Get Up & Walk Away

I had the honor of going to a lecture given by Kaffe Fassett at The Nelson-Atkins Museum this past Friday evening. If you are unfamiliar with Kaffe’s work, it’s all about color. The most vibrant crazy and luxurious color. He treats knitting the way he does painting. He knows what he wants to create and he makes the yarn do just that. He does not think “within the medium” but lets it serve him.

Then on Saturday I took a workshop given by Brandon Mably. I sat in my chair and worked Kaffe’s Persian Poppies design for seven hours. Nearly 20 balls of yarn bouncing around at my feet. It’s an easy design, and you only work with two yarns at a given time, but you switch through colors rapidly. And that’s the point: the colors. Although Brandon absolutely insists that it’s not color theory… it essentially was. What he arrived at through intuition and trial-and-error was basically good color theory. And just like all the other color theory I’ve taken before, it’s exhausting. I remember walking outside to take non-smoking breaks as an undergrad just to look at something other than blocks of color… but you can’t escape color, it’s everywhere. And so we would all point at the beetle crossing the sidewalk and joke about whether or not the colors were vibrating pleasantly and then rub our eyes and shake our heads before trudging back to our paints and color wheels.

So, sitting in Brandon’s class, going cross-eyed trying to figure out what combinations I could possibly make out of my odd assortment of yarns, I realized something. Although I’ve had the training and I take care in my yarn color choices… I haven’t been pushing myself. I simply haven’t been putting any extra effort into pushing the colors in my knitted projects the way I would with inks for a print. Why?

Then “ah ha” moment number two came. Brandon told us all to tack our knitting to the wall and stand at least six feet away from it to look at it. I couldn’t believe it. I’ve been TRAINED to do this. My mentor drilled it into my head in my first life-drawing course ages ago. I’ve nagged my own students about it. How can you possibly know what you’re working on until you look at it from a respectable distance? I wouldn’t dream of making an image without tacking it up and standing back from it… very often turning it upside down as well. Why wasn’t I doing this with my knitting?! Obviously on some level I still hadn’t fully embraced it as a legitimate medium.

So now, inspired by Kaffe and Brandon, I am pushing those edges. I should and will treat my knitted works like any other of my projects. I will remember the tools and techniques I’ve been lucky enough to acquire over the years. 10,000 Hours is about pushing myself to become the best knitter I possibly can, this includes respecting my work and pushing it aesthetically as well as technically. Thank you, Brandon & Kaffe, I needed that.