Saturday, December 29, 2012

Knitting is "in"

I can’t recall how many different articles I saw in the newspapers during the fall and just before Christmas, telling everybody that knitting is “in” and more trendy than ever. I have written about guerilla knitting here before, although I still haven’t actively joined in that movement, just enjoy seeing items when I happen to catch sight of them. (Happens not too frequently, I have to admit. Doesn’t seem to be the big thing around here, out in the country.) It is even entering advertisements, as on this one for a gas station which I found in the paper yesterday:

I’ve been a knitter almost all my life. My grandmother taught me how to knit when I must have been just six, I believe, during the summer before I started going to school. I remember the blue yarn that she had un- and rewound, hiding the tiniest little treasures while rewinding, in order to keep me eagerly knitting away so that I would quickly get to the next little goody. In the very middle there was a coin, it must have been one Deutschmark, an immeasurable amount of wealth at that time for a girl that age. And before I knew it I had grasped the secret of at least purl stitch.
After that I was constantly knitting. Ball gowns for my Barbie dolls, baby blankets for (late) babies arriving in my parents’ circle of friends, and sweaters sweaters sweaters. For a while I was knitting for money for a craft store – as a teenager I spent a lot of time on the tram going back and forth because of my daily swim practice, and filled that time with knitting. During tenth and eleventh grade I even knitted during school lessons, sometimes under the table, believing the teacher didn’t notice. I could knit without looking, at least some patterns, and the teacher never said anything...
In a combined effort my mother and I even copied and remade the pattern of a Norwegian jacket for my grandmother, which she had worn for perhaps twenty-five years and did not  want to give up although it was getting rather threadbare. This jacket kept her comfortable during her last years of mental decline.
For a long time I saved every single swatch I made to determine the number of stitches needed, thinking I would some day combine all these into a blanket of my life as a knitter. I don’t quite remember when I threw that bag out on the occasion of a move, probably, and I am not really sure I regret having done that. It certainly would have given the chance to recount every single sweater I made, but one does accumulate so much clutter...
While I was writing my Ph.D. thesis I contracted tendonitis in my right arm due to computer use and had to stop knitting for a while. But hand quilting was fine, so I did not miss knitting too much. At that time yarn shops were in decline, too, it was hard to get nice yarn, and I had turned a quilter a heart.
During pregnancy, however, I gave it another try, started a baby jacket, which was finished before the baby was born, and turned to knitting socks after that. As I get older I need warm socks during winter, and I must have knit at least one hundred pairs of socks since my son was born, for me, my husband, friends, the church Christmas market, and to pay for art.
Now that I don’t buy commercial fabrics anymore, I have to admit that I have returned to buying yarn. To my big surprise one of the first shops I saw when we moved to this town almost eight years ago was a yarn store. I found it hard to believe that possible, as so many stores that carried yarn had either changed stock or closed down altogether in larger places. But this store has recently celebrated its 25th anniversary, and moved to larger premises a few months ago. They also do a lot of business online. That’s where I bought the yarn for this recently completed vest in patchwork knitting style which I had been working on after my return from Ste. Marie-aux-Mines, while taking a break from having to be creative in quilting.

On the picture I am auditioning a selection of my numerous buttons, trying to decide which ones will be used.
But now it is time to return to creative quiltmaking. I have started work on my entry for SAQA’s “Text messages”. This picture shows my preliminary attempts at how I will deal with the required text on the quilt. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Not in my backyard...

So the Western media have been hyping about how oh-so-many people were so excited/upset/afraid because of the misunderstood Mayan calendar. Calling for a new time, not the end of the world, but supposedly people were still afraid that the world would end. Preparing to survive. (Who would want to survive the real end of the world anyway - only to die a few weeks or months later either of starvation or some radiation sickness, and not having had power in between to run one's sewing machine? No treadle machine in my family anymore...)
Well, the end of the world didn’t happen in my backyard – which looked like this early this morning:

Snow-covered art 

Snow sculpture

Waiting to be fed...

Waiting for warmer times: our magnolia

left-overs, now meant as bird food

Entrance to paradise, on warmer days

Play of Lines?

yet another snow sculpture
manifest drizzle

Unfortunately it has been drizzle-raining all day, so not much of this beauty will remain to give us a White Christmas. But I managed to scavenge two boxes of snow for a bit of snow-dyeing.
And today is winter solstice - and how is this for a bit of numerology: the sun turned around at twelve minutes after noon. Which looks like this: 12.12.2012 12:12.
A good occasion to pay a visit to Daily Oak at exactly this moment, the beginning of new and lighter times:
Daily Oak, perspective a, 12.12.2012, 12:12

Daily Oak, perspective b, 12.12.2012, 12:12
Here comes the sun? It will.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Opening in Neumünster, reactions

In a personal mail regarding my post about the opening in Neumünster, Claire Benn pointed out to me that she was merely asked to open Nancy’s exhibit Monoprinting, and that is what she did. She was not asked to talk about Color Improvisations.
Claire then clarified for my benefit that Nancy only considered 25 of her 100+ attempts worthy of putting forward to stitch and ultimately showing them, and was not displaying each and any of the first attempts at a new technique as accomplished pieces of art.
She also criticized my choice of language in saying “I was not terribly impressed” as too subjective, I should rather have said “I did not like them” and told the readers why, thus being more objective in my criticism.
Well, I wasn’t trying to be objective, that's not what I intend to do with this blog, I was stating a very subjective point of view. 
But I would like to go into just a bit more detail about what I was trying to say:

  • I love Nancy Crow, I admire her work.
  • I think her personal insistence on bringing art quilts to attention can not be overvalued, and it is due to her doing to a large extent that we all can do what we are doing today, because she has given artquilts an importance.
  • I have taken several classes with her, I have learned immensely from her, and I am deeply grateful for how she has kept pushing me in my development as a quilter. (In which I still consider myself a learning person.) She is a tough teacher, and I would not want her differently, even if some of the things she says about one’s work might hurt at that point. Most of the times she’s right.
  • I also feel deeply honoured to be part of the exhibition Color Improvisations.
  • I wrote the announcement article for the German Guild’s journal on this exhibition, and I was very curious and excited about seeing this new work by her. So let me here re-state the choice of language that Claire criticized me for when I mentioned ‘not being terribly impressed’: I was not as impressed as I would have wanted, or expected to be. I didn’t not like them, and therefore I did not want to say that. But I personally could not connect to these compositions. Knowing the high standards Nancy uses in her classes, I was expecting to be more overwhelmed.

But I did say that I am looking forward to numbers 100 and up, because I think Nancy will have a lot to say in mono-printing.

As Gail and Kit have put it in their comments to my other post: this new direction of Nancy’s is interesting, but/and it takes getting used to. And perhaps – hopefully, soon! – there will be a piece in this series of which I will be able to say: Wow, personally and subjectively speaking, I am terribly impressed and completely overwhelmed. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

"Color Improvisation" and Nancy Crow's Self-Portraits opened in Neumünster

My trip to Neumünster was strenuous and not without delays, but I won’t go into that. The textile museum Tuch + Technik  is a wonderful presentation of the history and development of spinning, weaving, in combination with the local history of Neumünster, which was once called the “Sheffield of Schleswig-Holstein”. And it is a wonderful venue for the many large quilts of “Color Improvisation”.

View over the museum hall when entering

Two of Marina Kamenskaya's four quilts

Randa Stewens, Uta Lenk,
and Kathy Loomis in the background

Bonnie Bucknam

Nancy Cordry, and Leslie Riley in the background

Uta Lenk, Jayne Willoughby Scott,
and Cathy Shanahan in the background

Some of the quilts are hung on a system that makes it possible for the viewers to take closer looks at the back sides. Which definitely give very interesting sights with some of the quilts, e.g. this one by Jayne Willoughby Scott. Seeing the quilting pattern on the back side certainly adds to the pleasure of having seen the front!

Jayne Willoughby Scott, back of "Nightdrawing 14"

Jayne Willoughby Scott, Nightdrawing 14
The second part of the exhibition is dedicated to the newest quilts by Nancy Crow, who has started on a completely new path a little more than a year ago, when she began making mono-prints.
As I already mentioned in my last post, Nancy Crow’s name is presented prominently on the front of the flyer, suggesting that this is the more important part of the exhibition. The same was true for the opening speech by Claire Benn, who had flown in from London to open the exhibit on Nancy’s behalf. She barely mentioned the other fifty quilts that were hanging throughout the museum.
Because I had written an article on this ‚coming exhibition’ for the journal of the German Patchworkgilde in September, for which I had received pictures of Nancy’s quilts, I knew sort of what to expect in terms of different style of quilts and color.
However, when I recall what I learned in Nancy’s classes about colors, design, composition and unity of the whole arrangement, I admit that I was not terribly impressed with some of these quilts.
I admire the guts that Nancy has to be starting on such a completely new venture by taking on a new technique, and I am convinced that it will be very interesting to follow her development. Claire Benn said in her speech: „And then I tell my students ‚now get to work, and do at least a hundred of these.’ Nancy is exceptional in that she did.“
But even a well-known artist perhaps need not exhibit all of these hundred first attempts as accomplished pieces of art. Of these four quilts in the picture, the one in the lower right hand corner carries the number 97.

Nancy Crow, Self-Portraits

While I was looking at the exhibit, it was the only one that I really found worth looking at in more detail, and that I could relate to in some manner. With most of the others I did not connect easily. When looking at the picture now, I do think the two white and black ones are also worth looking at, this seems to be an effect of the zooming onto picture size, though, they certainly did not appear clear or understandable to me when I was standing in front of them. 
It will be interesting to see numbers 100 and up, because I am sure Nancy has a lot to say through printing.
The exhibit is on until March 10, 2013, and the museum is within walking distance of the train station in Neumünster.