Product vs. Process

Through the years, I’ve found a recurring question within the fiber arts community: are you a product knitter or a process knitter? I’ve typically been quick to respond product– historically I tend to work on a project from start to finish with few breaks, and feel a sense of accomplishment with completing it.

Lately, though, I’ve been digging into designs through sketching on paper and sketching with yarn. It’s not quite like swatching, at least not in my own definition, as I’m purely experimenting with material, trying to understand its possibilities. Among other things, I’ve created a few projects start to finish – new designs – that I haven’t shared with anyone else. They’ve been simultaneously agonizing and meditative exercises of sorts, my own exploration with concept and material, each version building on the last.

My husband referred to these projects as the equivalent of a chef working in a test kitchen, and I like this analogy. Making for the love of making, for the love of exploring my own creative ideas without the need to solidify a final product… so does that make me a process knitter?

Oh another thing: I’m a bit of a saver. I keep notes, photos, books and trinkets that hold special meaning for me. Holding a keepsake in my hand immediately brings me back to a different time and place. Happy or sad, inspirational or depressing, these tangible pieces intrinsically link me to physical memories.

I’ve also been looking at my own knit wardrobe of garments and accessories, and my fiber collection, which consists of yarn, tools, bags and books. I waffle between inspiration and overload sifting through the items I’ve acquired through years of involvement in the craft.

I’ve shared the thought with friends – and maybe you’ve thought it too with your own crafts – that there is quite honestly not enough time to ever knit through all of the yarn I’ve acquired. And while this thought is overwhelming and deep, it’s also ok for me. Part of the memory of the yarn is the memory of collecting it. Was I on vacation and purchased a souvenir skein? Did I catch a special update? Is the yarn a gift? The memory of the physical thing holds value and meaning to me, just as some of my earlier knit pieces hold memories of the knitter I used to be. If and when I have a bad memory associated with something, be it a knit piece, or a book, or anything else in my life, I’m not afraid to get rid of it. At the same time, there’s value for me in keeping things that remind me of my former self, if that makes sense.

My identity is complex and steeped in memory. My physical surroundings are simultaneously organized and cluttered, and represent ME. I can be a product AND a process maker at the same time. There’s no need to have to choose exclusively one or the other.

In the Moment

Anyone else find themselves in a battle of wanting to document things by photo, video and notes crashing against the idea of just being in the moment and soaking it all in? It’s a struggle, right? Do you ever wonder how we can “remember” the moments if we aren’t behind a lens, snapping them up? I have a pretty good memory for things, and find that photos, sketches, and words in my sketchbook help jog my memory to take me back to special places. I still fight the battle of overdocumenting things by taking out my camera, poised behind the lens, ready to capture the best stuff.

It’s funny, though: the best stuff is hard to capture, because it happens when you’re just in it.

Also does anyone else remember Instagram when you could only post that instant? It used its own camera without pulling from your camera reel. The choices we make about how we share have gotten so curated, is it even real?

The Details

Throughout the years, I continue to learn more about myself. As I type this, it seems a little odd– shouldn’t I already know myself? Let me explain.

I notice details. I’ve always known this about myself, yet I continue to learn that the details I notice often get overlooked by others. I have worked in environments where I have identified issues that no one had been able to find for years, and been able to fix the problems. Likewise, I’ve been known to completely miss the big picture. Well, that sounds a little dramatic to use the word completely. I guess what I mean is that things that could seem obvious* to others slip right past me undetected.

(*Cue the mental memory here: my entire life, my dad has insisted “nothing is obvious”. Let that sit with you a moment: what is clear as day to me might not register with you with the same clarity. My dad is wise.)

In my earlier years, I always found I was quick with a response to anyone and anything, sometimes resulting in stirring the pot unnecessarily and creating hurt feelings. While I find I still have these quick witted instincts, I tend to pause more now before responding, often playing out full conversations in my head before deciding to say a single word. Many times, I end up saying nothing at all, having convinced myself of the outcome of the interaction before uttering a single word.

I’ve started and abandoned more blog posts recently than I care to admit. Is anyone going to read this? What will they think of me? I’ve started sharing photos on Instagram and changed my mind, unable to choose the right images and word. Does this get my idea across?Will people “like” it?

At this point, this set of sentences and paragraphs seem only slightly related. One thing I know for sure about myself is that I can always bring it back together, so here we go.

For me, the details are what matters, and always will be. Moreover, your details differ from mine and that’s better than ok. We see through our own eyes, and we are all valid, whether we share daily in a public forum or quietly with those close to us or in journals and photographs we keep for ourselves.

Origin Story

Days and weeks and months and years have passed since I assumed the moniker of Shanalines. It happened so long ago, I sometimes forget that others don’t know the story. In fact, I recently shared the story with my dad for the first time, and I’m pretty sure the original story took place over 20 years ago. (How can that be possible?!?!?)

By now you know that my background is architecture: I studied it in both undergrad and grad school, and I keep my license active, though I don’t use it daily in any regular sense. I will say the training and study helped shape me, and even though I shudder to think about the sleepless nights and thankless clients, it’s still the right path for me. But enough about that. This post is about how I became Shanalines.

Part of design education is the critique process. When a project is complete, the instructor sets up a critique where students present their work individually for review while the rest of the studio class watches. Sometimes the instructor invites in guest critics to review the work, and sometimes there is peer review, with some students assigned to be critics themselves.

This particular class was an analog drawing class. We were each assigned an abstract painting, and tasked to reimagine the piece as if it were composed of geometric forms. We were tasked to create orthographic projections (measured line drawings without perspective) of our analysis of the forms, interpreting foreground and background through lineweights. A general strategy for lineweights is that objects farther away are depicted in lighter lineweights, and those in the foreground are darker, with the darkest lines being the section cut. Think about the world around you: closer objects are in clearer focus, and therefore bolder to your eye. I remember creating my drawing and determining where I would show the section cut, and reeeeealllly using bold lines. I loaded my lead holder with a heavy lead– was it 4B?– and created overly exaggerated dark lines.

The day of the critique, our instructor had invited in a guest critic to review our work. We pinned up our drawings in the critique space, and each took turns sharing our work and getting feedback. When it was my turn to present, I introduced myself and shared my strategy. Honestly I don’t remember exactly what the critic said, but he did remark that my section cut line was rather bold. Other than that, the review went fine, and I felt relieved. Sometimes reviews can be harsh, ending in tears due to harsh feedback combined with utter lack of sleep.

A classmate who presented a few after me had exquisite work, but very light lines. At this time, I was sitting in the audience with my other classmates, happy to have survived my part. The critic had to get up from his seat and move in closely to the wall to examine her drawing in greater detail, as the delicate linework was lost from a distance. I remember what he said to her:

Your drawing is lovely, but rather light. You need….” (at this point he looked around the room, and his eyes landed on me) “What was your name again?

Startled that the critic was speaking to me after my turn, I looked around to make sure he meant me. “Me? My name is Shana.”

(Looking back at the student presenting) “You need some Shanalines.”

And there you have it, folks. Shanalines are the bold, assertive lines, the ones that are a little too loud, but aren’t mistaken for anything else. They’re almost comical, but simultaneously strong and expressive. Love them or hate them, they’ve got personality.

And now, just for fun, here’s the original Shanalines drawing.

Creative Freedom

(Editor’s Note: Ha! That’s funny to think there’s an editor here! Really just a note from me, Shana, after I’ve written the whole post. Some of you know me in real life, and some of you just know me through the screen. I tend to tell long, seemingly random stories, but as one of my students once said, “trust her. She always brings it back around”. So yes, this is a long post. If you’re here just to see my new sweater, just scroll on down to the bottom.)

Given a multiple choice option, I think many of us would say we prefer to write our own story vs. follow a prescribed path… but do we all follow through?

I’ve mentioned here before that I spent some time in higher education teaching architecture design studios. I truly loved this work, and I think my skillset is tuned in to working with others to develop their own design personality. I’ve always felt pretty strongly about working with a design student to help cultivate their own personal strategy. It doesn’t — and in many cases, shouldn’t— align with my own preferred aesthetic. I viewed my role as coach and guide, helping the designer become the best version of themself. I vividly remember solidifying this idea in a group grading session with other design professors. We had all evaluated our students on the same rubric, and spent an afternoon sharing our students’ work with each other to make sure our metrics were fair across the board. A colleague showed off a project that he identified as one having strong execution. He showed the study models, the drawings, the concept diagrams… and then said “I know what you’re thinking, I don’t really like it, but the student did a great job executing their vision. It’s a top project.”

I really appreciated this statement out loud. It’s not for me, but it’s done well. It sets out to solve a problem and it follows through. I’m not sure I had ever said this out loud up to this point, but it resonated so clearly with me. That student created a cohesive body of work that answered the prompt, and whether or not I actually like it, I see the value in work well done. It’s like getting food from a nice restaurant. You can value the quality of the product but perhaps not enjoy the taste. You can recognize that it’s good, just not your taste.

This is a hard concept sometimes. I think we all struggle with wanting to like the “it” thing. We struggle with wanting to fit in, with wanting to be part of the “in crowd”. Especially in this age of not being able to see each other in person, we get wooed by photos on the tiny screens of our phones. We set reminders to make sure we don’t miss out on the new products. We want the same things as others… or do we really want them? I don’t even know anymore.

This has become a longer post than I originally intended…hope you’re still with me.

There’s a balance between fitting in and standing out. In my recent creative ventures, I’ve observed this happening a lot within the fiber arts community I consider myself to be a part of: the struggle between making the same thing others are making vs creating something that feels uniquely you.

With all of that in mind, here’s a recent finished object. I followed a pattern but I created the color sequence all on my own. The pattern itself is straightforward- it’s the Westknits Go to Raglan (Ravelry link) by Stephen West. I appreciate and admire his creativity and writing style. He suggests how to blend colors for different outcomes but encourages the maker to make it their own. Most of this sweater is marled (that is, 2 thinner strands of yarn held together to make a thicker weight / gauge) and I’m proud of the result. I ripped back a few times to get the right proportion of color and dimension of stripe. I reknit one entire sleeve and knit the bottom band twice in order to get just the right color. Here’s a link to my version on Ravelry, which lists the colors I used. I used partial skeins leftover from previous projects and some yarn I received as gifts.

My version of Westknits Go-To Raglan that ended up perfectly mine. Let me know if you have any questions about the sweater.

The final result is a bright, bold garment, and no one else will have the same one. I hope you can appreciate my color choices without necessarily wanting to wear them yourself. I think you can see the quality of execution without wanting to have an exact replica. Maybe it inspires you to make something of your own. Do a good job, and make it your own.

Authentic

I’ve been thinking about so much lately, getting stuck in my own head. I hear myself giving my son rules of things we should do, things we shouldn’t do… I see myself as an adult constantly working on fitting in with societal expectations– with following the rules. This is all good, mind you. For me, though, there’s a big component of my actions and behavior that I qualify as being authentic. It’s being true to myself. It’s caring less about what others think I *should* be doing, and instead doing what feels authentically me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to be argumentative about anything, or trying to break any rules. I’m just recognizing the value I place on authenticity of self. Of being the person to wear the outfit that feels good. Of being the person that speaks up with often unpopular opinions. Of being the person who questions things.

My dad bought me this stamp when I was… 5? 6? Not sure. Having a less common first name means you rarely find personalized things! Imagine my delight in having my own personalized stamp. It’s not wonder I’ve kept it through all these years. It has a whimsy to it, right? I’ve used it to sign greeting cards and label items, both personal and professional, because it feels authentically me.

I tend to encourage those around me to amplify their own personal qualities, to be the best versions of themselves. Throughout years of college design teaching, I encouraged my students to be the best versions of themselves in their design endeavors and beyond. I cringed when they presented their work saying “Shana told me to ____”. Do it because it feels like you! You can say “Shana and I discussed some ideas, and I decided to _____”. See the difference in those statements? The former is about doing what you *think* someone wants you to do, and the latter is about conferring and making your own choice.

Student project, 2011. One of my favorite parts about this is the placement of the horn and strobe just above the project.

This image is a part of a final project a student created in one of my design studios in 2011. I co-authored and co-taught an architecture design studio relating to sensory perception within design. I had encouraged this student to work on a drawing throughout the semester, living with it on the wall in his room. I remember cringing when he presented this: “Shana told me to put a paper on the wall and create a drawing all semester long.” Really? Did you just say that?? And then he quickly followed up with saying “And I wasn’t sure why, but I gave it a try, and here’s what I have.” Now, 9 years later, I’m struggling to remember what this collage was about (whoops) but I remember a change in my own emotions, a growing confidence in knowing that he took the advice to just create without expectation of the final outcome, without knowing what it should look like in the end. He used this as a living learning document, and added to his toolbox of design and problem-solving techniques.

Wow this isn’t at all where I thought this post would go, and that’s totally fine! Let’s get back to what I hoped to leave you with.

I resurrected a blog and I’m developing a website and newsletter that I hope truly reflect who I am. I don’t anticipate having glossy polished content or posts with systematic regularity. I do anticipate being authentically me: writing when I feel like writing, sharing a funny story or observation, or talking about my design process. I think this is ok, because it feels like me, and I’m alright.