Wednesday

Conversation with Nicole








V: First Nicole can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
N: Well, I’m a 42 year-old artisan, wife, friend. During the day I work for a natural history museum as an exhibition content developer. I write the labels, choose the artifacts and develop the interactives that make up exhibits. It’s a very enriching job.
In the evening I feed my soul with quiet activities, cooking good food, and lots of cocooning with my beloved husband. 


V: Five words that you would choose to describe yourself?
N: Introverted, positive, happy, tender-hearted, a bit of a worrier.


V: I have been following your lovely blog for quite a while, for me it is a place of inspiration and pure beauty.
Where do you find inspiration?
N: Right now, I’m inspired by the view outside my window. Today is very grey, mild day. The difference in the air temperature and the frozen ground has created a foggy mist that has softened the landscape. For some this would be a wet, miserable day. But for me, it is an intense, quiet beauty that makes my heart sing. I’m also so grateful for all the incredible creators out there, generously sharing what they do. And everyday acts of silliness, gentleness and kindness really inspire me!


V: Who learned you to knit and do you remember how old you were at that time? Do you have a special knitting "story" to share with us?
N: I’ve grown up surrounded by people who make beautiful things with their hands, such as quilts and woodcarvings. In my early 20s I wanted to develop a hobby that was portable, tactile, artistic and that created items that would be functional and sensual. Living in Canada and loving winter, it made sense to me to produce warm, comforting knits.
Since no one around me knits, I decided to take a class to learn the basics. My ambitions where modest at the beginning, but once I started seeing all the beautiful things a person can make (Rowan magazines and the work of Alice Starmore where big influences) I wanted to take it to the next level. This coincided with the explosion of knitting online, especially blogs and Ravelry. That’s when my obsession truly took hold.


V: Do you have a favourite knitting piece that you have made for yourself?
N: An Alice Starmore fair-isle vest comes to mind. I loved mastering the techniques involved in making a traditional colourwork garment, and the materials were a joy to work with. On the flipside, my favourite item is probably an extremely basic, huge garter-stitch scarf that I wear constantly. It’s the complete opposite: a mind-numbingly simple project that was meditative to make and is delicious to wear.


V: What do you have on your knitting needles these days and do you have something you want to knit next?
N: Right now I’m making Soay, a sweet little wool cardigan from a beautiful collection by Gudrun Johnston of the Shetland Trader. I’m using Quince and Co’s Chickadee in a rich dark peacock colour. I’m mostly known for my very soft, muted palette, but I do enjoy working with rich saturated hues once in a while.
I would love to try my hand at one of those crazy, multicolour Kaffe Fasset-type cardigans. Something I could wear on my outdoor rambles. I’ve had my eye on this design for a long time now. But this type of knitting involves a technique called intarsia, which can be tedious, but can also yield some very painterly results.


V: If you were to learn a new craft what would that be?
N: I’m completely in love with the poetic work of my friend Margie Oomen (Resurrection Fern), especially her crochet-covered stone that she makes with her own naturally dyed yarns. I would love to try my hand at something like that. This is a photo of one of the beautiful crochet stones that Margie made for me:



 



I’ve also dabbled in quilting, hand sewing, printmaking and pottery, and would love to do more. And spinning! I have a lot of room to improve in that department. I have yet to master spinning woolen yarn (a type of spinning that produces very puffy, lofty yarn) and really want to work on that.
So now I just have to find a way to clone myself because clearly one lifetime isn’t enough…


V: A while back i remember that i read in one of your blog posts that you absolutely LOVE the winter time. what is it that you especially like about this season?
N: I just find it to be the most beautiful time of the year. Nothing compares to a snow-covered landscape: the colours are so gentle and clean, the outlines of the bare trees and plants are so delicate and elegant. Everything is quiet. It really appeals to the introvert in me. And it gives me an excuse to make lots of warm handknits. I just came across a beautiful quote about winter on Annie’s Knitsofacto blog: "I prefer winter ... the bone structure of the landscape ... the loneliness of it, the dead feeling ... something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show." Andrew Wyeth
It’s so refreshing to breathe in that cold air, but still be toasty in my huge down coat, piles of woolens and my warm boots. My theory is that people who don’t like winter probably aren’t dressing warmly enough. Loving winter sports helps too! You need to get out, move and put colour into your cheeks. Then you have an excuse to come back home and curl up on the sofa with a comforter, a good book and a big cup of hot chocolate. Heaven!


V: What do enjoy doing/use your time on besides knitting/creating?
N: Although I live in a big city, I have easy access to a huge park with one of the most extensive networks of cross-country ski trails in North America. It only takes me about 20 minutes to get to it. Suddenly I find myself deep in the beautiful woods, spying animal tracks in the snow, and drinking in the peace and quiet. In summer, I enjoy running, riding my bike and hiking.
Besides being in nature, I love reading! I’ve always been a bookworm and love that I can go on so many wonderful adventures just by opening a book.








V: How do you relax?
N: I have struggled with worry and anxiety since I was little. I’ve found that the very best way to feel calm and relaxed is to get enough fresh air and exercise. Also, I’ve learned that getting enough “alone” time is crucial for an introvert like me. I love spending time with my loved ones, but I quickly burn out if my calendar is filled with social activities. I need to recharge by doing something quiet like knitting and reading. 


V: I have a weakness for both yarn and ceramic cups and i think you do too. Am i right?...*smiling*...
N: Oh yes, my cupboard is filled with mismatched hand-made ceramic cups. Most of them were thrifted or purchased from local potters. I love the ritual of selecting which one I will use for my morning tea. And I have a crazy closet packed to the rafters with beautiful yarn. It’s rather an unreasonable amount, but it’s my one major indulgence in life. And I do use it.


V: Do you have your own creative space/where do you like to do your creative work?
N: Well, I do have a corner in our guest bedroom that is dedicated to my creative pursuits, but to be honest, most of the time I like sitting in my living room, tucked up comfortably on our huge couch, knitting away…









Nicoles grandmother’s blanket, the one on the bottom.


V: Can you also tell us a little bit about what kind of athmosphere you like to be sourrounded by in your home?
N: I love the famous William Morris quote: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”. I try as much as I can to live by this. For me, this usually means favoring objects that are made of natural materials, are simple in design and feel good to the touch. They only get better with time and use. I have a cherished wool blanket that my grandmother wove with her very own handspun yarn (from her sheep!) It’s been in constant use for probably 60 years and it’s still beautiful and functional. I also love that the worn edges are tangible traces of how useful this object has been for generations, keeping me and my loved ones warm all these years.











V: I am reading a book about beauty these days by John O'Donohue, it is such a wonderful book. My favourite quote is also about beauty: Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul.” John Muir.
What is beauty for you...where do you find it/see it?
N: What a lovely quote! Beauty is crucial to my wellbeing. Cultivating the ability to see the beauty in ordinary things, in everyday moments leads to happiness in my opinion. Recently I worked on an exhibition featuring huge photographs of moths. These images reveal that the drab, grey insects we dismiss (or fear, if you’re a wool-lover/hoarder like me) are actually stunningly beautiful up-close. In the introduction text, I cited one of my favourite quotes: Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it” (Confucius). http://moths.ca/ 
And of course, I’m not just talking about physical beauty. Beautiful music, poetry, beautiful hearts and minds, beautiful acts of kindness, they feed my soul. There is deep beauty in the smile of a stranger holding a door for you, or a friend’s warm embrace. There is deep beauty in the laugh and frown lines in an old woman’s face. They speak of all the joys and sorrows she has experienced.
There is deep beauty in waking up to a new day. 


V: I am also curious to know if you also have a favourite quote?
N: The one that comes back to me most often is a line in a Beaudelaire poem, “L’invitation au Voyage”, that says:
Là, tout n’est qu’ordre et beauté, luxe, calme et volupté.
Loosely translated it means: There, all is order and beauty. Luxury, calm and delight.
Those words guide how I try to live my life. I try to be “there” as much as possible.



V: Are there any artists that inspires you in a special way?
N: Arvo Pärt: His music is so pure and clear. It makes me very peaceful.
Elizabeth Zimmerman: A visionary knitter, she encouraged us all to listen to our own wisdom, not just blindly follow instructions. She gave knitters the tools to “unvent” our own designs. And she was delightful: smart, witty, warm. I often put on one of her instructional videos just to “hang out” with her.
John Keats: I’m always extremely moved by his poems. He reminds me that nothing is more important than living fully, drinking in the beauty of this world, being attentive.
Agnes Martin: There is such a gentle quality to her paintings. I find them very spiritual. She teaches me that there is sublime beauty to be found in subtlety and order.
Kiki Smith: Her deeply intimate, feminist work inspires me to think.



V: Your nature photos is always such a feast for the eye. Do you like beeing in nature/what means beeing in nature to you?
N: The camera is just capturing what nature is to me: a feast for the eye! Whenever I feel stressed, worried, overwhelmed, I head outdoors. I have yet to encounter a wild landscape that I did not think beautiful. And it’s amazing what you see when you look into the heart of things: the crinkle of lichen, the delicate arch of a fern stem, the feathery gills of a mushroom. I’m not religious in the traditional sense, but for me, nature is my “church”, where I feel closest to the divine.




V:And lastly what are you most thankful for in your life right now?
N: So much. My heart is bursting with things I am grateful for, it’s almost impossible to name one. I guess most of all I am grateful to be at a point in my life when I’m finally comfortable just being me—not obsess on some idealized version of myself. I try to nurture my strengths, surround myself with beauty and accept my weaknesses with the Buddhist concept of Metta or “loving-kindness”. It’s taken a long time to get here, and of course I still have my moments! But for the most part, I focus on the good and try not to worry too much about the rest.


Links:
Nicoles blog,
Flickr
and
Etsy.

 

11 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed sharing this conversation post V.
    Thank you for letting me get to know Nicole a little better!
    Hugs
    xx

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  2. so glad for this
    it has deepened my admiration for Nicole,
    her thinking, her work, her world

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  3. Oh what a beautiful conversation with sweet Nicole !
    I enjoyed it tremendously, thank you !
    ox

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  4. Thank you so much for this interview. I have long been a huge fan of Nicole's blog (and of the lovely Margie's, she of the crochet stones) so it is wonderful to learn more about my far away bloggy friend.

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  5. I enjoyde this conversation
    very, very much!

    thank you both

    love
    Patrice A.

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  6. Very beautiful read between the two.. I have also been a follower of Nicole's blog (never commented) for a while. Look forward to checking out some of her inspirations. Thank you for the interview.

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  7. I'm reading this at breakfast time - what a lovely, inspiring start to the day!

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  8. reading this conversation made me love nicole even more. i nodded (yes!) and sighed (beautiful!) all the way through, if i were asked to list artists that inspire, she would be on it.

    i love the john muir quotes and thank you for taking the time to make this lovely post!

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  9. Wonderful! Thank you both for taking the time to share this interview.

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  10. I've been a fan of Nicole's for ever so long......so nice to get to know her a bit better!!! Thanks so much for sharing this!!

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  11. Thank you everyone for your kind comments. It warms my heart. And a big thank you and warm hug to sweet Vibeke for giving me a chance to "hang out" on your beautiful blog!

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Thank you for taking the time to write, i hugely appreciate your comments!: ) xxx