Scarf of the month: December – What would you like to say?

art, design, knitting

december_finalSo, its the end of the year. Like always – or maybe even more so – this one has sneeked up on me. So, I missed the regular reflective mood I find myself in at the end of a year. End of a term. Another trip home. And looking at the schedule for the next days I am not sure if I will have any time to spare. But we will see.

But this year also a project came to an end. My scarf of the month project if finished. I am horrendously pleased with myself for having done it, but I have already started a sweater. I am quite done with scarves as the moment :-) One scarf is still outstanding and I do not think I will finish it. Making a scarf that adequately says “Welcome” to people fleeing from their homes, looking for help in Europe still seems too big a task. Something I do not want to take on lightly. But this alone shows a heart-breaking development. I chose this as a topic for April. When people started reporting on an increase in people trying to cross borders. And now, at the end of the year, it is still a topic. And even bigger so. I have decided to pack some of the scarves I made for this project and others I have not used in a while and send them off to Knit for Peace hoping they will do some good, share the love for someone.

Scarves exist at the end of this project that would not have been here otherwise. My Fair Isle knitting has become better. I have become increasingly outspoken about things that irk me. I have enjoyed this. I have looked inside and outside for inspiration. I have shouted out what is important to me.

For December I wanted to shut up and listen. Because we are so rarely asked what is important to us. We so rarely have an occasion to think about our values, test them, explore them. Therefore I want to get you thinking. I am asking “What would you like to say?” “What would you like to happen?” These are wide questions and you can take them anywhere you like. But I think it is important that you know. Start to tell others. Shout it from the rooftops. Make something happen. Make art. Say your piece. Bring others to think. This is all we can do.

Have a great remaining 2015. Have an amzing 2016. Make. Craft. Stay curious!

Scarf of the month: November – Remember, remember

knitting, protest, social

A disclaimer first: I am not part of Anonymous. I have never before taken part of any of their activites. I will not try to explain what Anonymous is or define it. I recommend to read Gabriella Colemans “Hacker Hoaxer Whistleblower Spy – the many faces of Anonymous” if you are interested in the story. I found it really gripping and amazingly written. Even though I may not understand or endorse some of Anonymous’ methods, I often are in favour of the goals they try to achieve. Even though I think this groups adpotion was one of the things that brought the Guy Fawkes Masks into the public consciousness, I think it has become synonymously known as a sign for protest and dissent.  And this has been the reason for me to make one. Knit one to be precise. One that can be worn as a scarf.

November_final

Remember, remember – a knitted Guy Fawkes mask

But I want to explain why I would don the mask and what I think is wrong with the way we talk about protesting. When doing my BA I wrote my dissertation on protest signs and signs of protest and the topic stayed with me. So I followed the discussion about the #MillionMaskMarch on twitter on the 5th of November with interest.

In my view there have been three positions within the tweets that flew by:

  • What’s with the mask? Show your face if you have something to say.
  • Oh, this is all just a bunch of spoiled kids. and not to forget:
  • A police car is burning.

And in my view this is what is wrong with them:

  • The Guy Fawkes maks have become an inportant sign of protest. Donning the mask has become a notifier for civil disobedience. It is not as much a way of hiding ones identity but rather of becoming part of a group. It is meant to show that the indivdual does not matter, but that everyone masked stands for others behind him. Others willing to step in, sharing the same goals.

I personally think it is a nice change from a society in which we force celebrities to have an opinion on everything. From a society in which star chefs are asked about the danger of terrorism and athletes about the refugee crisis. Or comparable. I think it is refreshing for people to stand up and say: This is not about me. It is about a thing.

  • To refer to protestors as youth is one common way of not having to engage with a protest. When protestors are hot-blooded youth, they can still grow out of the protest and it will die away soon. In my opinion it is a comment by people who want to make things easy for themselves. And it is very common. And rarely true. Just as a game: When you next see a protest in the news, have a look how old the people are who are shown. Interesting, right?
  • Well, violence in protest is another interesting one. It is another item where the complex relationship with the media shows. Because it is very hard to get a peaceful protest in the media. It mostly needs an incredible mass of people or a spectacle. A couple of hundred peole coming together, peaceful, quiet, hardly ever makes it into the news. Violence is much easier. Therefore groups like the Black Bloc, who often attach themselves to protests and use violence such as attacking police cars, argue that they do this in aid of the protest. To get it into the media. To get it press. Which they do. But I’d argue that not every news is good news in this case. I think it distracts from what the protest is all about. And I hope that social media can change this. By reporting about protests and reaching a wider and interested audience, even for peaceful protests. By showing different pictures. Not the burning cars and stone throws we are so used to.

Well, why did I not go to the #MillionMaskMarch? Two reasons:  I learned about this late on a day when my bag broke and I was hungry. Too caught up in myself. As happens far too easy. Other reason: I do not own a mask. Well, did not. I do now. Hand made and ecologically sourced from British Wool. Just to discourage everyone who mocked that the masks are mass produced in China. I know that alternatives are out there and that people make them. As did I.

I want to wear this scarf as a reminder that it is important to speak out when I fel that things go wrong. To remind me that there are more important things that my bag and more important things than dinner. As a reminder that I will most likely not be alone when I consider things to go wrong and as a reminder that I am not powerless. Because in these strange times of TTIP, Prevent and Prism it is important to be reminded of this. Important to make use of the democratic right to assemble and to speak up as often as possible. Remind others that it is possible. Change is possible. Make it happen. Stay curious.

On fear

design

Alice_beginningA while ago I waited outside the British Library queing to get in. In the freezing cold. Delighted to see people queuing to get into a library. Something I would like to see more often. I bet it would make the world a better place. But to be honest people were not only queuing to get into the library, they were there to see what the library had set up to celebrate 150 years of Alice in Wonderland. There were little ‘Drink me’ cocktails, a great exhibtion of manuscripts, illustrations and nick-nacks and amazing storytelling. I thought some of it was a bit flippant, but I know I take Alice far too serious and far too much of my life advice from her ;-)

It felt good to see that Alice still has so many fans. With the story as famous 150 years after publication it is to hope that it gave joy and inspiration to many. But I kept on thinking why this is and why the story means so much to me.

Alice_king

Alice is fearless. She is afraid and scared at times, but she does not give into the fear. She allows herself to be led by her curiosity. Stumbles through a world she does not know, does not understand and explores it.

She does not judge the ones around her, does not shy away from what she does not understand, only leaves sometimes when she fells she had enough.

 

Alice_goI feel we do the opposite at the moment. Blame others for making us fearful. Expect others to leave when we do not understand them. Stop before we explore. Full of fear.

Fear induced by media headlines, fear of people behaving differently, fear of things that might go wrong. We hide away people we do not understand, use surveillance to find patterns of people that may misbehave in future, find someone to blame when things have gone wrong.

Alice_stopI am afraid of everyone and everything. But I know this. It is my fault. It is not a problem of the ones I do not know. The ones I do not (yet) understand. Everyday I try to explore something I did not know before. Led by curiousity. Mostly small things. Small steps. Little victories for me. Nothing important for everyone else.

But I want to live in a world where this is encouraged. A world that takes me seriously. Where I am treated as a grown-up. A world where I am the person to blame when things have gone wrong.

It is hard to argue against the “safety” argument. Of course I want to be safe. Not be a victim of terrorism. Not burn down in an office fire. Not be stabbed in the street. It is good to have measures in place to avoid this.

But I feel we have crossed a line here. Being fearful of future events we do not care how it affects the here and now. Prevent too many experiences from happening, instead of explaining to people the dangers and let them do. Push people into positions where they feel they have to make decisions alone, quick and for other people. For their own good.

I do not have a conclusion to this. But I strongly want to speak out against the fearmongery of today. Listen to common sense. Listen to your body. Listen to other people. And as I say so often at the end of a post: Stay curious!

P.S. Words in the background are given from Lewis Caroll to the king to say to Alice at the trial that takes part at the court. It really is this easy.

Scarf of the month: October – Comfort

knitting

Oktober_detailOctober I was not feeling too good. Things I had planned fell apart and I found it very hard to deal with the resulting uncertainty. Nothing really bad happened. I was still safe, still catered for, still in contact with the people I care about. But I struggled. Leaving me feeling selfish for not dealing better. For complaining when others had it so much worse.

For a while I was completely caught up in self-pity and in tiredness. I did not look out, made my thing and nothing more. Only now that my situation has resolved, do I start to get interested in the world around me again. Engage and act.

Looking back it confirmed again how important it is to look after yourself. Not selfishly. Not always. But so much so, that you can step out of the things engangled around you and take an interest of what is happening. Have enough energy to get angry. Have your mind free to care.

The October scarf is important as it led me out of this entanglement. It is made from linen and wool, amazing to touch, strong and sturdy. I chose this deliberately to give me something nice to focus on, to motivate me and to start again. It helped me to sort myself out, comfort me and stop feeling so damn sorry for myself. Because that gets much harder when you feel amazed by something beautiful you are doing. Even though very small it gave me something to control, something to make.

It obviously wasn’t the only thing that got me started again. Friends and family, motivation and suport from different people has been as important. But is was one step towards feeling better, looking out and caring. And it is an insight I hope I can share for others.

Sometimes it is just right to focus on yourself and make something you like. For yourself. To give you strenght. So, that after you can be strong for others again. It is not something to beat yourself up about. Not something to feel ashamed about. Because we all cope with different things at different levels. It is not important to be super. Just be the best you can be. And that often includes taking care of yourself first.

October_final

Scarf of the month: September – Fluidity

design, knitting

I have always – well, for as long as I remember – liked the changing seasons more than the static ones. There are only so many sunny days I can take in a row before I ache for rain, for fog, for change. Weather you cannot really prepare for has always been my favorite and I enjoy spring and autumn far more than I feel feel confident in summer or winter. Though winter normally is more unpredictable in my experience. Let’s face it, I just do not like summer very much.

September_final

This summer seemed particularly long. And sunny and warm. And left me sad. So I celebrated the turn of the seasons with this new scarf. The important thing is: this scarf is upcycled. It is made from worn out cardigans and some left-over yarns. And it celebrated a fluidity not only in the seasons, but also in knitting.

September_detail

For me knitting has always been a very resourceful craft as it does not destroy the materials you work with. It just gives them new shapes, endless possibilites. Designs I do not like anymore go in a special box to be unravelled again and be the base for something new. Fluid. Same goes for worn out garments. Not all can be recycled, as commercial production techniques destroy quite a lot. But the ones that can be always get a second life with me.

I often wish I had more control over other things I own as well. That I knew how to recycle electronics, fix broken plastics, set up that compost bin. Understanding that materials are in a constant flow which does not end when items get broken. Keeping in mind that items have a life before they get to me and that it will not end when the bin man takes them out. I slowly but steadily get there. First step was the insight from knitting that I can actually change things. Next is information. Seeing what others do. Sharing what I do.

A great inspiration on my way to a more fluid life is Jen Gale and her makedoandmendable blog. No matter if you are looking for ideas what to do with leftover food or have just been given a large pile of fabric, on her blog you will find ideas what to do with it. And plenty of other resources as well.

 

Scarf of the month: August – Einschnitt

art, crochet, knitting

I have been really quiet recently. Well, to you I may have appeared quiet. I have actually been racing around a lot. Worrying and celebrating, organising and socialising. I had a new start in my life. By now, I feel I should be used to it, but it catches me again and again. But now, this feels really big. This is the start of my PhD. In London.

I do not really know why, but it feels like a larger step than anything before. And it feels a bit like a cut that will divide my life into a before and after. An actual start, rather than a change.

While stressing out and dealing with the questions that poured in, such as: “Am I ready for this?” “Is this the right decision?” and “What the hell am I going to do if this fails?” I made this scarf. It shows the cut in my life, but also how much wider my life has become. How many more chances to grow, experiences to make and influence to gain.

IMG_20151031_143351

And I think it taught me that it is an important part to accept this challenge. To keep the large goal in mind, when the everyday seems overwhelming. (Believe me, this scarf took ages to make and I was about to give up sometimes) To keep in mind that something big has happened and that I need to get used to it. Keeping in mind that this is still the beginning.

So, if you are in London give me a shout. I still need to find all the knitting groups, nice pubs and yarn shops. Thanks for exploring with me. This is a new beginning.

Scarf of the month: July – Europe

art, crochet, design, social

Well, I am late, I know. You will learn all about the reasons in the next post. I hope to finalise and blog about the August scarf later this week.

But let me not get ahead of myself. The July scarf is done – but you will have to take my word for it. I have started an amazing project with two friends of mine, where we engage in a way of crafty ‘Chinese Whispers’. Each month one of us will send a piece (drawn, written, crafted,…) to the next one in the rota, who will then send out a creative response to it. It was my turn in July to react to the first piece my friend has sent out. And because it came at the time in which I thought about the July scarf, it shaped the way I thought about my project.

So for July both projects come together in a scarf that I cannot show you, because there are two very important people not allowed to learn about them. But I want to tell you about my motivation. The topic I wanted to tackle for July was Europe. There are so many issues around, questioning what Europe is. The UK thinking about leaving, immigrants trying to arrive, governments arguing whether Greece can, should or must stay within the union. Europe has become this thing with many faces, a threat to some, a dream of a safe future for others. It has been declared paradise, a fortress and a economic union and much more just in this month. What is Europe?

I have grown into Europe. As a child the border between two countries was directly behind our house. Well, it still is. But it is not really recognisable anymore. No border control asking me for a passport when I go over to the shops. Because the closest shop to our house is in another country. I have grown into the realisation that borders are quite random. Shifting. Open in wide parts. I have learned a lot from the trips to my neighbours. Most importanltly I have learned that I can take nothing for granted. A lesson that has come quite handy in my career as a designer. And a researcher.

Europe – and what is means – has been a lot in my mind lately. And in the news. Is Europe geograpic, social, economic, religious? All of the above? None? Is it static or does it move? Frilled around the edges or a solid rock?

With the scare of Greece leaving, with Britain considering a vote whether to stay in, with unrest in the Ukraine, with refugees trying to reach Europe, Europe has shown its many faces. A ‘fortress’, an ‘enemy’, an ‘ally’, a ‘safe haven’. I think Europe is all of this. It brings people together. It changes. It gives tension points to define yourself against.

Yes, I do believe that ‘Europe’ leaves a mark on any of its members. But no, I do not believe that this means that everyone will become European and lose their identity. Even though I in my opinion it is a place of shared values, of closeness, of compromises, neither its aim nor its result can be that people neglect what they have been brought up with. What defines them. What their values are. But it is a place to learn from. To grow. To develop. Maybe a place bigger than the inviduals it is made of. Maybe only a part of each of us.

And one day next year, I am going to show you the scarf I have made to express this. To some it will explain it better, to others less so. Let’s have a chat. Learn. Compare. Grow.

Start

design

In a book shop today I saw a book on starting to be creative. I did not buy it. I started writing again instead.

It was the one thing that reminded me that creativity is not a thing you get. The thing that reminded me that starting just needs to be done. It comes from the inside.

I have not been doing anything in a while now. I stopped because I was busy doing something – and did not find my way back in. Kept putting off writing, promised myself to start knitting again tomorrow, told myself I was too busy with other stuff. And I lost my stride more and more.

I am very aware that I get energy from making. But it does not come for free. It needs the first impulse to start. So, here we go. Worst bit done. I made a start. Again. Today.

start_post

Scarf of the month: June – This is how I make some noise

design

June_fightingface2Halftime. Well, Scarf of the month has been running half a year now. For me this has been a point to reflect on what has happened so far. I have made 5 items that would have not existed otherwise. I have acted. I have reacted. I have taken time and situations as constraints for my work. I HAVE MADE. I worked with others. I cared for myself. I thought about what happened around me. I am thinking long-term and I am thinking short-term. I MAKE.

I enjoy this project. To me it feels like something that is pushing me forward. I hope I reach others. I MAKE.

For June, for halftime, I worked to address the response I have been given during the year. Most discussion that arose from this project so far have been about the impact of my work. How much impact can knitting a scarf have? What good can it do?

And I decided once and for all that I do not care. Which does not mean that I do not wish to have an impact. Which does not mean that I do any less than my best to get noticed.

But I have decided that knitting is the way to make some noise. Knitting is my grafitti. Knitting is my protest. Knitting is the way I rock.

June_metall

Not as adventurous, not as impactful, not as heavy metall as other arts and crafts.

But I believe there is a value to this slow approach. I do believe that subtleness can win people over. As well as loudness can at other times. With other people.

My work is derived from reflection, from research and with plenty of time and dedication. Which can scream as loud as guitars. As loud as a chat. It just needs more time to sink in.

So, another good for me to come out of this project has to be that I have come to terms with my choice of craft. For some reason knitting is the thing I am good at. The medium I will get better at. And I will do my bit to use it as a medium for change.

This is how I make some noise.

June_bow

On struggeling

design

One of the first projects in art school was a sketchbook project. Task: Create 100 textures. And it nearly broke my neck. In contrast to most of my collegues, who had been on a foundation year, I had never before made a sketchbook. No idea how to go about it. And during this project I felt very much like giving up.

When I struggled it felt far more obvious to me that I do not belong there. I was 10 years older than everyone else in my course. And much more German. And things that came quite natural to everyone else, made no sense to me. So what the hell was I doing at art school?

sqare_then

I had great tutors who pushed me through this project. Who highly encouraged my first tentative steps and broke my anxiety that failure in this would mean failure in everything else.
I struggled along and I made something that hardly looked like a sketchbook at all. But it was an annotated exploration of textures, an exploratory artifact that explored others to stumble through as I did.

Yup, someone had to mark this

Yup, someone had to mark this

I got my fist good mark for this project. And finished the BA. And secured funding for an MA. Which I also finished. With more good marks. Now feeling (most of the times ) that I belong here. That I kind of know what I am doing. That I am a designer. That art school was right for me.

I have been reminded of this for two reasons now. Firstly I met one of the tutors who pushed me through this project. Completely by chance and just because we both do something different at the moment. And she paid me the great compliment that she remembered my work. Because of the struggle. Because it was different. And because it just did not fit just right.

But I am also learning something new at the moment. And I feel I am terrible at it. That I will not be able to push through to the other side where things feel normal again. And I have a great tutor who explains where I struggle and who pushes where I want to give up and who softens the blow when things do not work out.

At this stage it feels good to see that I have pushed through before. That things have been turned around before. To know that it can be good that I do things differently. That things might look odd, but they work – for me and for others.

I had great tutors who helped me through the feeling of doubt and not belonging. Others might not be so lucky. That is my reason to admire the work of Arts Emergency. They provide mentoring and support to enable others to push through. Which I know to be an invaluable help. Help I hope to give to others at some time.

This post is an encouragement for me. But also for you. Pay a compliment, when you see someone struggle. It can go a long way. Help someone to start something. Break down an undoable task into smething possible. A first step. Because we all struggle and doubt at one point or the other. And good will come out of it.