The Crochet Trash Project

Adhd, Backpacking, And How Trash Crochet Lets Me Worry In Peace

I wish I could crochet thoughts into physical bodies. Then, maybe, I could weave thought fragments together before they unravel and disappear entirely. I have a tough time remembering things: according to the doctors, my “attention span” and “working memory cognitions” rest somewhere between the .01 and 3rd percentile, depending on how the information was delivered. This means that I have ADHD, but I like to describe it as “I don’t know where I am, I don’t know where I’ve been, and I don’t know where I’m going.” On good days, I like to think about how this makes everyday feel brand new. On bad days, I think about how much worry and stress it causes.

I want my artwork to be an alternative exploration of worry. Western medicine tends to treat illness as a fire to put out; I seek to embrace the warmth too.

As part of my practice at Denison, I spent the fall of 2019 crocheting bits and pieces of my trash together using my grandmother’s old yarn. The project began as an attempt to realize my own environmental guilt , but eventually grew into a meditative exploration of anxiety and identity: I wanted to see what it really meant to confront a source of worry through a slow, meditative, and intricate task like crochet.

Trash is language, trash is the face of consumerism, trash is a stain, a signature, an imprint, an echo. It’s something that I feel responsible for, but it’s also something that I have limited eases of control over. Each piece of trash is a piece of guilt. Trash is a record of the self, and in that way, to preserve garbage and repurpose it is to reinterpret and understand ourselves.

If trash is a record, then crochet lets me play it back. Crochet allows me to approach this project through a trance of tediousness: it is slow, repetitive, it holds a sense of tradition and dignity to it. It provides me with a space to become lost in my surroundings, a distraction from worry. In our culture of productivity, each moment not spent doing something feels like a moment wasted. The repetitive process of crochet combines the labor of making with ease of access, opening up a comfortable space for both self-reflection and creative choice. Therefore, my crochet can be seen as both a physical manifestation of worry and a coping mechanism for it.

It’s often said that ADHD brains exist like orchestras without conductors. With no inner structure to manage organization or composition, the world can feel like a chaotic mess. In the same way that google calendar exists to simplify a mess of tasks, I want my work to approach problems in a manageable, non-threatening way. Each piece of crocheted trash is a patch, but never a complete solution. There is no set place where it is “done.” But by looking at the growing forms as pieces of a larger part of a whole, I gain valuable perspective and take back a little bit of control.

In this way, my worry is not a feeling of hopelessness, but rather it is managing the struggle and walking alongside it. In times like these, when our community feels fragmented and social comforts shift for the worse, my experiences at Denison have given me the strength to recognize that when days get difficult, I can still be there for myself. One of my favorite things about Denison is that I am constantly challenged, critiqued, and encouraged to push myself through interdisciplinary and interpersonal approaches. When I first began at Denison, my artistic process was strangled by my anxiety and fear over doing the “wrong” thing. Denison’s Studio art program has taught me to embrace uncertainty, and I now find myself discovering art and passion in places I didn’t know it lived before. This semester, a boring Communication paper became an opportunity to explore weaving as a form of dialogue. Last semester, a backpacking expedition turned into a phenomenological art history paper. Ultimately, I’ve gained from my Denison experience what I hope everyone can relate to at least once in their lives: self-love, a passion for learning, and a proud sense of self.