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road less traveled

(c) Lindsay Obermeyer MotherIsCrying

Instead of just one short quote, I give you Mom's favorite poem, one which she frequently quoted to me.  We were going to have it read at the memorial service, but for some reason it never happened.  
The Road Not Taken

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,      
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

  -----  Robert Frost

Emily and I return to Chicago this weekend.  Neither of us want to leave Mom's house.  There is a feeling of finality in the act. 


(c) Emily Obermeyer Buddies since 3 years old

"Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: "What!  You too?  Thought I was the only one."  --  C.S. Lewis

RATS!!! I repeat - RATS! RATS! RATS!  

This has been a very difficult week.  I vacillate from family rock to puddle of gibbering goo.  I miss Mom.  It's incredibly difficult to be living in her house without her here.  I listen for her footsteps and the grind of coffee each morning.  That had been my clue as a kid to get out of bed and ready for school.  Today I overslept.    

The memorial service was overwhelming.  Over 100 people attended.  She had so many friends, most of whom I had not seen in years.  Customers from the family restaurant came.  Even a few of the local firemen attended.  She seemed to know everyone.

My brother stepped up to say a few words.  He was near to losing it when his 2 year old daughter ran up to hug him.  Aren't children the greatest?  She stood at the pulpit waiving to everyone.  How can you not laugh?  She was all golden curls and cheeriness.  It was life affirming and my mom wouldn't have had it any other way. 

High school friends I have not spoken with since graduation attended.  Emails from around the country have been pouring into my inbox.  The support has helped me get through the day.

RATS! came via my friend Kate's sister.  Kate and I met each other in nursery school at the very same church where my mother was interned.  She couldn't make the service, but her sister Julie came.  They lost their dad when Kate and I were in college. Julie's advice was to scrunch my face, ball up my hands and say RATS! every time the sorrow comes near to overpowering me.  It works.  It is so absurd that tears evaporate and a smile begins.  

love you mom!


"A mother understands what a child does not say."  -- Jewish proverb

Mom died Thursday.  I'm not sleeping well.  I wake up shaking, not crying though I've done that too, but shaking.  My aunt told me that I'm now the matriarch of the family.  I guess I am.  It's been a tough two days, but they've been good too.  Lots of memories to be shared, relished and recorded.

I miss her though the depth of that emotion I know won't be felt until that day I pick up the phone to give her a call and realize I can't.  Habits are broken.  New traditions must develop.  

Christmas was Mom's favorite holiday.  It didn't matter where I was in the world, I always had to be home for Christmas.  This year will be the first that I won't be coming home, at least not the home as I knew it.  

It's so much to take in, too much, but that's life.  My family is okay.  I'm okay.  Mom had been very sick this past year.  She is no longer in pain and for that I am so very grateful.

Louise Towles Obermeyer
July 13, 1943 - October 16, 2008

Love you Mom!

missing you

Missing You

"Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrations and revolutionists."  -- Franklin D. Roosevelt

My father has been researching family history.  My ancestors came to the US from Germany in the mid-1850's.  He's been sending copies of the birth and death records, maps, and even photos as he finds them.  Life here hadn't been easy for them, but there wasn't the immigration restrictions that exist now.  In fact the first law restricting immigration based on ethnicity didn't come into effect until 1882 with the the Chinese Exclusion Act.  These days the Homeland Security Act makes everything that much more difficult.

My daughter was born in Romania.  She had been adopted by my godmother who died 4 years after the adoption.  Emily moved in with me when she was 7, but it took another 7 years before I could adopt her and 3 more for her immigration status to be untangled.  Over the course of those 10 years, it took 4 lawyers and the assistance of one well-known reporter from a local paper to make her status here permanent.  At the age of 17, she became an American citizen and will be voting for the first time this November.  

I haven't heard much talk on the issue of immigration from either presidential candidate.  I understand the economy being front and forward while the war in Iraq runs a close second, but the lives of millions hangs in the balance.  I don't want any parent to go through what I've experienced, but the reality is that many do.  I was told to prepare for my daughter's deportation.  It was a worst case scenario, but a very real one too.  Families are split apart every day.
The above piece is in the show Crossing Borders / Crossing Cultures at the Catholic Theological Union.  It reflect the fears and anxieties I experienced and have heard in others.  Title - Missing You.  

exhibition schedule fall 2008


"Symbolism can be read into each stitch - it is a loop without beginning or end. Interconnected loops can be a metaphor for life and human connectedness." 

--  Karen Searle from Knitting Art: 150 Innovative Works from 18 Contemporary Artists

Fall is here and much is happening in the studio!  

Check out some of my latest work at these group exhibitions:
"Art Speaks" 
An exhibition to stimulate dialogue within the community about 
contemporary issues including environment, cancer, mental 
illness and politics.
Beverly Arts Center
2407 W. 111th St., Chicago, IL 60655
September 26 - October 26, 2008
Artist Reception: Saturday, October 25, 6-8pm

"Crossed Borders / Crossed Cultures"
Mary-Frances and Bill Veek Gallery
Catholic Theological Union
5416 S. Cornell Ave, 4th flr, Chicago, IL 60615
November 13, 2008 - January 14, 2009
Opening Reception: Thursday, November 13, 5:30 - 7:30pm

I hope to see you at the performance.
"Knitted and Exquise Corpse"
A knitted performance created in collaboration with Anni Holm & 
Irene Pérez as part of the Third Annual Calling Chicago Festival.
Mess Hall, 6932 N. Glenwood, Chicago, IL 60626
Sunday, October 12, 2-5pm

Learn of environmental solutions at this public art exhibition.
San Diego Natural History Museum / Balboa Park
1788 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101
October 15 - November 30, 2008

You too can be part of this community art project.
The Red Thread Project® in collaboration with Springboard to 
Learning will be in St. Louis for 2008-2009. If you want to be 
involved and send a hand knit or crochet hat, let me know 
and I will send you the specifics.

It's official!
Hooray! The Red Thread Project® is now a registered trademark.

See my work in print.
Knitting Art: 150 Innovative Works from 18 Contemporary Artists 
by Karen Searle 
160 pages of eye candy, it is a fabulous survey of work by 
contemporary artists Kathryn Alexander, Lisa Anne Auerbach, 
Reina Mia Brill, Katharine Cobey, Carolyn Halliday, Ilisha 
Helfman, Barb Hunt, Laura Kamian, John Krynick, Donna L. Lish, 
Anna Maltz, Janet Morton, Debbie New, Mark Newport, 
Jeung Hwa Park, Karen Searle, Adrienne Sloane - and me!

Take the handmade pledge!
My shop Enjolive has opened on Etsy.com! I've created a collection
of whimsical accessories designed to make you smile.

If you are in Chicago, stop by my booth at:

Streeterville Artisan Market
Lobby of Robert H. Lurie Medical Research Center
303 E. Superior St.
Chicago, IL 60611
November 7, 5-8pm
November 8, 10-5pm

DIY Trunk Show 2008
Pulaski Park Fieldhouse / Auditorium
1419 W. Blackhawk St.
Chicago, IL 60622
November 22, 10am - 5pm

knitting guru

(c) Tracy Lord model  (c) Tracy Lord hat 
"The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together."  --  William Shakespeare

This morning my knitting machine jammed.  The swearing didn't stop for a full 5 minutes (my daughter says she timed me, cheeky git).  After some serious fiddling it finally cleared.  The needles are fine.  Nothing is bent.  But dang if I don't wish for the days when I slept on the couch of my very own knitting guru.  

Tracey Lord and I met eons ago (dare I say 18!) while working for Patricia Roberts in London.  We were recent graduates from different textile programs and in love with anything yarny and otherwise textile.  We both moved on from those days, developed our own lines and sold them at various shops and markets.  

Tracey's speciality is on the knitting machine.  She had a fantastic line of hats for adults that you could spot being worn all over London.  Later she focused on a charming, yet contemporary children's line.  I don't think there is anything she can't make on the machine.  I took those days past for granted and never did learn to machine knit from her, much to my present regret.  Anyway, Tracy recently opened a shop on Etsy, funny enough, because she had seen mine.  I encourage you to visit her shop and say hello. Meanwhile, enjoy the following interview I recently had with her.

When did you first learn to knit?
When I was about 6 years old,  I was taught by my primary school teacher when it was too wet to play outside.

What led you to pursue a career in knitwear design?
I took constructed textiles as my degree major and found I preferred knitted to woven as means of construction. I didn't want to go into industry as I did not feel any affinity with the larger double bed machines, I liked fiddling about on the flatbed ones and handknitting - so I decided to set up on my own quite soon after leaving college. I like the fact that knitwear design involves designing both the fabric as well as the garment/item - so you have complete control.

Describe your creative process.
I usually have a theme in mind, and usually that stems from a colour story I have discovered at the time, or it might be influenced by fashion.  For instance, there was a "geisha" year and a "1950s screen idol" year, so I designed my fabrics and garments along those themes.  I like to ring the changes, though and when possible I will work in new themes twice yearly. If I am being purely influenced by colour, I will start from a series of photos I might have taken of something zingy or powerful that I like, and analyse them for colour content, breaking them down into a "stripe", so that I can work out the balance of exactly why I am drawn  to those colours. From here I will apply the colour theme to say, some simple stripe trousers and see where it takes me from there.  I draw all my ideas out using only black pen, I find this simple diagram style helps me work out shapes. I will make several prototypes and jam them on anyone who is available to model, until I think I have got the shape right.

Why do you prefer the machine knitting process? 
I wouldn't say that I do - I like handknitting equally as much, but here in the UK it suffered a terrible recession in the 1990s and I found machine knitting more viable to run a business. Ideally, I would love to be able to combine the two at will, but time does not often allow me that luxury.

Other than Etsy, where else have you sold your knitwear?
I began with some private commissions when I left college, from my first collection. Then after working for another designer for a little while (where I met you, Lindsay!) , I set up my own business selling knit accessories in Camden Market. One of the first people to ever stop by my stall on my first day was Kaffe Fassett! I was too mortfified to dare to talk to him and I hid under my stall.  He said nice things, though! I had this business for about six years, exporting to the US, France and Spain regularly as well as selling to some UK based boutiques and craft shops.  After a break to go traveling, I started a shop in Portobello Road with two other designers, designing and selling our hand made kids knitwear and clothes.  I exported to Ireland, Japan, the US, Spain and Chile as well as selling to other UK shops. 

You mention in your Etsy bio the circuitous route from knitwear designer, to teacher and back to knitwear designer?  Describe this path.  Do these fields overlap for you and if so, how?
The unpredictability of self-employment was a little stressful at times so I trained as a teacher so that I would have a back-up skill. I was also feeling that although I loved what I was doing, it was a but self-indulgent and I wanted to do something to help someone else's life.  I chose to work with people with learning difficulties after visiting one class and being completely drawn in by their enthusiasm. I now teach a mix of arts and literacy/numeracy based skills, which is very rewarding but quite tiring.  After two years of full-time teaching I have been slowly returning to the designing as I really missed it, and I'm aiming to achieve a 50/50 balance between the teaching and the knitting in the next 12 months. I'm working on more of a concrete overlap right now - but the art classes I teach to my students with learning difficulties are quite textiles and colour led: we do a lot of mosaics, screen printing and weaving. Knitting is a little difficult for most of them so far, but I'm considering introducing rug weaving this fall. 

Do you have any sage words of advice for emerging designers?
Stick to your own style, never undervalue the time you need to spend sourcing ideas, research the competition, try to have structure to your working hours, so that you work efficiently and last but not least, remember to take a holiday!

Last but not least, who are your favorite designers?
I love the Rowan school as they sponsored me way back when I was at college and they were still tiny - I  think they still have their finger on the pulse and produce  really wearable designs. Otherwise - Marc Jacobs'  50's phase, some Alberta Ferretti, Preen, Pucci (old school), early John Galliano and Vivienne Westwood for her tailoring chutzpah.