Why bother

Liesl was bred to Chester in the fall of 2008 and her ewe lamb, Zoe, was born in March of 2009. Although we usually keep yearlings back from breeding Zoe had other ideas and was bred by Reuben in October of 2009 and lambed twins in April of 2010. Her lamb fleece was harvested and she was culled from the flock in July of 2010. The farm kept us busy during the summer of 2010 so Zoe’s fleece was sent to the Gurdy Run Woolen Mill to be washed and prepared for spinning. The processed fleece was returned in early 2011 and sat in Joanna’s studio until April of 2012 when she began spinning it to produce yarn for a sweater. She spun, off-and-on, until just this past weekend when she announced that sixteen skeins of three-ply, worsted weight, yarn were about to be washed. These skeins were hung to dry on Sunday morning and Joanna has been working on the sweater since the evening which followed. Four years passed between breeding dam and sire and the start of the knitting project which would result in a wearable garment. Why does Joanna do this? Certainly it would be easier to drive to the local purveyor of fine yarns and purchase some. It would be even easier to order yarn online. Although I have told the following story before I think it appropriate to retell it here. Once, when visiting friends, Joanna happened to be working on a knitting project that she had brought along. When the visit was nearly complete one of our hosts asked, “Joanna, what have you been doing all this time?” “I’m knitting a sweater,” she replied. Our host took out his wallet, handed Joanna a twenty-dollar bill, and said “Here …  go and buy yourself a sweater.” To this day, she has neither forgotten the event nor forgiven the comment. Joanna has been knitting for more than 30 years, she has been a spinner for most of that time, and she raises wool in support of her art … yes, art. There is great satisfaction in crafting your own clothes from materials that you have raised and processed. Wearing a sweater, hat, or perhaps a pair of socks that once grazed your back pasture is quite something. Doing this has been Joanna’s passion, it has been our shared passion, for nearly a quarter century. It’s what we do.

12 thoughts on “Why bother

  1. This post was suggested reading to your post today on knitting for dolls. 🙂 I think this is exactly the place I am at in my struggles with my blog right now. Online writing became freelance work that became ad writing … and with it there came the slide from self-directed creativity to employment … and yet another thing making demands on me with no space to really think for my own self. It endangered the pleasure that once came from writing. It has been good to turn all of it off for a while and reconnect to the process of doing for one’s self. Writing was always an outlet for me but the pressure to study English at university was very strong … then the pressure to ‘make use’ of the degree took over. But it isn’t working for me. I am thinking more and more of leaving the field for a different professional focus, something that I can relinquish my creativity without feeling drained by the lack of autonomy. I’d like writing to remain that personal outlet for me that photography and knitting can be for the two of you. I think I will return to posting again once my mind has detoxed from all of the ‘git r done’ influences, as you say. I very much enjoyed both posts … and thanks to J. for her smart example! Articulating this has been helpful. Thanks, D. for the posts. M.

    • Wow! You migrated back more than two years to find that post. I looked at the title and couldn’t remember it myself. Clicking the link reminded me instantly of it. Your observations are valuable. I wonder whether ‘working artists’ enjoy their work as much as they did before they made the decision to jettison the day job? I wonder also whether art done as product is quite as rewarding as art done for its own sake? I cannot say. If one is lucky enough to find a niche market for that which they enjoy producing … great. But, if one is forced to create in ways which don’t suit … well that, I suppose isn’t so great. I hope you never found posting here at WP anything but enjoyable. Your comment about having to detox suggests otherwise? Or, perhaps you refer to writing in a more general sense? Anyway, thanks very much for understanding and for saying so. D

      • I have heard artists talk about the difficulty that can come with commissioned work. Sometimes inspiration can be difficult to find … or it can increase with collaboration. I suspect a lot of how we work depends on who we work with. Or, the audience who finds us.

        Since university, almost all my writing has been aimed to a grade 8 reading level (where most of the population rests in reading comprehension). On the blog, I sometimes let loose and write beyond this, knowing that you or Elke or Maurice will have something really smart and engaging to say, and I love that. But blogging is a challenge when people I know in real life encounter my posts. Some people like it, but others do not.

        In trying to read reactions, I suspect those who dislike the blog feel destabilized; a realization that we don’t know other people very well, or as fully as we think. Often times they simply don’t understand what I’ve written … it’s just the way it is. But their reactions can be a bit draining, and right now — with them, family and the competitive nastiness that arises within local writing groups – I feel myself saturated in the conflicts between community expectation and a drive to be authentically myself. Some of those external pressures get under the skin and take time to work back out. Right now, I don’t have extra time or energy for dealing with other people’s demands on my writing.

        Last week I submitted a story to a literary journal. I don’t have an expectation for publication, but it felt good to reach toward an audience that is more consistently like those (like you) who publicly comment on WP. Also, to write on a topic that feels very important and very under-discussed makes me feel a little vulnerable, with a need to insulate as I proceed. Submitting – in itself – was tremendously satisfying: one step closer to something I feel driven to do right now.

        • Good for you for making that submission to the literary journal. The art show I entered last year provided me the same sort of outlet to ‘reach toward an audience.’ If one distills much of what we are discussing, it has something to do about our hesitancy to freely enjoy out art. Our reticence has different sources, yours seems to be much deeper, rooted in a history that you have recounted in bits and pieces. Mine might come from something you touched upon above. Perhaps, as you have suggested for your own work, it has something to do with destabilizing my audience or producing material that folks won’t understand. I’m not sure why I need folks to appreciate my work … as long as I do (appreciate it, that is). And, mostly that’s the very way I’ve been operating. I like my stuff … and I suppose that’s enough.

          • I like your stuff, too. 🙂 My daughters push me to keep working through this process. I’ve noticed that each time I break through a constraint it impacts them as well, and in a positive way. I think this impact we have, on the ones we love most, can be the most important reasons to continue with our creative pursuits. If we do it, it permits our children to seek similar outlets as well. You are right in that I have some history to overthrow. My mother’s mental illness introduced a lot of confusion and damage into our family; all compounded by her refusal for treatment. Despite all of it, I’m not going to let the disease, nor her choices, define me; I can’t risk it for my kids… so, onward! 😉

  2. All of Joanna’s work amazes me! I truly admire the process and the end-product. I’m satisfied with myself when I eat carrots that I grew in pots on my porch – I can only imagine the satisfaction of raising an animal, collecting the fleece, and then transforming it into functional (and beautiful!) art. I’ve discovered that knitting relaxes me to the point that I fall asleep. This means that fortunately I will never require medication for insomnia, but unfortunately I have yet to complete a knitting project. My experience with yarn is restricted to darning socks now. If/when I finish my first sock on my sock loom, I intend to frame it, however ugly it may be!

    • Hello again! Yes … Joanna says she is able to regularly knit herself into a coma! Right now she is obsessing over the sweater she is making from the yarn shown in the image. She gets crazy about some projects – she can’t keep her mind on anything else until they are done. She is able to work off-and-on on other projects. Being able to predict which projects will consume her and which won’t is difficult. She knit a wedding shawl for our daughter (see the gallery on Estonian Lace) and then wove shawls for all the wedding attendants … all of these projects consumed her – she rarely came up for air. Right now she’s got kitchen clothes on her big loom – she hasn’t touched them for several weeks. Go figure. Thanks for the comment. D

  3. Oh, it is BEAUTIFUL! I want to touch them all and snuggle them. There are few things as satisfying as that kind of long term investment/project/effort. I am looking forward to dressing Audrey in her beautiful Joanna-made coats this fall and winter. Lovely, the yarn looks so warm and lovely!

    • I read your comment to Joanna – she was pleased (after being kinda disappointed at the lack of response to the post). Thanks for taking the time. Get the kid a pinch from me! D

  4. Lovely, lovely chocolate. You should have told the ignorant oaf two things: Your $20 isn’t anywhere close to near enough for what I’m making, and to keep the money. There are some people so poor that all they have is money.

    • I love it … ‘There are some people so poor that all they have is money.’ I’ve never heard that … great. Joanna will be glad to know you commented – she was kinda bummed when the post didn’t get much traffic. She was so proud of her work. Any guesses as to who the oaf was?

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