women of a certain age are like sunflowers; they know how to turn their faces to the sun.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

It's Only About the Relationships...

First off, my apologies for the recent absence of content here. And my gratitude for your support. I am leaving on a three week vacation on Tuesday and must finish the copy for the workbook that accompanies my book before I go. As a relative newcomer in blogland, I have been a bit afraid that if I didn't post daily, people would forget about me and stop coming around to visit. In fact, I am just insecure responsible enough to post during those weeks from the internet cafe in downtown Leland (downtown being a relative term - one block long, consisting of a post office, a bank, a grocery store, and several gift shops.)

If you didn't read, then I would have no one to share my cherry pie with, would I?

Nuff said...

The topic of connections has been much on my mind recently. As I worked my way through the plagiarism issues, a question first occurred to me, then began to nag at me, and eventually became the raw material for contemplation.

If the words do not belong to me (and all I must do is open my copy of Websters to confirm that others have used that word before) then what does? And where does the creative process come into the equation?

To put it in knitting terminology, Who made the sweater? Was it the knitter, who performed the manual labor? Or the pattern designer, who provided the template? Maybe it was the independent dyer who created the color. Or the one who spun the wool. Or maybe, just maybe, it was the sheep, without whom none of this would be possible, after all.

I think that what creative people do is form connections. The words aren't mine, but the way I connect them, is. The yarn and the pattern aren't mine, but the color and fiber choice is. The design is original, but it is made up of stitch patterns from Barbara Walker's Treasuries. The painter didn't make the pigment, but she chose which colors to put where, and in what amounts.

We didn't make the raw materials, but we connected them. And how we have connected them is what makes the world so varied and so endlessly fascinating.

One of the core principles of Next Voice, the company that is publishing my book, is that "It's only about the relationships." All of life and the quality thereof can be boiled down to those five little words.

Think about it. At our basic physiological level, our body is composed of an intricate web of relationships or connections. It is a delicate balance, and when one thing goes out of place, often the whole organism is affected, for better or, too often, for worse.

And the brain? Well the old cranium is all about the synapses, the connections. Without them, there is no thought at all, let alone original thought.

On a sociological level, humans need to form groups to survive. The need for connection is one of the most primal of all human impulses. One which we know well, as part of the knitting community.

We can exist alone, but we thrive communally. And if we are blessed, our relationships deepen, and we can move through community and into true communion with one another.

Even the very fabric of knitting is a series of connections and relationships. Each stitch is connected in various ways with others. Connect them all the same way and you get garter stitch. Turn it around on a regular basis and you get stockinette. Mix it up a bit , twist and shout, and watch the cables take shape. Bring some of the stitches a little closer, create personal space between others, and you have lace.

In ordinary discourse, we generally plow along from point a to point b, taking the shortest distance between two points: a straight line, or track if you will. Now don't take me wrong; that kind of communication is important. It connects us one to another, and passes along useful information in a timely manner.

But I believe a writer has to jump the tracks, and form what may seem at first to be extraneous detours., if she hopes to write anything new and interesting. For it is in the relationship between two formerly unconnected images or ideas that one finds that "Aha" moment. That serendipitous moment when a previously unimagined whole coalesces from two differing parts. That's the joy, the passion, the spark of creativity that takes the ordinary wood of daily existence and turns it into fire.

Today, I was reminded of how much better my husband and I are together than apart. He is the analyzer, the fixer upper, the rationalist, the guru with things. "Give it to Dad. He can fix anything." I am the intuitive one, who reads emotions and people like he reads tech manuals.

My coffeemaker went belly up on me yesterday. Now for some, this would not be news. For me it is a disaster of epic proportions. I looked at it, couldn't figure out the problem, threw up my hands and gave up.

He took the blamed thing apart, cleaned all the parts with vinegar and a toothbrush, reassembled the machine, called the helpline, and when all that didn't solve the problem, arranged for them to send a postage paid pre-addressed box for us to send it back to the manufacturer for replacement (thank God for two year warranties.)

Alone, I was up a caffeine-free river without a filter. Together, we, didn't fix the machine, but at least we figured out what to do about it. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

There has been a thread recently running through blog postings, about how people feel they are somehow less creative if they make a chevron scarf, or a monkey sock, or a Kauni sweater, because everyone else has done it already, and the blogger in question has stolen or borrowed the idea. Well, news flash, people. All our original ideas stand on the shoulders of those that came before. There is no truly "original" material in this world.

But there are lots of "original" connections, and for that I am profoundly grateful.

Here are some connections I have made recently:

This picture of hostas in my side yard

made me think of this sweater pattern by Joan McGowan, with its undulating ribbing that echoes so well, the veining in the hosta leaves. I know one day the right yarn will present itself and a new whole will emerge. Someday...

But what about today?

Today this:


And this

Combined with this:

Handmaiden Silk Maiden in Ivory
(from my stash)

And this:

Handmaiden Ivory Seasilk
(also from stash)

To create this:

The beginnings of the back of Nora Gaughan's Sand Dollar Pullover from Knitting Nature.

The Silk Maiden is a little light for the pattern, but adding the seasilk and double stranding not only makes the yarn fit the gauge, but it contributes to the chiaroscuro, or shifting sands element of the sweater. See?

I didn't write the pattern. I didn't spin the wool.

But I made the connections and that makes it mine.


Carie said...

Oooh that multicoloured sand you have made is beautiful! I agree with you about the connections- we may all knit the same patterns if one becomes very popular but I've yet to see another Kauni cardigan that looks exactly like mine (even though we're all using the same yarn) and I've not seen two pairs of Monkeys the same - it is our creativity as an artist (fibre or otherwise) that makes us put all of the ingredients together and come up with something that is unique. Have a wonderful holiday and fear not, we will be here when you get back!!

La Cabeza Grande said...

I firmly believe that creative people - whatever their medium - are natural connectors. If I am honest and I've put nothing of my own vision or inspiration into a thing, I will not claim it as such.

But you? You clearly draw the lines, connecting the dots of pattern, texture and color to produce something dreamt of only in your mind's eye.

BTW, no worries about frequency of posting, especially with those who subscribe. We receive notification when there's something new to read. Please enjoy your holiday and relax.

Kniterella said...

What a great connection. Your choices for the yarn are inspiring me to connect with a yarn store to get some of my very own!

The_Add_Knitter said...

YES to making connections and putting your own imprimatur on a pattern/project and making it your own. I really don't understand how/why people get torqued out of shape about the 'copying' thing...sometimes blogland is just a giant junior high school lunch room!!

Also, since I use bloglines, like the above poster mentioned, you don't need to constantly post to have readers...in fact I like it when people post occasionally by thoughtfully, like you!

amy said...

I've totally been missing the blogland posts you refer to about "copying." I'm glad I'm out of that particular loop, because it just seems silly. I make what I want to make because I want to make it (duh), and sometimes I don't want to make something until I've seen different people's versions.

That sand dollar sweater is going to be beautiful.

Enjoy your vacation!

Jen C said...

Thoughtful and introspective and you have made some wonderful and gorgeous connections. The sand dollar sweater colors are a wonderful blend and to me anyway will be a wonderful vision and interpritation of the original pattern.

Opal said...

Beautiful post. You've opened my eyes once again to a new perspective.

Enjoy your vacation! And don't feel pressured into posting too much while you're there. This is supposed to be fun!

Donna Lee said...

The yarns you combined gave me goose bumps. They are so beautiful. I had this discussion with others about how we are all "standing on the shoulders of giants" (I think I originally stole that from Dr.Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park). It is very difficult to tell where someone else's ideas leave off and my own begin. My brain makes connections that I am not even aware of and before I know it, ideas that are new to me are flowing. It would be foolish to believe that I could be the only one to ever think such thoughts. Have a good vacation. There's nothing wrong with taking some time to yourself, unless you are bursting with thoughts to share!

Rachel said...

interesting commentary. RE: your thoughts on knitting, I totally agree that we each make decisions on knitted items to make it 'ours'. I really enjoy seeing how your mind and your creativity work...especially this last post and your interpretation of the sand dollar pullover...it's beautiful. if you give that much thought on connection in all your knits, no wonder your end results are so amazing!

now. what kind of connection do you need to get that monkey straightened out?

Ann said...

You write as well as knit beautifully - very insightful comments on connection & such a great combination (or connection) of yarns for your pullover. Have a great holiday!

teabird said...

I've heard that there only are 6 (or a very limited number) of plots for fiction - the creativity isn't in devising a new plot, but in spinning it into a series of lives for the reader. Same with knitting. A mitten is a mitten, but unless we're machines, everyone's mitten will have its own tale to tell.

The sand dollar will be just wonderful when it's done -

Kat with a K said...

Susan, Hello!! I just wanted to stop by and let you know how much I enjoyed meeting you at T-bear! Hope your days are passing wonderfully - and I have been enjoying reading your blog! Hope to meet again to sit and knit!

Lisa said...

I hope you are enjoying your vacation. I was worried about not posting during vacations too, but now I have just let it go. My family summer vacations are more important to me than pressure from blogging. I hope to hear about your Leland (love that place) adventures when you get back.