Modes of making & meaning – Freddie Robins

Freddie Robins work – Craft Kills is a self portrait made from wool on a knitted machine.


The following is taken from her website

Craft Kills is a self-portrait based on the well-recognised image of Saint Sebastian being martyred. Instead of arrows piercing my skin I have knitting needles. The title immediately brings to mind the old adage of “dying for your art” but what I am much more concerned with is the stereotypical image that craft, and in particular knitting, has, of being a passive, benign activity. How would it be if craft was considered as dangerous or subversive?   Since conceiving of this piece the world suffered the events of September 11th and its aftermath. You can no longer fly with knitting needles in your hand luggage. Knitting is now classed as a dangerous activity.

(Statement written for Flexible 4: Identities catalogue, 2004)

It’s based on a painting of Saint Sebastian who was martyred for being a Christian around 600AD


The painting of St Sebastian by Mantegna in the Ca d’Oro museum in Venice

I like the knitted piece, although every time I see a knitted suit like this, I’m reminded of a conversation in one of my knitting groups about sexual fetishes and whether there was a knitted one (there is, and they wear things like the outfit Freddie made).

I’ve always struggled with the difference in Art and Craft, is there really a difference?

I look at ‘Art’ like Tracey Emin’s bed and don’t ‘get it’, walking round galleries I feel like the kid in the Emperors new clothes, shouting, “That’s not Art”.

Yep, you can imagine just how much I struggle in Uni.

The painting above is art, Art is something you look at and gasp. Craft…

I understand what Freddie says about knitting being seen as a passive craft. Something old ladies do to keep alzheimer’s at bay.

At the knitting group I mentioned we meet in a pub and often get comments from men asking us to whip up a jumper for free. But the thought of asking a painter to whip up a portrait for free wouldn’t cross our minds.

Art is costly, while craft is cheap. Art comes from years of hard study and focus, craft comes from a wet bored day at Grannies house.

This image has been doing the knitting rounds recently and we’ve been thinking of getting t-shirts with it on.


I didn’t just wake up last week and think of being a crocheter, nor did I spend months practicing bobbin lace for someone to suggest it’s a hobby.

I get Freddie Robins meaning, Craft kills, it changes people’s thinking.

You expect a crafter to come along and make granny squares for a blanket, cute, soft and cuddly. Those cute squares become blankets for homeless people, get shipped to refugee camps in Syria (we’ve shipped well over 100 now). What you don’t expect from a crafter is attitude, but that’s whats happening.

Published by bettyvirago

Betty Virago is an award winning textile designer. Based in Yorkshire, England, and known for her Northern Folk dolls and the Quilts of Hope project.

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