Monday, August 31, 2009

The Long, Hard, Bumpy, Lucky Road

Recently I have had two (non-blog) comments from two different people that I have been reflecting upon. The first was from someone who was at one of the knit togethers - she said, in essence, that I was very lucky to be able to do what I do because I want to do it. The second comment came from a totally different context, but it is similar in meaning, if not exactly intent. This one was along the lines of "while I have to go to work everyday, you get to do exactly what you want".

Actually I hear the "you're so lucky" comment a fair bit. And I don't disagree. By nearly every standard, I am unbelievably privileged, as are most people who live in the developed world. We have more than adequate food, clean water, warm shelter, access to all the goods and services we need, easy transportation, and (at least in Canada), we have access to health care and more. Most of us reading this blog on a computer are, by that standard alone, privileged enough to fall into this category. But the comments added a second criteria - that I do what I do because it is what I want to do.

As a Buddhist practitioner, I believe in karma (cause and effect), but that can get pretty slippery pretty fast, so I might just skirt that notion altogether for now. I guess what gave me a moment's pause when I heard both those comments was they both imply that what I am up to these days just happened to appear in my inbox, I clicked "yes' and away we go.

I am not denying that "luck" or whatever you want to call it didn't play a part - especially when it comes to receiving grants. There is only so much one can do to make a good proposal and then one is left to hope that whoever is looking at your proposal is in a good mood that day, isn't overly tired or hungry, didn't just fight with their partner, isn't colour blind, or whatever it might be that would make them pass over your idea for someone else's. So, yes, receiving grants is as much about luck at a certain point as it is about clear writing, good images and excellent ideas. And I have the stacks of rejection letters to prove it.

But this idea of "doing what I want", it puzzles me. I won't bore you with a long story about coming up in the world, suffice to say that, since graduating from art school in 1988, I have worked steadily and with nearly singleminded focus at my art - that's 21 years by my quick calculation. I also have two children, so far from "doing exactly what I want", I have adapted how I do what I do to accommodate changing circumstances. When I no longer had the time to be in my studio, I changed my art practice so I could make work that didn't require long periods of solitary reflection. I distinctly remember lying in bed, nursing Lucy, when I had the idea that eventually (three years later) became the project for the High School for Law Enforcement. Inspiration, idea, execution - the steps became very distinct, with the first two happening quickly and the last step taking a long time, because it had to be time that didn't require quiet or being alone.

The thing is, I am not particularly clever or special or lucky for that matter. But the wistfulness of the first comment and the anger of the second imply that perhaps I am. Not so. Not so.

To me, it comes back to what I now label The Best Advice Ever Given: Just point yourself in the direction you want to go and see what happens.

Luck, hard work, distractions, moments of enlightenment - they are all there, waiting for you. But first you have to point yourself in the direction you want to go.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Knitting Sprawl - St. John's, Newfoundland, Part 3

We are back in Gillams with only about 10 days left to pretend that we are never leaving, and to get ready to leave for points west and then south. Some years are easier than others, but this is not one of the easy years.

Two of the major components of Knitting Sprawl are the conversations with knitters and people who live in the suburbs (sometimes they are the same people), and creation of a body of new work based on these conversations. At first, I thought I needed to record the conversations on video. I guess I thought I needed to do that because it seemed to make it more legitimate as art, or perhaps as Art. It was as if I was being more serious by solemnly setting up equipment and creating hours of video that would bore nearly everyone to tears. Not that the conversations would be boring! Far from it. But the videotape of the conversations, these would be pretty darn dull as anyone who has attempted to sit through some cinema verite art installation can attest. Fortunately, after my first knit together in Portugal Cove, I realized that I don't need to record these conversations and, in fact, that the conversations are actually better when they are allowed to live in their moment and then pass by, unrecorded.

I thought I had learned this lesson from The House Museum, but apparently, it needs to be relearned over and over. How could I ever forget speaking a man who barely let me get a word in edgewise for a good half an hour, then when I pulled out the video camera: total silence....then one word answers to my questions, followed by total silence. When I gave up and put the camera away, he then chewed my ear for another half an hour.

Sometimes, cameras kill.

Increasingly I also have come to believe in the power of conversation. While it may not be something one can document on video, I think conversations can resonant far beyond the life of the actual face-to-face time. It is the way we carry away what transpired and then change it over time in our heads that gives conversations such power. And it is exactly this that I am employing in making new work for this project. It is nice to know that I won't be alone in the process - everyone who participates will have their own version of this experience.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Knitting Sprawl - St. John's, Newfoundland, Part 2

Mack Furlong of CBC's Weekend Arts Magazine. Our talk will air this weekend at some point either Saturday or Sunday morning.

And some more photographs from out and around St. John's:

Unfortunately reducing the resolution of the photographs for a web post results in a loss of a lot of the nice details in the photographs, so you will have to use your imagination a little.

I attended the third knit together on Wednesday evening, which was composed mostly of people who had been to the previous one. Somehow, after only two meetings I felt like I would be back next week and each week thereafter. They really made me feel welcomed, and not just welcomed, but part of the group. I had to remind myself more than once that I wouldn't be there next week. Then I wondered if this is how it will be - that the intimacy of knitting together will immediately create a little tie of connection that, in turn, creates a little sting when I realize that I probably won't be back. Or, in this case, maybe I will since I know we will be back in St. John's again before too long. 

When I try to explain to people why I thought getting together with knitters was a good way to gain access to the communities I am visiting, they often replied that any group that meets would probably be the same but I am not so sure. Is there something unique about knitting together rather than, say, playing the accordion together?

An important part of this project is developing new work based on these conversations and photographs for each region.  I did feel things clicking together as I went about doing both.  One surprise here in St. John's came when I was in Paradise.  I drove through a new development that backed on to two other developments, each one clearly successively older.  What struck me was how the two older developments looked like, well, Newfoundland.  It wasn't really the houses so much but what had been added and subtracted and what was in the yards.  It was as if the place was stronger than the attempt to neutralize it (by building houses that looked like they could be built anywhere).  

To me, Newfoundland has such a strong feeling of place - it is part of why it has such a pull on me, and on so many who come here.  It was fascinating to observe that this sense of place goes beyond landscape or people-scape.  It is intangible and yet ever present.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Knitting Sprawl - St. John's, Newfoundland

This is our last full day in St. John's and it is full indeed. This morning I am headed to the CBC studio to talk with Mack Furlong who will be the host of this weekend's Weekend Arts Magazine program. Then I will head out to Mount Pearl for some photographing and videotaping, then back into St. John's for a visit to The Rooms and finally, my last knit together will be this evening with a group that meets at a coffee shop called Hava Java. If you are in town, stop in! It starts at 7 p.m.

Here are a small selection of images from the last couple of days.

Airport Heights road sign

Pouch Cove road sign

Airport Heights - at the outer edge of St. John's.

From my second knitting group, which met at the Arts and Culture Center Library:

The library set up these refreshments - with added cookies and other goodies from Auntie Crae's. Janet Kelly, the energetic owner of Aunty Crae's, is behind getting this group together and very generously provided us with a little something to restore our tissues after all our efforts knitting and talking.

Here is the group itself - a wonderful mix of ages and abilities and backgrounds. Not for the first time did I have to pinch myself to see if it were really true that THIS is what I get to do for the next year or so. (I just noticed that I had framed the picture to appear like there was a large section of reading materials labeled "racy" at this library!)

I have many, many thoughts based on these pictures but they will have to wait as I must go make myself presentable for a radio interview. I know I could wear my pajamas and no one would know but I suspect that might be frowned upon just on general principle so more later...

Monday, August 24, 2009

Ready, Steady, Go

We zipped across the island yesterday ahead of Hurricane Bill. There was no sign of Bill except for the heavy, humid air that precedes hurricanes and is rather rare here. Much to the surprise of many a tourist, crossing Newfoundland is not a small thing - it took us over 8 hours with one short stop for lunch.

We stopped in Gambo, birthplace of Joey Smallwood. We visited the Joey birthplace, where a rusty boiler marks the spot. Can you see it? It's in there.

Grammie and Lucy were not so impressed.

We moved on.

I caught a glimpse of Mount Pearl and Paradise as we approached St. John's and they looked like fertile ground for photographs but we zipped onward. I will come back in the next couple of days.

It feels a little strange to be in a city again, especially one that reminds me so much of all the other eastern seaboard cities that I grew up among: Providence, Boston (only a little - maybe more like Cambridge, there is a definitely college town vibe here), Portland, Maine. I guess it was all the same people who built those cities and this one too.

We re-visited the sight where we spent so much time on our first visit to St. John's 12 years ago when Finnian was a baby and my mom came along while I was in residence at the Pouch Cove Artist Residency program.

We were happy to see it was still standing.

Hurricane Bill passed over us overnight - wild but not outrageous. Now the air is clear and tonight is my first knitting group get together.

I'm ready!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Grammie's Here!

My mom is here for a couple of weeks for her annual visit. At 82, it is impressive that she gets here at all - getting to Newfoundland is an all-day affair even if you live near Boston, as she does. We used to go hiking and make ambitious plans but now the pace is a bit slower.

On Sunday we will head to St. John's to kick off Knitting Sprawl. I have three knitting groups lined up and I am hoping to get some other photography and video work done as well. I have no idea how this will all work out, but the thing has been set in motion, so away we go!

In the meantime, I have been trying to use up my stash of dyed fibre since I am anticipating a long stretch of not spinning for my esty shop. I have a project this winter that involves spinning but for art, not money - ain't it always the way...

Here are some yarns that I have recently listed:

Inspired by the ocean and made from some indigo dyed fleece that I dyed this spring with my friend Sono, who has a new blog. Check it out!

I called this one "Bermuda".

One of my favourite kinds of yarns to spin and to knit with - a mixture of all sorts of odds and ends, including some silk flower petals.

Naming yarns can be a difficult thing if I haven't started with a specific inspiration. This one hit me just as I finished it - I call it Morandi. Can you see it?

And since I was on an artist jag, I called this one Ad Rienhardt.

Monday, August 17, 2009


Ok, the last three aren't 100% truthful. I spun some yarn up to make a couple of flowers for a dress the artist Lulu Yee is making. (Sorry no link, she is seriously underrepresented on the web! If you are on ravelry, her name is Gramma - check out her projects and get a small sense of her work.) She asked that the flowers be "untame". I was so happy about how they came out that I spun another skein of yarn similar to the first.

And since I have already ruined my artistic photo spread by giving some written narration, I guess I should also add that no, I didn't transform black beans into fleece. Rumplestiltskin, I am not. I had read that one can use the water from soaking the beans to make dye, so I gave it a try. The colour isn't exactly what was promised but interesting nonetheless. And it would probably be great as a first layer for some over-dyeing, don't you think?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Woody Point Writers Festival

We are heading to Woody Point this morning...if I can get these lazy jabones out of bed, that is.

This week is the writer's festival in Woody Point, an event that draws quite an impressive crowd from around Canada and beyond. The West Coast Craft Collective was invited to set up our wares and sell them to this impressive crowd so several of our group have been up in Woody Point all week, setting up and manning the store. By necessity, my participation is limited - I can only ask so much of Finn and Lucy before they start to revolt.

In any case, we will be there all day today (assuming I get them up and moving). May the crowds of people be hungry for books and hungry for yarn and hats too.

PS. The image for the Writer's Festival poster is a mat hooked by one of our very talented group members, Molly White, who was born and raised and still lives in Woody Point.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


My copy of Yarnbombing arrived! I was so surprised to see it in the mailbox. Surprised but happy - I had heard that the first copies were available but I thought I would have to wait until October to see mine. Not so.

Thank you Leanne and Mandy!

The Knitted Mile gets a nod - with pictures - in the section about figuring out how much yarn you will need (the book is as much a document of past projects as it is a DIY guide). This cracks me up because of the number of times TKM project sent me scrambling for more and more and yet more yarn. Guess I could of used this book!

But the photos look fabulous. Indeed, the whole book is beautiful and energetic and, no doubt, will inspire many more to cover the world in knitwear.

----edited to add-----
Now that I have had a better chance to look at the book more thoroughly, I see that TKM isn't exactly in a section on calculating yardage, but section on letting your imagination run wild, which is actually nicer. Also, they misspelled my name in a couple of places....sigh....maybe it will be corrected when the second edition comes out!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

What's Wrong With This Picture?

This is our first, non-lettuce greens harvest. That would be a zucchini on the left and a cucumber on the right. Hmmmm....a little on the short and stumpy side, don't you think?

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Is That So?

My special three days of solitude while the kids are at basketball camp have turned out to be not exactly what I had envisioned. On Thursday, I psyched myself up for editing video (and believe me, my dear, it requires a good deal of psyching up) only to discover a major computer glitch as deep and mysterious as a black hole where my Final Cut Pro ought to have been but wasn't. For a moment I was actually upset, so psyched was I to sit at a table and click, click, click. And then, I looked at the shining sun and felt the gentle breeze and gave out a big yah-hoo. Editing will have to wait until October.

Friday I had planned to trade yoga lessons for a massage with a friend who is a massage therapist. When I arrived at her house, she was coughing and her voice was quite hoarse. She gave me a massage (my first ever!) and then we both agreed that someone with unexpected and intense coughing fits might not be able to maintain deep breathing for an hour or so. Yoga lessons were put off to another, healthier day. But by then, it as too late to drive all the way back to Gillams, so I just hung out and laughed and ate and generally had a lazy, fun time until it was pick up time.

Today, we all rode into town for the last day of camp and, for me, the Corner Brook Farmer's Market, where I have been selling my wares as Wee Ball Yarns. At $10/table, you can't beat the price and since I get to hang out with my buddies at the same time, it is always a good time even if the townspeople of Corner Brook aren't interested in beautiful, one of a kind yarns and hats (but sometimes they are, it must be said!). As the morning wore on, the skies turned grayer and grayer and a few drops started to fall and then, the deluge started. After about an hour, we all gave up and packed up and so, here I am, back in Gillams with a couple of quiet hours to myself. Not what I thought I would be doing today, but I should have known from the previous two days that this is how it would be.

You make you plans sometimes and the Universe says, "Is that so?"

Thursday, August 06, 2009

No Excuses

Finn and Lucy are spending the day in Corner Brook at basketball camp. They don't have any special love of basketball. In fact, they have never really played it. But their buddy Eamon was participating in the camp and it was a chance to spend some time with him (and about 100 other kids), so they signed up. Who knows, maybe they will have a talent for it! It isn't totally impossible since their aunt (not on my side of the family - no question about that!) was the long standing record holder of most successful foul shots. Oh no, I probably messed that up! Anyway, she held or possibly still holds, some incredible record of getting the ball through the hoop regularly and with great accuracy for the Tufts University Lady Jumbos, long may they reign!

Maybe a hint of it rubbed off. In any case, they get to swim at the end of the day and they got to pick all the items that went in their lunch boxes, so they will be happy.

For myself, several hours of sweet solitude. What's first? Bread making? Check! Zazen? Check! Yoga? Getting there.... Editing my Spindle 7 footage? Ahhhhhhhhhhhh....nonononononono....Idon'twanttoIdon'twanttoIdon'twantto....

Ok, time to get to work! I am unhooking the internet

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

More Yarn on Yarn Action

After receiving a complaint that I was engaging in too much yogic, Buddhist navel gazing from a certain party who shall remain nameless but whose initials are Mr. Picky, I bring you some samples of recent spinning activity:

This yarn is from a fleece I purchased from one of my favourite etsy shops, MyMixMix. Monte spins up amazingly beautiful yarns and, recently, she has been destashing some fleece and some commercial yarns. This fleece was part of her destash. It is 100% targhee (a relative of merino) and comes from Mountain Colors. I started spinning this during one of our weekly Knit Nights and had several people drooling over the rich colours and fondling the fleece. I had a feeling it would be a good sell on Wee Ball Yarns, and indeed it sold within an hour of listing it.

Mountain Colors does not sell their fleece online but somehow, through Monte at MyMixMix and her wonderful friend, Martie (who has her own etsy shop TaosSunflowerToo), I have been able to get my grubby little paws on more of it. I am looking forward to spinning up more of this colourway and to trying out several others, all of which promise to be equally beautiful. Thank you Martie! Thank you Monte!

(In a funny side note, I noticed Monte's handspuns on etsy, fell in love with them and ordered a couple of skeins - I know it sounds crazy to buy other people's handspun when I can easily make my own, but I believe in sharing the wealth and supporting those who are making beautiful things when I can. Anyway! When I saw that she lived Taos, I sent her a note asking if she knew of Martie, who has become a good online friend of Shawn, of islandsweet fame. As it turned out, Monte worked with Martie when she had a yarn store in Taos and they are very good friends. So Shawn and I and Monte and Martie have been having a nice internet-provided friendship between New Mexico and Newfoundland. Can I get Carol involved? We'll see....)

But you want to see more yarn, I hear. Check it out:

Another Mountain Colors roving, chain plied. Targhee definitely "blooms" when you set the spin so I try to spin it very thin before plying. This is a DK weight.

This skein was spun from some of my sale fleece from Capistrano Fiber Arts. I have been spinning up the fleece that I have hand dyed as well, but I thought I would just share the chain plied yarn today.

Here is another one made from Capistrano Fiber Art fleece - gorgeous colours! Both these skeins are 80% merino, 20% kid mohair.

This is a two ply that I spun from 2 oz. of fleece painted like the above yarn and 2 oz. of a bonus fleece in reds and blues, then plied together. I really love the result and I am tempted to keep it for myself. Again, we'll see...


Blogless Janine alerted me that it is possible to find Mountain Colors rovings and a more thorough search did find two places that sell it online. Fortunately, I see that we still got a very good price and I see that some of the colors I liked best are not available at those bubble was almost burst for a minute there.