April 10, 2008

wise (knitting) words

not much from me today - instead, something from my Grandmother, who just happens to be a quite well known knitter. She made the shawl presented to Prince Charles and Princess Diana for Prince William's christening from the New Zealand Wool Board (or something like that). No shit. Te Papa has some of her work in their collection, and she regularly travels to the States to do workshops and the like. So, knitting is in my blood really. 

'Your last email gave me 'food for thought' as I have also been really interested in this question of why people knit!
Did i tell you that one of the sculpture students, Zoe, used knitting as a medium and - several miles of French (cotton reel) knitting which she draped into organic shapes and then started a knitting group in the sculptor studio during Wednesday lunch hours? We knitted in public too, like meeting and knitting at Coffee Culture, the Botanic Gardens which included a pot luck picnic and city building sites etc. It was a group of about fifteen students including five guys. One was really enthusiastic and knitted 'liquorice allsorts' scarves! They came out to visit with my local spinning group during the holidays and the spinners were really great and donated knitting needles, yarns etc. along with lots of advice which was probably disregarded in the long run but attentively listened to at the time! Zoe took photos of all these activities and these also made up part of her submission. I even got Granddad to take a photo of me knitting outside a cafe in Melbourne which Zoe used to frequent!

I think knitting has had a raw deal in many ways! First it was 'bottom of the heap' in British culture as it was what the illiterate peasants did and probably why people use the phrase 'go back to your knitting' when they want to put someone down. In continental Europe and Scandinavia it has a much higher status. Weaving, bobbin lace and needlework were, and still are, given a much higher status in relation to applied art (until recently it was next to impossible to get knitting hung in an art gallery in NZ) and it is really interesting to see that suddenly knitting is being included at 'Fine arts' level as long as it is spontaneous with the usual non craft application eg Jackie Greenbank and Katie Thomas.
Did i tell you that I am in the throes of writing my third book? It is the story of my 'Shawl Journey' and I find I am often referring to what can only be described as the therapeutic aspect of knitting in conjunction, of course, with the challenges of the researchm history, designing and pattern making which has made this such a fascinating subject over  my lifetime and and latterly the discovery that there are processes involved which can be truly defined as fine art ehich is quite different from the applied art/craft specifications. The late James Mack was the champion of ensuring creative crafts received recognition regardless of the medium used and i owe him a great debt as without him as a mentor I often wonder to what extent I would  have had the confidence to persevere. 

For me i knowt hat I need to have purely mechanical knitting on the go as well as the complex resolving of design knitting projects. The former is relaxing when I am tired and frees my mind to ponder problems, especially personal ones, either conciously or more likely subconsciously, whereas the latter need my full attention and can be very exhausting!

This is turning out to be another book! I guess I am excited to think you have this interest and that you are hopefully benefiting from knitting.'

oh yeah, did I mention that she has written two books and just completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts at Canterbury University? Pretty cool huh, for someone in her 60s. Yep, she can drive me nuts but she's achieved some incredible things. I'd love to learn all that she knows about knitting...one day. I have so many memories from being around her as a kid and knowing that if nothing else was happening there would be knitting in her hands. 

She also has her own line of fine Merino wools (that my aunt winds in Staveley) among other things...

1 comment:

Nikki (Mother of the Devil Child) said...

Holy crap. Can she be my grandma too?!? I am so jealous - she sounds like she rocks!!