Saturday, June 28


I've been thinking a lot about creativity and art/craft recently. I have been mulling it over, trying to figure it out so I could write something really insightful on this blog.

Unfortunately, the creative impulse is a very complicated topic, and I haven't figured it out yet. Here's a nugget of what I've been contemplating though:

I have been designing recently. I have a set that loads into the theater on Monday, and the show that Christopher and I are producing starts rehearsal on Tuesday. Once these are under control, I will start work on another set design, for a show that opens on Cape Cod in October.

Designing sets -and visual art in general- is so different from knitting. Of course, I haven't really designed anything I've knit (I don't think choosing yarn counts). My experience with knitting usually entails:

-picking a pattern
-picking the yarn
-doing a swatch (if I'm feeling at all patient)
-measuring myself or whoever is getting the knitted thing
-following the pattern and making the object.

There's not much improvisation with knitting. It takes some planning and math and research before you can just try something out, though I do know that designers make sketches. (The Yarn Harlot has been designing a baby sweater recently, if you'd like an example of what goes into designing a knitted garment and what I'm talking about.)

Designing a set is different for me. I'm not sure if it's because it's a different medium or just because I'm more experienced at it. Each time I design a set, the process changes, and I find the process very exciting. For the set that I'm loading in on Monday, I did a bunch of research on schools and then built a rough model that incorporated some of those school elements (chairs, risers, a blackboard and a curtain). There is no one way to make a scale curtain, so I had to figure it out (crinkled tracing paper works well in my experience). This then became a starting point for the director and I to talk and hone what we wanted the set to look like.

What I love about this process is that I may have an idea of what I want as an end result, but I never know exactly how I'm going to achieve it until I'm in the middle of making it, and I may encounter something unexpected and end up incorporating it.

It's a very intuitive process. When I design, my mind stops using words and I grab whatever materials I have that will aid me. It's completely thrilling and is usually also terrifying, as I let myself go to my subconscious. For this reason I actually feel like I can only do it in small spurts, 20 or 30 minutes at time, and then I need a break.

I love knitting, but it seems so slow and safe compared to my experiences in my design studio. So, my question is: can knitting be this exciting? How? Or does it just need to do its own thing, fill the time in front of the TV or on the subway? Is it a pleasureful means to an end (a beautiful garment)? (I know some of you are knitting-artists, so I especially look forward to hearing your opinions on this!)


meg said...

Hmmm, you've posed a good question. When I make a painting, I operate in a couple of stages- the first is what you describe you're designing like, a lot of spurts of energy, and it's draining. When I actually make the painting, it becomes a very fluid, intuitive thing.

For me, knitting is about Craft, and painting is Art. Knitting fills a different creative role, too. When I'm done with a project, if it looks good and fits, then it's been a success. With a painting.... well, you never know.

knithound brooklyn said...

I am not an artist. I have always admired the talent of creative types. They take risks and put themselves "out there".

I think what you are talking about has to do with process. The creative process to be specific. You mentioned you typically knit from a pre-established pattern.

You may feel that same level of terror and excitement if you were to design your own knitted object. If you were to design your own object, you might get that special feeling. You would get it both in the planning stage and then in the knitting stage because you would be working with the unknown. And the first time you design would be more terrifying than the 10th time. Right?

But anyway, the point is, it's the invention part that's wide open, filled with risk and the unknown.

The execution part (to someone else's pre-established pattern) could feel safe and comforting because you are following instructions. When knitting a pre-written pattern you somehow relinquished a tiny piece of your own decision making and trust someone to guide you through. And that can be comforting because it alleviates responsibility, frees you up to think about other things, etc.

Writing your own pattern has risk, it has the unknown and you are responsible for it's success.

You know what I mean?

Anonymous said...

I think these comments are terrific. It's really so satisfying sometimes to create a beautiful object that is quite clearly preconceived; the crafting of it gives such joy. And it's neat to have beautiful socks!
In making a piece of art(visual, written, music, whatever - even in gardening) if you are taking leaps of faith, taking chances and entering unknown territory to establish a kind of order or give form to a feeling, then the thrill of the risk is there. So many times for me (I'm a painter who loves to knit too) I've begun a painting that takes its form as I work. Trusting myself to watch what it is becoming and follow its lead as it evolves, is a surprising and sort of scarey thing; and continues to be unnerving - and thrilling when it goes well.