My trip to Stitches Midwest was me taking 10,000 Hours out for a walk. Not only was it a way to totally immerse myself in knitting education and culture, it was also the project’s first public appearance outside of a gallery context. This added to the intensity for me. 10,000 Hours is, after all, a conceptual work and let’s face it, even within traditional art-viewing settings, conceptual art can go over like a lead balloon. So how did it do away from the cozy confines of the white box?
XRX (the company behind the Stitches conventions) made a nicely tech-forward move and hired a Social Media rep, Kimberly Reynolds (aka SomeBunnysLove). Prior to the convention she had posted that she would be hosting Google+ hangouts throughout the week and would anyone like to join her? Since I have incorporated social media into 10,000 Hours (aka #10kHrs) and am very interested in the way knitters in particular use these platforms, I contacted her. She was extremely supportive. When I met her in Schaumberg, overwhelmed as she was by the 1000+ knitters descending upon her, she took the time to talk with me about the project. She also took a hefty stack of postcards and spread the word. So much so, in fact, that by the time I left on Sunday, most people I spoke with were going, “Oh! I heard about this! That’s you?” (Suddenly, I was wishing I’d packed nicer clothes.)
The most common initial reaction to 10,000 Hours is a certain facial expression which I’ve learned to recognize: the one you make while mentally trying to calculate whether or not you’ve actually put 10,000 hours into any particular activity. It’s fun to see this expression over and over again. I’m sure that I made it when I first heard about the research. I know that I will see it countless times again. It’s the “Hi, how are you?” standard greeting for this project.
The reception wasn’t always that warm and fuzzy. Some people I talked to didn’t necessarily dislike the idea, but they also didn’t have that instant spark of curiosity, so we’d gently shift the conversation to knitting in general. To date, I’ve only encountered one outright negative reaction: Kimberly had pulled over a rather prominent figure at the convention, she started explaining the project and handed them a postcard. This person never once looked at me, said nothing, rolled their eyes, and walked away as they tossed the postcard down. Ouch. While I recognize this won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, what exactly prompted the eye roll? My only consolation is that since they never once looked at me, they won’t recognize me if/when we cross paths again in the future.
On the other end of that spectrum, however, was an extremely touching moment. After every class that I had, I made a point of explaining the project to the teacher because, essentially, as one of my teachers, they have now become a part of the project. Merike Saarniit, who taught the Introduction to Estonian Patent Stitches (by far the most difficult & consequently gratifying class I took that weekend), actually got chills when I told her that she was now a part of the 10,000 Hours project lineage. I really wasn’t expecting that! It’s always nice when someone is moved by your work… but moved to the point of chills is truly special and being outside of a gallery setting bolstered my confidence in this project.
No, not everyone will be interested in (and I suppose some may even be in some way offended by) my work. But I’ve encountered an overwhelming amount of interest, support, and encouragement for 10,000 Hours. The conversations it produces, the walks down memory lane, the stories, the tips, the tricks, the sense of community… I am immensely proud of this lead balloon.
I want to extend special thank you’s to:
Kimberly Reynolds – Social Media Rep for Stitches
Elaine Rowley – of XRX
And all of my teachers at Stitches:
I’m sure I will have more to say on my Stitches Midwest experience, but for now, I must focus on my approach to the 1000th hour (1/10th!!!)