1972, Bird Coat
I first came across the work of Janet Lipkin Decker in my favorite vintage freeform crochet book: Creative Crochet. In other books that I’ve seen her work, her name is sometimes shown as Janet Decker and sometimes as Janet Lipkin but when I looked her up online I see Janet Lipkin so that is what we’ll go with from here on out.
About Janet Lipkin
Like several of the other artists in the 1970s crochet art-to-wear movement, Lipkin was a graduate of the Pratt Institute art school and amongst those there who set the stage for fiber and artwear to be taken seriously be the art world. She has had her art work in a number of museums including the DeYoung and Oakland Art Museums here in the San Francisco Bay Area and the Metropolitan Museum and the Museum of Art and Design both in New York. In 2009 she got an honorable mention award from the Surface Design Association. Lipkin is currently a California art teacher and continues to make artwork as well as doing monoliths and paintings.
Janet Lipkin Decker in Creative Crochet
Bird Coat, with sleeve detail
Janet Lipkin’s work is featured in the book Creative Crochet specifically to show off the amazing things that can be done with three-dimenstional, highly textural, sculptural crochet stitches. Her Bird Coat, which is also seen later in the book Art to Wear, is featured first here with detailed color photos of the work. The book explains that she did this piece using wool from Ecuador that was handspun and that she dyed the yarn herself with vegetable dye. The piece is a multi-layered piece; for example, there are the sleeves you see and then a full set of sleeves underneath that can be seen if you lift the first sleeve up. This is truly art to wear!
Janet Decker in Discovery and Design
My very favorite piece of Janet Lipkin’s is the only piece she had featured in the book Discovery and Design by Del Feldman. It has the midriff-baring aesthetic that was popular in the 1970s but done in such a unique and fun with the cool wrap around design.
Janet Decker in Crocheter’s Art
There is a section of artist profiles in the Del Feldman’s book The Crocheter’s Art and she has chosen to profile Janet Lipkin there, as well as featuring photos of her work throughout the book. The bio shares that in addition to attending the Pratt Institute, Lipkin had also taking classes at the Penland School of Crafts and was knowledgable in a range of crafts including dyeing, macrame, weaving, knitting and spinning. However she preferred crochet to the others because it “the crochet stitch serves as the most expressive means” and “is virtually limitless and is easily integrated with other media”.
The work from Lipkin that we see in this book is not wearable art, like in the other books, but instead is sculptural animalistic pieces. She says in her bio that she really wants her sculptures embody the spirit of the creature she’s trying to create. This book isn’t a crochet pattern book per se but it does include a sculptural crochet pattern from Lipkin.
Janet Lipkin in Art to Wear
I love the description of Lipkin’s work in Art to Wear when author Julie Schafler Dale says, “her work bespeaks a child’s strength of vision: uncensored, unconditioned, unspoiled, ripe with possibility, sensuality, and ritual”. This book says that Lipkin was the first of the Pratt artists to explore wearable art and considers her a forerunner of the artwear movement.
1973 Strawberry Jacket; Lipkin wanted to crochet an object (a strawberry) into a wearable garment
Although she had previously done more sculptural work, this book explains that by the early 1970s she was devoting herself entirely to wearable art. The early pieces were designed to be truly artistic creations hung on the body as if it were a painting on a wall. At the time. Lipkin was unconcerned with fit and drape but she would go on to care more about those things and to evolve a simpler style in keeping with the times as the seventies went on.
1970 African Mask
In the early 1980’s Lipkin was doing a lot of work that wasn’t crocheted anymore, work that was loom-knitted, for example. This also seems to be in keeping with the trend that most crocheters from the artwear movement were moving towards at this time. What Lipkin liked about knitting, which she didn’t learn until 1978, was that it offered more ability to do graphic work. Art to Wear has some examples of this work and there’s also an example in the book Knitting Art: 150 Innovative Works from 18 Contemporary Artistsby Karen Searle. Other books that Lipkin has been written about it include: Artwear Fashion and Anti-Fashion and Craft in America: Celebrating Two Centuries of Artists and Objects.
Fun Find: A 1974 archived newspaper article about Art to Wear author Dale’s gallery that mentions Lipkin.
Janet Lipkin in the 1990s
Janet Lipkin continued to explore different aspects of art, branching out from sculpture and fiber work. In 1992 started doing printmaking and monotypes. She was also raising a family; she has four kids.
Fun Find: 1979 newspaper article about sweaters as art for knitters that mentions Lipkin
Janet Lipkin Today
An article written last year over at Patch reveals that Janet Lipkin has spent nearly the past two decades teaching art at Tehiyah Day School; she has sometimes taught crochet to kids there. She also helped found a summer camp to empower young girls in the arts. You can visit Janet Lipkin on her website, where you can see her most recent artwear as well as her other recent artwork. I think her recent artwork shows a lovely maturity where she’s got the bold colors and big ideas of her early work, a bit of the graphic inspiration from her later work and a nice sense of draping and fit.
Fun Find: History of Wearable Art that mentions Lipkin