Two years ago I went to Halifax for a visit. I loved it. Ridiculously, I mean everything about it. I walked the boardwalks on either side of the port every day, either in Dartmouth, Eastern Passage or in Halifax. I couldn’t get enough of it. One day, while trekking on the beautiful waterfront, I passed the Port Campus of NSCAD. “One day I’m going to go to school here”, I thought to myself. So here I find myself, enrolled in school after 27 years and volunteering at Artist for a Day. And that’s how my summer started and what dreams are made of (at least for me).
This photo does not show the full scope of the mass of clothing. I should have plunked a human in for scale.
Welcome to our canvas. Hundreds of pounds of rejected thrift store clothing that would now have new life as rope. Just pulled in to volunteer at the last minute (by opening my mouth and saying, hey that sounds like fun, count me in) I had the arduous task of sorting through for what I could cut in a continuous piece and knot so that it could be twisted into rope.
As the room started filling with eager children waiting to have their chance at the fabric I could feel the production cutting coming and the need for speed. Luckily I was able to “rope in” a friend from Vancouver who was visiting (thanks Leta) who logged several hours of cutting and scored a few vintage rock t-shirts if I remember correctly. Other NSCAD current students and grads came by to lend a hand and it was an amazing experience. All because I took a walk on a pier and expressed a desire out loud.
Stilton in the fabric pile and didn’t lift a finger to help!
Anke and Kelsey (my partners in crime) and their first rope maker.
Finished rope piles. Part of a grad project from last year.
Here are some photos of the day. I did manage to take off with my camera and leave the room a few times to explore the other art stations and see what folks were up to. The fish printing was my absolute favourite. Although by 4:00pm, that was not a room you wanted to spend a lot of time in. And to be honest, this is like so many experiences that you can have in life. They aren’t all easy and they all don’t smell like roses. Sometimes you have to be near the stinky fish to find the beauty.
One of many of the fish that gave it’s life in the pursuit of art.
Awesome fish art.
I’ve never been a sewer. Not that I’ve had a burning urge to sew, but at least to be able to mend or repair would be a skill that I would welcome. Seeing a notice on Facebook about a textile artist who was inviting people (even those with no sewing experience) to join her Sewing Circle, I was intrigued.
I was thrilled to be able to add this happy adventure to the other reason I was going to the MOA, the current exhibit Layers of Influence: Unfolding Cloth Across Cultures which is finished at the end of the month. So in order to leave the house I packed up my camera and about a weeks worth of knitting. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and it’s always half finished projects I swear I’m going to complete while I’m on the bus, having a coffee, etc and it usually ends up untouched (except for getting more tangled in my bag) and returned to the house. John calls in my “donkey load” and I’ve finally decided it is my unfinished security blanket.
I was welcomed instantly by this sign. A lovely museum employee standing beside it was inviting me to join the circle. I looked over and saw two tables of buzzing conversation and laughter, and at that moment thought there was no better place to be.
Seated at the end of the table I was able to choose a blanket square and a threaded needle and told to do what I wanted. I could sew in between the lines of tape, outside or over, but not through, as it would be removed later when the blankets were all pieced together again.
I was instantly comfortable and the conversations about how you got here seemed to be the conversation opener. It went very quickly from that to intimate details of people’s lives. Memories, triggered by the act of stitching itself just seemed to pour out of people. One older man confessed that he never imagined how relaxing the act of stitching could be and that he felt all of his problems just drift away. He had memories of his mother mending things and instantly felt connected to her.
The interactive exhibit was titled “Blanket Stories with Marie Watt”. Each blanket that was donated had a story, and the act of stitching on them was creating new stories, pulling from memory, each tug of the thread coaching the stories to the surface. I can’t describe how honored I felt to be included in these stories.
One younger fellow ( a new teacher ) was talking about how his mother crocheted wonderful blankets and how he wished that he has that skill and it was something he might tackle (one day). Well, for once, that overstuffed bag of unfinished hats had a purpose. I asked him how he would feel if that “one day” was today. We finished what we were currently stitching, the artist handed my square to a young girl who just sat down at the table and my new crafty friend and I left the circle and started our own craft corner.
He is now the proud owner of a new wooden crochet hook and a several sample rows of crochet in a bright pink. BTW, he picked up the crochet like a rock star and within a few minutes had managed a chain stitch, and a few rows of single crochet and then he went back to join the circle. I was bursting at the seams. Given a wonderful gift and then able to pass on a new one, I was overjoyed. With that lovely exchange I was now
korowai (cloak decorated with tassels) Maori
able to see the exhibit I came for with new eyes.
Layers of Influence was a wonderfully curated exhibit. As a touchy touchy individual, the small signs reminding me to keep my curious grubby paws to myself were necessary. I wanted to meld with each piece I saw. Drinking in their stories with my eyes would have to do. My hands would have interpreted a more visceral experience.
Textile tells stories, cloth tells stories, we keep our histories in our cloth. Nothing was more evident to me today. Humbling really, as I have been a knitter most of my life and didn’t realize how many stories had passed through my own hands. And for the final mic drop, I left a small slice of moose antler with the artist. If I’m lucky it will become a part of someone else’s story.
I thought it might be time to pick up the blog again, not realizing I hadn’t written a thing since July 2015. How much badder than bad could I be? Well, actually, don’t blame me. Blame the instagrams and facebooks and other attractive manners of the quick blurb, photo and done. I have to confess the communication quickie does have it’s merits.
I digress. In truth, I find that the blog as an online confessional worked for me. It made me accountable for things in the business, promise and deliver because you told someone else. While going through some paper sorting (my favourite thing to do) it jumped off the pages that I have been doing this for 19 years now. Wtwhat? Still uncertain how that happened. It’s all gone by in a fuzzy textured blur.
Over the last two years I have been changing things up a bit, but always small changes. Dropping certain designs out of the line, adding new ones, teaching more or teaching less. All small things trying to find the right balance. This year I’m tackling something a bit bigger, more dramatic, but always fibre. Things are in motion. All of it still on a path that’s pretty freaking woolly. No matter what, I will always follow my heart(s)
I decided not to do any summer markets this year. It’s a weird feeling too because I’ve always done markets. Having spent the winter in Whistler and Prince George, I decided that I should keep my winter wear out there, well, in the winter. Not that I don’t sell in the summer, but really I give in, wool and summer do not mix. This decision, while liberating, froze me for a while. I’m a person, not a machine, so spending several months on production alone was daunting.
Hence the plan, post some classes, teach a bit, have contact with other humans who want to knit, crochet and spin and your heart will be full. Hell yes! What came next was a bit of a surprise though. I decided to go out to Halifax to visit my friend Leanne and teach on the East Coast. Best decision I have ever made. Holiday and teaching is an amazing combination. I have to point out again that my friends are incredible, and for Leanne to host me for two weeks was a testimony to her incredible patience. Thanks again, Leo!
I also really want to thank my students for making it so easy for me to teach. They were receptive, cheeky, enthusiastic and wonderfully talented. Handcrafting is in the DNA out on the East Coast.
I spent a lot of time in photo mode. I
didn’t want to really knit much couldn’t knit much because there was too much to take in. I am not comparing coasts here, they are equally enticing. I must admit that this new to me Coast seemed a bit slower somehow. A pace that matches a meditative heart rate. And as always surprises, like this wonderful felted woodland creature on my morning boardwalk strolls in the Eastern Passage. Am I going back –you bet. A plan is brewing for an even longer summer stay next year. Here is my plus list for returning:
- friendliest people on the planet
- you can have pie for breakfast and no one will judge you
- Fleece Artist and Handmaiden Yarns are out there
- a Farmer’s Market as old as Canada
I can hardly wait.
I know that it’s been forever since I’ve gotten out a blog post or even added an update to the page (or changed the class and show list for that matter). Life is flying by at record speed. My apologies. Facebook is fast and easy for me –a photo from the trusty smart phone, a clever comment – you hope– and then you are done for the day and can get back to the pressing issue at hand of creating knit things for sale.
Let’s catch up, shall we? You may want to pull up a chair and pull out some knitting.
The craft show season of 2014 ended as it usually does, with John and I nursing our aching bones and wondering how we made it through another season in one piece. This includes, of course, the number of times we drove the Coquihala in the most grotesque weather conditions. I am always happy during the season, but when it is over, you have definitely had your fill of hotels and take out food.
Normally we have a gap between the end of the season and the start of the new one, but the 18 week show at the Westin Hotel in Whistler started a few weeks early and a week before Christmas. The weather was brilliant and I was able to work on inventory during the week with John assuming responsibility for everything else. I adore our adopted Whistler family and can’t imagine not being there.
A new component to the year was something I had never tried before —the Canada Games in Prince George. I don’t think I can even begin to describe the awesomeness of being in this town with old and new friends. Three weeks of 10 hour days vending outside. In. Prince George. In. The. Winter. This would not have even been possible if it wasn’t for my amazing friends Gwen and Mel who hosted, fed, brought me lattes and picked me up from the venue when the weather got just a bit to winter to handle.
I have had a mad crush on Prince George for a number of years and I finally got to really “live” in the city.
In no particular order……
- The Prince George Arts Council
- The Salted Cracker
- Cafe Voltaire
- Zoe’s Java House
Even after the show was done, John and I stayed in town for a few days so I could finish up custom orders. We ended up delivering the finished orders and my favourite was one woman who agreed to meet us half way to pick up her hat which ended up being in the parking lot of a penitentiary . Best delivery ever.
We then went back to our Whistler show and ended the season just after the Easter Weekend. I think I’ll end here for now. Stay tuned for part two in which I discuss coming out as bi-coastal, a trip to Patagonia and how I plan on fitting in Spanish classes during show season.
Warm woolly hugs,