South shore of Great Salt lake in the fall
I have been thinking about my knitting, designs and art lately. Because my practice revolves around my environment, specifically Great Salt Lake, the notion of place has been an important idea to everything I do. I have been thinking about this in relation to terroir. Terroir is defined as “the combination of factors including soil, climate, and sunlight that gives wine grapes their distinctive character.” It has been expanded over the 20th century to apply to other food products like tea, cheese, chocolate, and coffee. And in the 21st century it has been applied to non-food items, morphing into a kind of philosophy of place. I am interested in this idea and how it pertains to my art and practice.
What does it mean to have terroir in knitting? Is it focusing on the specific climate and land to influence shape, color, texture, and design? Can it be applied to materials and location of practice as well?
I have been asking myself these questions over the last several months and wanted to explore this idea further. Specifically in the design I am working on right now based on the changing shoreline of Great Salt Lake. The Great Salt Lake shoreline is an ever-changing geography. Maps of the lake often need to show approximations of the lake’s boundaries, with a high point and low point outline. This fluxuation is routine for people and animals that live along the banks and make for a beautifully vibrant ecosystem.
North shoreline of Great Salt Lake in spring showing the pink bacteria coloring the water.
For this design, I not only want to show the texture, line, and color of the Lake’s shoreline, I wanted to capture the terroir of the Lake. I found a woman who lives on the shores of the lake in Centerville, Utah. She raises her own sheep in her backyard then dyes and spins the wool. I was lucky enough to purchase some beautiful purple and white yarn that she had grown and spun along the shores.
These yarns have realized a design of the shore that I have put into a cowl. I abstracted the fluctuating shoreline into a minimalist form. I have two designs in mind so I am knitting both. The first is finished and I absolutely love it. I am doubling the half oval pattern for the second one to see if I like that as well. It is currently a work in progress. Ignore the color differences in the two cowls below. Light is fickle, but they are the same yarn.
Knitting an item inspired by the shores of Great Salt Lake, using yarn grown and spun on the shores of Great Salt Lake, while knitting the item on the shores of Great Salt Lake is my attempted practice in terroir.
My niece and I took a trip out to Great Salt Lake yesterday and I took some pictures of her wearing the finished cowl. I am pleased with my first venture into the idea of terroir. In the coming month, I hope to finish the second cowl and then I can show them both here. More terroir designs coming soon I hope!