Thursday, September 3, 2015

Saltgrass Stole

This is my twelfth and latest design for my Black Rock Desert Artist-in-Residency and I can see the end of the tunnel. I have three more to finish in a few weeks and I am knitting as fast as I can. This Saltgrass Stole is one of my favorites because it is a light and subtle piece that quietly echoes some of the more serene times I spent on the edges of the playa thinking, knitting, and creating.

Although saltgrass thrives on the edges of the playa in Black Rock Desert, it is rarely noticed by visitors who are awed by the vast space of the dry lakebed. It quietly grows in the alkaline soil expelling salts from its leaves through salt glands. This unassuming plant is vital in stitching together the edges of the playa and maintaining the ecosystem of this beautiful desert. 

Saltgrass drew me in and made me notice it when I was forced to sit on the outskirts of the lakebed because all the May rain made the playa unsafe for any vehicles. I would sit and watch the rain wash over the flats, the grand vistas of a big desert. And then shift my view to the immediate and small right in front of me. I am grateful that I was forced to narrow my focus, it helped me see the trees for the forest.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Black Rock City Shawl

With Burning Man happening this week in Black Rock Desert, I pushed to finish my design for a shawl inspired by Black Rock City, a city created during the festival every year on the playa.  

Every year on the Black Rock Playa a festival of immense proportions takes place called Burning Man. With around 70,000 participants in the festival, a temporary city is created for one week called Black Rock City. It is arranged as a series of concentric streets in an arc around the Burning Man sculpture. Radial streets called Avenues extend from the sculpture out to the edges and are given a clock designation, for example, 6:00 or 6:15.

Such precise city planning creates a beautiful symmetry that begs to be lifted off the playa and wrapped around you. So I created this shawl.

Knit from Malabrigo Arroyo it is soft and warm. I began knitting it in Black Rock Desert during my residency but didn’t finish it until this week. I have never done so much math and geometry on a design as I did on this one!

Pattern is coming soon.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Great Basin Cyanometer

This is only one of three pieces I finished during my residency in Black Rock Desert. It is a circular cowl that doubles as a cyanometer. I have talked a bit about cyanometers on the blog with my Lakeview scarf, but here is a quick rundown of it. A cyanometer is an instrument for measuring the blueness of the sky. It was invented in 1789 by scientist Horace-Bénédict de Saussure who correctly surmised that blueness was dependent on the amount of water vapor suspended in the atmosphere. In the Great Basin of the American West, the dry desert air makes the sky rest firmly in the bluest area of the cyanometer.

Cyanometers have been on my mind recently because my work as a curator of education at an art museum. We are opening an exhibition this week from the National Museum Wales on British Landscapes. I was able to curate a companion hands-on exhibition of Utah landscapes that teaches how artists construct landscapes. 

Within the exhibition, I designed a cyanometer that people can take with them around the museum to compare the sky in the art to the colors on the instrument. We will also be making our own out of watercolor for a family activity.

Because I have been planning all these cyanometer activities last year, the blue sky in the desert inspired me to create my own knitted version. It was very fun to knit and satisfying seeing the ombre effect grow.

The pattern will be coming soon when I release all the patterns from my artist in residency at Black Rock Desert.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Calico Mountain Scarves

The Calico Mountains west of the Black Rock Desert Playa are colorful peaks rising above a sea of gray and green sagebrush. The rugged mountains shine in the desert with amber, orange, and yellow rocks. The array of minerals that make up the mountains contribute to the color of the Calico Mountains.

 The jagged colorful mountains sang to me of cables so I created a trio of cabled scarves in different colors of the hills.

 I had a lot of fun creating these scarves. I started them while staying in Black Rock Desert and took a few months working on them intermittently. Every time I picked them up I was transported back to the desert. I could smell the sagebrush and hear the frogs in the streams at night. I was a little sad to finish them.

But I love how they turned out. Worn either separate or together, each scarf only takes 100 grams of wool so they are quick to knit up. When I publish the pattern, I hope others can be transported to Black Rock Desert whenever they knit them up as well. This piece was created as an Artist-in-Residence at Black Rock Desert National Conservation Area.

Monday, August 3, 2015

I Have Not Forgotten You

Oh, dear. It has been awhile since I posted on my blog. I have been knitting furiously and anyone who follows my Instagram or even Ravelry will know what I have been up to. But here I wanted to give a little more information on all the work that I have been doing to get ready for the exhibition with Black Rock Desert this fall.

I have 15 pieces planned for the exhibit (but they probably don’t have room for them all so maybe not all will be shown). I have completed nine of them and have another six on needles in various stages. I am hoping to not only sell all the patterns individually but to figure out a way to put them all in an e-book to sell. That is a project for later. Now is the time to knit!

So I thought I would highlight one work each blog post over the next month and maybe by then I will have the other six completed. Most of the pieces I have finished I have shown on Instagram so you might have already seen them if you follow that as well.

If you remember, all the pieces for my Artist-in-Residency center around wrapping myself in Black Rock Desert. With that in mind, the first piece I want to talk about is my Indian Paintbrush Hap.  

In the spring and summer the Black Rock Desert is dotted with brilliant Indian paintbrush wildflowers. This native plant has bright red bracts that are often confused for their flowers, which are small and inconspicuous. I saw a lot of this wildflower in May when I was there and maybe even more than normal because of the abundance of rain they had.

When walking the desert, I felt surrounded by the spiky red plants as if I was wrapped in paintbrushes. So, I wrapped myself in the color and shape of the flower with this hap.

A hap is a traditional Shetland shawl that in the center is a basic garter stitch square (or triangle if it is a half hap like my shawl). Stitches are picked up on the outside for a lace border and then a lace edging is usually applied to the live stitches so that there are no bound off edges on the lace to stop it from being stretched.

I really tried to capture the spiky red bracts and individual leafed stems with the design. This piece surprised me in two ways. First, it took so much longer than I thought it would to knit up, but it was a joy to knit and see grow. And second, it is more beautiful than I imagined it would be when I designed it (which doesn't always happen).

With my beautiful niece-in-law modeling it, it really does look like it wraps you in Indian paintbrush.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

I’m Back!

I am back from the Black Rock Desert and am swimming in work and home stuff. But I wanted to do a quick update on the pieces I managed to finish while out there. I am still working on the patterns and I started about 15 more objects while there but I have the summer to finish them and the patterns. I hope to show them off here as I finish them. The vastness of the desert was overwhelming and beautiful. It was laid out around me and enveloped me at the same time. While I was there, all my designs were centered around wrapping myself in the desert. This was apparently my theme for my artist-in-residency: wearable art that allows you to wrap yourself in Black Rock Desert.

Great Basin Cyanometer: A Cyanometer is an instrument for measuring the blueness of the sky. It was invented in the 1700s by a French scientist who correctly hypothesized that the blueness was dependent on the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere. In the Great Basin the dry desert air makes the sky rest firmly in the bluest area of the cyanometer.

Mudcrack Muffler: A lot of the designs I am planning are larger and will take the summer to knit up and make the pattern. So I wanted to challenge myself to design and create a piece all in one day. This goofy little knit only took me 5 hours to design, swatch, knit, and create the pattern. I am definitely within my theme of wrapping myself in the desert! Mud Crack Muffler.

Cloudburst Gaiter: If you could sketch in knitting this piece would definitely be one. With all the rain we had in Black Rock Desert I wanted to do something with clouds. I made this quickly with only a vague plan in mind when I started: Cloudburst Gaiter, a knitted sketch.