F-Art: The Hand Knitted Playgrounds of Toshiko Macadam
People can tell you all they want that elementary school was the greatest time of their lives. Easy subjects, short days and book fairs. What could be better than that? But, lets be honest--the greatest part of elementary school was the playground. Climbing, swinging and lava monster defined my childhood. Waiting in class all day with the knowledge that in a few (or in my case an eternity) hours I’d be able to run outside to the monkey bars, fueled my early education. Leave it to Japanese born fiber artist Toshiko Macadam to step it up a notch, or in her case a few million notches. Toshiko started creating large scale fiber sculptures by knitting, crocheting and knotting pieces of material together to create floating patterns at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan in the late 1940s. Her early works, known as “ fibre art” started to gain attention in the 1970s. Inspired by the architecture of Antonio Gaudi and the sense of artificial natural forms, Toshiko soon began to integrate these ideas into her own work. Although Toshiko considers herself more of an artist rather than an architect, her designs show a true understanding of form, shape and structure creating a solid work of art that can withstand numerous amounts of weight.
Toshiko's 1st Playground
The idea for her crochet playgrounds started off the way the final product ends, with children. Legend goes that during an art show in the early 1990s, two small children walked up to Toshiko with a simple request--they wanted to be able to climb on her giant works of art. Following her instincts, she allowed the two kids to do so and the crochet playgrounds were born.
The playgrounds she creates combine childhood fun with colorful works of art. Not only are her playground sculptures appealing to the eye, but they also give children the ability to experience art in a whole new way. To create the playground sculptures, Toshiko crochets and knots a nylon like fiber together to make the flexible grounds. The nylon fiber, also known as Vinylon (a synthetic Japanese made fiber) is hand dyed and knotted together, creating a hand made variety of colors and patterns.
The sculptures are created entirely by hand, with each piece examined and cared for by the artist, therefore creating a new playground variety each time. Her works are mainly focused in Japan with the company Net Play Works, but they can also be found in Spain, Singapore, Seoul and Shanghai.
And you thought your Grandma could knit...