If you know Elizabeth, you know she can knit in the dark. Her knitting is always with her; at movies or even meetings at work. Her shawls are well worn, well loved and have been repaired numerous times because the knitting is so fine. Here’s a little bit about Elizabeth from her own words…
A little bit of background…
- When did you first become interested in fiber art?
I’ve knit since I was a child but first became of the art aspect when I was in my 20’s and lived in Japan. There was a yarn shop in the nearest city to where I lived that carried European yarns, including both the traditional (true fingering-weight gansey, for example) and the new (metallic blends – this was the 80’s!). I lived in England when I was growing up so I had been exposed to good quality but basic wools. This shop in Japan got me thinking about different possibilities.
- What about the medium of fiber appeals to you?
The fact that it is both tactile and visual. I also love to garden, and I think that both gardening and working with fiber appeal to me because they combine color, texture and even aroma (I love the “new yarn” smell of vinegar that sometimes accompanies hand-dyed yarn). I don’t paint or draw, but both gardening and knitting feel like my form of artistic expression. When I lived in Japan, I also collected traditional pottery. A big part of the appeal of pottery to me has always been the tactile element. It’s also an art form that serves a functional purpose, much like knitting and other fiber crafts. I often think about the relationship between gardening and knitting, but really hadn’t thought about the connection with pottery until I started to think about these questions.
- What type(s) of fiber (medium) do you work with the most?
Knitting, including some knitting with wire and nontraditional materials.
- What theme or ideas are recurring in your work?
I like the geometry of complex cables, traveling stitches, and lace. And I like little needles.
- What are your creative challenges?
One of my goals for this year is to explore color. I think that I have a talent for dealing with color on a big scale. I can see the undertones of colors that appear in different light or when paired with other colors. I can visualize how the color in a ball of yarn or swatch will look when transformed into a garment or large piece of knitting. It’s harder for me to visualize how colors will blend in a smaller scale, such as in fair isle knitting. It’s almost like trying to imagine an Impressionist painting – how will the colors look when they are mixed together a few stitches at a time, and then observed at a distance? How and when can you add an unexpected color to add some “pop?” I have read some things on color theory, but that hasn’t taken me very far. I am taking a class on color theory that will be taught by the woman who creates Madelinetosh colors. The supply list for class includes colored pencils. I was happy to see that, since I have been thinking that I should spend some money on art supplies and start playing. I may also try needle felting as a way to play with different colors.
- How do you approach your work?
It isn’t work! I think about it off and on throughout the day. Instead of counting sheep, I usually fall asleep by mentally running through my stash. If things are stressful at work, I will take a break and go on Ravelry to sort my stash by color and just scroll through it.
- What tool could you not live without?
Signature circular needles in size 5 – not too big, not too small. You can make almost anything on a size 5. One of the things that I like about knitting is that you don’t need power tools. I have a great fear of power tools and a great talent for breaking them.
- What is your creative process?
I get ideas from books, magazines and online. And then I take my yarn for drives in the car — seriously! When I have something new, or if I am thinking about using something, I take it with me to work. I want to see it under different lighting conditions, particularly in winter when it’s so dark. Some of my yarn spends extended periods of time in my car while I mull over different ideas for using it.
- Does your location, physically or as an idea manifest itself in your work?
Probably more as an idea. I’m not from Minnesota and don’t find the landscape here very inspiring. I made something last summer that I call “Minnesota lake in October.” It was the first time that I ever made something that has a connection to this state.
- What are some of the pleasures you get in your work?
A sense of accomplishment, particularly in things that require technical skill and when I feel that my selection of color and fiber enhances the design. I like the satisfaction of doing something that is difficult, even if other people don’t realize that it is.
- What are some of the big ideas that influence your work?
There are certain people that I follow closely on Ravelry, primarily people who have a great sense of color and are wonderful photographers. There are 2 or 3 people who come immediately to mind that have an overall aesthetic that I like – a shawl in a strong color gracefully hanging from a branch leaning against a white wall, very spare and nothing at all like my real life! I also like the idea of continuity in crafts that are continued through many generations. I think that there is value in doing things the way that they’ve always been done. I also like the intimacy of things that are practical and worn on the body, rather than things that are purely decorative.
- How do you view the artists of today?
This is a hard question, since it implies that I also have an opinion of the artists of yesterday! I think that the level of skill that people have is amazing. I am really amazed by some of the exhibits at the Textile Center. My favorites are the annual exhibit from the needlework guild – beautiful pictures created through embroidery, needle-felting and all sorts of other techniques that I can’t even name. Those women are painters. There was also an exhibit recently of people who created textiles based upon a local landmark, and then made things out of those textiles. I think that the common elements are the combination of technique with an artist’s eye, and the inclusion of something unexpected.
- What is your work motto?
Don’t be afraid to rip it out and do it over!
- Where do you exhibit/sell your work?
I really don’t sell, although I have made things to donate for fund-raisers. If you know where there are people who are willing to pay a reasonable price given the cost of materials and my labor, let me know!