One of our major flaws as animals, and a big contributor to our unhappiness, is that we are very bad at keeping in mind the real ingredients of fulfilment. We lose sight of the value of almost everything that is readily to hand; we’re deeply ungrateful towards anything that is free or doesn’t cost very much; we trust in the value of objects more than ideas or feelings; we are sluggish in remembering to love and to care; and we are prone to racing through the years forgetting the wonder, fragility and beauty of existence. It’s fortunate, therefore, that we have art.
Alain de Botton from The Guardian
As COVID-19 frames our current experience, anxiety and unhappiness churns and foams. Friends have been furloughed, laid off, job offers rescinded, or contracts cancelled. Others pivot as events, fairs and shows are cancelled and their stores close. Neighbors in essential jobs are working overtime and cope with new realities. As remote workers, daily life in our house moves on, with our grad student is remotely finishing her degree.
Fortunately, we do have art. In the daze of social distancing, art is found out the window; rainy greyscale views, brilliant blue skies or a full moon shimmering out my window. I count my blessings that I am safe, home with family and able to help flatten the curve. I’m thankful for a great internet connection, which allows me to visit with friends and family and attend conferences virtually. Thanks to COVID, there’s more time to explore museums and travel virtually. OK, I’m an optimist.
Thank you to the artists whose legacies sustain us today. Thank you to today’s artists whose creations and connections lead us toward tomorrow.
Mary Oliver’s poetry is one way I slow down to appreciate the beauty of existence.
If you popped by my place during the Melrose Open Studio Tour, perhaps you noticed that it was not a sparse space. A large design surface held tidbits of several projects in hibernation. Fabric sprung from the wire drawers, disguised by a fabric curtain. Wool roving fluffed out of boxes, with screen and bubble wrap rolled under the work table and bottles of soapy water stood at the ready. Pencils, ink tense and HB2, mending, ephemera and of course my sewing and felting machines covered my other table. The space was… busy?
While keeping my tools at my fingertips makes sense, the idea to sort, clean and paint hibernated the winter. After vacation in February, I decided it was time to shake up my fiber den.
Easily said. Done without difficulty, but it did require infinitely more time and patience than expected. Touching everything in drawers, bins, shelves took time. Nostalgic, restless, ebullient, anxious moments rolled into hours. Patience, Alanna, patience.
Fortunately, friends offered to help with the painting, so there was a deadline to get through it all. As they arrived, the remaining items were stuffed, pushed away, and boxed up. Let the wall prep and painting begin – both ceiling and floors. Thank you Sandra and Laurena!
With everything boxed up, I took the time to think about the components of my practice. Felting, sewing, knitting, stitched together with writing and marketing shape my creative life. It felt good to recognize all of these components, and give space for each in my studio.
It also feels good to keep only necessary materials at hand. I’ve decided to keep it that way. There are so many possibilities and yet so little time! Patience, Alanna, patience.
The studio “shake up” coincided with COVID-19 social distancing kick up. On the day that Sandra and Laurena came over, a WhatsApp message from a friend who lives in Hong Kong warned, “I worry about the US not taking this virus seriously. Do what you can to stay safe.” March 11 was my last regular day. Patience, Alanna, patience.
Meanwhile, I’m participating in a weekly seminar organized by Creative Capital, “Building Community for a Sustainable Creative Life,” led by Sharon Louden. There’s plenty of material to soak up, ideas to consider and connections to make in the next few weeks.
Clearly this year teaches me to reexamine my creative space – both physical and mental. Balancing enthusiasm and patience is a good exercise for me. This spring, I’m patiently feeding the future of my studio. Let it be a fertile place!
“Joined by Stitch” unites again for their third spring exhibit – this time at the Loading Dock Gallery in Lowell, MA. Please join us at the artist reception.
March 7, 2020 from 4 to 6 pm
122 Western Avenue, Lowell, MA 01851
My critique group is an eclectic mix of artists. We all work primarily in fiber and we’re all SAQA members who live within 40 minutes of each other. Beyond that, let the creative experience express itself! Each year, the setting and the work feed the exhibit… with a different result each time.
Tarja works in the Western Avenue Studios and proposed a group exhibit to the Gallery. They were very receptive to the idea, especially after last year’s show at the Essex Art Center.
Today, we chose the work for exhibit in the Gallery. Starting with a large, new piece by Agusta Agustsson, the next pieces easily flowed from our stacks to the wall. With tall, white walls, there is plenty of space to stack work, which was appreciated with 8 artists!
Installation was quick, easy and the camaraderie that Joined by Stitch developed over the last 3.5 years was clear. I did manage to complete the Suffragette Celebration piece (ahem, at 4:30am the day of installation). White walls and a grey pedestal are not doing this piece any justice… I can’t wait to get it back and photograph it properly.
In any case, please join us for the reception, and let me know what you think of the exhibit!
P.S. With the Loading Dock closing temporarily to encourage social distancing in this time of pandemic, the exhibit became online. As of March 25, the work was taken down and I’d be happy to share it with you in person in May.
January 2019: Open the closet door, gaze at my yarn stash and the knitting priority was obvious: Finish those WIPs (works in progress)! Thus began a humbling yet joyous year.
There are still several projects yet to complete, but I let myself off the hook. Remember, this is a hobby! Then again, there are two sweaters that just need piecing. Not teaching in yarn stores during most of 2019 helped keep temptation at bay. However, I didn’t completely abstain from yarn purchases.
For that late winter stir crazy moment, Cardizen was cozy, easy knit and there was no super bulky yarn in my closet….
In August, Mom sent me the yarn to make the Myrtle cardigan for her. This lace, fingering weight cardigan is knit in one piece. Casting on at the beginning of our sailing vacation wasn’t my best life choice. Poor lighting at night, full concentration and flying pattern pages gave me a rough head start. I could really only knit on it at night below deck. Progress was slow for several months. In mid-November, I ripped back 5″, starting the lace pattern again. Note to others: start complex sweater patterns with the sleeve – it gives you the chance to learn the pattern with smaller repeats! The Myrtle cardigan is making progress and will probably be on the needles for the first quarter of 2020!
Also during the autumn, a gorgeous teal gradient pack of Dirty Water Dyeworks Lillian emerged from my stash with the plans to become a scarf using Sequence Knitting techniques. Fingering weight yarn just doesn’t do the patterning justice. I do recall Cecelia mentioning that. BTW: Cecelia will speak at the Greater Boston Knitting Guild in March 2020!
Ripped back and cast on Canady by Bristol Ivy. The pattern requires much more yarn than what I have, but I will deal with that then. Stephanie’s teals are always a popular seller, so I imagine it will work out.
Knitting hopes for 2020!
What I need to knit? Mittens and hats. What I’ll probably knit (after I piece together those two sweaters)? Well, there’s a pattern I designed with concepts from Knitting on the Diagonal to finish then knit. Plus, I have a couple sweaters worth of yarn for lighter season cardis. One will be Flaum.
Reviewing my 2019 knits was a worthwhile exercise. It’s easy to get carried away with the possibilities for 2020, but it’s time to enjoy my stash and not accumulate more. My last stash free moment was 2005. Running tours for knitters in Italy and New England, plus living in a fiber lovers’ heaven made accumulation a joy. Five years of working in two yarn shops meant I bought and knit much of their yarn, but none of yarn I’d discover on my travels. Now it’s time to pull out those joyous moments and create!
Perhaps it’s habit. Perhaps someone drilled the golden ratio into my psyche. Until Instagram forced me to frame everything in a square, rectangles and circles were my thing. However, little square works are a popular choice for fundraisers, so last year I challenged myself to create more 12″ x 12″ fiber art work.
As promised, small squares let me play with compositions and supposedly are quick to create (hmm, not so sure about that). I’ve create fabrics made with wet felting, needle felting or both. The square fiber art pieces are dyed, painted and maybe inked. In all cases, stitch is an integral component.
How many layers, which moments, what is the message of this piece? Usually, I need to have these answers before I begin. With these small pieces, intuition and meandering lead me to pause, scratch my head and ask for opinions. That’s different than I usually work.
At our last critique group meeting, I shared a couple of paused squares. What fun to watch the consideration, experience the thoughtful silence and the hear ideas and impressions.
It’s summer, which means I’m trying to work outdoors whenever possible. There’s a temptation to drop small squares and return to larger work that I started. Actually the strongest temptation is to stop writing and get working on anything textile.
Do you follow me on Instagram? You can see square composition updates posted in my feed. Catch you later!