Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Getting What's Coming To You

Several months ago, one of my sisters posted a photo of a coffee cup cozy on my Facebook page with a not-too-subtle hint that she wanted me to make one for her.  I took a quick look at it and scoffed.  Gimme a break!  I could knit that thing blindfolded with two hands tied behind my back!

When I said as much to her, her sister-in-law piped up that she also would like one...actually, two.  Well, ok.  Still, hello?  Child's play!  I can do it in my sleep.  If only I could go to the post office in my sleep, but that is another story.

Cut to several months later.  What's that they say?  Pride cometh before a fall?  

It wasn't the actual knitting that took me so long - as I so boastfully mentioned, the knitting part was quick as a wink.  It was (1) getting to the store to buy the yarn.  I used Lion Brand's organic cotton, btw.  It is really quite lovely.  (2) Actually remembering to knit the damn things.  (3) Picking out suitable buttons.  (4) Debating for a very long time whether said buttons would be suitable and finally realizing that I could just ASK them if they liked these particular buttons.  Through the wondrous power of the interwebs, it is possible to *gasp* send images to another person.  It took me a while to remember this.  And (5, 6 ,7, 8) Sew on the buttons, find envelopes, look up their addresses and yes, get to the post office.

At long last, here they are:

I ended up using moose antler buttons that I had purchased on my very first trip to Newfoundland in 1997.  I told them that no moose were injured in the creation of these buttons but now that I think about it, I am not so sure that is true.  This is the one based on the photo my sister sent me - a basket weave knit.  See?  So simple!

Because I felt so guilty about taking so long to actually get these things out the door, I ended up making each of them another one, this time using a cable design.

Lovely, no?  I mean, if you think the whole idea of a coffee cup cozy is a good one.  I confess that I find them a bit silly.  But they're fast to make!  Really, you can just bang those babies out.  Blindfolded.  With your hands tied behind your back.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


Remember this?

It is approximately 500 yds of Rambouillet spun from a lovely fleece dyed by Widdershins Woolworks.  I gave it to my friend, Zabeth, who has been making all those gorgeous lace scarves for Vogue Knitting lately.

She said she thought it need to be some garter stitch.  I didn't argue with her.

Neither did Webster.

Garter stitch with a bit of lace, of course.

Some say there is a method to my madness...

Saturday, September 22, 2012


Since finishing the project for the Cheongju Biennale last fall, I have been occupied with other things - taking care of the nitty gritty details, and the sweeping changes, that are required when one experiences a large shift in life.  I gave myself permission to not worry about what was happening with my art.  And generally, I gave myself permission to just let what was happening happen without setting up too many rules or expectations about what it is was "supposed" to be like.  So far, it is working out very well.   But what about art?  There have been moments when I felt, perhaps for the first time in my life, that making art just wasn't as compelling as it used to be; that maybe I could even live without it.


Yet, things needed a change there too.

After the Korean project, I felt I was most definitely, 100% certainly, finished with anything that might ever get mis-labeled as a yarn bombing project.  The first time I made a piece of knitting for an object outside was in 1997.  I think it is safe to say that I have fully explored that option and all its possibilities.  

I have been working in my studio these days, making drawings and little samples for some larger ideas and generally just messing around.  My goal has been to not get too hung up on what works and what does not and just let it all flow.  It feels very refreshing and very fun.  Who knew?  Art making is fun!

In the back of my mind, there was this niggling thought - let's call it a fear - that if I shifted direction with my work then maybe no one would like it and I would not enjoy the opportunities that I have experienced with my large-scale knitting projects.  You know, it is why a painter who gets famous in their youth for one thing and then keeps making a variation of that painting for the next 50 years.  While I am hardly an art star, I have reached a place where I am "known for" something, and even at my level, it is scary to step away from that.  It had to get to that point where I felt content to die in obscurity rather than make one more damn knit piece for a tree or lamp post.  Hooray!  I reached that place!  I think I just heard a huge sigh of relief from the universe.

Oddly enough, I may yet not die in obscurity (but if I do, I know I am ok with it).  Things are happening: art will be made, workshops will occur.  You are invited.

This coming Friday, I will be at the NewYork Art Book Fair at PS. 1 with ILSSA from 12 − 4 p.m.  Come visit us!  We will be in the zine tent in the courtyard.

On Saturday, October 13th,  I will be leading a cockade making workshop at the Old Stone House in Brooklyn as part of my Be A Rebel or Just Look Like One project for the collaboration, Battle Pass project.  Cockades also will be available for sale in the Proteus Gowanus gift shop if you don't feel like making your own.

And....what have we here?

Wait a minute...I thought you said you were finished with big boxes of Lion Brand yarn in your living room?  First of all, it is a small box. And second of all, it is not for a large scale outdoor project.  It is for a wall-sized piece for an upcoming exhibition at ArtSpace in New Haven, CT, opening in November.

Details to follow.

* Sraddha - Sanskrit for "faith", pronounced shrad-DHAH.  See: Yoga Sutra 1.20

PS.  Related to two posts below....Shugen Sensei will be signing copies of his book, O Beautiful End, this Sunday at 12:30 at the Zen Center of New York City (500 State Street, Brooklyn).  Come!  Buy!  I think you'll find it will be worth the trip.

Monday, September 17, 2012


Many of my friends have been asking me if I am finished with my yoga teacher training program.  In fact, I only just completed the mid-term exams this weekend.  We had both written and oral exams with essay questions on philosophy, a list of chants to memorize and understand as long as my arm (hint: my arms are really long), and questions about (regular, Western) anatomy, subtle anatomy, practice development for people with health problems and more.  Almost everyone in our group admitted to getting little sleep the night before our oral exams...we were all studying so hard.

Hooray!  We all passed!  Well, several people actually dropped out of the program but perhaps that was not a direct result of the examinations.

There has been some media attention recently about how yoga teachers are certified, with the general agreement that the quality of training can vary widely.  Even within the tradition I am studying, it varies.  A friend is taking a 200-hr training in this tradition with another person and her experience has been very different, and I must say, much less vigorous.  While it might be easy to think that my training must be better because it is more demanding, I think that judgement can only be made when one asks what will the people do who take the training.  Within my 500-hr group, only a couple of us really plan to teach.  The others are doing it for their own knowledge and practice, perhaps with plans to teach in the future, or maybe not.

This isn't "Abs of Steel" yoga or "thin, sexy, cool" yoga or even my dear ashtanga yoga that is so, so appealing to those of us who enjoy a good sweat.  No, this is "so, you say you want to change your life?" yoga.  For whatever reason...a pain in your back, a pain in your heart, or the observation that maybe life doesn't have to be this way: this yoga isn't about feeding what is already overstuffed in your personality.  Believe me, it isn't always fun to have to feed that other part that is starving.  I mean, we were starving it for a reason, right?

Anyway, we are half-way through.  And, no doubt, I will become even more unbearable by the time we finish the other half.

After the oral exams were over and we were all a bit giddy and exhausted, we still had six hours of anatomy with our anatomy instructor.  We were studying our "organ body".  I love our anatomy instructor - she is a dancer and yoga teacher who approaches anatomy in a very experiential way.  At one point, she had us initiating movement via our pancreas.  Maybe it was because we were all in a slightly light-headed post-exam state of mind, but it seemed possible.  I invite you to try.  Your pancreas might thank you.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Death Never Sounded So Good

If you read only one book of memorial poems by a Zen master this year, let it be this one.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Because You Can Never Have Enough Pictures of Yarn and Kitty Cats

Approx. 100 yds, wool and mohair, single ply, bulky.  Available in my etsy shop.

Approx. 480 yds.  BFL and silk, lace weight (mostly).
Not available in my etsy shop because this one is headed to upstate New York.  In fact, it probably arrived there today, which is why I feel brave enough to post this photograph of it.

Keeping watch over the backyard and systematically destroying my aloe plant.  Please note the flea collars.  My indoor cats got fleas this summer.  Because I was in deep denial that this was possible, the fleas had time to establish a stronghold throughout our house and it took weeks to get rid of them.  Be warned!  Life has no guarantees!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Battle Pass Open Studio

Sasha making some final installation decisions.

A diorama (of sorts) of the Battle of Brooklyn made with matches, sand, and garbage by Sasha Chavchavadze and Eva Melas.

Cockade making supplies for my project, Be A Rebel Or Just Look Like One.

Coffe cup installation by Eva Melas.

Map and boat head piece by Paul Benney and Katie Smertz that was used in their performance on August 27th (the anniversary of the battle) at Smith and Bergen Streets in Brooklyn.

Some rebellious cockades.

This one, made by an artist in a neighboring studio, took my own rebellious message to heart but perhaps with a touch of self-interest?

I survey the battleground in my tri-corner hat.  Why do I look like I am just back from a yoga class?  Because it was so unbelievably hot and humid on Saturday!  People were barely able to concentrate on the art, let alone get psyched about making a rebellious cockade.  Yet, it was a fun day and we had a nice, steady stream of visitors, who were nearly all very excited by our project.  Some even said they would vote for us.  I am a little ashamed to admit that it gave me a thrill each time someone said that.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

One Small Rebel Yell

This Saturday, I will be participating in the boro-wide open studio event in Brooklyn from 11 am to 7 pm.  I will be presenting my ongoing performance, Be A Rebel Or Just Look Like One as part of my collaboration with the project, Battle Pass.  Click here for all the details.  

My fellow collaborators include Sasha Chavchavadze, Eva Melas and Paul Benney.

The open studio event is both days on the weekend but I will only be presenting my piece in person on Saturday.  There will be a small installation of based on the performance on view on Sunday (and in the studio through the end of September). 

Please join us!

The studio is in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn and there are nine other artists participating in this building alone - there are over 1,000 participating in all.  While I am excited that there will be so much to see this weekend, and I am thrilled to be able to present my piece and work with the other artists, I do object to one aspect of this event, which was created by The Brooklyn Museum.

Their idea is to have visitors vote on their favourite studio and the artist(s) with the most votes will have their work presented at the Museum.  I hate this idea.  Please allow me to say it again: I hate this idea so very, very much.  It taps into the very worst of what the art world has to offer, pitting artist against artist in the most meaningless kind of competition.  And worse, the Museum is marketing it as being "community-driven".  Bullshit!  It is just another example of modeling art after cut-throat, "let the market decide" capitalism.  Our studio is ignoring the whole, vile voting business.  Hear that Brooklyn Museum?  Don't Vote!  And you can tell 'em I said so!

While I am on the subject, I also have come loathe this whole Kickstarter campaign thing.  If you have not heard of it, it is an online site where everyone and their Aunt Betty can raise funds for their creative project.  Beyond the fact that now artists are supposed to shill for money from their family and friends, it signals (to me) our collective end to any notion that art should be supported by the community through public funds.  Because, you know, art is business and artists should be more business-like.  

You know what? 

 F*ck that.

Of course in a country where we let people die before we would offer them access to healthcare, we close libraries because they are "too expensive" yet have limitless dollars to kill people, destroy resources and annihilate cultures in pointless, endless wars, in a country like this, telling artists to suck it up and raise your own damn money is really not surprising.  But why do the bad guys always get to win?  There is such a narrowness, a stinginess to the vision of who we might be as society....why can't the big, generous ideas take hold (again)?

But anyway.  

Come visit me in Brooklyn.  Make a cockade.  Be A Rebel...if only for a moment.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012


by Joe Brainard

oh, I don't know.