Thursday, December 19, 2013

I had a chance to work on a fun collaboration this past month with an artist I look up to and a guy I'm grateful to call a friend. I have been admiring Oliver Hibert's art and career for years now, and, through the wonders of the internet, we developed a fast friendship that has bridged the 2,000 miles between us. Now, what started as a casual Instagram comment, has turned into my largest knit piece to date!

"Dead! Dead! Dead!" materialized as a limited edition screen-printed run for Oliver. I instantly saw its knitted potential with the amount of thick color-blocking he used. At the time, I didn't think the bottom half would be doable. How could I knit all those drips without having my own skull melt out my ears? Then I just haaad to go and be ambitious -- I didn't want to change his image so I decided to just figure out how to make it work.

Remember my first foray into Intarsia color knitting? With the "Aloof" pieces? Well, because of those projects, this piece was significantly easier, even though at my most complicated section I got up to 32 BALLS OF WORKING YARN ON MY NEEDLES, as seen in the picture above. Fortunately, a lot of the drips were small moments of color that I could start and stop relatively quickly before the yarns got completely tangled and hindered my progress. I had found in the past that placing the yarn balls in their respective tins helped with organization but really just keeping your balls small and being able to pull them through potential knots is what keeps this technique, and you project, from failing.

I also knew I would need to use acrylic yarn for this to get the brightest colors possible. I can't believe how nice (and cheap) this yarn was! I always associate acrylic yarn with the scratchy afghans my great-grandmother used to make, but yarn technology has come a long way since then. And since this piece is not intended to keep a body warm, you don't have to worry about its lack of insulation.

Here I am after I got back down to only the background color, and couldn't resist laying it out and getting a photograph. The main way I achieved the results I wanted and stayed true to Oliver's drawing was the sneaky use of duplicate stitch, a process where you go into the knitting after it's taken off the needles and "change" the color of certain stitches. Some colors worked better on top of other colors and some illusions were more successful than others. And I love how the duplicate stitch creates slight dimension in the piece that adds a whole nother level of interest for in-person viewing. Sorry, Internet, some things can only be appreciated in person!

Here is the piece in its (almost) final state. It won't be fully realized till it is stretched into a frame. That'll be way more attractive than this old piece of contour foam I have it pinned to for now.

One design element that I can't seem to learn yet is that knitting is not a perfectly square thing. If you design a piece on graph paper, and knit it exactly as you see it, your image will come out wider, giving it the appearance of being squished. That's why you see designs in books that look stretched out. I even told myself this as I was still transposing this image to a working knit pattern but didn't make any changes. I figured that since I would be stretching it into a frame then I could stretch it into its proper proportion. And I will mostly be able to do that but I kinda wish I had just made the small adjustment when I had the time. Why do we do these kinds of things to ourselves??

 I love it!! Getting to finally step back from this project has been so enjoyable, I can't wait for Oliver to finally see it in person. Alas, our lives don't have many opportunities to cross paths but mailing art is a lot cheaper than a plane ticket. Who knows, I feel like 2014 will have lots of exciting things in store for both of us.

On a final note, I wanted to say that Oliver and I met through us reaching out to each other via e-mail, phone, and social media. If I can offer any nuggets to chew on, I want you to not be afraid to reach out to someone you found on the Internet that you admire. Express your enthusiasm, ask questions, or just say hey! You never know what kind of response you'll get back but I find that those who look like huge successes are also just people, making it through their day-to-day. And you can create a fabulous website but it doesn't mean you have any idea who is actually looking at it. Many have warned about the isolation that can come from the computer, but I also see the potential to connect to people with similar interests that you would otherwise never get a chance to meet. Hey, you might even find a new friend :)

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