I didn’t realize until right this very moment how hard irony is to define. It’s a risky phenomenon, a sort of elitist’s inside joke, requiring intelligence instead of friendship to crack the code, but also leaving the ignorant laughing (at you because they think you’re the dumb one).
While it boasts noble beginnings as an Ancient Greek rhetorical device, perhaps one of irony’s most entertaining uses is as a method for modern man to save face. Doing something totally unhip? Don’t worry. As long as you’re doing it ironically, you’re golden. A quality example is YOLO. In a recent “Saturday Night Live” episode, Drake gave his mea culpa for coining the phrase, which has since become a mainstay of teenage girls, hashtags and frat tanks everywhere. But, for outsiders, a YOLO slip is the ultimate faux pas. Unless? Go ahead: Slap that life-saving adverb on, and you do you.
It’s the ultimate way to make something uncool cool, which brings me to the actual design-related part of this post: ironic cross-stitch. Now, let me preface by saying cross-stitch isn’t square (though it can be — don’t give in to the circle-background convention). My mom did it all the time when I was a kid, and she tried to teach me, and it’s super hard, and I think it’s awesome that people can make it happen. But, I happen to think the entertainment value that accompanies embroidering foul language or rap lyrics in dainty X’s bumps the whole situation up a notch.
In some ways, it highlights the ridiculousness of some of the trappings of modernity. Take the lyrics: “Y’all gon make me lose my mind/ Up in here, up in here.” When I see it stitched out, I start to notice how silly the song that’s gotten me through lifetimes on the elliptical is. And nothing says “trite” like a few little hearts.
But at the same time, turning hip-hop into a decorative craft gives it a whole new life. The words fit so nicely into the medium, creating a pleasant piece that looks like it belongs on the wall of a cozy, wood-floored home. Immortalizing the words in something less fleeting than sound puts them on a pedestal, quoting them as something worth remembering.
Both halves of snarky cross-stitch gain something from each another. The collision of the old-fashioned and the modern gives cross-stitch a little edge and pop culture a little clout. The results are a little like snickering at a childish joke, but it totally works. Who says those curved cream canvases are reserved for kittens and flowers and houses? Dressing for your age is dumb (see this cool project by photographer Qozop and the grandfather cardigans that make up the majority of my wardrobe), and crafting for your age is, too. Sometimes, you just really need to throw the world a “Bite me,” and as we discussed, what’s the best way to salvage the situation?
Good old irony saving the day, a couple cheerful curlicues at a time.