The Intricacies of a Knit-In

On a superficial level, a ‘knit-in’ may look like nothing more than a group of (predominantly, but not necessarily) women sitting around clicking needles and playing with yarn.

But, it is so much more.

On a practical level, it is cultural transmission. It is the passing of tradition from one generation to another.  For instance, at the last ‘Knit North Battleford’ get-together there was an intergenerational group of three knitting in the corner–mother teaching daughter, teaching daughter.

On yet another level, equally intangible, is a transmission of knowledge.  People talk about what is going on around town or upcoming events.  They as well talk about things like health and nutrition.

But, on another level is the quintessence of ‘Knit-Ins’ (in my opinion).  It is the gathering of people, who are often strangers, who for no other reason than a common interest have come together for an hour or two, and share their time, their stories, their humour, their life.

A woman who is a recent newly wed and pregnant for the first time may be sitting in the same circle with another woman who has multiple children and is widowed or separated after thirty-some years of marriage.  A shy person may come and take comfort in the company of others without the imposition of speech.  A new immigrant may come because the gathering offers solace to his or her solitary new environment … and so on.

Bearing this in mind, I feel it is a real success when I hear of Culture Days endeavours like the ‘Knit North Battleford’ Group who have been asked to meet in venues above and beyond their already pre-scheduled locations.  Further, that they are discussing meeting after the Culture Days weekend.





The Wolf Clan Mother Mosaic is Installed

Well, the ceramic tile mosaic of the Wolf Clan Mother is installed on Muskoday First Nation.

But, it never would have happened without the help and endurance of Jay Kimball and Shannon Smith.

Shannon spent two days inserting all the necessary tiny tile pieces into the spots that were missing tile–a job coveted by very few. Plus, she helped polish for the better part of an afternoon. Additionally, Jay Kimball agreed to a very long day of travelling, grouting, polishing, and installing on the powwow grounds.

The mosaic will be celebrated with a ceremony on the Saturday of Culture Days Weekend.  But, in truth, the mosaic will  be celebrated for years to come when people gather for ceremony and tradition on Muskoday First Nation’s Powwow Grounds.


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Making Mixed Media Sculpture at the SCC

Typically, when I facilitate a workshop there is some structure. There is an example of what we are going to make. There are pre made parts.  There are steps to the process that I go through (one by one)…. There is an end goal.

But, this time, at the Saskatchewan Craft Council’s Mixed Media Sculpture Workshop, which was held in conjunction with the Broadway Street Festival on September 6, there was none of that.

When people entered the Affinity Gallery and approached the table, they were invited to create whatever they liked.  I would list all the fun materials they could play with (beads, wire, yarn, feathers, etc.), and I would list some potential possibilities (jewellery, architectural sculptures, wall hangings, etc.).  But, in the end people were encourage to “just create.”

And what a success that was.  People did just that.  They created.

Perhaps it was the inspirational artwork in the gallery, or the excitement of the festival, or maybe it was just people’s inherent creative nature that came through, but I didn’t hear once (out of approximately 120 participants) “I don’t know what to make.”

Considering that creativity is one of the ‘tag lines’ of Culture Days (“Create, Participate, & Celebrate”) I think more credence needs to be given to this type of ‘creation.’  True, it’s comfortable to go to a workshop where there is structure and an expected end result.  But, it is also extremely important to “Create for Creation’s Sake.”  It’s important to trust the process of uninhibited creativity.  Some of the most important inventions have come out of this kind of play and experimentation.  So I was happy to see us engage in and practice this type of creativity. photo-83 photo-84 photo-85 photo-80 photo-81

Knittin’ in the Mall

Another group that is using knitting as a means of participating in Culture Days is a collective in North Battleford.

There are several ‘Knitting Circles’ scheduled during the month of September in various public locations around the city.  One such locale is the Co-Op Mall.  A group of 13 knitters gathered on September 4th for a couple hours and began their knitting contribution. Like the Waldheim Knitters (mentioned in the previous post), this group of knitters plans on meeting in Central Park on Saturday, September 27 to yarn bomb some trees and lamp posts.

But, before the big installation the group will meet several times, as they did on September 4th, and prepare their knitted pieces.

I have to admit, there was something amusing and inspiring about walking into a mall and seeing a group of knitters creating and visiting.  It was such a juxtaposition between what I consider a domestic, cozy, intimate, solitary practice and the sterile, public environment of a mall.  When I came around the corner and saw the group of knitters the space was instantly transformed.  It changed from a place of business and aloof transaction into a warm, friendly place.  Further, it morphed from a space of commerce and consumption to a giving place of hand-made production.

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Update on the Waldheim YarnBombers

I stopped in to see how the Waldheim Yarnbombers are doing, and things are progressing.

Some of the students continued to knit during the summer and are ready to start stitching their pieces to the trees at the front of the school.  Other students were newcomers.  They came to our gathering for the first time and learnt how to knit and/or crochet, and are eager to create pieces for their yarn-bombed tree.

I selected my spot that I’ll be yarn-bombing, and am eager to install it on the morning of September 16th.

I was told by Wendy (the organizer of our group) that CTV is coming to the school on that day to report on the first phase of our installation–how exciting!  It will be good publicity for the school and their participation in Culture Days.


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Intergenerational Collage

The Care Home in Paradise Hill invited me to facilitate an activity that would involve the Residents as well as a family member (preferably a Grandchild, since Grandparents Day is just around the corner).

I suggested we do a collage using various mediums as well as at least one family photo.

Not only did the Residents supply more than one photo, many of them had more than one Grandchild in attendance.  And some had a Great-Grandchild to assist in our endeavour.

After a brief demonstration on how they could incorporate meaningful text from books, pressed flowers, fabric, and photos into their collage the participants of the workshop quickly got to work.

As I went around to visit, offer assistance, and admire their creativity, it was clear the activity was bringing to the foreground many stories that may have been dormant. For instance, in one collage I noticed the duo had placed a page from the dictionary in the background and then layered many cut out images of cowboys over top.  When I enquired about it, the Resident’s Great-Granddaughter explained me to that they had chosen the word ‘challenge’ on that page as their theme.  When I asked, “why?” she further explained that her Great-Grandfather had told her he found it a great challenge to get on his horse at 93, but he did it anyways…..  And there was the photo (in the foreground of the collage) to prove it.

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The Philosophical Aspects of a Fabric Mosaic

On August 23 I facilitated a Kids Craft for St. Walburg’s Blueberry Festival.

I had prepared the ingredients for a blue fabric mosaic and set up as a drop-in activity at the four corner stop on Main Street.

There’s something about these community based art activities that reminds me of Confucian sayings about society and self-governance or the Taoist concept of wu wei.  They remind me of sayings like, “the less the king does, the more gets done.”

What I mean by this is that there is a place and need for all types of workers, artists, at such endeavours.  If you provide the supplies and give a brief instruction (or better yet, show by example) kids of various ages come up and participate in their own way.  Some will come and sit down and focus on an entire section until it’s complete, regardless of the time it takes to finish the task. They like to having a designated and working alone. There are those who don’t like to start the project but like to follow behind the steadfast starters and fix.  They will (in this case) remove excess glue, trim fabric, straighten pieces.  There are rogues, of course.  Those that come in all jacked up on festival sugars, who are loud and obnoxious and don’t follow any of the rules.  And while I used be bothered by the drive-by contributors, I have (with time) come to understand their place too.  Now I see that if I just calmly bide my time, the rogues never last longer than five minutes, their errors ignite the fixers enthusiasm, and they break the monotony of the steadfast starters pace.

I have come to understand on a visceral level that indeed if there is a calm center around which kids of all ages can come and work in their own way (without being told how to operate) there is some sort of organic governance that occurs and everything functions smoothly.  The project gets done because everyone works in their own inherent fashion, and naturally there is a worker for every job and job for every worker.

Basically, these community based art projects are indicative of the idioms regarding the significance of the individual parts contributing to thephoto-56 photo-57 photo-58 photo-59 whole.


Preparing to Launch

My second visit to Rockglen took place in the Library.  A group of us met Wednesday morning and made Origami Boats in preparation for our ‘Lighted Launch,’ which will take place on Wednesday September 24th.

Like before, I gave a demonstration on how to make an Origami boat and played a short video that reinforced this teaching.

Then, we broke off into smaller groups and went through the process step-by-step.

All and all, we made about fifty boats that day and I hope to return one more time before the launch.

Later that night, a couple of Rockglen residents took me to Fife Lake (about a ten minute drive out of town), where the ‘Lighted Launch’ will take place.

It’s a beautiful lake.

The two residents, Richard and Darcy, (who are in their early sixties) explained to me how when they were young this Lake/Regional Park was the place to be.  The campground was always full.  Locals came for the weekend.  There were swimming lessons, ball tournaments, a rodeo, etc.  Then in the late 80s the lake began to dry up and by the year 2000 it was nothing more than a small puddle.

In the last two years, however, the lake has been completely restored.  The night I was there, people were kayaking and boating.  Kids were skipping stones. People were camping.  And others were playing ball in the nearby diamonds, practicing for the ball tournament that was about to take place that weekend.

Listening to people talk about the lake I really got a sense of how relieved they are that “it came back.”

I was told that it’s the ebb and flow of nature, the cycle of water, that makes it so that a lake can completely disappear and then reappear.  Plus, I was told it’s our human ‘footprint’ that disrupts nature “like that.”  Many blamed a local coal mine for the water disappearing.

Either way, all seem happy to see the return of their lake.  And rightly so.  From a Cultural perspective this lake is of utmost importance. Look at all the activity that is dependant this lake.  Even at it’s rudimentary level, even if a person does not participate in any activity at all,  it is a gathering place.  People who live in the same community, but do not necessarily visit,  gather here and share.

Keeping this in mind, I find it wildly appropriate that we are having a ceremony that will celebrate this lake–a celebration that will further bring people together.  I can’t wait.

Making Rabbits in Shaunavon

I spent August 12 in Shaunavon at the Grand Coteau Heritage & Cultural Centre.  Each year they host two different Kids’ Art Camp, and this year they asked that I come and facilitate a workshop for one of the days.

The roster was full with fun activities: visiting a local pottery studio, making Celtic walking sticks, painting, etc.  So, I decided to add Papiermâché to the list.  Namely, we made  Papier-mâché rabbit sculpturesphoto-51 photo-52 photo-53 photo-54.  

I had the group of twelve make the wire frames of the rabbits, stuff the frames, apply the Papier-mâché, and paint their sculpture s all in one day! They worked hard, but the end result was a dozen cute rabbits.

All Nations Healing Moon Gathering

Most of my Culture Days Activities (and therefore these posts) focus on the bright side of our society. They focus on the fun, creative, celebratory nature of Saskatchewan.

While I enjoy the positivity of these endeavours and those aspects our Culture, I also feel that if we’re going to put forth a call  to engage in Culture we have to be open to all potential aspects of what this might be.

The “All Nations Healing Moon Gathering” is one such example of what I am speaking about.  Muskoday First Nation invites the families of those who have murdered and missing loved-ones to gather during the August Full/Super Moon, so as to grieve and heal. During this gathering there is much ceremony and cultural activity.  There is a Sweatlodge, drumming, smudging, talking circles, the drying of meat and fish, the collection of sweetgrass and sage, feasts, and more.

That said, I was more than happy to be asked to attend this gathering and facilitate a craft or art workshop that could run alongside all the other activities.

They set up a tent for me and during the day I ran a simple styrofoam print workshop.  I had many children come and stay the day and make several prints, which we then hung by clothes-pin on twine, around the tent.  Even a few adults came and sat and visited for the duration of my stay.

I’m not sure if it was the nature of the gathering, people’s vulnerability, or the magic of the Super Moon, but there was a ‘closeness’ that is difficult to articulate.  Perhaps  a couple of examples will suffice: the Autistic boy who would only address me as Auntie, or the War Veteran who told me various stories from his three tours of duty.

It’s challenging to look at aspects of Culture such as the missing and murdered.  But it’s there.  So what better way to deal with this troubling experience than with creativity, song, traditions, ceremony, and Art.