Thursday, 27 February 2014

How knitting has kept me sane

Since I graduated I've really struggled to figure out what to do with the dreggs of creativity left over from a glass and ceramics degree. To say I was burnt out would be  huge understatement. In my final weeks of the degree I hated my work and developed an abscess that would have me on bed rest for a little under a month. I managed to drag myself to London for New Designers, but let's be honest, that was my Northern miserly-ness making sure I didn't waste all the money I'd put into getting there. I mostly trundled back and forth from a drop-in centre and battled a couple of new, and unnecessary, infections.

I then had to start paying a mortage. So I got a job in a restaurant and worked on DIY-ing the heck out of my house. I don't remember why, but it was around this time I started to knit again. I'd gone to a couple of knitting nights and picked up some skills whilst I was in my third year, and had tried to learn by myself since coming back from Africa. But knitting seemed like a good way of making things but not stretching myself too thin.

I got a different job in a cafe and knitted my colleagues hideous scarves for Christmas. From then on I'd occasionally pick up some knitting, learn a new skill like knitting on the round, I made an ill-fitting cushion cover, more hideous scarves (my mother called me on Christmas day to ask if the snood I'd made her was a mini-skirt).  Then I called on Lydia Wysocki to teach me how to sew a cushion for the hiddeous cushion I'd made and she did a bang up job of teaching me. But now I had a load of wool that was doing nothing so I decided I'd knit a jumper. And I knit a bloody jumper. Addmitedly, I ran out of wool and one of the sleeves was the wrong colour, but it was a jumper! I'd made clothes! I decided it would be yet another Christmas present. I quickly knitted another. And started on a cardigan and slipper socks. 

I'm now knitting herrings for Follow the Herring and going to knitting school on Saturday to learn about cables.

This thing, with the needles and the wool has lead me back to being someone who liked making things. Thanks to the support of people like Stacey Whittle, Robyn Townsend, Megan Randall and all the old ladies who saw me struggling with dpn's on the bus or in cafe's I've managed to figure out how to make something out of a tangled ball of nothing. It's made me feel like I can make things, anything. And that they don't have to have a grand purpose, I just need to make them. It's lead me to accepting a workshop making buttons with a knitting group, starting a sketchbook project and feeling like a real craftswoman again.

If you're a knitter I'm on ravelry as terracottalily.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Drawing to tell the Tale

I'm drawing in a book. I'm worried it's a little twee or hip, but honestly, I wanted to start drawing in January and I knew that the obstacle of going out and buying a sketchbook could derail this fragile little yearning for creativity. So instead of risk it, I took out the copy of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Living to Tell the Tale that I'd finally finished after dragging it around for the last three years. I'd made notes in it to keep myself engaged whilst I read so I knew no one else would be able to enjoy it so I didn't feel too bad.

I started with little doodles that related to the book, the idea of belonging, family and coffee. But after a while I realised I didn't want to be drawing about anything prescriptive so I went more free form. This pencil sketch came from my love of all things folk art and Marquez's No One Writes to the Colonel in which the titular Colonel feels like lillies are growing in his guts. Well, that's too good an image to leave alone, right?

Someone on Radio 2 (I suspect it was some sort of famous reverend) said the phrase "searching for our calm circle". I don't know if it was a reference or even a mistake but it stirred something.

Then I wanted to get less abstract so played with a figure who was trying to claw her way out of her "calm circle". Somewhere along the way I lost her momentum. I think it has something to do with  trying to learn how to cable knit whilst drawing this and therefore her jumper got a lot more attention than I had originally planned.

I painted a page to go behind my escaping woman but decided I'd like to add another layer behind that so created a doorway. Behind it was supposed to be a monster, but it became someone sad, twisted and alone. There's a bible in her room, I'm not sure why.

In retrospect I can see that after my woman trying to escape and my lonely trapped woman I must have been feeling the need for something lighter, so here we have Red Riding Hood looking into a mirror and finding the big bad wolf. There's nothing deep about this, I wanted more layers so used a mirror. And then I got to play with embroidery. Which, I quickly learnt, is very difficult. Still not happy with this wolf.

Something totally different. Cutting, collage, watercolours and a printout of a map of the world with a church mistakenly printed on it that I found at work. It's an exercise in composition I think and I'm sure in the hands of someone else could have been pushed more but I just wanted something faster than embroidery.

And then I went back to embroidery. Just because you don't know how to do something, doesn't mean you shouldn't, right? I was inspired after seeing a twitter exchange (that I now can't find) about how exciting sketching dancers is. It's a lot more muddled than originally planned but I like it.

Then the same thing happened, the embroidered piece took me hours so I wanted something fast, and we'd just been to see James Wilton at the Customs House and felt that I wanted to play with rhythm.

Then collage with a face, lots of it. A little reference to Marquez's Love and other Demons and Sierva Maria's ever-growing hair.

A reference to The Saint in Strange Pilgrims and the flowers that remain preserved in her coffin.

This page was all about how much Marquez's parents loved each other, but his father was incapable of fidelity.

I found one of my little faces and wanted to use it, so made a witch doctor of unknown origins.

I'll keep drawing until I run out of pages.