Friday, November 30, 2007

More on Gifts

I have a new article up on It is about artwork and the gift economy. When I was asked to write for the website, the creator of the website set topics for each month. November's topic was "getting what your work is worth." I decided to play something of the devil's advocate and suggest we should give away our work as gifts, using two books ("The Gift" by Lewis Hyde and"What We Want is Free" edited by Ted Purves) and The House Museum as my primary arguments. Read the comments for some lively discussion! Looks like some people aren't quite up for the "give it away" idea!

Click here to link to the article.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

To Give or Not To Give

I have a question for all you handworkers out there. When it comes to giving your work as gifts, for example, at holiday time, do you edit who you give to according to how much you think or know they will appreciate the effort that went into the making of the gift?

My answer to that question is a yes. Several years ago, after working on a number of things and sending them off to the recipient and not getting so much as "your package arrived" phone call or note, I decided the gratitude factor had to reach a certain level or it was store-bought all the way. Part of me thinks this is kind of anti-gift in the sense that I am giving with some expectation of something in return, namely appreciation. And that ain't right, right? And then the more practical part of me says, "you are going to spend all that time and energy on something that they will probably toss in the dryer and ruin since they have no clue how to care for since they have no clue how it was made so don't do it!"

After talking about this with my friend Janine who is both very, very generous and an excellent knitter, she claims that I liberated her from a lifetime of frustration. She now gives only to the grateful. She actually scolded me the other day for venturing into unknown territory with someone new!

So, what about you? Give freely? Or give only to the grateful?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Between the jigs and reels

A number of things have been happening...

The good news is...I am probably not going to die very soon. The stitches came out and the news was generally good. But I am taking this as an opportunity, a gift, a reminder that I may not have 40 - 50 more years to diddle around. I am listening.

I have been knitting up a bunch of things: a one-piece baby outfit that is a commission of sorts (almost finished), a sweater for my sister-in-law for Xmas (nearly finished the body--did the whole thing in three days, then haven't picked up it again), several hats. Hats are my subway knitting. I decided to knit up what I have of left of my Wee Ball Yarns into hats and sell them. The two I knit up previously sold quite quickly, which was encouraging. On Monday, we skipped our regular schedule--the rain and cold and my deep desire for a quiet day at home with wool added up to the afternoon spent dyeing fleece. It felt soooo goooood. So, look for some new yarn and some new hats in the near future.

I am working out the details of my mile-long knitting project. I am waiting to hear the exact width of a Dallas road stripe and I may hit up a couple of yarn manufacturers for donations (I suppose, in theory, I could figure out from a swatch exactly how much yarn I need, right?). Then I start knitting. Yee Haw!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Buy Nothing Day

As a proponent of "do nothing" naturally today is one of my favorite holidays: Buy Nothing Day. So go out and enjoy the day: walk around your community, say hello to your neighbors, and then....go home!

Here is a graphic created by British graphic designer Jonathan Banbrook for the LA Times that explains it all (click on it to enlarge it):

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Go Tell It On The Mountain

Since I don't want to spend too much time moaning about my ailments (I am a very healthy person...really!), I wanted to share this very important bit of information for all knitters, crocheters, and other needleworkers who, from time to time, find their hands aching from overuse:

I have found salvation in a bottle! Yes, my friends, True Botanica's Relief 4X. One application and I was CURED!

Sing hallalujah!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Scary and Scarier

Thursday was a full day. In the morning I went over to QPTV (Queens Public TV) to be part of a panel discussion on artists who knit sponsored by the Queens Council on the Arts. Somewhat mistitled as "Hooked," the panel included myself, a woman named Nancy Rakoczy, Domenick Di Pietrantonio and his grandmother, whose name we never actually learned beyond Nona (she is Italian and speaks only Italian, so her grandson translated). That was a bit weird--she knits and crochets his ideas as a kind of collaboration--but somehow she never was given full person status. It seemed a little ironic considering that at least two of us were using knitting as a way of elevating invisible women's work to a level of fine art. As it did not seem appropriate for me to raise the issue on the air, I tried not to get too upset about what was happening. In any case, the scary thing was that QCA had hired a make-up artist for the day (they were shooting four different shows on different topics). Alfredo was a lovely man but his make-up style leaned a bit towards c.1984 with heavy lip liner and blue eye shadow. The last time I wore make-up was probably around 1984 so it is a look (and perhaps the only one) I am familiar with. In any case, I ended up looking like a transvestite visitor to "Desperate Housewives."

"Never again!" joked the old man as he stepped from the coffin....

And speaking of coffins. In the afternoon, as I herded my children in to the New Victory Theatre for a performance of TapEire, along with 6,000 other school age children, I received a phone call from my dermatologist that the sample he sent off last week came back abnormal as a very rare kind of melanoma, actually an "amelanoma" meaning without pigment (so pale even my skin cancer has no pigment!). Naturally this kind of took the thrill out of watching the world's fastest tap dancer. As our friends chatted and clapped, I stood at the edge of the abyss, looking in. My mind competed with "everything will be fine no matter what happens" and "YOU ARE GOING TO DIE!!!!! SOOON!!!!!" Guess which one had won out by the end of the day?

Friday morning I was back at the dermatologist having more tissue taken for a more in-depth sample to be examined. To say I was something of a wreck does not really describe the way I had not slept or eaten nor really thought of anything besides how I was going to die!!!!!! soon!!!!!!! for the past 18 hours.

The "good" news is that, in this case, "rare" does not mean "more dangerous" and, according to the comments made at the time, the tissue sample looked almost totally normal, which means, IF the original diagnosis is correct, it is probably early enough that I won't die (soon). And there is the possibility that the original diagnosis is not correct, in which case I will have taken several years off my life through worry and self-inflicted mental trauma.

In the meantime, I wear my Frankenstein scar and hope for the best.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Road Trip!

I need your help! For the Dallas project, I need to collect thoughts, quotes, statistics, personal stories, etc., about cars, roads, oil, peak oil, the relationship between oil and war (if you believe there is one), and other topics of that nature. Please send them to me at the email address list under my contact information.

My plan? Well, the exhibition theme is Gestures of Resistance, which follows the notion that slowness, such as is illustrated by activities such as knitting, can be a political act of resistance to the dominant culture that favors speed and immediate gratification. When I think about that, as applied to Dallas (and yes, Mr. Picky, I do think Dallas can be seen as an epicenter of sprawl if you think globally or at least nationally), I have to think about cars and oil. And when I think about cars and oil, I have to think about war and environmental destruction. So I want to make something that uses knitting to discuss all of that. My idea is to knit a strip of cloth that will incorporate the words I collect in a kind of narrative, linear in shape but non-linear in the tale it tells. The strip will mimic the strip of paint along the side of a road (white or yellow--have to find out), by knitting the text in the colour with a black/grey background. Think of a very, very long scarf. A very, very long, narrative scarf. And I will install it along the side of the road where people will have to (gasp) walk along beside it in order to read it. And by very, very long, I mean....a mile?

Oh, Patti? Are you out there?

Saturday, November 10, 2007


Yesterday I heard from Shannon Stratton of Performing Craft (among other things) about doing a site-specific project in Dallas, TX, as part of an exhibition to run concurrently with the College Art Association's annual conference. I had originally applied to give a talk at Shannon and Judith Leeman's session titled "Gestures of Resistance" at the conference. My talk would have been about the artwork of Barb Hunt, Janet Morton and myself. Shannon and Judith didn't want to include my talk, but they did invite me to participate in the exhibition.

It is very exciting to think about how working site-specifically there might help me work out some of my Knitting Sprawl ideas--Dallas being an epicenter of sprawl.

But it does make me think that, sometimes, the universe just says "no." When we returned from Newfoundland, I decided that I would relax my need to always be working on my art "career" and just try to make some work, concentrate on homeschooling, and have fun instead of being caught in some imaginary idea of what I believed needed to happen in order for my career to stay viable. Relax and have fun.

No sooner had that thought cemented in my mind than I started getting a call here, an invite there. Suddenly, I actually had a career. Not so relaxing but definitely fun.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Deep Denial

For the past week or so, my right hand has been paining me. From my index finger down to my thumb, sometimes down my arm halfway to my elbow. This is not good. At first I blamed spinning a lot after not spinning a lot. Then I blamed knitting the shawl, which is rather heavy and the needles were a tad short so there was some wrestling going on as the thing became larger and larger. Then I started to panic, thinking about Patti and her three-month, carpal tunnel induced knitting hiatus. No can do--I have projects! Deadlines! So, Tuesday, I decided to "work through it" and see what happens. By Tuesday night, my hand was visibly swollen. So, yesterday, just a few rows of knitting and resting in between. This morning everything was normally sized and felt ok. A bit of knitting and spinning today is achy and a little tingly.


Monday, November 05, 2007

Ich bin ein.....

I did it. I clicked on the little icon and booked myself a ticket on Swiss Air to Berlin in March, 2008. While there, I will be visiting with artist Sonya Schoenberger and presenting a performance of Kay MacCarthy, host of The Well-Made Weapon, in Sonya and her partner, Alex's gallery space called Hope and Glory.

It is very exciting and terrifying. Eleven days alone in Berlin. Flying on airplanes (drugs! I need drugs!). Making art for an extraordinarily hip German audience. How many zazenkai's are there between now and March?

Sunday, November 04, 2007

SNAFU - the nature of my mind

What is it about sitting in silence, with only your breath and your thoughts (damn them!), for ten hours that makes one feel like a blithering idiot? Oh yeah, those damn thoughts.

I spent most of the morning yesterday with my breath, thoughts and my rumbling stomach. In the silence of the zendo, my stomach sounded like it was being broadcast over loudspeakers and I am sure I heard everyone around me mumbling about how they would be sure never to sit near me again, ever. And I was jacked up on rolaids too! Sigh....

After the first 4.5 hours of sitting and walking meditation, we had an oryoki lunch, that is a formal, silent lunch served in the zendo. It has strict rules about how to set up your three bowls, how to receive food, eat, then clean the bowls, fold things up, etc. It is beautiful but often very fraught for me, who is such a novice that I spend at least half the time glancing at my neighbor trying to be sure I am doing the right thing. Who knew serenity could be so stressful?

The second half was calmer--my stomach was silent at least. It was then that I had the chance for daisan, or face-to-face teaching with the Zen master. I look forward to that and I fear it. I so want to appear intelligent when, in fact, I feel like I know nothing about anything. And what is that all about anyway--wanting to appear intelligent? One is allowed to ask one question/session so you really have to think about what to ask, to making it important. This is hard since I have 10,000 questions. Fraught is the word that keeps coming back to me. I guess I have to have faith that, in trying to understand this little life of mine, I will understand some of the bigger things too.

Enter the room, sit, breath. It is, by far, the hardest thing I have ever tried to do in my life.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Off the Needles

In among all the World Series watching and other daily activities, I have managed to knit up a couple of things.

This is a hat, one of two identical ones, that I am knitting for the director and assistant of the zen center that I go to in Brooklyn. The design on it is the Mountain and Rivers Order symbol. I had been attending a class at the center and every week I would look at Shugen Sensei's bald head and think "winter's coming." And I am happy to do something for two people who so much for others. I am hoping to finish the other one tonight so I can bring them to the zazenkai (all-day sit) tomorrow. But we'll see how the day goes...

This is shawl knit with the handspun yarn made from the fleece that came with my Suzie Pro spinning wheel. I knit it for my mother-in-law for Christmas. She likes to read and she likes to keep the thermostat in their house very low, so a shawl seemed in order. Also, she isn't a lacy kind of a person, so this simple pattern seemed more appropriate than a more complicated one. This is especially fortunate for me since I have a severe mental block against all things lacy when it comes to knitting. I hope someday to work through it, but for now, I must accept my limitations.

And yesterday...

this arrived at our door. It is a detail of a handmade dress, made by the artist Mariana Frochtengarten. Mariana is from Brazil but is living in Halifax, NS, working on her MFA in textiles at NSCAD. Her thesis project is called "The Nomadic Dress Project" and it consists of five dresses that she designed and stitched. Each dress has a theme and she invites five artists from all over the world to work on them. I elected to work on the dress titled "The Gift" since that is such a theme in my own work. I have a couple of ideas but I want to let them sit in my mind for a while before committing to one of them. I have a month to spend with the dress and then it gets sent back to Halifax.

And people with very long memories may remember this:

Yes, "knitting sprawl" the very reason I started this blog. I never phtotographed the state it reached last spring but suffice to say that it sat unattended in my studio all summer. I had very hard feelings towards this particular bit of knitting. I speak in the past tense because, last time I was at my studio staring at the damn thing, I decided that I would frog it. There was no way I was going to keep going on it since in about 6" I had grown to despise it, so six feet was out of the question. And then the final indignity! Frogging fair isle intarsia is as about as much fun as knitting it. Finally, I just threw the whole thing in the waste basket. I never felt better in my life!

The project continues, but the first attempt to realize it, is history.