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bits and pieces


Bits_and_pieces_1 Knitting, crocheting, embroidery - most of the textile arts involve an element of repetition.  This element could be the pattern repeat found printed on a 100 yd bolt of cloth or the thousands of stitches involved in knitting one red cord.  It is this very act of repetition which draws me to the textile arts.  I find the process soothing, even on those days when it jangles my nerves.  Today I attached several dozen bits and pieces of red cord left over from a previous incarnation of the Red Thread Project.  The stitches refused to be worked faster.  I had no choice other than to slow down and catch onto their rhythm. Once I did, my mind relaxed.  I stopped worrying about the deadline and simply enjoyed the work in hand. 


I am craving a bit of solitude.  The writer May Sarton described this need as a way of making sense of life, "...[a] time alone in which to explore and to discover what is happening or has happened."  This past week has been a whirlwind.  Several gallery directors contacted me regarding the availability of my work.  A reporter from London enquired about the Red Thread Project.  Another 35 pounds worth of hats were delivered and my daughter finished her junior year in high school.  It isn't possible to savor so much activity.

My recent book purchases are sitting on my dining table acting as appetizers, teasers to whett my appetite.  I am currently consuming memoirs with a few mysteries on the side.  I dip into them while eating a meal. Julia Child's memoir, My Life in France, keeps me drooling while Jennifer New's Drawing from Life: Journal as Art is inspiring future entries for here on the Isle of Serendip.  I keep telling myself that I will get a few days in July to move past these tastings, to consume them along with cups of coffee or tea, but with the way my schedule is developing, I am not convinced.

- Sarton, May, Journal of Solitude, New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1973, p. 11. 

35 lbs


Thirty five pounds of hand knitted and crocheted hats arrived this afternoon by UPS.   It is but a fraction of the hats collected for my Red Thread Project.  As of this past Friday, 764 hats had been collected.  The number is astounding given that the project was launched just 3 1/2 months ago.  On June 30th these hats will be connected to a 500 meter cord and worn as part of a performance by the public.  I am concerned whether enough people will volunteer to participate, but that is next week's worry.  This week's worry is connecting the hats in anticipation of next week's worry.  Life can only be lived one stitch at a time.

The piles of orange, red, pink, and purple hats are a colorful record of individual ingenuity and creativity.  Some hats are marvels of lace, while others are fuzzy wonders.  Each hat reflects its maker.  At the core of The Red Thread Project is the heart of the community.  The project wouldn't be happening without community involvement.  Children and adults have been involved in the making and will soon be involved in the wearing of these hats.  The Red Thread Project is an attempt to visualize the many connections we have to each other.   

I have no way of stating more eloquently what I feel - I am in awe of these hats and all that they represent.  As these hats are destined for cancer charities, some were made in honor of friends and family.  Others were made by those who had not previously thought of themselves as having any artistic ability.  To me, these hats symbolize hope for the present and for the future.

--- A special thanks to Lorilee at City Knitting for the photograph! 


"Artists have no choice but to express their lives," Mrs. Truitt wrote. "They have only . . . a choice of process. This process does not change the essential content of their work in art, which can only be their life."            

          - Washington Post, obituary for Anne Truitt,
            December 25, 2004

How do you say thank you to someone you never met, who never knew of your existence and who you recently find out is deceased?  Several weeks ago, I began rereading the journals of Anne Truitt.  My dog-eared copy of Daybook, the first of her journals, traveled with me through college, graduate school, across two continents and now resides in my living room.  Her words of wisdom were balms to soothe wounds and rallying cries to keep working.  Anne Truitt was in fact my mentor.

Her writing largely influenced my desire to begin this blog.  She exposed for herself and the reader all the hesitations and questions she had about making art, parenting, teaching, and life itself.  She referred to this journaling process as an "unwinding" of events in order to make sense of them.  Writing allowed her to slow down time, to reflect, and then capture the feeling of the moment.

I can't write a personal thank you note to Anne Truitt, but I can honor her life through the writing of this blog. 


19,500 Inches

Red_thread_gr Knit across the six stitches. Do not turn work.   Slide the stitches to the end of needle.  Repeat for 19,500 inches.  Every day I knit another few yards of red "thread" for my Red Thread Project. I have been knitting on the cord each day since the last week of April.  With the project deadline looming at the end of the month, I have finally had to accept that I can't knit all of it myself.  I have had to ask for assistance.

If another assists you in your work, does it cease to be your own and become the effort of committee?  Over the centuries artists have taken on assistants.  Dale Chilhuly maintains a full production team to assist in the creation of his glass installations.  Are they any less his works if someone else has done the "grunt" work involved?  Over the years I have had interns work with me.  They are often integral to whether I make an exhibition deadline.  My art can take weeks and sometimes months to complete.  I couldn't develop a decent portfolio if I tried to do it alone. 

The Red Thread Project is a community art piece.  I designed it specifically to highlight the creative efforts of others, so why I am so disappointed at not completing all 19,500 inches on my own?  It isn't an endurance test or even an attempt to join the Guinness Book of World Records for craziest knitter on the planet, but still this irksome nag persists.  I had set out to knit the cord and simply couldn't do it. 

Primary Colors

Discoveries made in the classroom are a shared event.  The peels of delight from a pint-sized Picasso when mixing his first batch of green from scratch are infectious.  It is why I teach.  These repeated acts of invention remind me of my first moments.  They prevent stagnation in the studio.   

Each time a child mixes green, I see a new color.  The proportions of yellow to blue are never the same for any two children.   Some become proud masters of lime green whereas others control the supply on olive.  Returning to the foundations of art pulls my head out of the conceptual clouds of art theory.  I make to see line turn into shape and shape turn into form. 

I read recently of a professor who told his ceramic students that half would be graded on the quantity of work they made, while the other half would be graded on the quality of one piece.  Those who were assigned the making of the perfect piece failed.  They spent their entire time worrying over each detail, bogged by discussion of the cultural implications of their chosen material.  Those who made for the sake of making arrived at work that became suffused with meaning.  They had allowed discoveries to happen.  By preventing self censorship from negating production, they could whittle away at an idea until it began to take shape.  Delight came as much from the act of making as it did from the final product. 

I want to make for the sake of making, letting each piece of work act as a point on a map toward the next discovery.

The Princess of Serendip

As I searched for the perfect blog title, I considered "loops," "embellishments," and "tangles," words which describe the nature of my art, but not its spirit.  For me, making art is an adventure.  Each day brings with it an unexpected discovery.   

The word "serendipity" was first coined by Horace Walpole in 1754 from the fairy tale The Three Princes of Serendip.  Serendipity is when one makes a delightful discovery by accident.  It is that moment when a dropped stitch becomes beautiful lace.   
The trick is having the faculty, the presence of mind, to recognize these accidents as moments of possibility and not another setback or aggravation.