Exciting news - Cara May Knits in the Winter 2018 Designer Collection of Belle Armoire. Copies hit newstands January 1, 2018. Off to a fun start of the new year. I hope everyone has peaceful & happy 2018 filled with love, light & laughter.
Whoosh - that is the sound of the tail end of 2017 whizzing by. What a year! So many changes, and so much work. At this solstice season review is in order, and once again I am incredibly humbled and grateful for all the many blessings bestowed upon me. Professionally it has been a non-stop year at Cara May Knits. I took on a rather large holiday show, One of a Kind Chicago, which led me back to the Windy City, where I lived for a few years after graduating from college. This show taught me some new lessons and pushed my limits in a good way. I knit, knit, knit to supply that show and a couple of exciting new wholesale clients, and that was both thrilling and nerve-wracking. I was honored to have my work included by Robin Brown at Magnolia Pearl in Fredericksburg, TX and Shabby Rabbit in British Columbia, as well as the online marketplaces of Artful Home and Selvedge magazine.
Now that boundaries have been expanded, I am looking forward to moving out of my open studio in the River Arts District and returning to a wee private studio behind my house in quiet East Asheville -- a bit of seclusion to feed my creativity and fuel the coming year. January holds a surprise, and then I will be at ACC Atlanta in March for my first show of the year with some new designs. My plan is to experiment with new yarn and techniques and make more one-offs, which is deeply nourishing. The last 3 and a half years in open studios have been like a giant out-breath. Now - time to breathe in. Peace to all.
A beautiful woman was in my studio last week. As she tried on a scarf she glimpsed herself in the mirror and announced that she has a ghost in her house that appears in her mirror whenever she looks at her reflection. I laughed and replied the same ghost visits me. Also last week a friend revealed anxiety around her relevance in the world. Then friends on Facebook shared these timely articles in the New York Times -- one specifically about women aging, and the other about Frances McDormand, a talented and thoughtful actress I greatly admire. "She is 60 and sexy in the manner of women who have achieved total self possession." Now that's juicy. I want to achieve total self possession. I want that waaaaay more than thin thighs, no silver streaks in my hair and a wrinkle-free face. I want to experience complete presence, ease, confidence, the ability to listen deeply and eloquently communicate any wisdom I may have to offer. What a thrill to let go of the ideal female beauty story and feel comfortable in my own skin. It is so liberating to not reproach myself if I laugh a bit too loudly, cry in public places, look directly into someone's eyes, make the work I want to make. I couldn't do that comfortably in my teens, 20's or even my 30's. I am learning this better as I near 50, and my connections to loved ones (even strangers) deepens because of this. As I mature I look forward to being more and more strongly rooted in this space and all the possibilities that that includes. May we all achieve total self possession.
“The rustic aesthetic pulls something from deep down, because it can take us back to something before us, and therefore present us with a perspective that encompasses beginning and end… The modern rustic aesthetic is a rebellion against the despair. It is a rediscovered practice of hope.” - Anxiety and the Rustic Aesthetic, July 29, 2014 – Paul Maxwell
The air is growing cooler in Western North Carolina, and wool is being knit! This is my favorite time of year, and these are my favorite sweaters. I love the earthy, organic, crumpled look & feel. I always recall these words...
“But unvented - ahh! One un-vents something; one unearths it; one digs it up, one runs it down in whatever recesses of the eternal consciousness it has gone to ground. I very much doubt if anything is really new when one works in the prehistoric medium of wool with needles… In knitting there are ancient possibilities; the earth is enriched with the dust of the millions of knitters who have held wool and needles since the beginning of sheep. One likes to believe that there is memory in the fingers; memory undeveloped, but still alive.”
― Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitter's Almanac
This is a cranky blog post, because I am gagging a little on all the "living authentically" posts, streams, videos and advertisements from hosts of sources. I invariably fall into the trap of comparing my insides with others' (supremely curated) outsides. From that vantage point it often looks as if the lives of many people, especially creatives, are so simple and wholesome as they lovingly gather organic plants from the English (or insert your preferred bucolic location) countryside to make their sweet, natural items, or as they gently mold a mound of clay on the wheel or paint in their bare feet with perfectly tousled hair from a fabulous studio they hand-built using locally-harvested lumber from the just-perfect-mountain-town property. While I enjoy what I do immensely, and feel lucky to be able to knit as my livelihood, it is still work. It is a complicated, life, especially in our current technological age and the pace at which most of us live. I am well aware that this is definitely a first-world issue. What sticks in my craw is the tyranny of the well-crafted images of "a simple life" of making. I recently came across an interview with AS Apothecary's Amanda Saurin from -- http://linenbeauty.com/2017/05/12/a-simple-path-asapoths-amanda-saurin-distils-her-wisdom-in-our-latest-interview/ It is so refreshing to read her truth about having a so-called simple life. Here is an excerpt...
What is it about the simple life that you find appealing?
I don’t have a simple life. I don’t think in this world right now there can be simplicity – in common with virtually all the women I know and work with, life is a complex juggling exercise and it’s disingenuous to deny it. The combination of children, partner and elderly parents precludes simplicity. What I do have is a rich and fulfilling work life that allows for the joy of simple pleasures...
How can we counter the pulls of content-sharing and curating images of our lives with the need for being in the moment?
This question is underpinned by another: how do we ensure that in presenting our curated lives we are honest? I think content sharing can be great, it can be a way of inviting people into your world, revealing the parts of your work that inspire you. However, where life becomes content led, in other words rather than taking the odd snap of something you love you feel pressure to publish a daily perfection, there is a major problem. There is a fine line between sharing for pleasure and dictating a particular look, offering reality versus a hyper-sanitised version, being inspirational and offering false aspiration. These are all in need of balance and thought. Content sharing should be secondary to living your life not dominated by creating photo opportunities. Eat the food, drink the coffee, live and take the odd photo.
Finally - someone being honest! We lead a similar messy existence on the maker's path, but we have our really juicy rewarding moments. This, to me, is true connection! Aaaah, but we are in the same boat.
As I move closer to celebrating my 49th revolution around the sun I have been studying and listening more in an effort to move toward (or at least get next to sometimes) wisdom. I recently had the great good fortune of "Walking in Georgia O'Keefe's Footsteps" where she painted at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico. My youngest son and I were both so inspired by the scenery and the O'Keefe sensibility. What a life. My heart is often centered and calmed by remembering what she said regarding her own work. "I have already settled it for myself, so flattery and criticism go down the same drain, and I am quite free." Aaaah - wise woman. Thank you Ms. O'Keefe.
I love this quote from one of my heroes, Rei Kawakubo - the brilliant mind behind Comme des Garcons. She is firm and confident in this statement, and it gives us permission to dress for ourselves. My husband likes to say that he "lost the potato sack wars." Meaning - my clothes are too baggy. I don't care. I am comfortable, I can move freely & easily, and my life flows. We just celebrated a quarter of a century of married life, so, I guess he must sorta like my style after all.
Knitting understated pieces for the art-to-wear market is a peculiar thing to do for a living. If I were to break it down, I really just design a sweater that I want to wear, I get really inspired about that new design, the yarns, colors and look/feel of the piece, then I make a bunch of those sweaters. It's honestly quite a self-centered, solitary process. Then comes the sticky wicket of selling this work. (I have extraordinary yarn bills!) This is the confession part. Selling - to me it's kind of a surprising secondary piece where my brain grinds to a sputtering ball of confusion. My eyes start to roll in my head when I hear words like "branding", "marketing," "advertising," "strategy," "competition." Ha, but I am not alone in my endeavor! I have wonderful friends and allies who encourage me in an effort to get these quiet sweaters out into the world. My treasured circle of allies has widened within the last couple of months. I am greatly honored and delighted to have my work included in two on-line market places - Artful Home and Selvedge Magazine Artisan Emporium. So, I carry on my little knitting path feeling quite fortunate for another day in the studio.
Knitting for spring and summer can seem counter-intuitive, I know. But I always want that little bit of a top layer, even during warmer months. I prefer cotton and linen, as I live in the humid Southeast. The last few weeks I have been knitting up loads of cotton and linen pieces as fast as I can. I have even mixed in some bright colors - a departure from my usual neutrals. I am excited to be presenting these at my first show of 2017 -- American Craft Council in Atlanta. I will be in booth 110 from March 17-19 at the Galleria. This is such a fun show that is full of unique and beautiful work created by many talented makers/artists. Be sure to get there early, the best stuff sells quickly!!
"Cloth is the body’s first architecture; it protects, conceals and reveals; it carries a body’s weight, swaddles at birth, covers in sleep and in death." - Ann Hamilton http://www.annhamiltonstudio.com/
A friend turned me onto artist, Ann Hamilton's work and her On Being interview. Below is a tidbit that hit home for me as I work within the "slow fashion" model.
"... I think that in many ways, it’s like how do you let things take the time they actually need? That — it seems like this whole efficiency thing is really — doesn’t work very well, because in fact, there’s this thinking that’s always going on inside the thing that you’re engaged with and, you’re not really having the experience if you’re rushing off to the next thing, right? So, even when you’re really, really compressed for time, how do you cultivate just being in the time you have at that moment? And how do you — how can you just be present, even if it’s like, you know, a few minutes. "
As the new year approaches, I have been reflecting on 2016. Quite a year. The world seems to be in such a strange place. I have alternated between overwhelming myself in news and reading too many social media posts to completely shutting it all off and simply going about my business. Aside from the political maelstrom, a couple music icons that I dearly admired have passed. I was struck by sadness in the pasta aisle last week when a David Bowie song played in the grocery store. Nevertheless, I feel extremely fortunate to continue to be a maker - it is a privilege to be able to knit almost every day while so many people are just trying to live. I ask myself how I can help, how I can be of service. Random acts of kindness and really listening to people have become small steps in that direction. I don't always get it right, but I catch myself faster when I drift out of the present moment. I still ask for guidance on a daily basis, and think Bowie was right. "We can be heroes - Just for one day." Happy New Year to all.
Fall shows are complete, I am finishing up orders, and it's time to relax a bit, settle down, plan for the holidays and allow myself time for designing. How do I get out of my own way and allow creativity to flow through me? I return to the quiet world of needle knitting.
I didn't realize how much I had missed my needles until I happened upon this project at SAFF -http://saffsite.org/ in Asheville last weekend. The Hatteras Cardigan designed by Kate Salomon from Green Mountain Spinnery in Vermont- http://www.spinnery.com/ called out to me. Kate was a joy to consult on the pattern, and she took the sweater off her back to let me try on! I love the toothy wool that is just soft enough. It glides through my fingers well, despite the teeny weeny needle size. This is the first time I have ever used a size 3 needle! I am finally trying out the handcrafted hexagonal needles made by Indian Lake Artisans http://indianlakeartisans.com/
So, if you happen to be attending the River Arts District Studio Stroll in Asheville on November 12 & 13 from 10-5 - http://www.riverartsdistrict.com/ - you will see me probably working on this. My knitting machines and I will be taking a wee rest.
It's hard to believe 2016 is more than half over. I feel like I have knit a bazillion of these great crumpled tanks over the summer. Linen and silk-wrapped stainless steel is a great combination! I still have a few of these at the studio in chocolate, graphite, saffron, ink and natural. They are lightweight and very sheer - perfect over a tank or sundress for these last few weeks of sultry summer. I am just busting out the merino wool and so excited to start knitting fall/winter. Stay tuned...
I don't have cable TV, so I always miss the Oscars. But for me costumes in the movies hold an irresistible appeal, and I pay attention to these supporting characters, especially the knitwear. Of course. Here are a few favorites from the top of my head. Audrey Hepburn, who was a knitter in real life, knitting that giant red scarf(?) as Holly Golightly in "Breakfast at Tiffany's" - oh so charming. How do you not fall in love with her? Lyra in "Golden Compass" wearing her gorgeous bulky coat, which looks like it was knit from Noro yarn. You just know that she will remain safe & warm and retain her innocence in that pink/orange palette. Trinity exudes the sheer bleakness of her situation in her Skif sweaters in "Matrix." She smolders "Do not F--- with me." Jennifer Beals in those legwarmers and ripped sweatshirt in "Flashdance" was it on a stick as far as I was concerned in the 80's. There is the goofy holiday sweater scene in "Bridget Jones' Diary" which had me doubled over. And lately, it seems like I get asked to make the Katniss wrap or some chunky cowl from "Highlander". Of course, these soft armor pieces are beautiful creations. I love the boldness, resourcefulness and courage they bring to the strong female characters. Not only can they kick ass, but when they finish up with you, they will go home and whip up their own clothing, thank you very much. Maybe one day I will see one of my very own sweaters on the silver screen. A girl can dream, can't she?!
The corset cardi is my version of the holiday sweater - minimal, romantic, subtle, soft, unearthed... notice the woman, not the garment.
2015 has just zoomed! Over the past year I was fortunate to be in many great shows, work in a great studio, and meet so many interesting people. As Thanksgiving is right around the corner, I am ever grateful for my family and my community and deeply thankful that I had so many opportunities this past year to expand my knitting practice and step outside of my comfort zone, which always informs a maker's work. The Piedmont Craftsmen show, November 20-22, is my last show of the year. I will be knitting at Curve Studios until Christmas Eve. In January Cara May Knits moves to a new studio in Riverview Station in the Asheville River Arts District. I am excited to be sharing studio space with the uber-talented Barbara Zaretsky - check out her beautiful work at www.bzdesign.biz. I hope everyone is looking forward to resting and celebrating over the coming holiday season. Warmest wishes for love, light, laughter, and most of all, Peace.
Yes! My favorite season has returned! I love living in the mountains of Western North Carolina during this time of year, & I love bundling up in one of my sweaters and grabbing a hot coffee in the morning before work, shopping, errands and dog hikes. Life is sweet! If you are in Asheville visit me at Curve Studios in River Arts District Asheville. I am there most days. If you are lucky enough to be in Santa Fe, check out homefrocks for new Cara May Knits paired with the beautiful homefrocks line. Later this fall, stop by my booth at the Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands October 15-18, or the Piedmont Craftsmen's 52nd Fair in Winston-Salem November 20-22. Happy Fall, ya'll!
It's funny to me that I can fit my entire professional life into a Nissan Juke and drive it to an exhibition hall, then set it up into a 10'x10' space. (Well, in this case a 6'x8' space. It's a good thing that sweaters can be packed pretty tightly.) Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands is taking place in Asheville this Thursday, July 16 - Sunday, July 19. I am in booth #62. After doing a few shows now, I am a bit more comfortable, and even looking forward to it without too much nervousness. I still pinch myself that I am a member of this guild and get to hang around so many talented makers. I still feel somewhat like an interloper in this world - that any minute now they are going to run me out of there yelling "Fraud!" Not sure that feeling will ever completely dissipate. For now I quietly tell my inner critic (Sheila Sharp) to pipe down. It's show time.
Update from the studio -- Summer knits - (or how I spent my summer vacation). Making lots of very sheer crumpled tanks with silk stainless steel and linen or ramie to layer over tissue-weight tees or camisoles. Also making some longer linen layering tunics - great over a simple linen shift. Just sent a bunch out to homefrocks in Santa Fe. Looking forward to the July Southern Highland Craft Guild Fair in Asheville. As the solstice happened yesterday, I am contemplating fall designs and starting to look at some different yarns for inspiration. In the meantime, happy summer!