art/artists


Why do I always feel like I should be doing something else? If I’m painting I should be sewing, if I’m sewing I should be carding wool, if I’m spinning I should be blogging (spinning is when I think of all kinds of stuff I want to tell you guys, most of which I promptly forget about as soon as I get near a computer) if I’m dyeing I should be cleaning the house or washing wool, and if I’m knitting I should be doing just about anything else. The only time I can really get away with guilt-free knitting is if Raven has the TV on.

What the heck is this about? I have been trying to figure it out for ages, and while I have formulated some theories I don’t know if any are correct. Or maybe they all are. I know that my finished object to WIP ratio is bizarrely low, because I am the poster child for process orientation and I have the attention span of a small rodent when it comes to repeating any action or process that I thouroughly understand. I do have a boatload of guilt about the number of UFOs I have – but why? I don’t need these things, I only needed to figure them out. Which I have done.

It’s not as if I spend a lot of money on my crafts either. I build a lot of my own tools, I make do with salvaged or broken items. I work with found objects, and an exhaustive study of my crafting history would demonstrate that since I learned to sew at the age of five I have been moving further and ever further backward, always pursuing and fascinated by the step that comes before the thing I already know how to do.  At this point, the natural conclusion of my life should be that when I die I will be placed in an elaborate coffin of my own construction, hand carved by me and painted in hand ground pigments (egg based, naturally) and lined with hand spun, hand woven and naturally dyed wool.  In a perfect world said coffin would be burned on a pyre of wood cut from a tree I planted, while my friends danced around drinking beer and mead that I brewed.  It will be fun; you should come.  If I have enough warning, I will make paper and print invitations.  There will be door prizes.

Now, in the course of posting this, WordPress has managed to lose the latter half of it, and I have really no idea what I said.  I know the point was, that I would like to stop feeling bad about the things that make me feel good.  This is, after all, my life.  I know that I am never going to make any “significant” mark on the world, but that is ok because nothing I have ever done or ever wanted to do is particularly “significant” so that is not a problem for me.

Does anyone else experience this?  What, if anything, do you do about it if so?  Please, discuss.  In the meantime, I’ll get started on those invitations, as soon as I make Raven a frock coat, which I am going to start as soon as this collage is out of the way, and I will be finishing that right after I dye the yarn that I am currently carding wool for the spinning of.  Unless I just throw in the towel and go knit something.



Going…

going…

gone!

I closed off the egg more than a week ago, and I’m sorry it took me so long to post these – turned into kind of an exciting week, in a friend-of-mine-was-deathly-ill-in-the-hospital kind of way.  (She’s recovering.)

So yeah, the next time I got in the egg I was in there for about three, three and a half hours, and I cast off.  That part was hard – trying to knit just over my head, in a very small circle, and turn round and round without losing stitches… or my place… Probably would have helped if I hadn’t somehow wound up with only a black yarn left on the needles!  I can knit backwards, if not very well, but I wasn’t able to figure out how to knit backwards and upside down.  I couldn’t even figure out if that would actually help.  So I just turned around a lot, and listened to the people outside giggling as elbows and knees poked out various places inside the egg.

Tracy took some pictures of the closed egg before I came out.  She had me “pose” inside, so I am thinking of them as the Amazing Dancing Amoeba Pictures.

Then I steeked a little hole in the back and climbed out, which was neither graceful nor, as it turns out, quite as secretive as I had intended, since to my surprise there were two video cameras and three still cameras pointed at me  Tracy’s son Edward was there – he’d been talking to me when I was inside the egg, and his mom took his picture sitting with me.  I think he was a little disappointed that I didn’t have wings when I came out.  I ran around outside the gallery flapping my coat tails for a while, to make him feel better.

The egg, day four.

The Cocooning project is going very well.  I’m making at least four inches a day, and I’ve got lots and lots of strands attached to the egg now. Navigating the window has become awkward.  I am constantly worried that I will forget to bring scissors in with me on the last day, and will be unable to get out.

I’m knitting with three circular needles, one strand for each, so the rounds are spiraling over each other.  Knitting the bit as each needle runs behind me is a bit of a crunch, as it is slow and annoying to have to turn around all the time, but the egg walls are high enough now that I can just sort of lean and knit over my own shoulder.

The yarns I’m using are all either recycled or leftover yarns from finished projects, some mine, some donated by other knitters.  I love that people gave me old yarn, it just helps to point up the interdependency of the whole craft thing.

The response so far has been very encouraging, and I’m even going to get to be in a book!  But, I don’t know what I’m allowed to say about that yet, so I will give you more details later.  It’s very cool, though.  You’ll like it.

Here’s day two of the egg:

Photo by Diana Martin, Chatham Daily News

Hera and I actually made the front page with this yesterday… presumably it was a slow week. We were at least below the fold, under Haiti!

And as an example of how things have been going this year – Blackie passed away yesterday afternoon. That’s what it’s been like. Kinda good thing, really really sucky thing. My karma is totally tipsy.

Blackie wasn’t a surprise, though. She’s been failing, and when I went out yesterday morning I was pretty sure we’d come to the end. So we had some cuddles, and I told her again what a beautiful perfect sheep she was. She died peacefully. And I dealt with the things that had to be done and then ran and hid in a shop window and knitted another four inches of egg. It is up above knee level now, and I am feeling pretty good about how it is going.

Also, I finished a sweater. Local artist Hank Bos is responsible for this, or at least that is what I am claiming.  See, there is this piece I’ve got in my head about wind farms, and Hank was encouraging me to get working on it.  I am not ready though, because wind farms make me angry (an immense oversimplification) and I don’t want the piece to be angry.  Or at least, not aggressively so.  So I had kind of pushed it to the back burner and stopped thinking about it.  Hank is a very encouraging sort of person though, and talking to him got me thinking about it again and trying to figure out how to tone down the anger or anyway channel it usefully.  And I decided that if I could work through some of my hostility on another project, maybe I could kind of get it out of my system and look at the idea with a clearer head.

So I made a sweater:

I think it worked.  I feel better now.  Also, I have a new warm sweater.

Here’s one final picture for the puppy fans:

See?  Bigger.  Eleven weeks.  Don’t they look sweet?  That’s because they are sleeping, unlike this very moment when they are thrashing around on the floor wrestling.  Actually they’re cute then too, just more dangerous.  And last night, Hera had her first big St Bernard drool!  Raven tried to take a picture, but it didn’t show up very well.  Baby’s first slobber, we’ll have to put it in the scrapbook.

Sorry, there is no fibre content in this post, because I’m in a car, with Stalkermom, the Ed, and a small dog named Barney,

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and I have not got knitting. This seemed like a good idea when I left – I thought I would be in the cab of a truck with no space to knit, and although I am on my way to Toronto to hang out with Emily and Krista, I am also hoping to catch up on what is has become several years worth of missed beer-soaked arguments with their spouses Dru and Simon.

But I’m in a car, and I have no knitting. There is a cat-and-wool picture at the bottom of this post, if you want to just skip to the eye-candy.

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my mother brought HER knitting.

I’m really looking forward to some good conversation tonight. Simon and Dru have always been great people to argue/debate/think out loud with, and more and more I realize how much I need that, how much the way I think has always depended on not just words, but the exchange of words. I’ve complained before about “losing my words” and I don’t know what it sounds like but I mean it quite literally – the way I think and process ideas has been changing ever since we moved to the relative isolation of the farm.

I think that’s partly why I’ve been so enjoying talking to Jodi lately. Not that talking to Jodi isn’t great in and of itself, she’s a terrific person. But the project she’s involved in right now, and her thoughts on it… it’s exciting to hear her talk about, the project itself is fascinating, and listening to her explain it has started giving me a handle on how to approach – no, how to understand – what is happening to me. Apparently my hands went ahead and began expressing the changes some time ago, without actually consulting my brain – big surprise, eh? But talking with Jodi about alteration and destruction is helping my brain catch up.

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Jodi outside Milk in Windsor, modeling a new (although pieced together from older) project dress.

I knew, obviously, that I was expressing myself by decorating my house. I mean, that’s the point, right? In decorating. But it took Emily and Dru and Jodi to point out to me that the house is an organic work, that I’m not actually so much decorating as creating an installation (in quote-unquote artistic terms – I am making a space I want to live in, it just happens to be a bit more representative of my internal processes than I was externally aware of). It is not just a project, but a Project, I suppose.

For example, the walls. In my conscious mind, I am painting words on the walls. The stated purpose being to create a sort of unique and readable wallpaper – thought provoking in places, perhaps, but not profound or especially startling.

But, as I progress, I discover that there are “rules”. First off, the words are all “used”. By which I mean I am not writing anything myself for this project, nor am I letting Raven do so. All of the quotations are from published works. Genre or form doesn’t matter, there are songs, poems, fiction and non-fiction.

Second, many of the words are self-referential within the project. The quotes do not necessarily stand alone, removed from their original context, they often don’t mean anything without the new context of the wall. I have quotes referring to doorways and passages in doorways and passages, quotes about table etiquette and foodstuffs in the kitchen. Many of the quotes are actually about words. One of my current favorites is “these are the things that are written and painted on one part of the wall”.

Another rule I’ve discovered then is that I don’t want the quotes to be particularly meaningful. Raven and I each have some favorite passages that have found their way into rooms, but on the whole I am not trying – I am trying not – to fill my house with moving or meaninful phrases, or deep profundities. Where such things do go up I like to combine them with opposites, frivolities or contrary arguments/observations. The walls may contain a dialogue, but they are not actually intended to provoke one.

Finally, the words in the last stages are obfuscated. I am painting over the decorated wall, in such a way that the words are much harder to read, and much less obviously there. As a decorative feature, my intention was that the words be gradually noticed, that the first effect would be textured walls, and the nature of the texturing would be noticed later, if at all. I hang pictures and mirrors and place furniture in front of walls without regard to the passages being wholly or partially blocked (there are a couple of puns, I have a passage about a hanging a mirror in your entryway behind the mirror in the entryway).

As a decorative feature, this makes sense. But it’s been three years in the doing, three years during which I keep upping the ante in terms of obiliterating the words I’ve so carefully selected and painted, and I’ve only just now realized that as I think more and more visually and become less and less verbal, I do more and more to obliterate these representations of my old medium of thought.

This is connected to a lot of things, not all of which I’ve got a handle on yet. I’m putting this in the blog mostly because this blog is a place I notice my – I don’t think it’s mistrust, not yet – reluctance with words. I write far more entries in my head as I’m working than are ever posted here, and I feel badly that I don’t share here as often as I could/should.

As promised, here is some fibre, with cat:

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Actually, I only made it 22 hours, but that was still enough to make me the only nut who never went home. The fact that home was an hour’s drive away helped in this. I showed up at the gallery at four pm friday, where they were still in a sort of “set-up panic”, even though everything pretty much was set up, and the only things left were the DJ equipment (not there yet) and the decision about whether to tidy the collage materials table and then sigh deeply when the first person started rummaging, or just leave it in a mess. Oona did eventually tidy it up, mostly I think for something to do. I opted for staying out of the way and spinning quietly. Four o’clock was the last time that I knew the hour for a long time, so all you get here is sequence – the next time someone looked at a watch and announced the results, it was four o’clock again!

Jodi Green was the first knitter to turn up, and I can show you the two of us knitting when she forwards me the pictures Peter took, because I was still being too dumb at that point to whip out my camera. We wound up staying in the window sort of behind the DJ – the “sort of behind the DJ” part wasn’t ideal, but wasn’t as bad as it sounds either, and the “in the window” part was brilliant. There were people stopping on the street to watch the crazy girls knitting, and people were taking pictures. Quite a few people were taking pictures, and only one of them worked for Artcite. I found that a bit odd, but then again maybe two people working on the same thing (and racing, we were definitely racing) looked neat, I guess I’ll find out when I see Jodi’s pics!

About the racing – Jodi’s super fast, but I was feeling pretty good about my own pace. We were both working two sets of circular needles, since the Round Thing was set up for four, and there were only two of us. She definitely caught up to my sets once, but for the most part I held it together. Saturday morning she came back and whipped my sorry arse, but politely assured me that by the end of her last day-night-day knitting marathon she was creeping along pathetically as well. So we knitted and knitted, and had a great catch-up visit in the meantime. I haven’t had any good ‘Jodi time’ since Narnia was released!

After Jodi left, I finally had the sense to pull out the camera and shoot the Round Thing – I’d only done a few rounds on it since the other day, so you can see we made a fair amount of progress.

There weren’t a ton of people knitting, but there were some, and the ones I hooked stayed. Davydd Cook was the first – a total novice, he learned the basic knit stitch and was off to the races – made it all the way around the circle at least twice.

Then Sandra, a University of Windsor graduate student and devoted knitter joined in. Alas, her picture is blurry, (that’d be ‘too much coffee too fast’) but perhaps you’ll be seeing/reading more of her, because she’s interested in Knitting With Others, and we just may be setting that up. Y’ hear that, Sandra? Email me, I’ll let you know what’s up and when!

(Edit: Someone sent me this not-blurry picture of Sandra and I knitting together – Sandra’s the one in front, I’m the one who looks like I haven’t brushed my hair since March. Image courtesy of Elaine Weeks.)

Here’s Cassie:

Here are Marissa and Irina – three is as many as we managed going at one time.

I also took the opportunity to introduce Marissa to the drop spindle. I think maybe some of that fibre from Emily is getting one more pass-along. Marissa here is working with the “butt fleece” (that’s Jodi talking) and couldn’t put it down.

All that kept me and the Round Thing happy until almost three am (ok, I did know what time it was around 2:30 when they took the beer away.) After that there were fewer people – only the diehards stayed past three – but I did still get some other newbie knitters out of the group. Unfortunately I can’t remember anyone’s name just now, and it was too dark to take pictures. (They turned all the lights off so they could project old educational films onto a building across the street.) I also managed to use the lull period to work on a rag rug for the bedroom, and I knit on some wire too, which I’d started and was working on occasionally just because it looks so cool.

We lost almost everybody around four thirty, and the last of the all-night crowd went home by six thirty. By then Leesa had come back (she went home and slept the sleep of the Just on friday, having been up to the wee hours all week getting the gallery ready) and she plyed us with coffee until we felt human again.


‘Round about the same time humanity returned, Jodi returned as well and we dove back into the Round Thing. Peter showed up at a time he said was about one, and he waited until Jodi helped me cast off before sweeping her away. The weather Saturday was crappy and there was no one coming in to the gallery, so we decided that the Round Thing was officially done.

Overall? This was a really fun thing to do, and I’m so glad I was involved. Knitting two and three to an object is indescribable. The awareness you have of what the other people are doing, and how you and they are affecting each other… it’s more than just the speed, you are actually knitting their stitches, you can feel the differences between their tension and your own, there was even a sort of trust thing (as in, “I am not going to ask if they are remembering to increase. I am NOT.”) And it worked out great!

(Thanks to Jodi for the picture)
Final diametre, unblocked (as it will remain): 33 inches.

But what to do with it? I shuddered to think of trying to mount it on the wall, but it looked so lonely lying there in the middle of the floor. Jodi had been trying to convince me it should be turned into an ottoman, but I said there was no way I was bringing it home to stuff! I spread it out on the deep windowsill near where we’d been working. And then, someone came in with flowers. People had been bringing us presents; presents for the gallery, and also stuff for the nutters who were staying up – like breakfast! – mmm. So this fellow came in with a huge bouquet of flowers, which were beautiful despite one of them being a sunflower.* They were in a tall glass vase, like an enormous wineglass. He was trying to make them look nice on the windowsill.

He looked at me.
I looked at him.

And just like that, the existence of the Round Thing became justified for its own sake, not only as “a neat thing to do with others”.

Art? Craft. Perfection.

*I am afraid of sunflowers. Don’t judge me.


Ok, it’s the 23! That means it’s “Post some professional quality work and link it to this site day! I am even as we speak working on the sock pattern, (well ok, no, I’m writing this right now, obviously, but you know what I mean) with the intention that I will post it today. I just have to write down the heel part, which is easy, right? And draw out the chart. Which should be easy, but is maybe not. This whole “writing out your knitting pattern so that someone else can read it” thing is hard! And unless one of you actually feels like knitting the darn thing, I still won’t know if I’ve done it correctly. I suppose someone who knows what they’re doing might be able to tell just by reading it… Jodi? Anyone?
In either case, posting the sock pattern for Pixel-Stained Technopeasant day only half counts, because I had always intended to post it, so while it is indeed a free pattern (which, assuming legibility will unquestionably generate a pair of large socks, since I have a pair to prove it) it isn’t an extra thing I’m sharing.
I haven’t any other brilliant sock ideas lying around, and haven’t thought of anything else of a reasonable size to throw up a tutorial about (but you know you can always ask, right? I mean, I just do stuff, it doesn’t always occur to me that someone else might want to. I’m used to people thinking I’m nuts!) and posting a picture of a piece of fibre art is not really useful to this particular cause. So instead, I shall follow in Gecko Girl’s footsteps: I shall take my own advice and throw some poetry out there. These were written a few years ago now, when I was living in London (ON).

Jasmine and Ivy

You observed the difference
Between inference and implication
But Peter said
Carpe per diem et fugit!
And the Lost Boys pulled out the skeletons
That were hiding in your china cupboard
They came out and danced
They were your friends
And you took them, then
And dressed yourself in skulls
But underneath the skulls it’s you
It’s really you
Wendy
The Betrayer
Who grew up.

I don’t really imagine this next one qualifies as “professional quality”, I’m afraid. It’s actually a eulogy I wrote for my grandmother – but while I’m posting poetry here, I think that this one ought to be included:

Oats, Peas, Beans and Barley

Maybe it’s not fair
But what I mourn is what I’ll never know.
Lost behind piles of fabric
Long beyond your control,
Lost inside a role of meals badly coped with,
Beautiful clothes that I put on my dolls
Costumes
The secret of how to make clothes-peg people
My own happy childhood.
Where is the woman I’ll never meet?
Beautiful, talented
Selfless, creative, young.
Your finger, bent for forty years
Your accidents were silly, after.
We remember you as funny, eccentric
Your talking birds and tatted lace
And miles of tiny stitches.
Did you really want those dresses for yourself?
And would you have grown bored, not finished
If they hadn’t been so small?
Were you patient, and were you very lonely?
And did you know how loved and beautiful
You always, always were?

I remember plastic salt cellars
And endless mismatched glasses
When the table was set it always seemed as if
Someone hadn’t known when to stop.
I remember
“My name is Jan Jansen, I come from Wisconsin…”
Life with you wasn’t full of books, but
Things to look at and play with.
Your world was texture and opulence:
The indescribable smell of your kitchen
The feel of silk.
And were you relieved that I could play alone?
Or did you understand my brother better
Because he needed to be amused
Wanted to play “store” and “school”,
Because he was a Boy?

One night, your brother came.
That night, you weren’t Nana
You were just another grown-up, talking in the living room
Boring stuff I didn’t want to understand.
If I had paid more attention then
Would I know more?
Could I fill in some of the gaps
Now that I wish I understood?
Would it have helped these last few years?
Or was it enough
That I could talk about fabric and texture
And the beautiful clothes that I saw at the theatre one night,
Enough to know that you and I could make these things?
Did you survive and live for ninety years
Because you could still tell me what rucking meant?

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