As you know from many of my previous profiles of crochet artists there is a tendency in crochet art to play with opposites, to apply the soft and feminine art of crochet to hard and masculine objects. The crochet art of Barbara Koenen is no exception – this is a woman who crochets cozies for grenades.

About crochet artist Barbara Koenen

war rugs

Barbara Koenen is a mixed media artist (which seems to be the case for many crochet artists, they are really mixed media artists who sometimes use crochet in their work rather than strictly being fiber artists). She is based in Chicago but her work has been exhibited at galleries throughout the United States as well as in Europe. One of the things that she is well known for is a non-crochet piece called Afghani War Rugs (shown above), which she makes out of spices (a very cool project). She particularly enjoys doing installation pieces so her crochet work is part of larger displays that are put together in an installation.

Koenen’s crochet grenade cozies

crochet grenade

Of course I am particularly interested in her crochet art. Specifically I found out about her after learning that she crochets cozies for grenades. Here is what she has to say about this project on her website:

“My grandmother and aunts would lovingly crochet cosies for kleenex boxes and extra toilet paper rolls in a curious quest to disguise items considered unmentionable. Forty years later, I’m reminded of that when families buy protective vests for their soldiers, or other families arm their youngsters in age-old cycles of violence. When war becomes everyday life, do grenades become the new unmentionables, covered up by grandmothers and loving aunts?

Grenades are named after pomegranates, the ancient symbol of fertility. Grenadiers were the French soldiers who stood in the front to light the fuse, wait a few moments, then hurl the bomb at their enemy. I began making grenade cosies as an exploration of how a traditional American craft could become influenced by war… much as the war rugs have been shaped by military occupation of Afghanistan.

The price of a grenade in Bagdad has risen 200% in the last two months, and many more people are carrying them. Perhaps they will become as much a fashion statement here in the U.S.?”

Koenen specifically chose crochet for this work because she wanted to do something that was specifically American in order to make a statement about the American impact on other countries. In a Huffington Post article writer Victoria Lautman called them “the most sardonic little political commentaries you’ll ever see.” Later she developed this into an entire theme, using other products (like candy sprinkles) to decorate the grenades that she had collected and ultimately doing an entire grenade project with pomegranates. I love how this shows the way that crochet art can be an art in itself as well as inspiration for additional artwork.

What do you think?

I am always intrigued but what crocheters think of crochet art … would love your comments!


San Francisco based and crochet-obsessed writer, dreamer and creative spirit!


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