Safe Arrival after a Long Journey and a Long While January 31 2017, 10 Comments
Defining the Essential December 07 2016, 1 Comment
When I was a little girl, we used to go shopping at this one department store. In those days, going shopping with my mother was a special occasion of sorts, and for times such as these, we dressed up. Mary Jane party shoes and party dresses were the attire...Dresses with petticoats and wide bows behind the back, hair curled and fastened with with satin or grosgrain ribbons. I remember even now how beautiful my mother looked to me back then when she dressed to go shopping.
Visiting the fancy department store also meant going out to lunch in the store’s upstairs "Lotus Tea Room". Upstairs was also where they had special events and activities, and I think this was where we assembled each year for the beloved Santa photos, as well. This one below was before my sister was born as I clearly remember her crying through the ones of us with her with us in later years.
I can barely recall being upstairs one time at a very young age, and having to stand very very still, while a woman, delicate sharp scissors in hand, carefully cut a silhouette of my brother and my four year old self, creating a lovely papercut image of that place and time, and so perfectly encapsulating those faint memories into something visible and tangible in a way even more perfectly than simply an old photograph.
I look at this image now and I think how amazing it was how the artist was able to just cut it freestyle right then and there on the spot as we stood before her eyes, capturing the essence of my brother and I, side by side, as well as the elements of the clothing such as the smocked dress with its starched white PeterPan collar and puffy sleeves that I remember oh so well. It is evident even now, that this portrait artist was a skilled craftsperson with a perceptive eye as well as precise cutting skills.
I remember liking these hand cut images, as well as the childhood silhouettes of my mother and her brother in my grandmother’s home. My mother also loved Scandinavian papercuts and would hang them in our windows. There was a Danish shop in our town that had a lovely selection of them which were made from a heavier paper with images of flowers and birds each packaged in a cellophane envelope. I loved visiting the shop with my mother, and seeing the array of them displayed in the windows. She would carefully choose one and we would enjoy the sight of it hanging in the window for some time after as they brightened the view.
I continued to fancy silhouettes, and in high school I used to frequent the tiniest little shop that hardly had room to walk around called Tomnoddy Fair, filled to the brim with all sorts of little treasures. I especially liked the little packages of gummed stickers, as well as sheets of antique seals you had to cut or tear apart. I remember being excited in this little shop when I spotted packets of little miniature silhouette seals.
Thinking on this, I managed to find some of those old seals in a covered cigar box in my collections of keepsakes that have endured the years. I also found some of the treasured little squirrel seals that I also remember finding at Tomnoddy Fair, which I used to save and use quite sparingly as I only had a small handful of them that had come in a teeny tiny box. I recollect having an ample supply of the silhouette seals and using them profusely on letters and in my camp photo albums which I loved putting together, predating what we now call scrapbooking.
Silhouettes continued to capture my interest, and eventually when back east visiting my husband’s relatives, I spotted a large papercut in a little shop in Pennsylvania. I hadn't ever seen anything quite like it. It reminded me of the silhouette paper cuts that I had always liked, but it was larger, cut from parchment and tinted with watercolor, and filled with elaborate images of animals and wildlife. They referred to the framed pieces as examples of Scherenschnitte, founded in Switzerland and brought to the United States in the 1800’s. Below is an example by Pamela Dalton that reminds me of the ones I saw that day long ago in the Pennsylvania gift shop.
A few years later, after The Net Loft was started, I spotted some paper crafting booklets at a trade show. Some were similar to the Danish Designs like the ones my mother used to hang in the window, and others were simplified versions of the style of images I had spotted in the shop in Pennsylvania. I started carrying them in the shop, and learned how to create several pieces. I found paper cutting to be a calming craft amidst my growing family of small children, but as life got busy, although I still loved the craft, there was only so much time, and my cutting time fell by the wayside. I found an old one of the window hangings I had made, stained and faded, wedged between pages of an old cookbook, I am guessing to be from twenty five or so years ago, a simple, yet sweet design, in thoughts of my older son Matthew who loved climbing and spending time in the treetops.
A few years ago, when I began a pinterest page, I began seeing some wonderful paper cutting images, and it brought back my paper cutting memories. It was exciting to see how the designs had evolved and I was fascinated by the beauty and artistry, often multidimensional. I began following some of the artists on instagram and enjoyed watching the photographs of their work appear in my feed.
As I first began brainstorming for FisherFolk, one particular artist, Annie Howe, released a photo on her instagram feed with a fishing boat off in the corner and forested mountains in the distance, and it set me thinking.
I thought to myself that I wished I could have a papercut image with boats and fishing, but mixed up with yarn, plus I also loved the floral images she integrated, and some mushrooms and ferns, as well as fish that I liked, so I thought, why not mix in my favorite Cordova woodland and seaside surroundings into a composition that would reflect our region and our knitting.
As stated in my previous post, for every idea, there is a person. It is one thing to have an idea, but it takes a person to bring an idea to life. I began reading and viewing more of Annie's work, and the more I saw, the more I knew she was potentially the right person. The key would be if she took commissions AND if she would be interested in taking this one on AND if we could fit into her full schedule and have it done in time.
In January of 2015, I wrote to Annie, proposed my idea, and waited to hear back. Her answer was yes, and she gave me the information on commissions. Life got busy, and a year later I was ready to initiate the commission and she was willing to take on the project after she finished some other projects. We went back and forth with ideas and plans, including her rough sketches, and then, one day in March, I received an email with a photo of the image and I was so happy. She sent me a quick view of the cutting, unframed and laying on some planks of wood.
The image was beyond my expectations. It had combined all of the elements into one cohesive design. Lupine, blueberries, Queen Anne's Lace, knitting needles and yarn, ribbons, rope, ferns and forests, fish and fishing boats, and of course, our dear gansey.
My hope was to take the image and use on totes, and there was no time to lose, I quickly sent off the image to be screened on bags that would be ready in time to have for FisherFolk.
The image also made it in time to be made into a knitting needle gauge which was hung on the waxed canvas tote bags of the FIsherFolk attendees and we had more made up so they would also be available for purchasing in our online store, HERE, also a great gift and includes the smaller sizes and half sizes, perfect for the gansey knitter.
Printed copies would be used to generate funds to help finance the Moray Firth Project. I was able to use the negative and positive images to create two different versions. The light image version may be tinted for those interested in hand coloring before framing. These and the bags are available for purchase on our online store and make wonderful gifts as well.
My papercutting silhouette history had found a home with Annie Howe's Cordova, Alaska design. If you look closely there are many elements that reflect our local environment and lifestyle.
Annie also cut for us these sweet little pair of sheep, that Melina Meyer used for creating the hand cut stamp which we used to print on the linen bags filled with our Shawn the Sheep project, but that is another story for another day... and until then, thank you Annie Howe for your contribution and paper cutting skills that came to fruition in your Follow the Fish, Follow the Knitting piece. You were the person who brought this idea to life in a most wonderful way, and for that I am grateful. I would love to have Annie come to Alaska one day and teach some classes. We'll have to see about that....
I had this one last thought....
I think it is interesting that in papercuts there is this intentional process of elimination that eventually unveils the design, and the taking away of that which is not important reveals that which defines the essential,
and in doing so,
the loveliness appears.
A thought to ponder.
Until next time... Hope you are having a pleasant season of holiday crafting...my favorite part of this time of year. After reminicing, I may even be inspired to do just a bit of papercutting again. That would surely be fun, don't you think?
For more information on Annie Howe Papercuts, her website is: http://www.anniehowepapercuts.com/
Pamela Dalton - Scherenschnitte Designshttp://pameladaltonpapercutting.com/
Brother/Sister standing Silhouette by Merle Prince Silhouettes
Knitting for Salmon November 30 2016, 0 Comments
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.
Sometimes life leaves us speechless.. October 04 2016, 7 Comments
Sometimes life leaves us speechless. We are left with no words to describe all that is going on within and around us, while other times there are so many words that we don’t know where to start, or how to sift and sort the tangled collection of them so they may be communicated with some sense of order.
At times like this it seems that we have to remove ourselves from everything and wait. Wait for the emotions to settle, for the piles and busyness to be out of reach, and, in the quiet, wait for the words to come. Some things just take time, and we have to allow ourselves this time for the turbulent waters and sediment to calm down, so we can see things more clearly.
Accompanied by my mother and sister, after almost three years of not being altogether in one place at the same time, I view in the distance the Teton Mountains, a view I have not witnessed for over 40 years. Far away from The Net Loft and all of its busy life, I can somehow feel the words that have been hibernating begin to awaken. As I start to write, I listen to the gentle hum of the voices of my mom and my sister, a comfort felt deep down in my soul. This comfort calms and settles this chaotic mind of mine, which has had difficulty these last several months quieting down enough to even begin to think about the thought of returning to the blog, especially when I wasn’t sure where to pick up after I finished writing the “Long Story” about the Cordova Gansey Project origin.
As I continue to listen to the quiet voices and their long awaited up close and personal conversations, my eyes take in the expansive view. It is stark and dry, with craggy mountains in the distance. In the foreground, the wind sweeps across the valley of subtle shades of sage interspersed with gold and reddening grasses.
Fall is in the air, and the colors of the trees in the distance seem to be changing right before our eyes from green to brilliant yellow gold, as chokecherry bush leaves cry out with hints of rose and scarlet.
And so the message is not from me, but to me. The brilliance of the changing colors reveals a message and not so subtle reminder that time is marching on, and there is no holding it back. Time presses on. Our compliance is non-negotiable. Either we leap into life and observe and embrace each moment of it while we have the opportunity, or we will simply miss it. This moment will pass, the colors will fade, and the leaves inevitably will fall, with or without us. There are times such as this that we have to stop and let every part of ourselves experience and appreciate this moment, the views, the company, the sounds, the smells, regardless of everything else vying for our attention.
Along these same lines, if I had to describe anything about this time since last writing here, it has been something of this sort. There have been these opportunities that have continued to present themselves to me, and although I often feel incapable in so many ways, I have learned that I cannot let my inabilities keep me from doing what I am meant to do, and for that which I am actually capable of doing, even if it is a little difficult or challenging. It isn’t always simple, or easy, or without complications. I have also learned, however, that just because we face barriers, or stumble along, it doesn’t mean we are not supposed to be doing something. I think I have mentioned this before, but I keep going back to an old “Trigger Bill” camp motto, “You cannot let what you cannot do keep you from what you can”.
And so, it is with this attitude that I flung myself full force into FisherFolk, our event that was aimed towards honoring the heritage of the fishing and knitting connection. It was an idea and opportunity handed to me, and so I obediently followed its lead. As the year progressed, FisherFolk began to take shape. As I followed along caring for the details, the ideas grew and began to take on a life of their own, as each person involved embraced the concepts and ideas and injected their own inspirations triggered from within, prompted by the mission and goals of the Cordova Gansey Project and FisherFolk gathering.
After an intense season of planning and preparation, June 24 arrived, and our ten day FisherFolk event took place here in Cordova, bridging the gap between dream and reality, and creating an outward manifestation of past knitting and fiberart traditions entangled with our here and now actively engaged fishing community. With a bustle of activity, the arrival of old and new friends began, as we all joined together to celebrate the fishing and fiberart connections.
Event bags were packed, tables were set, classrooms were staged, baked goods prepared, and one by one details unfolded thanks to the many helping hands who brought life to the lists.
From my perspective, there seems to be an ongoing truth that I have witnessed throughout the years at The Net Loft, and I am sure it exists elsewhere as well. It is the life within people that bring things to life. Knitting patterns are just lifeless pieces of paper without the knitter’s hands that bring the instructions from concept to reality. Yarn is lovely, but it is that human touch behind the needle that create form and function. And so, in like manner, ideas and events such as this cannot or would not want to be performed singly, as it is in the group effort that community is found and experienced. Thank all of you who made this come together. You all know I could not have done it without you.
I suppose it is true wherever we are in the world as we come together to celebrate life via the fiber arts and handcrafts in general, that it is this commonality we share that create these special bonds of friendship. There is also this collective interaction that takes place with the dynamic of students and instructors multiplying ideas and instilling a special energy that is conducive to creativity and new ideas that happens when we are physically in the presence of one another.
Despite my busy role, there were so many moments of this event I will remember. I am grateful for the new Cordova Center for providing the space for our dinner, classes, and evening programs. I tried ever so hard to soak every bit in. As I ventured from class to class to check in on things, I remember sitting in with handspinning instructor, Elizabeth Johnston from the Shetland Islands, as I walked into the room with those old wooden planks in the Pioneer Building.
I loved hearing her soft Shetland accent to the hum of the spinning wheel whir, smelling the fragrance of raw fleece, and then, as I left, sneaking off with a fresh baked blueberry coffee cake with homemade icing taken from the table with the big bouquet of wildflowers, made by the class hospitality helper, Kristi. I was in heaven….
So many moments. It all came together (despite my many fears) and I reflect on it all, it was this lovely bow, tied from the golden ribbon of all my years….
In retrospect, because I had felt a prodding to explain the origins of the gansey project, I found myself writing and sharing these thoughts in what became “the Long Story” which is an important read to make sense of how things came about, as well as the heart and soul behind the project, and the event as well. All those blog chapters, one by one, each building on the last, and as the tale unfolded of its own accord, chapter by chapter, I realize now that something happened within me as I began to connect the dots of my own life in a way that I had not previously taken time to reflect upon, and in that, I was able to see that amidst this fractured life, there existed a golden ribbon that connected a lifetime of seemingly random events and encounters, and I gained a wide view perspective of meaning and purpose, especially in regard to my life as a “fisherknitter” and craftsperson. And so, as I have said, FisherFolk was the bow that tied the ends together, and wrapped up this lifetime of craft, fiber, and fishing into something concrete, while at the same time intangible, and I in the midst of it did my very best to absorb every drop of it, with thanks to all who helped bring it to life.
To be continued….
I would like to thank Karen Templer for her interview and posting on our gansey project and event on her excellent blog for Fringe Association, released today in conjunction with photos and post from one of my favorite yarn shops, Tolt Yarn & Wool's Anna Dianich, who attended our event with gracious project and event photographer friend Kathy Cadigan. Always so nice to meet these fiber friends along life's path whose friendships enrich our lives.
Papercut designed and created for us by Annie Howe Papercuts.
(Story to follow at future date.)