Monday, January 19, 2015

Terroir

South shore of Great Salt lake in the fall, this was the actual color unfiltered!

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!













Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Juniper

Every year for Christmas, instead of giving one big gift, my sister and I fill each other’s stockings. We usually try to make it a theme stocking and they, of course, have many things associated with knitting: patterns, notions, yarn, etc. This year my theme for my sister’s stocking was spice. It was fun coming up with different things for her like spiced lip balm, exotic cooking spices, spice colored yarn.



I also wanted to design her an original pattern in the theme. My sister loves mitts. She has knit a lot of them. They are her relaxing knit that provides quick satisfaction. So, I decided to design some quick mitts for her. I knew that I wanted to incorporate a more obscure spice, juniper berries. For my wedding, I had juniper and berries in my bouquet and my sister embroidered juniper and berries in white silk on my white wedding dress. I even had juniper jewelry. I think it is time I give back for her time embroidering juniper with some juniper berry mitts.


So, last month I swatched a couple juniper berry motifs that I created.



I liked the right hand one best and incorporated that into a mitt. They turned out very cute. The juniper berry motif is subtle but I like it. They are fun to knit and now I can publish the pattern now that my sister has already seen it.


And of course, I was inspired by my lovely Utah environment! Juniper is everwhere.

The Utah Juniper (Juniperus osteosperma) is the most dominant species of tree in Utah; they cover nearly one-fifth of the state. They are also very hearty and can live to be 650 years old. Juniper berries are the female seed cone (not a true berry) with unusually fleshy and merged scales making it look like a berry. The berries can be dried and made into beads for jewelry and are also deliciously eaten by jackrabbits, foxes, coyotes and people.


Friday, November 14, 2014

Mirabilite

I have been playing around with knitting construction lately; how to mold knitted fabric into a three-dimensional form through just the knit and purl stitch. I have been thinking a lot about this idea mainly because I am fascinated with salt crystals, how they grow and how to translate growing crystals into knitted forms. As you have noticed, Great Salt Lake has been on my mind a lot recently and the salt has captured my imagination. The growing salt flats from the receding lake are both beautiful and terrible.

Salt crystals on the Bonneville Salt Flats

Part of my fascination began when last year my museum showed a work by CLUI (Center for Land Use Interpretation) called Great Salt Lake Landscan. It was an amazing and beautiful high-definition video commissioned by the UMFA. The video was shot in a helicopter and showed the outskirts of the lake along with the industry that harvests salt from evaporations ponds.



Of course this led me to research a little on the salt industry at Great Salt Lake. I was surprised to learn that no table salt is produced from GSL, only industrial use salt. All the salt is harvested from large evaporation ponds scattered around the lake. One such salt is called mirabilite.

In technical terms mirabilite, also called Glauber’s salt, is a sodium sulfate salt used in the production of salt cake. It is harvested from evaporation ponds on Great Salt Lake in the cold winter months and was named by Johann Rudolph Glauber who synthesized it. The salt itself crystalizes in sharp-edged shapes but dehydrates quickly turning the crystals into white powder. More poetically, mirabilite’s name is based on the Latin phrase Sal mirabilis or “wonderful salt.”

These geometric crystals have inspired me to create a seamless geometric pouch that can be knit in one piece: the Mirabilite Pouch. It is quite fun to knit and I created a pattern for two different sizes (mostly two different widths that create more volume inside). This is a great knit to show off your vintage buttons too!





I created a few different colors because I couldn’t stop making them. And there are two sizes. The white one is larger (more volume) and the blue and pink ones are smaller. They are a quick knit and so useful for holding a variety of things. I mostly store my knitting notions in them right now but I think one of them will be reserved for all the salt crystals I gather at Great Salt Lake. You can find the pattern for the Mirabilite Pouch on my Ravelry site here





Friday, November 7, 2014

Cross Section: Great Salt Lake


One of my sculptures was accepted into the Utah Arts & Museums Statewide Annual Exhibition for Painting and Sculpture! I was surprised which one was accepted because I truly liked the other one better. That is why you always submit because you never know what a judge will like.

The one that was accepted is my Cross Section: Great Salt Lake sculpture. The opening is on November 21 if anyone is local and wants to go see it. There were a record number of submissions this year (392) and they accepted 59 works so I am feeling honored to be in it.






Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Lichens at Rozel Point


Last spring on one of my many trips out to Rozel Point in Great Salt Lake, I climbed up to the top of Rozel Hill with my family. They, of course, got way ahead of me because I was too busy taking pictures of lichen on rocks. I am always in wonderment and admiration of Lichen. Not only can they live everywhere (even on the harsh salty shores of Great Salt Lake), but they thrive with beautiful colors that range from orange to blue to purple.

Lichen really do live everywhere. They are hearty little fungi/algae/bacteria that thrive in the harshest environment. The partnership between the fungi and the algae or cyanobacteria within the lichen allows it to survive with little water and extreme heat or cold.

So, an ordinary and ubiquitous rock found on the shore of Great Salt Lake can hold the most interesting and beautifully colored organism…which I then took a picture of and proceeded to design a project bag for me.


This is a silly little project but I like its quirkiness. My husband thinks it looks like a psychedelic giraffe but it reminds me of that one ordinary day at the Lake on an ordinary hike seeing an ordinary rock with ordinary lichen. But that lichen was not really ordinary, it was hiding a life of extraordinary survival and beauty.