I buy and complete commercial needlepoint kits. These are kits that help the consumer stitch a specific image – they include a pre-printed needlepoint canvas, instructions, and all the yarn to complete the piece. However, instead of following the instructions included in the kit, I make up my own formally based rules, and subject the contents of the kit to them. For example, for the piece Old Mill Farm #1, I ordered the yarn in the kit by value and I filled in the canvas following these rules: horizontal lines, no black or white, each color stitched to completion. Those rules become the title of the finished piece, along with the kit title.
My experiment poses two main questions. What is the relationship between rule- following and image-making in creativity? What is the relationship of convention to invention in aesthetic choice? The intended result of the kit is a commonplace idyllic farm scene, the classic pastoral landscape. When I apply my rules to the completion of the kit, some of the printed canvas remains exposed, and the intended image is partially visible. My minimal intervention quantifies, breaks down, obscures that image into abstraction – another ideal of image-making, with different class aspirations.