Friday, October 28, 2011

Pattern Excitement This Fee-Fi(ber)-F.O. Friday

Ok everyone - I am beyond excited this week. Another two of my patterns (!) have finally been published - by the yarn company that commissioned them, Premier Yarns. These two patterns were submitted way back in July, and were part of the Deborah Norville fashion show at Vogue Knitting Live in Los Angeles this past September. Without further ado, I present La Poétique Beret and Infinity Scarf set:

I am so thrilled with how these patterns worked up! They were crafted with Premier Fashion Jeweltones, a roughly 57/40 acrylic/wool blend, with paillettes for bling (which show up really well in the beret photos). Additionally, I really liked how this heavy fingering/sport weight yarn blocked - the resulting fabric was warm with nice drape, as you can see in the infinity scarf.

I also learned a few things about photographing FOs on live humans as opposed to inanimate objects. Sometimes the natural approach yields intriguing results - and sometimes the photographer just needs to stop moving. I am very pleased with my impromptu models - thanks so much, Alex and Jessica! (And I suspect they can be booked for your next photo shoot - just send me an email!)

Both patterns are free and available for download both at the Premier Yarns website and on Ravelry.

Woot! Again - I am so thrilled! Now definitely check back with Andrea's blog to see what's got everyone else all thrilled on this pre-Halloween Fiber Arts Friday.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

On Food ... and Heroes

In case anyone missed it, Monday was the first annual U.S. Food Day. Created by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, this event was devised to promote a series of healthy eating and social justice issues. 

As anyone who has read this blog for any length of time will know, food is a passion of mine. My eating regime continues to undergo refinement - it's definitely a work-in-progress. So, as a way to celebrate, albeit a little late, I'm leaving all of you with a montage of food and related photos I've taken throughout the past year. I'd love to hear what thoughts the food photos bring up. I think food is a hot-button issue for most people, so hearing your take on this new food awareness day would be very cool.

Finally, I cannot get out of the way of hearing about the life of the late Steve Jobs. No less than three high profile interviews with his biographer have been conducted and published since Sunday - on 60 Minutes, on NPR's Morning Edition and yesterday on Fresh Air.

I must admit, I previously knew little of the details of Steve Jobs' personal life. However, after hearing this series of interviews, I am convinced that Jobs was a modern-day hero, in the Joseph Campbell sense of that word. Imperfect to be certain, but with one of the clearest visions, as well as the will and determination to see that vision come to fruition, I am in no doubt that Jobs' presence in this life will be greatly missed. I know I will miss his impeccable aesthetic sensibility.

Food and heroes. They can be interchangeable, no?

The famous fishmonger of Pike Place Market

Yummy Bon Appetit chocolate chip cookies

Sicilian-inspired appetizers at the Palmento book event
Pumpkin breakfast "pudding" from
my trusty crockpot

The perfect bowl of sugar

Fresh blueberries

The perfect summer bowl of strawberries

Anyone for a little budget tuna
noddle caserole?
Signs of last fall ...
... juxtaposed against signs of this fall. Fiber and candles round out the scene.

Friday, October 21, 2011

On Plying and the Devil's Fiber this Fee-Fi(ber)-F.O. Friday

So, I haven't started to spin ... yet.  However, I have been admiring handspun yarn for quite a while now. Because I'm also starting to design, how fiber is plied is becoming more and more important. For me, yarn that splits is not so desirable (although I certainly have and will continue to use my fair splitty share). Z-ply, n-ply - this is all still on my learning curve.

Nevertheless, I know what I like when I see it. And when I saw the yarn to the left, I knew I liked it. I said I wanted it. The universe (in the form of the friend who spun it) said "ok" and sent it to me.

What a great gift, no? This is n-plied - and B's first attempt. I think she aced it. I have a project in mind for it which I hope to work up soon. Not only is the color just d-i-v-i-n-e, but it seems like a nice tight-yet-evenly-plied skein of heavy fingering/dk weight yarn. I'll keep you informed on the splittiness factor (or non-factor, which I suspect will be the case).

I received a swap package a few weeks back that also brought plying to the forefront. Check out the yarn to the right, at the top - is that not the wildest plying you've seen in a while? This is a Lana Grossa yarn - Croisette - and though it's discontinued, I will still enjoy playing with it. Oh, and that green mohair on the right? That's got another project in its future.

Finally, speaking of mohair or otherwise known as the devil's fiber depending on the person speaking, I took the following devil's fiber in my stash:

and started working up a second Le Chaud coffee cozy. (Note: I have eight great testers right now, and if anyone else is interested in joining in on the test, definitely feel free to send me an email. There's room for a few more.) Here's how Le Chaud - the devil's version is looking so far:

I love mohair. I also love how I am using up bits of left-over stash. I am extremely pleased with the subtle color changes and the right amount of bling this cozy is exhibiting.

Mepho never looked so good.

Please make certain to check in over at Andrea's blog and see what other devilishly good things everyone else is working on this Friday.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Design Goddesses Giveth ... and Taketh Away

I was thrilled at the beginning of this week when I learned that two more of my design submissions had been accepted for 2012 publication. Designers find those emails wonderful to receive and read.

At almost the same time, I also received notice via snail mail that one of my design submissions was politely turned down. Of course, that was not received as well as the acceptances.

However, I know that not everything I propose will meet with approval (because hey, all editors have their own aesthetic and other considerations in mind when making editorial decisions) and, designers always have other publishing options.

So with that in mind, I provide you with photos of my latest finished object, Le Chaud French Press Cozy:

Using only one skein of Wonder Why Alpaca Farms' fingering weight alpaca and soysilk blend, not only is it just an appealing design, it also harnesses the warmth properties of the respective fibers - and in the Pacific Northwest, keeping coffee warm and cozy is a full-time preoccupation.

I'm finalizing the written pattern, and will test it first prior to releasing it (in a limited manner) into the crafting wild. Once testing is complete, it will be available only through a purchase of Andrea's wonderful alpaca/silk blend through the end of the year. Then, in 2012, it will be for sale on its own.

Sooooo ... if anyone is interested in being part of the pattern testing, definitely shoot me an email. I expect the test will start next week and last through the beginning of November.

And yet another Fiber Arts Friday has arrived. Have you checked out Andrea's blog, to see how everyone else is keeping warm and cozy with their respective fiber pursuits? C'mon now, you know about inquiring minds and all.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Fiber Arts Friday and a New Voie de Vie Questionnaire

Ruth Marshall at the Berlin Zoo conducting research of Indo-
Chinese Tigers, during the artist's residency May, 2011, with
Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery. Photo courtsey of
Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery.

I am thrilled this week to bring you the latest installment of the Voie de Vie Questionnaire. Ruth Marshall is a unique and incredibly talented fiber artist, recreating animal pelts with yarn and knitting needles. I was fortunate enough to meet Ruth in New York this past January at Vogue Knitting Live. Two of her pelts were on display, and she was working on a new pelt. I was intrigued and impressed, and spent quite a bit of time speaking with Ruth throughout the weekend. I'm so pleased she graciously agreed to participate in my questionnaire fun. So, without further ado, I present:

The Artfully Voie de Vie Questionnaire
With Textile Artist Ruth Marshall

Can you tell us a little bit about your background before you became a textile artist?

Before I became a textile artist I was already an artist, a trained sculptor to be exact.  I was also employed as a sculptor at the Wildlife Conservation Society - Bronx Zoo - recreating nature artificially.  I have two fine arts degrees, a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Masters degree in Fine Arts.  So I have been embedded in the art world for over twenty years.

When was the moment you knew you wanted to design animal pelts from yarn?

 Ocelot #4. 50" x 29"  (127cm x 73cm)
Hand knitted textile. Interpretation of ocelot based
on study of actual pelt at American Museum of
Natural History. Female - collected from Venezuela, 1929.
Yarn, string, sticks. (C) Ruth Marshall, 2010.
Image courtesy of Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery
 The moment I knew that I wanted to design and create animal pelts from yarn was not too long after I rediscovered knitting again.  I had knitted prodigiously as a child and young woman, then left it behind for my artistic odyssey where I began painting, and then sculpting in metal and resins.  On a trip home to Australia several years ago, I picked up some of my mother's needles and started knitting crazy Estonian-designed socks in different colored yarns from Nancy Bush's books.  At that time I was struggling to come up with a satisfying way to say something meaningful about animals, since working at the Bronx Zoo had become my major source of inspiration.  I quicky realized that the patterns on an animal's coat or skin could be recreated as a knitted textile to a high degree of realism. It was an extremely exciting discovery for me and my artwork and continues to be so.

Please describe your personal artistic (design) philosophy.

My artistic philosophy is grounded in the hand made object.  Since I had such a strong craft background from my childhood this really informed and shaped me as an artist.  So a high level of craftsmanship and technique is compulsory for me.  I am also quite a traditional artist, in the sense that I support viewing an artist's work in a gallery or museum.  I LOVE museums and the whole structure and philosophies behind these cultural establishments, and I am terribly amibitious in seeing knitting raised to the high standards that these establishments demand.  While I enjoy other artists' work that celebrate an ‘art for arts sake’ approach I myself cannot adhere solely to that idea.  For me my work has to carry another message alongside it, either socially or politically.

What is your greatest artistic memory?

My greatest artistic memory came in 1987 when I saw Tutankamen’s gold mask in the Cairo Museum in Eygpt.  I experienced a  complete breakdown and disorientation of time and space.  I don’t know how they display the gold mask now, but back then it was a very simple display of wood and glass under flourescent lighting, very basic.  Through the window nearby you could hear the present day pandemonium of Cairo’s traffic, horns blaring, yelling, donkeys braying, etc.  Simultaneously I am looking at the gold mask and it looks absolutely brand new, perfect, like it was completed yesterday and I cannot comprehend that it is 3,000 years old.  It was the most surprising and astonishing experience.

If you could have dinner with any three artists, dead or alive, who would they be, and why?

Van Gogh - I have always loved his work, loved his story, I would love to meet him just to know if we could get along or not!  The very much alive Walton Ford - I hear he sometimes does research at the American Museum of Natural History, where I also do my research, so I’d love to run into him one day and have a chat about career stuff, animals, the day to day life of an artist, etc.  I think leading on from the last question, I’d love to watch the craftsmen or women who created King Tut's gold mask.  I wouldn’t need to talk to them just watch them.  I don’t think that would destroy the mystery of what they achieved either, only enhance it. 

One artist I would NOT like to meet is Leonardo Da Vinci.  I LOVE him so much that I could not survive having my illusions about him shattered if that were the case. 

English or Continental?

I guess since I was taught knitting by my Scottish mother and aunt, the answer would be English.

It’s your last object to design (or make). What is it, and what fiber do you use?

The answer to what last object to design or create is always going to be what I’m currently working on, which right now is tigers.  I’m knitting life size pelts, I’m working on my fourth one now, and I still feel that I’m not getting it right, so it’s all about process, as it should be.  Worsted yarn. I’m currently being sponsored by Lion Brand for my yarn, and I love their Alpine Wool series, 100% wool.  I’m running out of options for the orange of the tiger, so if anyone has any suggestions let me know!

What trait do you most admire in artists?
What trait do you most detest in artists?

There’s so many things I admire about artists, it is very difficult to point out just one, so let’s say tenacity.  I don’t think it’s very fair to mention something that I detest about artists, but I do dislike pretentiousness or falseness, and that extends to outside of the art world as well.

You are recommending a design gift in response to a friend’s inquiry. What would you recommend?

For a design gift to recommend I instantly think of Alyssa Ettinger.  She translates knitting into ceramics!  Brilliant!  And so elegant and sleek, beautiful lines and shapes.

The artist knitting during the Berlin Residency, May, 2011,
with her new friend Merlin the chihuahua.
Image courtesy of Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery.

My sincere thanks to Ruth Marshall for some intriguing and insightful answers. You can learn more about the Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery here.

Now, definitely check out Andrea's blog to see what other fiber fun everyone else has gotten into this week.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Connnected Melange of Stuff I Like

I discovered a few years ago they still add
labels by hand at Whidbey Island Winery.
So, I like history. I like Ken Burns. I am absolutely loving Burns' latest historical tour de force, Prohibition, now currently airing on PBS (the final installment is this evening). I was particularly pleased with the initial installment (which everyone can watch at the PBS website). There has always been a somewhat uneasy link (in my mind, anyway) between the women's suffrage movement at the turn of the 20th century and the drive to establish prohibition. Burns masterfully traced this link beginning back almost to the time of the Civil War. While I am not a big fan of limiting individual freedom, I now have a much better handle on the bigger picture. I also was intrigued to hear the staggering percentage of our federal revenue derived from liquor sales prior to Prohibition. No wonder the cultural pendulum swung so far to the "dry" side!

Of course, since I live in post-Prohibition times, I will freely enjoy a libation every now and then. In October's edition of Bon Appetit, not only can one find advice on the perfect party cocktail, but they report on a trend that doesn't surprise me in the least - the rise of artisanal hard ciders. I've been enjoying hard cider (apple and pear) for as long as I can remember. I will cede that they've gotten progressively crisper in recent years - a very nice alternative to traditional bubbly. While I recently mentioned an import I had, don't let that steer you away from the great ciders being bottled by American artisans, including several in the Pacific Northwest. I'll leave it to you to try them and report back!

Finally, if you're looking for a little crafty inspiration to help you with your next dinner party preparations, you'll enjoy reading this quick Q&A with the creative force behind Design*Sponge (and if you haven't checked out the website, you're in for a design treat!).

Here's to your next great fall meal with friends, complete with your favorite wine, hard cider or spirit. And if you're looking for one more exceptional, crafty dinner guest ...