Who is in your creative family tree?
That’s what we are going to explore this year, as I teach you a bunch of new techniques that I learned from my favorite knitting designers over the past two decades. I’ll be creating brand new designs for us to knit with our custom-spun, hand-dyed yarns. These designs will all be inspired by a variety of influences in my creative family tree.
Rather than thinking of my influences as the branches of my family tree, I think of them as the roots. These influencing roots include many knitting designers as well as artists in other mediums, friends, family, books, places, nature, and more.
The things I create as well as the people that I influence through my personal life as well as my work become the branches, leaves, and flowers on my tree.
These days it seems like everyone is searching for their roots. This looking to the past for insight is a characteristic of my generation and a trend among those who came after the Baby Boomers and the Greatest Generation. Before then, many people, especially immigrants, were running away from the past, ignoring it, looking for a better life.
With all of the changes in the twentieth century and all the moving away from the place our ancestors once called home, and I’ve found myself part of a generation of rootless wanderers in America who want to reconnect with their ancestors, their origins, and with the traditions, foods, and crafts from the past.
In her book The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt explains how rootlessness can easily lead to authoritarianism and totalitarianism. Arendt also says that uprootedness has been “the curse of modern masses since the beginning of the industrial revolution.”
In The Need for Roots, Simone Weil wrote, “To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.”
Arendt defined rootedness as having a “place in the world, recognized and guaranteed by others.” Weil defines rootedness as “real, active, and natural participation in the life of a community which preserves in living shape certain particular treasures of the past and certain particular expectations for the future.”
It seems to me that both Arendt and Weil were thinking about being permanently rooted in a specific place, culture, and local community. But that is almost impossible in today’s world. I believe we can be rooted in many different ways, and this idea will be carried on through each of our projects during the year.
I use knitting, rather than DNA, my birthplace, or attachment to ancestral lands, foods, and traditions as my way to connect to people. I use the act of making stitches one at a time to celebrate the past, to be mindful in the present, and to envision the future.
I hope that what I’ve written here will entice you to examine your own creative family tree and join me in an exploration of your own inspiring experiences and memories, and begin to use your own inspirational roots to enhance your knitting experiences and add personal meaning to your projects.