As many of you know, especially if you are familiar with my book “Betsy Beads: Confessions of a Left-brained Knitter,” the issue of creativity has been a lifelong interest of mine. Sharing what I’ve learned about it, with a focus on those left-brained folks among us (like me!), was well worth the two years plus process of writing the book and I could not be more proud of the impact that sharing my personal creative journey has had on so many of you. I am so grateful that you continue to share your own stories with me and they bring me so much joy. There is now a new book about creativity, with a somewhat different focus, that I can recommend to you wholeheartedly.
A year and a half ago, I was interviewed by Judith Zausner for her award winning blog entitled Creativity Matters. The blog consists primarily of interviews with varied artists, with a focus on how their creativity has been influenced by their aging and vice versa, how aging has influenced their creativity. She has now assembled 16 of these interviews along with 21 insightful essays and a lovely photo gallery of the interviewed artists’ work. I am honored that my interview was one of those she selected to include in the book.
With her keen eye, quick mind, facile way with words and years of experience studying and passion for her subject matter, Judith has created a book that has much to teach us, whatever our age may be. I hope that many of you will buy it and read what she has to say. Your creative lives will be all the richer for it.
You can find her book for purchase here.
I often talk about how unique materials inspire my work and this necklace is definitely a case in point. I found the ceramic beads that hang at the end of the knitted dangles at the Market at Stitches Midwest this past summer. I have to give a shout out to booth owner Jolanta Narejko of Elka Design (www.elka-designs.com) because she had some of the COOLEST beads, findings and fabulous finished jewelry pieces I’ve seen in quite some time. I fell in love with these two different patterns of black and white beads. I played with/swatched several different design ideas before settling on this one. I was told when I bought them that they are African beads, but later found out that they are specifically called “mud cloth” beads.
I had not planned on leaving the silk threads hanging. They are actually the tails of the individual bead knitted dangles. But they’ve grown on me. Definitely outside of my normal “box.”
So along with the African mud cloth beads, the thread used is from the USA (Kreinik Silk Serica), the small beads are Japanese (Size 8 Miyuki seed beads and Size 10 Miyuki Delica beads) and the three large beads are German (vintage resin with crystals set in the recessed equator of the beads – I’ve had them for years, just waiting for a fun place to use them.)
Four continents represented in one necklace! Pretty fab, no?
I’m often asked about where the inspiration for my creations comes from. My feeling is that inspiration is everywhere and often where least expected. I have to confess, however, that my inspiration often comes from unusual materials like those seen in the two new one-of-a-kind necklaces seen here. The top photo is Uni I, the bottom photo is Uni II. The “spikey,” multicolor pieces are actually the calcified spines of sea urchins! I loved them so much that I had to use them in two different pieces. A few friends have told me that they both have a sort of tribal feel. I guess that’s true, but what you can’t tell from the pictures is that they also make a lovely sound effect when they move around – a sort of tinkling, almost musical sound that I find very soothing. Unexpected and delightful.
There are a few more new pieces in the Necklace Gallery that I haven’t turned the Gallery Spotlight on here in the What’s New section, so as time permits, please click on over and take a peek. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts about this new work.
It is the season of giving and I’m hoping some of you may have something left over after your holiday shopping to help support Halos of Hope, a truly deserving organization that was founded by cancer survivor Pam Haschke, who is doing amazing work with an all volunteer staff. These are people we can all admire.
You can read more about Halos HERE, but the short story is that they collect hand knitted and crocheted chemo hats and caps to send to cancer patients around the country. Folks continue to be truly generous in making and donating hats but the organization still must bear the not insignificant expense of shipping out the hats to over 180 centers around the country. So fundraising is CRUCIAL! They’re always happy to receive cash donations but also sell lots of wonderful hat patterns on their website for folks to use to make these much needed, much loved creations.
Here’s where I come in. :-) Several years ago Vogue Knitting sponsored a contest to help promote breast cancer awareness, asking knitters to design scarves towards that end. I submitted my first original bead knitted design, a cashmere scarf covered in pink beaded logo ribbons and was thrilled to win the grand prize in the Mixed Media category. For years I made the pattern available as a free download on my website. I have now decided to put the pattern to more productive use and have donated it to Halos of Hope, where 100% of the proceeds will go to support their work.
If you want to read a bit more about the story behind the scarf, my good friend Benjamin Levisay, who sits on Halos Board, kindly wrote a blog entry about it. You can read it HERE. If you would like to purchase a pattern to make the scarf or any of Halos’ wonderful hat designs, you can look at and buy them HERE.
I hope that some of you will consider supporting Halos of Hope in whatever way you can. Knitting a single hat makes a difference. Buying a pattern makes a difference. A donation of any amount makes a difference. Bottom line? We can all make a difference.
Thank you and happy holidays to all! <3
I was recently interviewed by a woman named Judith Zausner who writes a blog about creativity, explored within the context of aging. The subtitle of the blog is “Topics that address creativity in the landscape of our lives today and as we age.” This is a bit of a mouthful but an accurate reflection of her POV (as they say on every reality competition show – Point Of View) and I am enjoying reading what she is bringing to her audience. It also has me thinking about my own POV with regard to aging and how in truth I have never felt limited by my age in whatever I have chosen to pursue. Except maybe just a little when I shop for clothing… Thankfully, I have a VERY honest daughter who keeps me from embarrassing myself. But I digress. I have to say that most likely I owe my ability to not feel limited by age issues to familial role models. My maternal grandparents were married for 75 years. That’s not a typo. Married for 75 years! My grandmother was still painting and swimming at the YMCA well into her 90’s and my grandfather decided that 92 was a great age to start learning to speak Russian. My amazing mother is now 87 and still searching out additional places to volunteer, taking an 8-week mindfulness meditation workshop and is the star of her Silver Sneakers fitness class. So I guess that compared to them, at age 63 I’m a spring chicken and just getting started. Good to know, don’t you think?
Start reading the Creativity Matters blog by clicking here: Creativity Matters
These “Before” and “After” photos show one way that the gorgeous materials pictured here – some of my favorites: Just Our Yarn Almaza tencel, Kreinik Silk Serica, beautifully variegated, small, round jasper beads and larger, shiny brown, oval shell pearls, along with some teeny tiny needles (Size 0000 DPN’s!) and 26 gauge copper wire – could be worked together to create a new necklace. It’s named for my friend, fellow teacher and inspirational designer Myra Wood.
But the wonderful materials are not the only “Before” and “After” story here.
By the time I begin work on a new piece, I’ve usually engaged in several rounds of play with my chosen materials and have at least some idea of what I think the finished piece might look like. It started out the same way this time. But then, and I don’t know why, I found myself knitting most of the colorful wrappers for the variously sized beads without even graphing the patterns. Let me repeat…WITHOUT graphing the patterns! SO not like me. But SO much fun! Maybe Myra’s right-brained, organic way of working has inspired me? But then a snag. After several attempts, my original idea for what I was going to do with the completed beads didn’t pan out and I began to feel as though I might have hit a brick wall. Then I saw a random picture of a very simple necklace in a magazine and whammo! Although very different from my finished design for this piece, something about its construction got me un-stuck and started me working with the same components but in a new direction. It required making lots more beads (the small, plain knit beads that form the “chain” of the necklace) but that’s fun for me. And before I knew it, I found the joy of the piece that I thought I had lost.
So many lessons brought home in the making of “Myra.” Staying open is what it’s about. I love what I do.
When my students express concern that some of the projects in my book feel intimidating, I respond by telling them that the knitting techniques I use are almost always those with which they are already familiar, requiring just two sticks and a string. It is often in what I DO with the finished pieces of knitting where the magic lives. I like to call it KNITTING MADE CLEVER. There’s an expression that says “No one wants to see the sausage made,” implying that the process is often less attractive than the finished product. But in the case of this bib-style necklace, “Meander II,” I thought it might be fun to show my fellow knitters the “innards” of this “sausage” before it became a finished necklace. The jumble of knitting you see in the “Before” photo is a VERY long, multi-color, knitted tubular strap with beads knitted in on both edges. This strap is then stitched together in a meandering switchback, like a road down a very steep mountain, with some wonderful turquoise beads stitched into some of the spaces. So you see? It’s all in the manipulation of the fabric: Knitting Made Clever! I’d love to hear what you think of it.
What a wonderful surprise when Marcia Young, the Editor-In-Chief of the magazine Fiber Art Now called me this summer to tell me she was interested in featuring my work in her magazine. Those of you who know me are aware of my life-long struggles with the meaning and significance of “A” words like art and artistic, etc. So to have been asked to write an article about my creative process and submit pictures of my work for publication in a magazine with “ART” in the title feels like quite something. I think the “something” is proud. Life is full of surprises, isn’t it?
As a self-described “pathologically organized” left-brained person, I often joke about how much I would love to be able to come up with the occasional funky, less controlled design. Over on Craftsy.com, where I teach a class entitled Brilliant Knit Beads, I challenge students to try something new. So I decided that it was time to take my own advice. With lots of inspiration from the wonderful work my students are doing, I’ve taken a step in that direction with this new one-of-a-kind necklace called Andromeda. You can call this necklace a lot of things, but “controlled” would not likely top the list. It was so much fun to make, is SO much fun to wear and makes me laugh. I’m going to post this picture over on Craftsy as well. Let me know what you think! :-)
Wow, did my life change when I signed on to write Betsy Beads! And it has changed even more since the book was released in March. Rare are those leisurely days in my studio when I have lots of time and creative “head space” to play with my fabulous stash of beads, yarn and findings. More often I spend much of my time responding to email from friendly knitters, from kind folks inquiring about my traveling to teach or I’m actually preparing to teach somewhere around the country. Please know that I am NOT complaining. I know just how fortunate I am. But I also have a huge backlog of enticing ideas for pieces that are just aching to be realized. I often describe my knitter’s brain as feeling like an airport runway, with lines of planes (ideas) waiting to take off. So I am happy to report that one of those “planes” has achieved lift off. I had to work on it in fits and starts, grabbing bits of time where I could. I find the design interestingly reflective of how I am able to work these days. It is comprised of little fits and starts – individual, knit-wrapped beads embellished with wandering metallic thread. These, in turn, are connected by a meandering, tightly bead-knit pathway. If you’d like to zoom in on the details of this piece, you can also view it in the One-of-a-Kind Necklace Gallery. As always, happy to hear your impressions.