We probably all know by now that plarn refers to “yarn” that is made by recycling plastic bags. Many people are crocheting with plarn for reasons that range from the desire to work with an affordable recycled material to the intention of raising awareness about the environment. Lisa Young is an artist who completed a collection of work in crocheted plarn that was placed on exhibit earlier this year.

More about crochet artist Lisa Young

Lisa Young is a Roseville, California based artist. What she really loves to do is to explore the intersection between art and craft. She says:

“I had been brought up with both art and craft elements in the home: drawing and painting, sewing and crocheting. I had always imagined creating art that was an amalgamation of craft and fine art practices. I wanted to create works of art that depicted a conceptual idea by manipulating a medium through a traditionally “craft” technique.” (source)

She is also highly interested in repetition, which crochet lends itself really well to, of course.

Lisa Young’s plarn art

Young actually works with a variety of mediums including bubblegum wrappers and human hair. And she uses other methods in addition to crochet. But one of her projects that got attention this year was a twelve-piece collection of recycled plarn bags that was exhibited at Blue Line Gallery.

She describes that body of work as:

  • “My work possesses layers of meaning that are presented as post-minimalist objects in minimalist grids.”
  • It shows her concern for the “increasingly fragile environment”. It is designed to raise awareness of the dangers that plastic waste and disposable items pose to the earth.
  • It utilizes crochet for repetition as well as to showcase the “feminine busywork” art/craft.
Here are a few of her plarn pieces:

Use of video and photography

For me one of the most interesting things about Young’s plarn art is her addition of video and photography that rounds out her body of work. It shows a different part of the creation process that I think is valuable. For example, she will record a video of a plastic bag that is out there destroying nature and then later you’ll see that same bag as a tangible piece of crocheted artwork. I think that the different steps in the process make for an interesting full art piece, creating more than the sum of the parts for me.

For example, here is the Winco Bag on Folsom Road and Douglas in video form and then as a plarn object that’s been photographed.

My thoughts, your thoughts?

This is a case for me where I am far more interested in the conceptual side of the art project than the visual side. I don’t much care for how the art looks. It doesn’t do anything for me either way. I do kind of like the look of the full piece (the long, multi-bag piece above) just because of the different color and pattern combinations. But I’d certainly be more in love with the art if it was stunningly beautiful and I could feel like “wow, something really amazing was made from the trash”. But that’s not really the point here and I can appreciate what the point is.

I like the way that Young has named the bags after where she finds them. I think this increases the awareness of just how many bags are out there floating around our earth and doing damage. And I like that she’s using bags that she’s actually found out and about like this. That’s true recycling that really helps raise awareness of an issue. Plus I enjoy the video component, as I said – not that watching a plastic bag is particularly interesting but that it helps reinforce that whole message while showing a bit of the life cycle of the bag. You can image that if she didn’t rescue it and turn it into something else then it would just be stuck there hurting the earth.

And I have to say that I give her credit for crocheting with plarn because I’ve tried it before and I think it’s uncomfortable and difficult. So kudos for that. And for exploring the line between art and craft through the use of crochet.

Those are my thoughts. What are your thoughts?



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

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