Sunday, August 22, 2010

Ruth Marshall

Ruth Marshall and I first connected on Facebook. I was just totally astounded by her amazing knitting.

This piece, "Lacey Rocky", is sweet, charming and old-fashioned, with a kind of folk-art feel to it.
The other knitted pieces are, well, knitted reptile and animal skins.

Beautifully knit.

This is a full knitted pelt. Ruth Marshall's website has many of these pelts.

Why does Ruth knit skins?

Here's her story:

"I was born and raised in Melbourne, Australia. In my twenties I traveled overseas for two years, living in Amsterdam, Holland, visiting Thailand, Myanmar, most of Europe and fulfilled a lifelong desire to see the ancient art of Egypt. I returned home to Australia and studied for my BA in sculpture and printmaking at Phillip Institute of Technology.

In 1993 I was awarded the Anne & Gordon Samstag International Visual Arts Scholarship, a generous sponsor in promoting overseas education of Australian visual art students. I began my Masters degree in sculpture at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. Upon graduation I obtained employment at the Wildlife Conservation Society, more commonly known as the Bronx Zoo. I was employed at the Bronx Zoo as an exhibit sculptor and fabricator for fourteen years, where my primary goal was to replicate artificial natural environments, offering enriched and educational arenas for animals and humans alike. Presently I teach drawing at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

I started knitting animal skins while I was working at the Bronx Zoo. I learnt so much about the animals there and immediately started incorporating them into my artwork. My workplace backed up to the snow leopard enclosures and I was really captivated by the beauty of these animals and struggled with ideas about how to represent them.
My mother and aunt taught me how to knit as a young girl and I was an obsessive and quite accomplished knitter up until I became a teenager. Segue to the present - I hadn't knitted much for years just baby clothes for new additions to the family, but on a trip to Australia a number of years ago I was bored and looking for something to do and I began knitting socks for my whole family, (complicated Estonian socks from Nancy Bush's books).
I took to knitting these socks at work and my boss was particularly fascinated by them. One day he gave me a job to repair a cast plastic Gabon viper and joked about the pattern of the snakes skin saying, "You should knit that!", it was one of those light bulb moments that just exploded, so I did knit that snake and that's really how it started. I looked around me at the animal collection and realized that there was a whole array of animals that could be interpreted into knitted textiles. In particular species of the cat family have at various times struggled to survive because the beauty and texture of their coats have long been coveted and this problem continues to plague species today alongside other issues of conservation. So I am very interested in the idea of replacing the real pelt with a knitted one. With a knitted pelt I can showcase the beauty, size and the violence that visits these animals when they are slain by stretching the knitted pelt on a frame of sticks - (this idea comes from a photo I saw in a book where a jaguar was killed and stretched out on some sticks lashed together to dry out the skin, this jaguar had been studied in the wild with a radio collar on. When the signal went dead the scientist quickly found out what had happened to his study animal when he went back to the village where he was staying.) So I am very interested in the idea of replacing the real pelt with a knitted one and having a dialogue about conservation in my artwork.

Ruth is about to begin a three month residency at the Museum of Art and Design in New York City where she will begin a series of knitted tiger pelts. Wish I could trot right over and have a look.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Village Books, Washington, Maine

My friend Karen Jelenfy, as many of you know, not only accompanies me on Knitting Out Loud trips (thereby making them even more fun) but has a business of her own right here in Maine. Karen has a delightful used book shop called Village Books. And she specializes in, you guessed it, fiber-related books (see her knitting shelf above!) as well as just plain fiber (see the fiber table below! hand-spun yarn and roving!).
If you are looking for a particular book (on any subject) Karen will do a search for you. Below is pictured a shelf of books on Maine.
And she has books on tea. And tea pots.
And a great selection of books on other subjects. I especially loved The Historian, pictured in the stack below. It's a kind of vampire mystery, beautifully written, which moves between the centuries (but nothing like that other vampire writer). Karen also carries wonderful and incredibly useful hand-forged hooks made by her blacksmith husband Jeff.
Hooks above! Roving below!
Lastly, Karen and Jeff keep two cashmere goats, Winnie and Lucy.
Here's what Karen says about Maine, fiber and bookstores:

In 2004 we finally got sick of traveling the Washington, D.C. Beltway. Jeff found a job in Maine so we jumped. I had no idea what I was going to do up here except paint & write & become human again.
I took a job teaching art at a wonderful preschool in Camden during the school year, but had no work in the summers. A lovely, bright space became available in my village and I asked myself "What needs to be there?" And we all know every town should have a bookstore. The day I opened I (laughably) had 50 books. Now I have somewhere between 2-3000.

My fiber life started in 1979 when I taught myself to weave on a frame loom. I knew I wanted to make stuff with color, but couldn't find a direction. But I LOVED BUYING YARN! Eventually I gave up on weaving (hated warping) and went to graduate school to study painting & sculpture. When my daughter Roxanne was 11, she taught me to knit. Despite many holes & other
oddities, I kept knitting through my mother's final illness and buying our house here in Maine. I was definitely hooked on the therapeutic value of knitting. The rest of it (goats, knitting seriously, learning to spin, buying fleeces,knit bombing etc) is entirely the fault of my friend Kathy and Knitting Out Loud. It's a "gateway" company!

Goats. They are what happens to you when you go to fiber festivals. Well, and possibly spinning.
Happy end of summer to everyone,
- Kathy

Sunday, August 8, 2010

New England Fiber Arts Retreat at Medomak Camp, Maine

They are spinning with a drop spindle at the New England Fiber Arts Retreat, Medomak Camp, Washington, Maine. Karen (Village Books) and I visited last Monday.
The fellow whose family weaving business in South America makes these was there as a teacher.

Look at the knitting samples...
The hats and mittens above, and the gorgeous sweater below are from Hope Spinnery.
Hope Spinnery's delightful owner Bill Huntington was teaching at the retreat.
More samples from other knitting teachers and students above.
Weaving class.
The stone fireplace in the lodge.
Students' dying projects.
And we were there with our audiobooks.
I can't imagine a nicer vacation than spending a week knitting, weaving, spinning and dyeing in the Maine woods!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Bread Fair 2010

As Cooking Out Loud (with South Wind Through the Kitchen) I was a vendor at the Bread Fair (part of the Kneading Conference) in Skowhegan, Maine on Saturday. There were also lots of knitters there, the knitting/kneading connection? The above photo I have used before in this blog, and it is of bread baked by our friend Bob Fickett. Bob and his wife Vicki drove two hours to be at the Bread Fair, and it was great to see them. I met people who had traveled from all over the country to attend this Kneading Conference.
My camera ran out of juice, so I only have two photos. Scythe Supply was there. We already have a scythe, but it needs a snath. So I spoke with owner Carol Bryan about snaths. Her scythe blades are imported from Austria.
There were several companies with outdoor/indoor wood-fired ovens. Le Panyol makes a modular oven, which you can buy from Maine Wood Heat. They have a beautiful website.

There were vendors selling wheat you can plant, harvest (with a scythe, or not), mill and bake. A woman who came by said she was not ready to grow and mill her own wheat yet. We're not either. But I love the idea of it.

Janice Jones was there with beautiful hand-woven towels.

Sharon Lovejoy, author of Toad Cottages and Shooting Stars, came by. She has just moved to an island in Maine. Her book is filled with wonderful outdoor projects and ideas for children.
What fun!