Tag Archives: 10khours

Charting a Course

After a year and a half of openly seeking all the knitting instruction and techniques I could, I feel I’m ready to start heading into some focus areas. I have two knitting areas that really draw me and that I truly enjoy: lace and designing accessories.

I love lace. Everything about it. Reading the charts  (forwards and backwards), the phrasing of a pattern row, the very real potential that a few seconds of lapsed attention can lead to hours of undoing/redoing work, the way the bunched up wrinkly mess dangling from the needles becomes elegant gossamer fabric once finished and blocked (stretched). Lace is a lovely process and I’m, well, rather process oriented… hence the whole 10,000 Hours project.

Designing accessories is another process; one in which I have to solve structural as well as aesthetic problems. Creating wearables for hands, arms, necks, or heads gives me limitations and pushes me to find unique solutions within those confines. I can continue to incorporate various knitting techniques into the accessory design as well, still allowing me to feed my appetite for various styles, techniques, and methods.

I feel like this is definitely a milestone along the path… discovering which areas I’m ready to focus on. No longer completely adrift in the vast ocean of knitting skills.

As far as the 10,000 Hours project as a whole is going… I’m more and more enthralled with the neurological processes that go along with skill development. I’ve started seeking out articles on what happens in our bodies as we learn. Then, when I am actually experiencing those things, I have this, “Oh, so that’s what that feels like,” moment. My driving force: always asking “What’s going on here, what effect is this having, and what’s it like?” Exploring the fascinating and bizarre world of subjective experience through objective ends.

Here Be Dragons

Last week I went to a lecture given by the artist Clifford Owens. During the course of the evening he performed The Walker score from Anthology 2011, later he broke down in tears, and an audience member got naked. In some ways, I suppose, we should expect nothing less from an artist who does primarily performative-based works. And that’s what got me.

I am an open person. BUT I tend to only “share” when I feel it’s relevant. Consequently, even my closest friends will be shocked by parts of my history that only come up when they are experiencing a similar event/crisis. I don’t hide, but I don’t spew. Earlier that day, in fact, I had noticed when talking with some friends, I put up a wall. The conversation had taken a turn that felt vaguely, ever-so-vaguely, threatening and I noticed my wall go up. I got quiet and cold. I did not cry, I did not lash out, I was not outwardly demonstrative and only those closest to me ever notice this shift when it happens. (Full disclosure, this was NOT my demeanor as a teenager.) So… does this make me a bad artist? It seems we expect artists (especially those doing performance work) to bare all and to bleed; sometimes literally.

So I walked in the door after the lecture, lay down on the floor, and stared at the ceiling as I mulled all of this over with my (very art-patient) husband. He listened as I chewed over all of this; my worries that my performance work is more of the slow-simmer variety and therefore might make less of an impact, my concerns that people are expecting me to be an emotional disaster and will reject me when they find out that I’m actually pretty darned happy, and is it wrong of me to be angry at artists who play into the nervous-wreck stereotypes even when I like their work?

The answer to that last question was long and involved but here’s a synopsis. If I like the work, then I like the work. When I do like a work I will think a lot about it. It helps me see things or notice things that I didn’t necessarily notice before. For me, I like art best, when it is a conduit for a teaching moment. Blaming the artist for not having their shit together in other aspects of their life… that gets into my expectations, and that’s my short-coming, not theirs. So, yeah, it can be disappointing, but it’s pointless for me to be upset about it.

The slow-simmer variety of art versus the pressure cooker blood-bath type… We came to the conclusion that it’s just what works for me. When I commit to a project, I commit completely. I do, in fact, bare all within the context of the work. No holds barred. If and when that silent wall goes up I notice it and chip it back down because it has no place in my work once I’ve committed to a project. (In my personal life, however, sometimes I will leave it up. Boundaries are important.) The issues I explore are an underlying kind of violence, dealing with subtle levels of building up and tearing apart identity. Exploring the unknown places on the map, I chart my course and set sail; if and when I find sea monsters, I deal with them. Otherwise, I just try to keep mutiny at bay.

This very post, for example, took some time for me to write. I had a wall go up during the lecture, but because it deals directly with my concerns about 10,000 Hours as a performance project, these issues are now open for all to see. Anything and everything related to my #10kHrs journey is fair game. And this just seems to be me in my art and in my life; if I feel it’s relevant then I am completely open. And it’s always a struggle to click “publish.”

Happy Birthday to #10kHrs

Exactly one year ago today I launched my biggest project yet, 10,000 Hours (#10kHrs). It’s a massive performance piece with mixed media, video, and installation components as well. It’s both my albatross and my North star.

I must admit that the past two weeks I was feeling more burdened by #10kHrs than inspired. I was not enjoying my knitting time; I was feeling drained financially and emotionally by this beast. Every hour I marked down in the log book felt like three and, given that I’ve got five to eight more years of this, I was a bit down.

However, there’s something about a good anniversary that rejuvenates my spirits. So the past couple of days leading up to the one-year mark I’ve been happily scheming and planning new avenues for 10,000 Hours; visualizing some local “art interventions,” planning public outreach, and thinking of ways to turn all this fabric into art that I am genuinely excited about.

It is neither a good luck omen, nor a curse; it is merely my companion for the foreseeable future and I look forward to making something truly beautiful with it. Happy Birthday, #10kHrs!

10,000 Hours Call for Help

Entering this first quarter of 2012, I need help funding the instructional side of 10,000 Hours. Here’s a breakdown of what I have lined up:

$150 – Local immersive knitting weekend. Including 6 hours of instruction from a professional knitting teacher.

$35 – Local class on knitting gloves. New techniques for me will be creating a thumb gusset and learning how to knit the individual fingers.

$28 – Local class on seaming knitted items.

$90 – TKGA (The Knitting Guild Association) Master Hand Knitting Program Level 1. Correspondence research and instruction program.

Total = $303

If you can help, please visit the 10,000 Hours Sponsorship page and look over the sponsorship levels and their corresponding benefits. I have added the Sea Change print (pictured above) to the $100 sponsorship level. (For which you also receive a photo from the 10,000 Hours project and an invitation to The Amateur Hour party once I reach 5,000 hours.) Only 20 Sea Change prints are available. And of course sponsorship at any level is greatly appreciated.

I truly am at a point where these things won’t happen without sponsorship; so, I thank you in advance for any help you can give in sponsoring the instruction side (the absolutely essential part) of 10,000 Hours. And please spread the word! Thank you so much.

*About Sea Change: I made Sea Change to commemorate the first 500 hours (1/20th of the journey). I knitted a “Sea Foam” stitch lace swatch, attached it to a printing block, shellacked it for durability, and have run a limited edition print & watercolor on 100% rag linen paper. This print is currently available through  10,000 Hours Sponsorship at the $100 level. You can read more on Sea Change in my June 2011 blog entry.

A New Year of 10,000 Hours

Here it is, exactly 11 months since I started down this 10,000 Hours road and I’ve crossed the threshold into a new year. So, in the spirit of New Year’s traditions I thought I’d share some of my plans “resolutions” for the coming 12 months of this project.

  1. Clean Up the Books: A huge chunk of 10,000 Hours is data. I enter the hours weekly. I track the progress of individual knitted projects. I have a large spreadsheet with formulas and orderly columns. It’s all very official and number oriented. When a knitted project is finished, I title it with the number of hours it took. For example, my very first square took 8 hours to knit and is titled Hours: 0 – 8. Here’s the problem though. Let’s say I then work on a big sweater for a while like 30 hours, then I stop and work on a quick pair of mittens for 10 hours. I haven’t finished the sweater so it is not in the list of finished projects and is not titled. But the mittens are done. They are the project that were finished after Hours: 0 – 8, they took 10 hours to knit, the mittens then get titled Hours 9 – 18. In this example, however, I have 48 hours of knitting done and a sweater languishing on my desk. The project titles aren’t reflecting the progress of the over-arching project. Over the course of 2011 my knitting-hours to project-titles discrepancy grew. A lot. I did, in fact, have a sweater languishing on my desk as well as a really, really ugly hat that I couldn’t bring myself to finish, and various other small unfinished objects (UFO’s in knitter-speak). My knitting-hours to project-titles gap was around 200 hours at one point. So… I am tackling those UFO’s. I’m deciding to either finish them, rip them out, or give them new life under glass with sketching and commentary. Currently the hours/title gap is down to about 40 or so hours. There will probably always be a bit of a gap but it just feels much better to have the books neat and tidy.
  2. More Art: Okay. I’ve been at this 11 months now. Time to start producing more 10,000 Hours related works.
  3. Design: In 2011 I designed four knitting patterns. I LOVED doing it. Figuring out how to actually knit my ideas has pushed me to learn new techniques, solve various knitting problems, and clearly communicate knitting instructions. Designing seems to be a great way to keep pushing myself along the 10,000 Hours path.
  4. Take 10,000 Hours Out on the Town: It’s high time I get this project out and about and not just talk theory with the people I meet; actually bring my work out into the light of day. Yeah, that’s the scary part.

So, Happy 2012!!! Here’s to continuing down the uncomfortable (but glorious) path of growth, discovery, and art.

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.