It’s 3:48am and I have insomnia. I’ve had it since at least 2007 right after my dad died. I’ve tried everything I can think of to not have insomnia (sometimes melatonin works, but if I take it at this hour I’ll be groggy as hell in the morning and I want to make a huge, special, birthday breakfast first thing). Anyway I’m going to try writing to see if I can squeeze a couple hours of extra sleep in after I’m done.
My first book was based on leaves. I called it Leaves. You can see some of the leaves in the pieces if you look really closely. Cowl is called Leaf Relief.
My second book, On Holiday was based on summer sunshine, sun dials with a dash of paganism. (Sun in Glory by Kate Poe, in my second book where I decided to make myself an editor as well as an author).
This is the book proposal for Ballerinas in Pink, my third book (published 2013). inspired by, Degas.
My childhood was full of a lot of religious inspired deprivation. No secular music (I had to figure that out on my own). Not much tv. No R rated movies. Books went uncensored because my Dad would take me to the library and get whatever I’d like. That was pretty subversive of him. If I had to describe myself at that age I was simply a head with eyes and ears because that’s how I took everything in and most adults didn’t care for the working mouth part of my face. And that’s how you have the crude, unfiltered, highly opinionated probably overeducated woman before you today. I would say I went from hearing and seeing to speaking, and now I can’t shut up. I won’t shut up.
There were two artistic periods. The first being when I was eight. My brother moved to Vienna in 1979 after he finished college. In those days you had to return to the states every five years to renew your visa. So when I was 8 he came back and brought his lovely European knitting girlfriend Christine with him. My sister Miriam used to laugh about their childhood and tell me that Ivan “was really into Dadaism” and what she actually meant by that was that he was fucking weird. All three of us are fucking weird, so this doesn’t hold a lot of weight.
To the best of my knowledge and memory he was here for about 6 or so months. He and Christine lived in this tiny, deep green trailer that had belonged to my grandmother. We lived in a tiny modified house with a great view. We all lived together on my Uncle’s 100 acre cattle farm.
And there was so much art. Nearly every day there was some form of art. This was a lot of color on my plain white chaste canvas childhood. Christine would knit, she’d make us goulash. Ivan and I would work side by side, him with real artistic media, me with crayons. He’d rip the pages out of beautiful books and incorporate them.
It was a creative time for my mom too. She painted this really beautiful watercolor cottage surrounded by hollyhocks and country flowers like we had in her flower garden.
He waited until she was at work to get out his gouache and paint “Kitsch” on the glass covering her watercolor and hang it back on the wall for her too see it, transformed.
Ivan and Christine totally redid my grandmother’s trailer. Man I would love to live in that now. I remember one day finding them on the trailer roof painting on it “to give the airplanes something to look at.” Being 8 and a total rule follower I never did make it up there to see what they had done. I remember walks to our very small town, (it’s not even a town, just a couple of homes and a store or two) to see this yard absolutely covered in sun dials. We played a lot of badminton and chess. He would roll me in badminton and chess. Once he pretended like he was going to lose to get me to bet a month’s worth of tv watching on the game. At the time my favorite show was Batman with Adam West. About 3 weeks into my tv free period Miriam came to visit and found out and was so furious with him she made me turn on the tv.
We had a huge garden. I remember Ivan doing the backbreaking work of digging that garden and accidentally coming upon a family of moles (RIP moles). He was so upset. Later in the season I would sneak into the garden and take the green peppers and throw them as far as possible into our huge farm yard. Until I got caught and couldn’t sit for a week after.
It was a time of creativity in an otherwise quiet childhood. But everything is impermanent and I remember the dread I felt when it was time for him to return to Europe. I remember hugging him in the driveway. I remember the feeling of palpable sadness. It was probably my first really big ending.
I can’t place it, but at some point also in my childhood we would go to my sister’s apartment in town after church on Sundays. That’s how I got to see the Princess Bride about seven hundred times. She had one shelf of books. I read them all.
A beautiful glossy book on Degas. (Photo taken in late 2015, San Diego Museum of Art)
And another full of Le Chat Noir art. (Photo taken in late 2015, San Diego Museum of Art)
When I was 13 her and my brother in law Ric started taking me on art outings to get me out of my house. There was a lot going on in my house from age four on because of my dad’s illness. And there was a lot of religious authoritarianism. So it was important to get me out. My sister had three cats, which prevented me from living in her home. Sometimes I think she would have liked to rescue me from it all. But she never did. Anyway it was at this age when Miriam and Ric took me to the Hirshhorn and the National Gallery of Art and probably a few other museums I’ve forgotten. Two things about that trip.
(Photo taken in late 2015, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago)
(100 years of solitude, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago Dec 2015)
The first being I saw a huge Andy Warhol exhibition, which is still probably my favorite artist today. As an adult I’ve sought out his work all over the US, in the Andy Warhol museum in Pittsburgh, the MOCA in LA when Mike was courting me, other random and various places throughout my years, and when I was in Denver last year I tried to sneak by security to see a large exhibit opening the following day (I was not successful but there was some great fucking art in the Denver Art Museum including a huge Wyeth exhibit with the seven deadly sins depicted by seagulls and art based on one of the many works of fiction Ivan gave me, One hundred years of solitude). (No I’ve got it completely wrong, the Andy Warhol pop art exhibit was Chicago at Christmas last year, Wyeth and One Hundred Years of Solitude was Denver in November). (Shit. I can’t remember where One Hundred Years of Solitude was) (Chicago, it was Chicago). When I moved in with Tristan at 17 he had this huge volume called the Andy Warhol diaries. And I read it cover to cover. It was influential.
The other work that I remember from that trip was Dali’s The Last Supper hanging in the Hirshhorn. I spent a lot of time looking at it. I still remember the soft continuous light in the museum and how it filtered through the windows as I walked down the stairs.
Dali inspired shawl in my fourth book, Dreams. Pattern by Natalie Servant
I would talk with Miriam about art. Moreso after her masters degree when she went back for her art degree. I remember looking at this self portrait she painted and realizing she was really miserable and unhappy and not knowing what in the fuck to do about it. In 2008 we walked through the National Gallery of Art and she would ask me if I was sad that Tristan had died and she started crying. Of course I was sad. Looking at the art and thinking about him. He had already been gone for so long at that point I both did and didn’t know how to hold it. I was sad that I had only seen her a couple of times in the years previous. The truth was I didn’t know how to rescue her from her sadness and herself just like I didn’t know how to rescue me, until I just got tired of being unhappy and fucking rescued myself already. Jesus. She was my best friend, we spoke every week and emailed. But I never knew how to help her. Maybe I’m rescuing her now by raising her son.
She told me Kandinsky was her favorite artist.
So my fifth book is based on Kandinsky. I’m finishing it up now. I’ve stalled out on writing it for the past three years. Like many things in my life it was at a complete standstill. I’d rather count ceiling tiles or peel paint off the wall than feel the feelings that would come out when I’d sit down to work on it. In fact there were many things I would do every time I felt it was time to work on it and none of those things involved actually fucking working on it. But that’s different now. Something shifted in me. I did make incremental process on the book. Last december I had Lindsey do the charts for me in illustrator. In my quiet period? Dark period? Post Divorce apocalyptic period? I canceled my creative cloud subscription when everything went dark. I had Stephannie tech edit it. My absolute favorite graphic designer Tracy had fallen ill so my plan was to do the graphic design myself. So I put that off for about 9 months and finally gave in to beg, plead, and appeal to Tracy to do this for me because I want it to match the other books in my set. She agreed. In this part of the process she and I have to work together, i.e. she asks me for info and I’m a shitty person so I procrastinate because I have other things going on concurrently but mainly I feel that awful sensation of non movement, touch the part of me that can’t feel creativity, freak out and do everything possible to forget the whole thing. But now I’m providing her with what she needs to finish up (shit, I should probably be pattern writing right now instead of blog writing, fuck it oh well, maybe after huge breakfast for the kids and kite building this morning). Because something, I don’t know what (I totally know what) shifted in me and I feel like it is maybe okay to get this done. That falling sensation, that emptiness of missing my creative half seems like maybe it has resolved itself. I can’t tell you or anyone else how to reach the other side of loss but I can say therapy, meditation, martial arts and simply accepting my jungian shadow eventually did it for me.
If you think now that I’m changed because I’m 40, the truth is I’ve always been a bad language using loud mouth. There were periods of success during my business, and absolutely during my formal training and working in physics where I tried to lessen or minimize it from a desire not to offend or damage my reputation and ability to work. But the fact is I don’t care anymore if you or anyone else is offended. I’m 40, suffered a lot of loss, I have two huge responsibilities to raise my two beautiful children into adulthood, with one offering a lot more challenges due to disability. I’m independent. Angry. Sad. Happy. Full of laughter. Inspired by energy. Inspired by Art. Inspired by Wine, sometimes. I can be loud, brash. Quiet. I have a resting bitch face now. Miriam told me when I hit 40 that our faces change and I would look like our paternal grandfather (I don’t remember him, he died when I was an infant). I am very loving and soft. But you probably won’t see that side of me. But I am all of these things, and more. And I’m no longer stuck and I’m unafraid to tell anyone and everyone how I feel. And how I feel is to talk about what inspired all five of the knitting books I’ve written and hope that there will be a sixth. That one will likely be a little more unconventional.
So that’s where we are now. I’m tired. It’s 4:43am and I’m going to try and go back to sleep. I’ll add some pretty photos to this post later.