The Artist Among Us

Originally published January 12, 2006

I have just sent an e-mail to Debbie New via Philosopher’s Wool. Over the years and several hard drive failures I have lost her e-mail address. I have talked about the strawberry hat and Debbie’s knitted teacups as a way of beginning or at least as how I began in knitting as a first love and as an attempt to turn that love into a way to eke out a living so as to be immersed in what you love and not to have to devote too much of your time to the other rather mudane ways of earning a living!

Take a deep breath – there are times when I think that I may be related through a long labyrinthine DNA process(or subordinate clause) to either Charles Dickens or Thomas Hardy – actually I think that I am closer to Thomas Hardy – even though his heroines rarely prevail and if they do it is through some fatalistic mischief a foot and I am sure that I could never have married a man called Angel Clare. All comments welcome!!!

I wanted to show you Debbie’s knitted teacups. I just wanted her OK for this. I did a google search and pulled some interesting comments about Debbie’s work. She has been called the “Salvatore Dali of wool” and the knitting artist who raises the craft – how I hate that word – to the level of art.

Debbie New is indeed a “knitting artist”. She is as, the books of aesthetics will tell you, the one who questions, through her art – which happens to be knitting- the world around us. She forces us through needles and yarn to look at things in a different way and I mean a really different way.

Who in their right mind would knit a lace boat – a coracle. It is actually a circular boat that the Celts used for Siene fishing. Basically one achored one’s nets at one side of the river, rowed across the river in this coracle and anchored the other side of the net, on the other side of the river. The tide either came in or went out – either way your net trapped fish – you gathered your nets in, garnered the fish and – lived for another day!

Well this is the way the Irish in their curroughs, the Welsh in their coracles and the Bretons in their……… – I don’t know what the word is in the old Breton language – any help? plied their trade in their circular boats.

Think of this in “lace”. What is Debbie trying to tell us? Certainly it is nostalgia – I think that the coracle is like the birch bark canoe – a museum piece. Not many make these relics to-day. But they were a way of life not too long ago – I know a welshman who used a coracle from time to time to fish in his youth. It makes me think of the fisher wives of the Shetland Islands who produced the most amazing lace while waiting for their husbands to return. We read in these stitches their angst – enough said.

Nostalgia, though is not really an emotion recognized in the artistic community, perhaps it was something else – the fragility of life, the harmony of man and nature – yes we ate the fish, but we had to work for it! The beauty of the handcrafted tool – the boat, made with love, made with a symmetry that would do the job with as little impact as possible on the environment. Who knows. Please comment. I need a broadening of the artist way.

Anyway, here is the coracle. I have taken the picture from one of her cards. Debbie’s cards are available from Philosopher’s Wool and 3 pages are given over to the coracle in Unexpected Knitting.

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