Friday, December 24, 2010

Stockings for All Year Round

When I first met Janel Laidman, she was attending her first meeting of GLASG (Greater Los Angeles Spinning Guild) and, upon meeting us, happily exclaimed "I've finally found my tribe!"  She was a major talent in the fiber arts - that was apparent immediately - but was still busy at her day job (well, sort of... she grew e-coli bacteria at UCLA on Friday nights which always amused me), but turned out extraordinary works of artisan delight in her spare time.

Over the years, she has gone through multiple iterations, leaving UCLA to pursue fiber arts and the fiber business in many forms.  Owning a fiber and spinning store, starting an on line spinning magazine , teaching classes, designing garments... winning awards for her work and getting a lot of public notice for it, writing books, and all-in-all, becoming one of the stars in the fiber world.   I have always admired her; indeed, I admit to a little bit of jealousy over the years as I knew that I had the creative bug too, but the execution of my own unique ideas in fiber - as hard as I tried and as unique as they were - just never matched up.  Of course, I had not found my own true calling yet...  beads, where I could not only be unique in my artistic expression but also discovered that I was as proficient or maybe even more proficient as some of the best. More exciting news on that front coming early next year and trust me, it's good stuff, but back to Janel for this post is about her.

The bottom line on Janel is that I knew a kindred spirit in creativity and she is totally amazing, not only as an artist but also as a person.  She is down to earth and grounded, knows what she is about and not afraid to pursue it.  I watched her in awe over the past many years as she knew where she was going, wasn't quite sure if she was ready to step off of that cliff to get there, than did so and flew.  (I miss her so as she moved to Eugene, Oregon as part of the process, a natural move for somebody with her bent towards fiber and a loss for us in Southern California)   Her books are waited for with great anticipation, she seems to have - at least so far - settled into sock design in an extraordinary way and is recognized, written and blogged about, and welcomed in the way that anyone would of royalty, but given the announcement in her Rustling Leaf Press, we may be lucky enough to see her branching out into a bigger forum of design.

Look at this:  A Knitting Encyclopedia!  Oh, I need to order this one  for sure.  And now, in 2011, rather than the one sock club that she usually offers, she is offering two!  The Illuminations Sock Club (formerly known as "Solemates" and "Art and Sole."

I, for one, am personally very excited about this.  As much as I love beading and am finally about to pursue it as a serious business instead of something under wraps (again, a serious discussion about this next year when everything is finalized), I miss fiber arts.  No, I am never going to be a great artist in that forum, but you don't have to be one to recognize talent when you see it and want to participate fully.  It's ok.  For myself, I have come to a point in my life where jealousy is recognized for what it is... a yearning to be a better person, and when it creeps into my psyche, I use it in the appropriate manner.  As inspiration to work hard and improve myself rather than resent the people who produce such great and wonderful items of beauty and also as an incentive to make the connections to them stronger because who, but people who are better than yourself, are the best people to know and associate with?  They make you think, they make you stretch your imagination; they set the benchmark of where you want to go in your own life.  I am fortunate enough to call Janel and many other people who I admire friends even as I wonder why they accept me into the fold.  But I'm not questioning that acceptance too closely.  I had enough of that in my former life and managed to isolate myself from a world that turns out to be wonderful and warm and full of opportunity only because of insecurity.  Now if they (and I mean not only my artistic friends, but my friends in many walks of life) will have me, I will go and join them because I can accept the possibility that they see something in me that I don't see in myself, they also have their insecurities that are not necessarily apparent to me, and as a group, we are so much stronger than we are as single individuals.

Like Janel, I have found my "tribe."  My tribe is the world.  My tribe is people and animals and all things of an artistic, ethical, humane, and beautiful nature.  I have a lot of people to thank for this turn-about in my attitude... Dr. Muti my Therapist, my amazing sister Adele, my other family members, the wonderful people I've met in my various fiber guilds and clubs over the years, Richard, The Fab Four plus others who have been so important to me who I've met through his clubhouse, and the love of my life, Eric and his children who are bringing to me a wholeness that I not only never believed that I could feel, but had no idea how all-encompassing, challenging, and rewarding it could be.  But I digress again.  Back to Janel.

With the impending separation of my beading pursuits from my home life (which if you are a regular reader of my blog or recipient of my e-mails -oy vey, poor you - you know has turned upside down over the past year, I want to take up an old and missed hobby.  Knitting.  And where am I going to start?  With socks of course.  Janel's socks.  Small, intensely beautiful, unique.

Additionally, not only will I get the benefit of Janel's amazing patterns, but since my own intention is to join one of her sock clubs in 2011, I have the option of having her send me the fiber to recreate her genius too, and that's exactly what I am going to do.  She even offers the club in different color ways... you get to choose from bright and vibrant hues, muted ones, earth-tones, or my own personal favorite, "Surprise Me!"  As the years have progressed, I like to let other people make some of my fashion and color choices for me (that's why I like designing jewelry so much for others... they come up with color combination s that I might never have considered that are wonderful!) and stretch myself beyond my personal comfort zone. 

No, Janel's clubs are not inexpensive, but you get not only the wonderful and unique experience of working up her patterns, but you get a kit of luxury fibers from small manufacturers who you might never have heard of.  Working up Janel's kits is like taking a master class in knitting using only the finest of materials.  And as our mutual friend Elena always says, "Why waste time on lousy fibers?"  If you are considering pampering yourself in any way next year and are interested in knitting, you might want to consider joining her clubs too.

As a participant in my own very first Christmas this year, I am going to buy myself one Christmas Present.  The joy of receiving two sock kits in the mail from Janel every other month for the entire year.  It's appropriate, don't you think?  Giving myself the gift of Christmas Stockings?  Something beautiful, something appropriate in a variety of fibers that can be used all year long, something that will stretch my working skills (and bring them not only back to where they were before I forsake knitting, spinning, and weaving for beading but maybe even beyond) and my talents and will give me pause for thought and likely the inspiration will be able to be applied to my own work in the form of patterns not otherwise thought of, color combinations not dreamed of, and the incentive to keep up with such a natural talent as Janel.

I am lucky in that I wrote to Janel when she first e-mailed me about her sock club, and asked for permission to write about it here and she granted me that permission.  I waited for Christmas Eve to make this post because when is there a better time to write about stockings and socks?  And with this comment, I'm going to leave you with more pictures of Janel's amazing work and wish everyone a wonderful Holiday no matter what your religious or cultural persuasion, and may all of your wishes and dreams come true.

Visit and get to know Janel Laidman at her blog, The Beebonnet Report.   The only thing wrong with her blog is that she is so busy all the time that she always leaves us wanting more...

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