Sometimes you feel inspired to work on a project that is so personal – so intimately connected with who and what you are – that you find it difficult to communicate with others. That is how I have felt working on this “Earth Wool & Fire” series. Sure it’s just sweater patterns – I am not exposing the inner depths of my soul on anything – but the genesis of this little trio of designs has its origins in a place that is so deeply “me” that I find it a challenge to separate and define what the project has been.
But I’ll give it a whirl anyway – if you know me then you know that I come from a world of “clay people” – both my parents are wildly talented and respected potters who have worked in the Pacific Northwest for many years. They raised me in a somewhat non-traditional way, which meant that most of my childhood was spent in clay studios, galleries, pottery shops and at kiln firings. Now, in the world ceramic arts, if you’re not familiar, there is a very special, unique and ancient tradition of wood firing or “anagama” firing as its originators called the method. Unlike electric or gas firing, wood firing requires a giant fire and the massive amounts of wood required to create that fire, which pre-determines that such kilns be located out of the way of the way “in the boonies.” Because the fire has to bed 24 hours a day to keep the temperature rising, this also means that where most other methods of firing are a solitary practice, wood firing requires a team or crew.
I have been firing these kilns for my entire life. To me, they are not vehicles for completing work but hallowed spaces where people I love and respect come together and eat, drink, work talk all night long and create together.
Me in the plaid, my mom Cindy, my dad Don, and my little sister Mya – who is now a phenom of a ceramic artist herself, at a firing at the East Creek Anagama kiln sometime in the mid 90s
As an adult, I have come to acknowledge the performative kind of art making that kiln firing truly is. “The Art of Firing” is in fact just that, an artform in its own right. And while my pottery skills are nominal, I have to be honest, I am a pretty darn good kiln firer – or firess maybe? Either way, I know my way around a wood kiln. This unique experience was not easy to explain to someone outside of the clay world as a child – it’s still hard to describe. But most of my life’s milestones happened at a kiln site. From learning to walk to celebrating my 18th birthday, to welcoming my beautiful niece into the world. All of these are marked by associations with wood firing.
Me, firing at East Creek last year.
My mom, and our dear friend Lew, checking the kiln while a group of students look on. – See, its genetic!
SO, with moving across the country and leaving everything that was “home” and familiar to me, I felt like I needed to create a collection around these spaces that I loved so, and to bring them with me in some small way.
First, as you have all already seen, there was East Creek , which takes its name from my dear East Creek Anagama in Willamina Oregon. I grew up at this kiln site, it’s my very favorite place in the whole entire world.
Then came Hay Creek named the farm/kiln site belonging to my dear “uncle” Mel Jacobson, who I wrote about in my last post.
Both sweaters are big and cozy and all about garter stitch, everyday wear, and fun little surprises like colorful pocket details.
And now we have Noble Hill – the third and final addition to the trio. I like to think of Noble Hill as the petite, elegant little sister of the first two. Knit up in the Fibre Company’s “cumbria fingering” this sweater is hard working, long wearing and can handle a little soot and earth -but the cable details that run along the side seam and inner arm and adorn the neck, cuff and hem add a touch of subtle but elegant detail.
The fact that it works up in a fingering weight (most sizes can be knit using just THREE SKEINS OF SOCK YARN!) means that it’s a great piece for layering and can go with you everywhere.
It features a cropped cut, short row shaping at the neckline and a comfortable “boyfriend” kind of fit. I love it, and so far, every time I have worn it out I have had comments on it, which I usually take to be a good sign:)
Noble Hill takes its name from another kiln in the Willamette Valley, but by my friend and mentor Mark Terry.
(an interior shot of Mark’s kiln)
Mark’s kiln also happens to be charmingly situated his family Christmas Tree farm. Firings at Noble Hill are beautiful events marked by excellent meals and lovely chats. I have so many good memories out at Noble Hill – at this sweater attempts to honor them.
I have loved making this sweater so (I am now entirelly comitted to fingering weight sweaters and will love them forever and ever and EVER) and I have also loved working on this project.
As usual with my new patterns, this design is 25% off here and on ravelry for the first week of it’s release. BUT as an added bonus, on ravelry you can also score 30% off of the entire “earth wool & fire” trio when you download the set. Just use code “earthwoolandfire” at check out.
Happy knitting and happy firing.