by Lainey W. Moseley
The Germantown Friends School 28th Annual Juried Craft Show, coming up on March 2-4, continues to showcase a strong stable of artists, with 24 exciting new additions this year.
Two of the show’s new entries are local artists Vincent Brennan of Germantown and Janell Wysock of Northern Liberties, both of whom qualified in the Emerging Local Artists category. Introduced in 2009. This category provides a platform for artists who live and work in Philadelphia but have never exhibited at the show before.
For artisan Vincent Brennan, “Knots have always been a constant in my life. I’ve been doing this for 50 years, since I was a child.” Brennan runs his business, Frayed Knot Arts, out of his home in Germantown.
“I’m a knot-tyer or knotter or just ‘knuts,’ as my wife likes to joke,” said the former hippie, truck driver, electrical salesman, cattle herder, Gulf Coast shrimper and now knot artist. “Knots have always been there for me. They just have a nice way of tying things up in my life.”
In the last few years, Brennan turned his craft into a full-time business. Frayed Knot Arts sells rope jewelry, belts, instrument straps, curtain pulls, picture frames and any kind of fancy rope work you can imagine.
Brennan learned the craft as a child from an old sailor who lived down the street from him who, as a boy of 12 circa 1875, ran away on a ship to America.
“He taught me everything he knew for three years before he died,” Brennan said.
The craft of nautical rope work has been passed along from sailor to sailor since the 17th century. When Brennan joined the Navy in his twenties, his craft became his job.
Brennan’s website (www.frayedknotarts.com) displays all his work for sale and, for those not lucky enough to know an old sailor down the street, 30 tutorials that teach the dying art of knotting to the next generation.
“There are a few thousand of us around the world still,” Brennan said. “We have an International Guild of Knot Tyers that meets throughout the year. We are a lunatic bunch – aka “the brotherhood of the sore fingers”– devoted to keeping knotting and rope work alive into the 21st century.”
Janell Wysock (www.janellwysock.com), the second emerging local artist at the GFS Craft Show next month, calls herself a textile artist and designer, but weaves an environmental message into every piece she makes.
“I use plastic bags in some of my products,” she said. “I’m trying to encourage people and businesses to stop using them, and to raise awareness about the environmental damage they cause.”
Originally from Pottstown, Wysock graduated from Moore College of Art in 2004. It was at Moore that she discovered her love of creating fabrics by weaving, knitting, netting and crocheting. Her wearable art includes scarves, vests, hats, sweaters and purses. And her recycling mission is a constant in her commitment to reuse materials like old yarns or moth-eaten sweaters that most people would just throw out.
“I reweave the yarn with new yarn and save it from going to a landfill” she said. Her elegant purses incorporate both old plastic bags and old cassette tapes into the design.
When Wysock isn’t weaving her own line of clothing, she’s teaching her craft to children at The New Foundations Charter School After-school Program in Northeast Philadelphia.
“The kids are learning how to weave, crochet and fuse plastic bags into fashion pieces,” Wysock said.
She’s also teaching a similar class at Moore College of Art. And if this textile artist has her way, one of two things will happen: Either more companies will stop using plastic bags or Philadelphia will see a lot more people wearing plastic-bag sweaters until corporate America takes notice. Until then, Wysock will keep on weaving.
The Germantown Friends School Craft Show will open with a Preview Night on March 2, from 7-9 p.m., and will be open March 3, from 10 a.m.-6 p.m., and March 4, from 12-5 p.m. This year marks the show’s 28th anniversary, and will showcase the fine crafts of 74 individual artists.