Our 2017 collaboration between Barbara Benson, Jennie the Potter, and Miss Babs was borne out of a series of conversations about life, work, and the improbability of ending up where we are today. Sometimes our lives are marked by surprising twists and turns, and sometimes we are fortunate to be successful despite (or regardless of) the expectations of others. For this, we are grateful!
Read on to hear more about each of our interpretations of 'When Pigs Fly'.
When I first developed the desire to combine colorwork with lace I went online to research how to do it, eager to learn a new technique. But all of my searches came up empty - it wasn’t something that was done. I could have left it at that, taken no for an answer but instead I began dreaming up ways to make it happen. This is how mosaic lace came to be.
I ignored both the inner and outer voices that told me it couldn’t be done. I had to disregard those same voices when I was approached to write a book on the subject. If one had asked me when I was going to write a book the answer would have been “When pigs fly!”
Well, here are my wings! This pattern features a stylized representation of wings meant to evoke the lazy W you drew as a child dreaming and doodling. They frame a very simple mosaic lace motif that will easily introduce you to this fun technique. It is possible that you yourself may think that colorwork is beyond you, but mosaic colorwork might convince you otherwise.
Mosaic colorwork is knitting stripes and slipping stitches. You only ever work with one strand of yarn at a time (no carrying the other yarn along the row) and when you slip a stitch it stretches that color across two rows giving an illusion that you are doing fancy stranded colorwork.
For mosaic lace I have combined this basic concept of slipped stitches with the increases and decreases of lace work to manipulate the direction that those slipped stitches are going. You might think that pigs would fly before you are knitting colorwork lace, but if you can purl, k2tog, YO, and slip stitches you can create the vertically striped mesh in the small sections of mosaic lace found in this pattern. You might even grow to love the magical effect it creates and in that case you might want to check out my book Mosaic & Lace Knits.
When I started the business that would become jenniethepotter, I had no idea where it would bring me, the road I would travel. After studying studio arts and art history at the University of MN, I immediately began my own small home studio. Looking at the lives of the graduate students and professors, I realized their efforts were elsewhere, a different place than mine. Their focus was understandably on their classes, coursework and students, leaving little time for their own work. Studio work and “making” took a backseat to other commitments. But I wanted to make pots and maintain a rigorous studio practice that kept me producing work. My desire was to be a potter.
I wanted to be invited to the intimate spaces. Life happens across dining tables, in cupboards and in draining baskets of kitchen sinks. This is where I wanted my life work to be, in the daily places that matter most to me. I remember difficult conversations with professors about my need to make pretty pots. My decorative whimsy was seen by some in my academic sphere as a detriment to artistic growth, a hindrance to my progression. I collected many condescending smiles when I decided to forgo immediate graduate work and set out on my home studio practice instead. Fortunate to have an immensely supportive family, I never encountered the “when pigs fly” response from them. The general public was another story. Vacant looks and mystified stares when I divulge my profession. Perhaps the question, “And you make a living at it?” I come from a long line of persistent dedicated women and so I used these asides to fuel my work and my resolve.
When I launched my new shop, I received a box in the mail with a cast iron winged pig from Babs. While we are physically far apart, living in Minnesota and Tennessee, Babs and I share a bond of perseverance, persistence, and creative process. This pig proudly holds the business cards for the shop and greets me each day- a reminder of our friendship.
The flying pig is the perfect motif for our project. Like our businesses it’s unlikely, impossible and can put a smile on even a curmudgeon’s face. The pigasus, as my daughter likes to call it, has the distinct ability to fly over the naysayers and explainers of the world. Go ahead and doubt the likelihood of another’s dream. The dreamers will just put on their wings and float on.
In late 1999, my husband and I moved from Central Florida to the mountains of Eastern Tennessee. He had been offered a significant career opportunity. In 2003, a good friend and I went over to Jonesborough, TN, to do some shopping and have lunch. Jonesborough also happens to be the home of the International Storytelling Center. While we were shopping, I found a painted flying pig and knew immediately that it symbolized what was going on in my life.
I had been teaching at Appalachian State University for a couple of years, had started selling used books online via Amazon (back when all of that was starting up) and trying my hand at dyeing yarn. I knew that teaching as an adjunct at ASU was not going to really produce a lot of income. There were no real opportunities for me using the skills I had, which required larger organizations for me to fit into doing things like leadership and management development. I named the business Miss Babs without knowing what direction I would end up going. For me the symbolism of Pigs Flying was that I would try something - take a flyer - and see if it worked. Some things did and others didn’t. What I did find is that color and dyeing seemed to resonate with me. I loved fibers and yarns and all the related activities, so dyeing seemed the direction to go in.
The first few years were sort of like cooking spaghetti: throw it at the wall and see if it stuck. The things that resonated with others and also gave me joy were what I did more of, and those that didn’t fell by the wayside. The Flying Pig also represents my willingness to keep trying things and heading in directions that others might say made no sense or were risky, or even said were stupid. I listened to my gut, played in my artistic side, and I listened to you. I followed through on all of those things and all I can say is that Pigs Really Do Fly, and that pig has been flying in my house ever since that day in 2003.
We'd love to hear your story! Have pigs flown in your life, too?