Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Meet an Amazing Person: Laura (Ute, a reflective knitter)
Laura in her own words:
As a small and very shy child I realized I was worth nothing because my world was not shared by anybody. Until I learned how to knit.
A kind elderly woman answered the many questions a child would have and one day she offered to teach me how to knit. Every day if the weather allowed, she could be found seated in a wicker chair in the corner of the garden, with a fine tweed blanket warming her shoulders. I sat on her lap and she held my hands, patiently and slowly guiding them so I could follow the thread form into loops on one needle and trickle, one after another, onto the right-hand needle, sitting there like swallows line up on a telephone wire or dewdrop pearls adorning a blade of grass in the early morning.
She had me describe in my words what we did and listened carefully, now and then gently touching the knitted rows and counting the stitches with thumb and middle finger. She asked me about my favorite colors and I described them for her. A dark brown like a clod of soil after the plough had turned it upside down, glistening with silvery streaks in the sun. An intense yellow turning into a shining and luminous red like the inside and outside of a flame. A bright green like moist moss beneath a tree in the woods in spring. She understood it all. She escorted my knitting hands for an entire summer in 1945. And as she slowly released her hands from mine and the needles with an encouraging: “Now it is your turn for a wee bit my dear, I feel a bit tired” – come fall, I knew how to knit, even on a set of five needles.
She spoke to me about the language of knitting, how universal it was, I would need no words to relate my thoughts and show my emotions and I would not require elaborate communication skills. I would find related souls and they would be my friends. I would bring smiles to the onlooker and joy to the people to whom I would make a knitted gift.
I believed her with all the innocent belief only a child can muster, and I felt truly special.
Later in school my experience with knitting was crushing. Inwardly, I desperately clung to the predictions of the kind lady but kept mum about it in school and every place else. I frogged old garments and knitted and crocheted the yarn anew into sweaters, cardigans, hats and scarves and bags and nothings, which today would be called sample swatches.
Later in life, I joined many other techniques to my repertoire, even built a loom to do Sprang, a technique related to braiding/netting.
With the advent of Ravelry I had the incredible luck to find Jane Thornley the very day I joined. She was knitting her feelings and emotions, her colors and stitch combinations, she accepted irregularities and off-road wanderings, left threads dangling promisingly and added shimmering swallows to sit on a string.
I had chanced upon someone who spoke the language which I knew and in which I wanted to express myself. As a linguist I search for the true meaning of an expression, a word, a phrase… With knitting, the communication is instant, visual and in depth. A group of smiling and chattering elderly Chinese women gathered around me when I pulled out my knitting at the Bund in Shanghai. In Japan on a bench in the Imperial Palace Gardens in Tokyo, my knitting received many comments by passing school children and some of them even tried their hand themselves, adding a row or two with many laughs and giggles. In an open-air market in France the very young and the very old would gather around my Feather & Fan wrap and the comments embraced fond recollections from elderly women as well as curious basic questions from the children.
I like the Yin and Yang of knitting. The intricate lace patterns to provide support and an elaborate, sometimes challenging structure, and the total Freerange projects, to allow my mind go back to the quiescence of light-hearted knitting and the many colors I described so long ago to my kind teacher, who was blind.
For me, the ebb and flow of life is reflected in the art of knitting.
JANE: Laura, over the years you have been like a muse to me, posting me snippets of creative stimulation, sometimes the work of an artist, sometimes a poem. It's almost as if you see no margins between one medium and another, as if self-expression is one current of self-expression flowing back and forth. What is your view of art as it relates to knitting?
LAURA: Thankyou so much Jane! All I did though was picking up those jewels and forwarding them to you.
You are right, I don't see art forms isolated from each other, in my view they are all interconnected. Beauty and art lie in the eye of the beholder and each finds its followers from other venues of art.
Like drawing, the work with fabrics, wood and other materials has evolved to be considered pre-linguistic art. And while throughout the centuries the art of drawing found acceptance more readily, the somewhat condescending view of "les ouvrages de dames", needlework done by women, changed only gradually. Today it is conceived as a fully fledged artistic materialization and is recognized as textile art in all its diversity, based on the use of fibers and beyond. For me, knitting encompasses a continuously expanding and incredibly wide range within the overall concept of all art forms and provides one of the most expressive, appealing and liberated options.
JANE: Your blog, http://miracledesign.blogspot.com/, is a lovely , thoughtful, place to wander through, which I often do. THough many knitters blog, yours seems to be more in-depth and possibly reflective than many. Have you always loved to write?
LAURA: In school, I did well in two subjects: essays and drawing. The rest is silence. But I always loved inventing stories. The time into which I was born brought about that external distractions (such as radio, movies, TV) were almost non-existant for children and I did have a lively imagination: Just ask my brother how he suffered under my scary stories preferably told at nighttime. Probably, those unconscious childhood phantasies (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Object_relations_theory) readily turned into daydream fantasies, and those imagined unrealities prepared for me a very rich groundwork for writing stories. I love reflecting on things happening around me. One of the most rewarding gifts with which I was born is that I never was and never am bored, I always see a story.
JANE: How do you dress in your real life— flamboyant and expressive or more back-seat as the quiet observer?
LAURA: At first, your question had me baffled a bit because I never gave fashion much thought, as I grew up with boys. I suppose it now depends on my mood and the weather. For business - eons ago - I used to wear Armani-style outfits, sleek cuts, trousers and blazers with blouses in reduced, pale colors, unobtrusive but with a precious designer smell! Privately though I just wear what I like, be it fashion or not, and often in unusual strong colors, whichever appeal to me at that moment. Pants and skirts in solid colors, adding my knitted tops, wraps and kimonos as a multi-color focus setting the mood. I buy clothes very infrequently but always spontaneously, raiding reduced bins or second-hand stores in many different countries. Every item will find its unconventional perfect match!
JANE: How do you see travel as an important piece of your continuing life exploration?
LAURA: Oh, where to start! I have been traveling, inwardly and outwardly, all my life and never get tired of it. First my family moved to many different places when I was a child during turbulent times. As a young adult I was eager to see the world as it still seems to beckon to and tempt every young person at the brink to adulthood. Cultural differences and similarities fascinate me. I love listening to the sound of languages and see the 'talking gestures', learn about new customs, see new surroundings, visit architectural gems and wander through museums and art galleries. All of us are very lucky to be able to travel - and be it only from a village to the next. Travel helps us appreciate the people around us and it enriches our lives. Inward travels also hold the opportunity of spiritual growth and are just as enriching as traveling outwards.
LAURA: What was the starting point, the spark that set it all off, for your path along the freerange road - and was it a conscious decision early on or did you just realize all of a sudden that you found yourself dancing a knitterly tango on the "road to freedom" ?
Posted by Jane on
09/27 at 07:04 AM