January’s often a fallow time for me, this year doubly so as the workshop has been flooded, so that the water has been off more than on. Maybe like a flood plain, the fallow time (the enriching silt, the lack of frost-damage) will help me be more creative later in the year. The image, by the way, is Port Meadow, near Oxford. There’s always pressure to build on it, make it more productive, something I feel too as a maker. Why don’t I just use moulds or whatever, be more like a factory, naximise output, reduce prices?
Luckily gurus like Natalie Goldberg remind us that ‘lolling about’ – more fashionably, or optimistically, called ‘mindful reflection’ – is key to the creative process – something I wrote about in this earlier post: the importance of cork lining. For me, knitting is a way to mindful reflection. I find the colour and feeling of the wool wonderfully soothing.
So, when in my search for Universal Stopcock Keys (to turn off the water at source) in the hardware shops of South London, I passed Sharp Works, a wonderful knitting/sewing shop in Herne Hill, I went in, ‘just to look’. It’s one of the pleasures of being self employed – shops are open when you pass them! And in the shop, I saw the perfect greeny-yellow colour in Pure Yak: something that’s been a mild obsession of mine since I read “The Last Grain Race”, by Eric Newby. About to sail to Australia in 1939, he tries to buy a caribou skin sleeping bag, settling for a camel hair one as second-best. In my mind, this has become a Yak bag – a conflation of the hairiness of caribou and the clour of camel, perhaps? But an object of rare warmth, in any case.
I usually knit with wool: not pure or new, often unravelled and re-dyed. Upcycled. This fair Isle hat is about 60% made from an unravelled jumper – an 80s scene of ducks on a pond. Better as Fair Isle I think.
I’ve also had success over-dyeing wool that was maybe a bit too bright, as in this purple neckwarmer. Dark wool colours, like glazes, are hard to photograph well – it’s much richer, softer, more interesting in the flesh.
Do you mind having wool-talk instead of ceramics-talk? Or as well as? The thinking in the ceramics establishment – which I reflect in my website – is that focus, consistency, sigle-mindedness is a sign of true commitment and artistry. Luckily that establisment never reads blogs, so I though I’d check – what do you all prefer?