San Francisco, CA
"You All Know Me" 2011
Hand knit fair isle sweater, the artist's/model's social security number in roman numerals. Merino wool
Sweater, (n): one, who works hard, a toiler; a tailor who worked for employer overtime at home; one who sweats gold coins. (Oxford English Dictionary)
In my early twenties, I knit for a living. I had moved to New York with a BFA in fibers. When I found a job that employed the skills I had learned and studied in college I was elated, most of my classmates were waiting tables or doing temp-work. The knitting boom was huge in New York and while I taught knitting classes by day, I worked through many nights, knitting specialty items for elite and wealthy patrons, or samples for fashion week. I felt that I was doing a great service to my students, passing on to them a skill that they could use indefinitely. I was the head of the household, paying the rent and bills that my then-boyfriend, a musician was unable to fund. I worked for two years before it started to hurt. The first time I noticed the pain, I was working on a baby’s sweater, commissioned by a wealthy grandmother who confided in me that she would tell her daughter and son-in-law that she had made it herself for their newborn daughter. Indignant, I accepted my pay. I had made the sweater overnight between business days.
I started dropping things from my right hand, losing muscle control during spasms. My fingers and thumb began to naturally curl inward to my palm, which my boyfriend teasingly referred to as, “the claw.” I worked perilously, if not for clients for paid work, on garments for myself. I was confident that excluding my hand from consumer culture made an impact. It was my revolt to knit, my political and moral stance. A slow pace was more satisfying to me than the instant gratification of any commodity. I left New York to attend graduate school in San Francisco. I continued to work with my hands knitting a new sweater to wear for each semester review. The other work that I produced was wrought in obsessive embroidery, hypnotically tedious bobbin lace, lace-knitting, and dense hyperbolic crochet. By the time I earned my master of fine arts, I had dislocated my shoulder, burnt through the tendons in my arm, and had premature arthritis in my hand. I hated the pain I and I hated the notion that my body was silencing my voice.
After the experience of working with my hands to live, I find it impossible to ignore the plight of garment workers around the globe. How simple it is to subvert the bodies and pain of people who we cannot see, to take their work which produces the relics of our culture for granted. To make things, to learn to draft, weave, cut and sew a piece of cloth , the effort that it involves stays with those who learn it forever. It is impossible to forget something that you have made with your hands, to forget anything you have touched.
photo: Justin Moore
photo: Justin Moore
photo: Bob Raymond
photo: Hans Wendland
photo: Kristophe Diaz