Let me tell you about my wife the artist.
There are women who knit. All the knitters I knew as I grew up in Kaitaia, a country town in the far north of New Zealand, knitted when they were not busy keeping house. They had no automatic appliances then, and limited electricity for lighting. They fed wet-back wood-burning stoves for cooking and hot water, and spent most of the day hand-washing, sweeping and scrubbing. They planted and weeded vegetables in the garden, fed the chickens and gathered the eggs, gathered and preserved the fruits from the orchard, plucked, cleaned and cooked the chickens who were “retired” from laying, and the game birds our fathers shot. There was no respite and no help until we grew enough to do our share with chores. There was no TV. They knitted in the evenings and over morning tea, or on shopping days, in the library, where they gathered to meet each other, have a cup of tea and use the restroom before lugging themselves, their shopping and us children back home in time to prepare dinner.
Post-war Kaitaia in the late nineteen-forties and early fifties was not a cash-rich community. Much of what we had was hand-made. Our mothers were knitters who made and repaired all the woollen clothing we wore – socks, sweaters, cardigans, woolly balaclavas, scarves, gloves, blankets, shawls. All was utility. The garments were knitted from faithfully followed patterns, usually those published in womens’ magazines. They loved beauty and decoration, but they lacked the luxury that those of my generation take too much for granted. A luxury that is their legacy to us – Time.
So, they spent the precious little time they may have had for creativity, on the love they lavished on us. Sons and fathers got sweaters and cardigans, daughters got twinsets. Decoration, like the garments themselves, was prescribed in the knitting patterns. The garments were warm and colourful. The knitters of my mother’s generation were highly skilled. Like accomplished amateur pianists, they were able to read a score and execute the piece beautifully.
And then, there is my wife Connie the artist.
Connie, like the knitters of my mother’s generation, can read and follow a pattern, and knit a scarf or sweater or cardigan or coat or shawl or whatever (I have never talked her into knitting socks, but I know she could do that too). Connie has mastered the craft – she can follow a pattern. But unlike those of the earlier generation, she has time for creativity.
Musicians who have mastered the journeyman qualifications and want more than acknowledgement of their mastery as players do one or both of two things. They compose new scores and/or they play jazz, creating one-off masterpieces by letting their creative imagination build on the foundation of their skills.
Connie does both. She is a Jazz knitter. What she does with form and drape and colour creates masterpieces that evoke aesthetic response. She composes her pattern, the structure in which to place her notes, the colours she will choose from her musical spectrum. Watching her prepare her yarns is pleasurable suspense – she lays out hundreds of balls of yarn on the floor and moves them around until she sees the combination she seeks. Visual harmony, progression, chords and discords, arpeggios, contrasts, counterpoints, major and minor keys, blue notes. Then she puts it together, playing her pattern. The work can be complex, structured, pictorial, muted, subtly varied or a disciplined riot. It looks organic, but it grows from a disciplined DNA as she proceeds. And when you see it, you stop and examine it as you would a painting. You look and listen, for this is visual art that hits you like music.
That’s no accident. Like Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis and Charles Mingus and Dave Brubeck, like Ray Charles and Nina Simone, like John Mayall and Ian Anderson and Eric Clapton, the lady has paid her dues. And like them, she is a genius.
She is always exploring new avenues, some from her extraordinary intuitive creative leaps, some from exploring the implications of the insights of graphic artists.
So her output grows, in quantity and variety. From intarsia to shadow-knitting, from garments to graffiti, her work is unique, unequalled fibre art. Look at this intarsia work. While you’re there, look around the rest of the site.