Knitting for Salmon

Knitting for Salmon

In a life with a million frayed and loose ends, for those close at hand, it must be hard to imagine that despite my constant whirlwind state, I actually crave and seek out the calmness that comes with completion.  In a life that contains multiple lives, I ache for actual closure, and the satisfaction felt in finishing.

A few weeks ago, despite the fact that I had a million things to do, and endless lists of unfinished business and uncertain plans and ideas for the coming week, when my husband asked me to join him alongside the ocean for a gathering, I said yes. I would be late, but I would be there. 

That night,  while around a campfire in California, on the eve before my early morning exit to return to Cordova, I was asked which life I liked better, and did I wish I was someplace else in the midst of being where I was.  I thought of earlier that day and my drive back from the airport to drop off air freight bound for the shop in Cordova.  Though in a hurry, I couldn't help but smile at the sight of the yellow gold autumn leaves on the mountain road, the morning light hitting the trees just so, as I wound my way up and down the back woods road. I watched intently, soaking in the beauty as I rushed along, but I didn't NOT see it, or miss that opportunity to catch the sight of it, nor the sunset that was spread so elegantly before me as I attempted to answer her question.

As I have stated in previous posts, I intentionally choose (with more effort sometimes than other times)  to take the moments as they come and to try not to miss what is there for me at whatever place and time I am in. It is not as trite or easy as it sounds, and although it sometimes takes extra effort, with eyes wide open, I do all I can, despite the challenge and frustration of feeling half undone,  to see and not miss out on what is there for me moment by moment, instead of feeling bad or resentful for what I am not getting done or accomplishing at whatever place I am not in, or wanting to live a different life than the one I am in the midst of. It is the grand dichotomy of my life. Life often neither here nor there, often among the clouds, airborne and between time zones, bits of my heart torn and scattered between multiple places and people.

In light of this, I am wanting to at least finish tales of FisherFolk to just close that page and move forward with all the NetLofting that came after and continues to be taking place. At this point it seems that there have been enough different people who have shared and told about our days together, that I almost feel as though enough has been said, and it is now November, almost December, and June is quickly slipping farther and farther into the distant past.  Although FisherFolk is past tense, the gansey project for me is still very close at hand. At this time, I am finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel of my son Nate’s gansey. Hopefully less than one  month of knitting to finish it up. I am just about to the elbows on both sleeves.  

Since the event, in regards to what was inspired from those days together, I have joyously seen many works in progress, and many works completed, knitters knitting, spinners spinning, and dyers dyeing. My hope continues to be realized when what was ignited in those concentrated days together has been bearing fruit as each of us goes our own way, taking with us what we learned and taking the opportunity to put our new knowledge into practice.

I decided that I would like to have a little show and tell about some of the special touches we had as part of the event , and then share a bit on some of the workshops we had for the rest of the summer. As I share with you some of these details and photos, I think this will help me feel the closure I have been  seeking for these last several months. Some of these projects are still ongoing and able to be joined in with, and some of the items we have available in our online store, so even if you didn’t make it to FisherFolk, you can join with us from afar. I thought I would make it not quite so long, and share just an inkling every day or so. As the year gradually comes to a close, 'tis the season of gratitude  and giving, and I have a such a sense of gratitude for each of the details and those who made them come to life as FisherFolk came to fruition.

I have this thought, that for every idea, there is a person, sometimes more than one.

There is a thought, and then, there is person that takes that idea and turns it into something concrete. Sometimes it is just a matter of manpower, as some ideas are too big for just one person to accomplish.  Others require a unique skill or attribute.  Regardless of the reason, for me, each idea has a person attached to it. Some ideas are like a tiny spring of a thought, starting with just a notion.

I am often amazed how seemingly unconnected happenstances weave together to fulfill a concept, and  how all these separate puzzle pieces that seem unrelated come together to create a whole. Each piece somehow is it's own long story, and so here we go again...

I will start with an idea that happened during a distracting moment. I like art and I like etchings and I like images that are fish related. Long before the thought of a trip to Shetland, or FisherFolk or ganseys, I was meandering through Pinterest, most likely when I was supposed to be working on my bookkeeping.

Who knows how I ended up there, but I stumbled on an image of a girl holding a fish.


I was struck immediately of how much she reminded me of my daughter Nelly, and the images in my mind of when she was a little girl out on the boat.

It reminded me of the days when the children would dress up and play “olden days” in the third floor of the warehouse where the old Net Loft resided. Nelly had long braids and often resembled someone more likely to live in the mid 19th century than from modern times. We were homeschooling during those years. The shop was closed in the winter and one of the ways we studied history was through literature. We read books and books as the children colored timelines and put their lives in historical perspective. There was a lot of living history dress up going on and when I saw that image on Pinterest, all I could think of was "Olden Days Nelly" with her long braids, and the young woman she had become continuing to embrace fishing as her livelihood as an adult.

I followed the link that took me to the artist's site, and lo and behold there was still a copy left of the etching. The artist was Nicola Slattery from South east England. I sent her pictures of Nelly and told her my story and she shared with me hers. The etching was inspired by a photo of her own daughter holding a fish in rural England. I bought the etching and our relationship began.

When I decided to take a trip to the UK for Shetland Wool Week in 2014, I started making reservations in the spring. I had purchased the etching a few months earlier,  and remembering that Nicola was in England, I sort of dawdled around and I thought if there was a way, wouldn’t it be nice to see if there was an art class or something to take while on my adventure. I ended up back on Nicola’s site and saw that the weekend before wool week she was teaching a class on etchings and collographs. I had always wanted to learn this type of printmaking, and the timing was perfect. In October of 2014, I landed in London for the first time in my life, hopped a couple trains until I arrived in Norfolk, then rented a car, and holding my breath the entire way due to the newness of driving on a different side, made my way through the countryside to the little community where she was teaching the weekend workshop.

After a night on a hog farm b and b, I drove to our class, which took place at the Starston Jubilee Hall, and met Nicola for the first time.

Surrounded by her work, I was utterly excited and engaged, fully inspired for the printmaking retreat, something I had always wanted to learn and do.

It was a great weekend. Nicola was a fine instructor, and I was captivated by the expressions of the people in her framed images on the walls that surrounded us. There was a sense of whimsy yet thought in her designs. The people in her images often looked at you eye to eye, and the renderings often included fish, birds, as well as sheep. 

Although I felt quite rusty in my drawing, I loved the weekend immersed in art and ink under her care and guidance, as well as the fine tea, treats, and the delicious lunches she provided. 


After the full weekend together I had a few different pieces, my default images being harebells, my favorite mountain flower, high bush cranberries, and of course,  blueberries. 

My time with Nicola had been a fine way to start my time in the UK and it was funny to think that it was all from a distracted moment of bookkeeping and that Pinterest had brought me to that place and time... a wonderful detour. From there I was off to Shetland and on to my wool week adventure.


The following year, as FisherFolk started to take form, I thought of Nicola once again. First of all, I had this art piece, the Girl with the Fish, that I thought would somehow be incorporated into an inspiration for a yarn, but I needed a design for the event, and kept coming back to the girl with the braids as a fisher lassie of sorts. I wrote to Nicola and asked permission, and at that time was struck with the idea that wouldn’t it be nice if Nicola created something expressly for our event, one of her etchings that would be created for both FisherFolk and the Cordova Gansey Project. She responded. We could use the girl with the braids for our event AND she was up for creating a new image, and there it began.

I emailed her photos of salmon and fishing, and then, one day, she was done, and what would become the entrance piece for our exhibit of the Moray Firth ganseys in our little museum in Cordova, arrived in the etching, “Knitting for Salmon”. It was interesting as she had not meant for it to look like the girl was wearing a kuspuk, a native dress, but it worked out that way when she colored the gansey and the skirt adorning the girl in the boat. It was an added touch that made her even more special for our region.

This is Cordova’s own gansey girl, knitting a net with salmon, and perfect for welcoming everyone in a grand entrance to our new museum,  chock full of a fine display of ganseys from Scotland for our FisherFolk event. In honor of the original fisher lassies, it was fitting that the artist would be from the UK as well. It was a most perfect fit and a wonderful visual representative alongside her friend, the "Girl with a Fish" for those coming to appreciate the fine display of ganseys that had traveled to see us from afar. overseas, and around the globe.

SO here she is. The Cordova Gansey Girl.  Thank you Nicola for your workmanship, and for being just the right person to take this idea from concept to reality.  So grateful the path led me to your "door".  I loved having your hand etched fisherknitter in our event, and for justly representing our local salmon and our own local fisherknitters of today. A long story with a nice ending, that really is just now becoming its own beginning.

Those interested in learning more about Nicola, purchasing her art, or taking her fine workshops may find more information on her site.

More to come...


ps.. I would love to have some cards made of the image, but will have to work this out with Nicola, so stay tuned.


 Museum photo with gansey and etching by Melina Meyer.

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