work.
Why does our brain love arts and crafts? This is the content of some interesting research conducted in Finland at Aalto University. While every knitter, embroiderer, weaver and craft practitioner knows and experiences the relaxing state of making with your hands, i.e. the delicious state of flow, it is interesting to identify the underlying mechanisms. Could they - easily available and low cost measures - be implemented in therapy and preventive health care? The underlying mechanisms of how creative practice improves our well-being are being widely researched. Crafting is unique in its ability to involve many different areas of the brain, which can be mapped by MRI technique. Crafting involves the memory and attention span, visuospatial processing, the creative and problem-solving abilities. Engaging in a crafting process means to move out of the stress mode of fight and flight response and to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which dampens internal chaos. Additionally, the reward center in the brain releases a neurotransmitter called dopamine, a natural anti-depressant. This is triggered by overcoming problems and admiring a finished, beautiful piece of work.
Stitching There are supportive factors to get into that healthy, delicious state of FLOW. The zen-factor in ‘stitch and bitch’ lies in the caption. Ideally the ‘stitching’ project has to be a meaningful, repetitive yet challenging task. In that way it involves cognitive learning which improves self-efficacy. Psychologists believe a strong sense of self-efficacy is key to how we approach new challenges and overcome disappointments in life. Realizing you can weave poncho’s for your friends can help to tackle the next job application or scientific task. The involvement of many different parts of the brain during crafting can enhance brain functions at later stages in life even counteracting dementia. Neuroplasticity is a newly coined phenomenon, meaning that human brains never stop developing if stimulated adequately e.g. by art projects.
Bitching Bitching - #gatherings, #women, #talking and knitting - refers to the positive effects of communal making. Part of the explosive interest in textile crafting is linked to the well-being of social communities, e.g. the ‘Sewing as a Form of Self-care’ project described on the Fashion Textile Museum ’s blog, Claire Wellesley Smith’s covid-19 stitch journal or the long running AIDS-quilt project. Making as practiced in arts and crafts is crucial for creating social cohesion and for emotional bonding especially during uncertain and challenging circumstances.
Zen Stitch and bitch adds up to more than a great craft piece, it brings zen - no need to follow a mindfulness workshop - get out your tools and stitch, weave, felt with your community!
Bio - Monika Auch has a background in medicine and textile design with a focus on weaving. A hybrid of science and art, she set up Weeflab in Amsterdam to investigate ‘The intelligence of the hand’. She runs the stitchyourbrain project
The author wired up at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience, mapping dexterity through scientific data for the Stitch Your Brain project. Photo: M. Auch
Left: Gigantic tapestry of AIDS quilts in Washington D.C. The NAMES Project Foundation. Photo: M. Thiessen Right: Statement by Klara van Langeveld in the Stitch your brain project: ‘Stitching the brain turned out to be a confronting experience. It forced me to think about what happens in the brain of a loved one diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The medical language is actually incomprehensible since it has little to do with the experience of someone’s body, feelings and emotions. Neither for the one diagnosed, nor for his or her loved ones. But the “ P “ word is always in mind. It’s like looking at a language you can’t read, trying to figure out what it tells you. It stares you in the face, it’s a black scenario.’ Photo: M. Auch
The weaver and time
Introduction, revised version, 2017
first published in catalogue on solo exhibition Qua Art Qua Science, Enschede, 2012
What does dexterity mean in our day and age which is dominated by technological innovations? This discourse is about visual and tactile factors and time. photo: Woman in Thailand walking a warp and her tools - travel research
The skin on the milk
Introduction to catalogue of 3rd Rijswijk Textile Biennial, 2013
The visual memory of touch
Initially it is a slippery, shiny layer on hot milk. When fished out of the cup, dangling from the spoon, it proves to be a surprisingly tenacious substance. Draped over the edge of the saucer it forms interesting folds and wrinkles. Any contact with lip or tongue is for many people abhorrent. Just reading about skin on milk can bring on the impulse to retch. This reaction can often be linked to memories from childhood. What artist would not want to effect such an intense reaction - preferably with positive connotations, of course – with his/her work?
The intelligence of the hand
published in: Crafting in a digital age, Bloomsbury Academic, 2017
Peer reviewed article which places the hand in the centre of contemporary art practice. The article is written from the hybrid viewpoint of the author as M.D. and weaver who works with threedimensional weaving on a computerized loom.
The article defines essential aspects of creative making. It discusses dexterity, the development of material sensibility and cognitive processes in relation to the current use of digital tools in art practice. The discussion is illustrated by interviews with contemporary makers. It also describes the author’s research project, ‘Stitch_your_brain’ with some preliminary results.
Interview met Prof. van Bommel
gepubliceerd in kM 106, zomer 2018
Van Bommels onderzoek omvat studies over het gedrag van natuurlijke en synthetische kleurstoffen en organische pigmenten en hun toepassing in ons cultureel erfgoed.
Interview met Prof. Dupré
gepubliceerd in kM 102, zomer 2017
Sven Dupré's missie is om het perspectief van de technische kunstgeschiedenis te verbreden naar een onderzoek van het creatieve proces van de kunstenaar in al zijn materiële en intellectuele complexiteit.