Monday, June 01, 2009

Ruts and How to Avoid Them

I don't know about you, but I can't knit all the time. Not that the idea isn't attractive in theory, but in practice it doesn't work. Sore fingers, carpal tunnel, waking up with a merino hangover in a cold pool of your own worsted. Not pretty.

You know how farmers rotate crops to keep the soil fertile? I have to do that occasionally with my creative focus to keep my brain from turning into a dustbowl. Put down the needles, pick up the camera. Put down the camera, pick up the pencil. Put down the pencil, pick up tomatoes.*

The strangest thing is that all this stuff cross-pollinates, even when it seems impossible that it should. I was doing squats at the gym this morning and got an idea for a sweater. Had to run back to the locker room to make notes.

Lately I've been pulling out my toy cameras again. They're Holgas–cheap, all-plastic babies from China that shoot weird, dreamy pictures on medium format film. When I first bought mine, you could pick them up for ten bucks at a good camera store. Since then, they've become a vogue among prissy art students and will set you back fifty, but I still enjoy using mine.

Holgas are, to use a polite word, quirky. The limited focus mechanism has a mind of its own, and occasionally will decline to operate. The body leaks light. The back will fall off unless you tape the camera together. The film doesn't advance properly until you jam a piece of cardboard under the spool. The shutter doesn't click, it just emits a half-hearted "sproing."

BP BridgeUsing a Holga forces you to relinquish just about all your control as photographer. You choose what to point the thing at, but that's about it. You go out, you shoot a roll, you send your film to the lab and wait to see what happened. Sometimes nothing, sometimes fun stuff.

These pictures of the BP Bridge in Millenium Park–a stainless steel Frank Gehry production with a superabundance of curves–came back from processing not long ago.

I've taken quite a few shots of the bridge with my Canon, which has multi-point focus, a pro-quality lens, automatic everything with manual overrides–and yet these are the stronger images.

BP BridgeI was looking at them and it occurred to me that I need to do the same thing with one of my current knitting projects. It began with great excitement, then hit a wall as I confronted a million design questions at once. Should I zig? Zag? Both? Neither? I've decided to let go, the way I do with my Holga, and this morning I've finally finished the 4" x 4" swatch.

Only took me two months.

Back to Texas

Dolores, Harry and I are heading south for World Wide Knit in Public Day. The Knitting Nest in Austin, Texas has invited us to come down for the festivities, which at The Knitting Nest are always extremely festive, indeed. Last time I was there, they let me draw all over the wall!

Austin WWKIP Day 2009

(If you like it, it's available on shirts, bags and kiddie clothes here.)

From 11 am–2 pm I'll be teaching "Introduction to the History, Methods, and Styles of Lace Knitting" (visit the Web site for details) and for the rest of the day I'll be hanging around knitting in air-conditioned comfort. Stop by, won't you, and say hello to the visiting Yankees?

Double Dipping

The eye-popping Summer issue of Twist Collective is up, and I'm in it. Twice, actually. There's my usual illustration for Ann's and Kay's advice column, plus this. I love the Twist folks with all my heart. They said, "Do something. Whatever you want." So I did, and when they saw it they didn't send it back with a note reading, "Too weird. Try again." And what I did is pretty weird.

*For spaghetti sauce. Why, what were you thinking?

60 comments:

Anonymous said...

...and believe me, his home made sauce is WONDERFUL! -Tom

hokgardner said...

Squee! I live in Austin. I'm marking my calendar to make sure I remember to stop by.

amy said...

Great take on Wallace's blackbirds.

Benita said...

Well, the item in Twist is one of the most wonderful things I have experiences in weeks. Thank you.

Joe said...

I never thought I'd EVER say this, but you post makes me kinda wish I was Texan.

Julie said...

I love my 20-year old Holga. Keep the gaffers tape handy! A good Merino does nothing for light leaks! Show more of your work (photo that is).

Anonymous said...

i've seen photos taken by a re-pourposed spam can. they look about like that. takes the hard creativity out of your hands and softens the image in your mind's eye.

marie in florida

Mel said...

What you did for Twist was phenomenal, and yet not at all surprising. You, sir, have talent in spades, and I meant what I said about the New Yorker.

Anonymous said...

reading "one knitter" i am minded of the Ten Ox Herding pictures. were you as well?

love !

marie in florida

susanr5 said...

Oh Franklin, the Twist article was just lovely!

KGLO said...

I almost bought a Holga back when they were ten bucks. #&*($#@^*$#(&#*@($!!!@!11!!

ugh. Maybe I can wait for one to show up in a thrift store when they go out of vogue.

good for you, for finding balance!

alala said...

I loved your piece in the latest Twist Collective. It was wonderful, positively ziessome.

(Ahem. Ziessome is my word-verification word. I've just decided it means something really good.)

Jill said...

THANKS for introducing me to Twist Collective! How did I not know about that before now?

Rooie said...

I love your Twist piece! I was so thrilled to see your name in the table of contents. Very nicely done.

God, am I a fangirl? Can one be a fangirl at 54?

Laura said...

I also found the Twist piece just the right amount of weird. Bravo!

Paul said...

Your piece in Twist is wonderful! LOVE!!!

Judith said...

I submitted the Appassionato socks pattern to the Twist Collective and it was turned down because (they said) they already had something just like it. I have yet to see it.

Fortunately, you already have a name so they'll let you in the door. Congratulations.

lizzzknits said...

Anyone who sees Twist Mag will never be in a rut! Loved your poetry and would love to try your Spaghetti sauce!

FiberQat said...

I know you don't swing that way but you appreciate beauty in all forms, right?

Have you tried out a Lomographic 4-lens camera or something similar? I can see you with that at knit camp taking action shots of knitters at work.

anne marie in philly said...

rooie said: "God, am I a fangirl? Can one be a fangirl at 54?"

my response is "sho nuff, honeychile! I became his fan at age 50 and haven't looked back!"

ah ha, so you are keeping tom well fed, are you...

and I think someone's second birthday is coming up soon, right...

smooches!

dances with needles said...

Well if it comes to that I have had a lot of fun with a case of over ripe tomatoes and a chain link fence. It takes a surprising amount of force to hurl a tomato through a chain link fence. The dog on the other side was less than thrilled with my choice of afternoon activities. However it had been a long and very wierd night at the battered women's shelter and I found the splat to be soothing.

Dalila said...

While I admire people with knitting blogs with knitting content in frequent posts, it's not my style. I have lots of "pastimes" that I like to do and I think that switching streams is just fine.

I love those photos with the Holga, very nice! I know nothing about those nifty old cameras. Have you ever checked out Jill Danyelle? (danyelle.org) I find her photos very inspiring - even with digital she is able to achieve a surreal dreamy quality.
Happy "crafting", F!

kayT said...

Your 13 Ways are remarkable; I especially fell for V. Amazing! I'm pretty sure Wallace Stevens would appreciate this "tribute" as well.

Kathryn said...

The Twist piece is VERY,very,VERY cool!

bkat said...

I found the Twist poetry quite Zen, reflective of the Buddha-like qualities in your knitting. Refreshing!

Your blog messages and attitude caress my online tentacles.

Lisa said...

GORGEOUS shots with the Holga! They somehow have more chew to them than digital shots, if that's not too odd a metaphor. (And thank you for reminding me that I have an old Holga gathering dust in my closet...!)

And your piece in Twist totally made my day yesterday!

Maria said...

Where do you get your film processed? I have all but given up photography because I am stubborn and like film and my favorite lab went out of business (I did cry, a little)!

Caynreth said...

Thrilled to hear you're coming to Texas! AND that there were spots still open in the class when I called yesterday to reserve! So looking forward to it.

Sandy said...

thanks for the amazing look at bridge. wonderful.

Red said...

Loved what you did in Twist.

LFRIES said...

Loved your art in Twist -- so quaint. so literary.
Also, I brought a couple of my (male) non-knitting friends into my LYS yesterday and they were mesmerized by your book. I had to explain what some of the jokes were, but they still loved it!

Sarah said...

I love the Twist illustrations, weird and wonderful!

Alwen said...

Must show the Twist drawings to the child now!

Eileen said...

I was thinking salsa.

And I positively lust after the "knitter in his favorite chair" illustration. I adore that cat. What a perfect, careless curve of feline.

Gail said...

Thanks for the heads up about the Twist Collective, enjoyed your contributions. Not so weird. Or was I prepared?

This is the third time in a week I've heard "weird" and "Austin" in the same sentence. Never heard it before.

Are you working with "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" yet? The suit in the video should have impressed them all to pieces.

Sounds like a great class, don't forget your sunscreen.

=Tamar said...

My favorite photo processor went out of business, too. Argh.

I love the Twist article. Too-many years ago I went through a stage of drawing pictures in one line, but in a fit of mad cleaning I discarded them. Sigh. I had a few good ones among them, though nothing like yours; I mainly drew faces.
Wish I could get to Austin without flying.
My verification word is "rensuc" - I shudder to think what it might mean.

Lily said...

lol - if I'd been doing squats at the gym I'd probably get an idea for a wind-proof pants pattern. Something in chunky yarn on tiny needles?

Kim said...

Oh, man! I was considering accompanying my SO on a trip to Austin that weekend, but decided not to. If I'd only known, I'd have totally been there! (Although it's possible that my toddler companion might not have attended your presentation with as rapt attention as I would....)

SusieQ100 said...

I'm definatel becoming a "fangirl", as Rooie says, and I'm also over 50!! Discovered Franklin completely by accident when I wanted to knit the Nightcap from Knitty and had a problem with the pattern, he graciously answered my query in no time at all. So I started to read the blog, then bought the book (LOL, best book I've read in AGES and I read a lot), in the the last couple of days also discovered the Twist site with the brilliant piece...and the beat goes on
!!!

Karin said...

I read your 13 ways...today and I LOVEd it. I read that poem many years ago and it still is one of my favorites. Your version along with the drawings is marvelous.

I am just glad that there is a forum for you that allows you to express yourself in such a way, for the world to see.

Sarahfish said...

Love those shots of the bridge- as soon as I saw them I thought Holga! I am so so pleased that mine has finally come home to mama after a 3 year absence. My Lubitel is here again too (russian number. Also considered a "toy" camera, though twin lens reflex with ground glass sighting. Cool too, but not quite so ghostly in image quality). I'm planning on setting up a mini darkroom in my basement so that I don't have to rely on labs!

Loved your Twist piece too. :)

Bonne Marie said...

I adore your work in TC this time out. SUPERB!

Erin said...

I'm so glad I clicked through to your Twist Collective piece. I'd like to have the whole thing framed and hang it in my office.

amy said...

I love my holga! i was one of those prissy art students, unfortunately but my teachers gave me crap for it all the time. Then I loaned it to a friend and have yet to see it since. i have my eye on a Diana now. I am sort of new to reading your blog I know your cartoons and the book but I didn't put it all together until listening to a back episode of Sticks and String when I found out that you are from Chicago and live with a Sheep. Which is Awesome!!! I would love to live with a sheep but i don't think my boyfriend would let me :(

KnittingPuppy said...

I have Gail beat by one "Austin is Weird" this week....you, the Harlot, and at the NM Fiber Fest there was a Texas-themed quilt centerpieced with that phrase.

I am trying to figure out if I can manage to be in Austin for the lace class. Will you be teaching other lace classes in the future? How do we get you to Albuquerque?

Theresa said...

OH, Franklin, I love the Twist thingy! Love!

Angie said...

I've always wanted one of those cameras. I may just go out and treat myself to one. I go through phases where I put my knitting down too. It usually doesn't last long though, but I try to take reading breaks and I'm always taking pictures so it helps.

KnittingPuppy said...

i must say, i was wondering "what cat?!" and what was everyone else seeing and upon returning to Twist I discovered using the side triangle arrows. der. i need more coffee. I, too, love the cat and the style and the poetry.

EJ said...

I think they are fantastic! my favourites to date. The solo image reminded me of brazillian modernism and picasso and, of course, you. :)

Recently my friend has been trying double exposures at night on her Holga sometimes one with a flash and one without which are my favs

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