A conversation with Raquel Francia
V: Thank you so much for saying yes to do this interview Raquel! I am very excited and grateful to get this chance to learn more about you and to share you with my readers in here. Maybe we can start with you sharing a bit about yourself?
R: Thank you for thinking about me! :) My name is Raquel and I am from Zaragoza, Spain. I studied journalism but after a few years working for the big media I got disenchanted. I then moved to Antwerpen and Leuven (Belgium) where I lived, studied and worked for a few years. Afterwards I ran a business down in Seville (Spain). I decided to take a break and with my husband, we moved to Sicily and then to Barcelona. Finally, last year, we made our big move and started a new life in a little village in Matarraña, Spain, where we plan to stay for a long time. I am currently working as an online language teacher but I am working hard to switch full time to my creative side and live from it.
V: How would you describe yourself?
R: People tend to see me as a very social person, and it´s true, but I spend the majority of my time on my own. I am a person of few good friends, and they know that I might not call for months but I am there forever. I also choose to believe that I am funny ;)
V: You are living in a small village, Matarrana in Spain. How is your village life?
R: It is more meaningful. Life here makes more sense to me. There are no empty distractions (no malls, no clothes chains and make up stores), just a small supermarket, the butcher and a small veggie store. It helps me focus on the important things. Being surrounded by green and silence encourages my creativity. The cost of living here drops dramatically so there are more opportunities for the creative. I still have to pay the rent of course but the pressure that I felt when I was living in Barcelona does not exist anymore because I simply don’t need as much.
V: Through watching your lovely and inspiring pod i know that you and your husband are working hard this year to move off the grid in the countryside. Can you share a bit about this?
R: Yes! This is very exciting. We are currently renting a house in the old part of the village but we would love to move to the fields and build a sustainable house where we can live permanetly. For years, we´ve been reading anything and everything about solar resources and rainwater catchment systems, gardening, natural construction, etc. We have the knowledge but not the land to start with so it´s a bit frustrating at the moment but we are not pushing it. The land has to talk to us so we'll be patient until we find “her” ;)
V: A big question, what does making mean to you?
R: Making is movement, action, proactivity, decisions, headaches. Making is shaking hands with life and saying, ¨Hey! I understand.¨ Making is sense. It´s the sense of life.
V: Would you say that your process of making is more of a spontanious approach or a more planned one?
R: Spontaneous all the way. I’m very impulsive when making. I feel it, I do it. The same when sharing. I am a raw nerve and it is something that , unfortunately, I need to work at.
If you want to make a living out of your creative side, there must be planning and I often feel that planning compromises creativity. It is not true, of course, but, yeah, this is a bumpy road for me.
V: I am also interested in hearing about your making "history". Has making always been essential to you and so on?
R: When I was in high school I painted a lot. I started mirroring pieces from the impressionism movement (my favorite). Then I slowly jumped into my own shapes and forms. But I didn’t really started making on a daily basis until I was 24, when I discovered knitting. The knitting fueled that fire that I had always inside of me but that was half dormant. The moment I learned the first stitch (garther) was the moment my life changed and making became essential. I did not noticed this back then, but the path was open.
V: How did you learn to knit and how long have you been doing it?
R: I am a self taught, with everything, and knitting was no exception. I remember it was summer and I was living in Sicily. I wanted to get a crop top and I had this design in mind. A simple flat top with a wave edging at the bottom and that tied on the neck, back open. I remember looking for it in every single shop and I could’t find it. It became an obsession, so I googled (literally) "how to make a crop top". And a few crocheting youtube tutorials popped out. That same day I went to the only yarn shop that was available in the town and bought my first acrylic yarn and a crochet hook. I finished the top in two days!
V: I always love learning about other countries hand-craft traditions. Do you have something to share about the Spanish traditions and have you yourself grown up with some of them?
R: Spain is such a rich country in terms of hand craft traditions. They vary from area to area from north to south. I am from Aragón where ceramics, basketry, iron forge, and straw is traditional. I remember wearing esparto shoes when I was little (still today) and seeing ceramics from Muel in my grandparents´ and friend’s houses. Unfortunately I never lived close by people that could teach me any of these beautiful traditions.
V: I know you love exploring so i am curious to hear if there is a specific craft you already know you want to explore in the future?
R: Right now, I would love to get my hands into pottery.
V: I know that you among other things paint, sew, knit, crochet and embroider. Are there any of these crafts that are closer to your heart than the others and if so why?
R: Knitting is my go-to craft. Is the first discipline that truly brought me something more than a just an ability. It naturally dragged me into the sewing, embroidery, natural dyeing, my love and appreciation for wool, etc. Knitting was like a 5 meter wave that led into the sand and slowly soaked me up.
V: What kind of makings are you doing these days?
R: I am knitting a lot. I have one cardigan on the go and a new design in my mind. Hopefully I will be able to share it with you this summer ;)
V: Your design, the unknown artist toy. Tell us a bit about the thoughts behind this design.
R: This toy came to my mind right when I knew I was pregnant. I wanted to make a playful pattern that involved not only the knitter. A toy that led to a learning experience for the little ones. The idea is to knit the toy itself, which is basically the shape of a human being without features (no eyes, no mouth or ears, etc) nothing. Just the shape; a head, two arms and two legs. Once knitted, I encourage mothers and/or fathers to sit with their kids and put the features of the toy together. I think it is a great opportunity to be creative and teach them basic sewing techniques (how to sew a button for the eyes) or basic embroidery (for the mouth) or even basic knitting or crochet stitches (why not make a little scarf? Or a hat?). I think the possibilities are endless.
V: Making and consumerism, i know you are very aware of this. Can you please share some thoughts about how you try to be conscious about this in your making?
R: The problem comes when you focus on having things rather than doing things. When the tools become the object of focus rather than the work itself. Consumerism is everywhere, even in the sacred space of creating, and when it shows up it is clear because the work itself is never completed and, if so, it is inconsequential.
It happens with having excessive yarn and patterns in the knitting community, spending your entire days researching for the best drawing tablet in the market rather than drawing, etc.
V: Some makers that has inspired you on your own path to find your own making expression, finding your own voice?
R: Charlie Chaplin movies have always resonated a lot with me. Jane Goodall. Joan Miró. The book “Historias de Cronopios y Famas” from Julio Cortazar woke me up when I was 16. Woody Allen…,
In the knitting/ stitchin community I really enjoy @sophiedigardofficial,@
kzstevens and Mimi @liebwedd amongst others. I am missing some for sure.
V: And how do you like to have it around you when you create?
R: When I am making I like to have something in the background. Some jazz or blues. Mr. Bean. Sometimes some knitting podcasts. There are other times that I just want to be in silence.
V: Handscape, your audio pod, tell us about the thoughts behind it.
R: The Handscape Podcast was a project I started back in 2018. I wanted to share with the world the stories behind other creative minds and makers. I focused specially in their creative processes. The podcast also included a few entries of “Conversations with my husband” in which my husband and I brainstormed about the creative, art, procrastination and the processes. This section was very dear to me. If you are interested, you can find my husband work at @sage.waters
V: I loved listening to your interviews there and just have to ask: Is it possible to get my wish granted for a new episode featuring you an your husband? :) It gave me so much inspiraion and food for thought when listening to you two talking together.
R: Oh! Thank you :) Maybe one day we’ll sit together for another one but not any time soon. Right now we are focused on other projects and actually that’s why The Handscape Podcast stopped. The website is still up because I know one day I’ll go back to it but the moment has just not arrived yet.
V: What inspires you?
R: Good comedy, kids, and dancing when nobody is watching.
V: How do you like to start and end your day?
R: I like to start with a good cup of black coffee and a fresh idea ready to be explored and end with the satisfaction of having done the work. Ah! and a big hug from my husband :)
V: Are daily routines something that are important for you and are there any that are important for your wellbeing?
R: Routines are important, especially when you work from home and creativity is involved. Without routine, chaos knocks on the door. It is important for me to wake up early, at the same time, and keep lunch and dinner times to more or less the same time. The days I don’t do it are lost days, honestly.
V: Thank you so much Raquel for taking the time to answer all these questions and for being such an inspiration! Maybe we can end it with you sharing some of what you are most grateful for in your life right now?
R: My freedom and good health to do those things that I want to do and to be in a position to be able to make creative choices.
Were to find Raquel