Friday, September 25, 2009

Home Thoughts from Abroad

For twelve days we were immersed in beauteous British Columbia, communing with nature, exploring the gardens and harbor of Victoria, and enjoying a good stay in the highly-evolved city of Vancouver, a metropolis that makes so many other world-class cities seem comparatively tatty. What, was I not knitting? Quelle question! Three projects accompanied me--one, the very long scarf of hand-dyed brown sock merino that H wants for "looping around my neck" (ok, whatever; more than 2.5 feet on size 3 needles were accomplished in the car, as we drove along roads with dazzling views of snow-capped mountains, fiords, the endless Pacific ocean, and old growth forest); two, the "Rosalie" scarf I'm making in periwinkle blue alpaca/merino/silk "Wings" yarn for J (NB: the yarn looks good but splits as you knit, so can be slightly frustrating); and three, a pair of cabled fingerless gloves in slate blue "O" (organic) wool that I didn't get to. Yet.

Hard to believe, but no yarn was purchased on this jaunt. In fact, the only LYS I saw was in Victoria, a fleeting glance from the car window as we sped past. In Vancouver, though, perusing the Vancouver Sun one morning after breakfast, I read of a knitting exhibition at the Pendulum Gallery, and decided this would be a Destination. The article described the "deep-rooted knitting traditions of Norway" as the "starting point" of a knitted clothing company called Oleana. And Oleana's knitted clothing was what the exhibit was about. The Sun article quoted one of the company's founders: "You can say many bad things about Norwegians, but one good thing is we have been good knitters. We are good on the jacquard knitting or patterned knitwear."

I grew up in a heavily Norwegian-American neighborhood on the south shore of Staten Island (about which the less said, the better), where nearly every girl I knew in junior high (except me, not being Norwegian-American) had at least one of those gorgeous Norwegian sweaters, knitted in the most jubilant colors, with patterns of snowflakes and reindeer, with engraved silver clasps for closures. You can imagine how intensely I wanted to see this exhibit, if only to confirm or deny that the mists of memory had filmed over the reality of those sweaters.

The Pendulum Gallery is a self-described
legacy to enhance the experience of living and working in the downtown core. Opened in 1986, the light infused seven story soaring glass-covered atrium hall is a dramatic setting for art exhibitions. The atrium also offers the Cafe Ami, a popular eating-place with a relaxed seating area.

The primary mandate of the gallery is twofold:
1. To provide an alternative public exhibition venue in the city for artists and arts groups who would like to exhibit in a highly visible but non-traditional gallery environment.

2. To provide an exiting and varied exhibition program that appeals to both casual visitors to the building and a dedicated gallery going public.

Sic. (I needed to quote that verbatim for your full appreciation. Especially the part about the "exiting" exhibition program.)

Basically it's a section of the lobby in a steel-and-glass office building that has this pendulum thingy, rather large (guesstimate: around eighty feet long) of shiny metal, presumably quite heavy, that rocks back and forth ceaselessly like a sword of Damocles over the heads of innocent bystanders, over the "gallery going public" (sic), over "casual visitors," over office workers traversing the lobby, and over the "relaxed seat[ed]" in the "popular eating place" known as the Café Ami.

I, for one, did not feel particularly comfortable with this ginormous pendulum swooshing above me as I strolled the exhibit, which, as it turned out, was not about knitting but rather knitwear. Of the machine-made sort. Entitled "Beyond Borders: Oleana, the Norwegian Story," the show was essentially advertising a collection of women's apparel by one particular company. In other words, commerce masquerading as art.

However: these were, actually, beautiful examples of knitted textiles. The designs were simple, and the color work was fabulous. So...much inspiration was gathered as I perused the show, even though my nerves were shot by the time we left. In fact, for starters I might try knitting the Snowflake Scarf pattern (design by Eunny Jang, free download offered on Knitting Daily, 9/18/09) in one of the marvelous color combos suggested by the Oleana designs.

And I have to say...those hand-knitted, silver-clasped sweaters worn by my junior high school classmates, with their long blonde braids and apple-cheeked faces, those girls who made my life absolute hell for two years...well, they seemed kind of crude by comparison.