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The Pursuit of Absurd Goals

I have been beating around the bush about my big project until now. Actually, I’m doing two projects, both in anticipation of a trip to Minnesota. We leave Friday. I guess I might as well talk about it now.

I don’t know how many other artists are like me, but I tend to try to do things that are either a little or a great deal out of reach. I sometimes know they are absurd goals and I figure I’ll try anyway, and sometimes I don’t realize the project really is… until I’m far enough into it that it would be a shame to quit.

A First Too-Big Project
The first project I’ve been working on is not absurdly out of the question, but since I’m sort of a sequential-deadline girl, I didn’t start on it until it was a sprint to the finish. (For some reason I can do this repeatedly without regretting it enough to stop such nonsense.) My beloved, on the other hand, both has the ability to see the full scope of a project and a way of starting things when other things are not yet wrapped up. So of course he gets dizzy watching me.

And this time he actually knew more about the first project than I did, and he ended up doing a good deal of the work because it was just faster for him to do it than to explain it to me.

He has done a lot of genealogy work in his own family, especially with going to folks’ homes and photographing the family picture albums. So our family had a special picture album everyone wanted to see, and we live from Minnesota to Michigan to Georgia, Florida, Alabama. So how could we share? Take digital photos of all the pages (the photos are glued in) and make a “web” page on a CD that people can run on their own computers. Even if they are not connected to the Internet. Cool, huh?

So Brian already knew he had a computer program that takes a folder full of images and makes a website from it. Not a perfect program, but one which did enough of the programming work that we could do something with over 900 images and not go nuts. (He has Linux, not Windows or Mac, so the program is not commonly used.)

Of course we had to take the photos and then either crop or rotate or enhance many of them before they were ready to go. Then we needed to make captions for at least some of the photos we knew information about.

Brian and I both worked on taking photos, he did most of the taking and the editing of the photos. I did captions, he ran the program to make the web page. I made covers and label/stickers for the CDs, printed them, cut them out and assembled the covers. We shared duties of burning the CDs. It was a team effort, which worked pretty darned well in the end.

We tried to put the photos on a photo website, too. With over 900 photos, we really were stretching the possibilities. We had to give up that idea for the moment.

But Brian figured out how to make a CD an auto-starting one (doesn’t require an icon on most Windows computers), and I figured out how to make a picture for an icon so that if someone looks at this CD in “My Computer” they will see a tiny sweet face of my Grandma Ruthie in the 1920s. Trust me, she was a dynamo but she looked sweet while she packed that power. An amazing woman. And lucky me, I take after her personality more than anyone. Her sons also took after her in great part. We’re enthusiastic and loud and socal, always on the go. And at least speaking for myself, I can’t be anything else if I try.

A Second Too-Big Project
But what is my other project? Um… Susan Hensel, my artist friend who moved to Minneapolis, is having an art exhibit entitled “Threads in Space.” It opens Saturday. It’s all about using knitting and other needlework to make things not expected of the realm of fiberarts/needlework. I called her enough times about cool non-wearable knitted things, that she said, “OK, let’s do a show!” In the end, she did the show almost totally without me, but I will have one piece in it. And I sort of started the idea in the first place, or at least shared the idea early on.

My piece? Oh… now this is where you find out how disconnected from reality I can be. I’m knitting a self-portrait from a photograph. Well, Brian took the photo and I scanned it in, spent hours and days and weeks manipulating it and saving it in a zillion ways, and then chose one graph of many to knit from. Then I had to go find as many variations of cream/tan/taupe/brown as I could, which could be knitted together (mostly sockyarns, and a few lace yarns used in three or four strands held together). Changing yarns sometimes every stitch for a dozen or so stitches in a row.

It’s 91 stitches wide, and 114 rows high. That’s 10,374 stitches. I worked on the computer part of it in 2005. I bought the yarns in June. And I started knitting after the CD release party, not two weeks ago.

The bad news is that I think for me every big project has a day at least, where I hate it. I want to give up, throw it away, say I never wanted to really do that. This is why I did not say much about it here. I needed to save my energy to get through the blue days. And they did come.

Last week when I got sick, I would work and space/doze and make mistakes, then the slow work had to be taken out. It took way too long to make progress, for someone like me who really does feel colorwork is not generally as difficult as lace or knit/purl patterns. But I sort of forgot that this project was essentially intarsia. Again, no big deal except that means that half the stitches are purls. And I just am not as fast at purling (especially with 20 color changes in one row) as I am at knitting. So that slowed me down.

Well, yesterday I took it to Altu’s restaurant. And of course I’m working up close on beige stuff. It looked to me a bit like the shroud of Turin but not holy at all. But Altu exclaimed “I see it, that’s my Lynnie!”

Susan Hensel's pieceI hadn’t looked at it from enough of a distance. It does in fact look like me. It’s spooky, actually, how as you step back all of a sudden the eye can see what I have been doing on faith, one stitch at a time.

I do have two areas where the color I used is the wrong saturation. I will spend some time in the car (we leave Friday morning on our Minnesota trip) doing embroidery, duplicate stitch with lace yarn to sort of damp out the intensity of the somewhat bright pinkish-brown. I also intend to intensify/darken a shadow in my hair. But generally, this thing is working. And I have worked my way through the “I hate it, why did I start this?” phase of the project. Which, by the way, happens to me with dance concerts and new CD releases as well. In the end I’m glad. And thank goodness while I was working on this last week, I kept going because I knew that I could not have a chance to work through that phase if I didn’t keep proceeding to the goal.

I will do photos of the installation when I get to Sue’s gallery on Saturday. Well, I’ll take photos anyway. I don’t know when I’ll have internet access on the trip.

OK, time to sleep. It’s a long haul to Minnesota from here.

Photos: 1)My grandma Ruthie. Grandpa Oscar wrote below this one in the book: “My Ruthie” (makes me choke up just thinking of it). 2) Susan Hensel’s entry in Threads in Space. She learned to spin for this show… and it’s no surprise to me that it includes words as well as fiber. She’s done book arts and writing for years.

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