When I was a Painter


Before I was a fiber artist or an illustrator I was a painter, so I suppose I have always been a painter in my own way.

It was my drawing teacher my freshman year of college who first suggested I might be interested in fiber, and I made the jump in switching my major with hardly a second thought. That hasn't stopped me from seeing most things I make as paintings, namely the things that I weave. 
I'm comparatively new to knitting, having been working studiously as a knitter for a mere two years, and knitting, more than any other skill I have, has always presented itself to me in purely practical terms. One knits to clothe oneself. A skein of yarn becomes a hat.

But I cannot deny that the above piece is really a painting masquerading as a knitting swatch. My husband, encountering this small study blocking in my studio immediately remarked, "Oh, that's just like a painting." And a switch went off in my brain. For the entirety of the knitting processes, I had known that this piece was different, that it was meant to live a different life, I just didn't know how, or even what that could fully mean. If a weaving, which is just a piece of cloth that can unravel as easily as any piece of knitting, can hang proudly on the wall as Art with a Capital A, then why not this craft?

So what I've found in my practice over the years is that sometimes you make the art, you drive it, mold it, shape it, breathe it into being. You have directions and a map and you make it so. Conceive, plan, execute.

But sometimes you find that the art shows you what it wants to be. Sometimes your art bosses you around and you have to take the time to hear it out. A lot of the time, these things that are new to us seem so obvious once they reveal themselves, and that's okay. This knitting really being a painting is a simple solution to a belabored question about what my art does and what my art means. Change the title, change the context. But I don't have to do anything differently to make it into a painting. It's already true. What I have to do, what I have to remember, is to not force it into something that isn't true. It's knitting, but it isn't practical knitting. It's a block, but it isn't a pillow. Such a novel idea for this maker!

And what this maybe means for me is a whole new way of working. That's twice over in the span of a week that log cabin knitting has changed my life. Karen Templar, what have you done to me?!