Thursday, March 19, 2009

Artist Profile: Emily Poe - Sparrow Nest Knits

Tell me a bit about yourself name, location, affiliations, personal stuff...
My name is Emily Poe, but people usually call me something along the lines of Em, E. Poe, E. Pizzle, or Pizz. Rumor in my family is that we're related to Edgar Allan, which would explain my pale complexion, dark hair, and slightly morbid sense of sarcastic humor. I came to Greenville, SC in 2004 to go to Furman University, where I graduated last May with an English and Spanish major.

This year, while I'm waiting for my boyfriend to graduate, I'm working for Greenville Literacy Association through a government program called AmeriCorps VISTA (it's cool--look it up if you have a chance). My workdays are spent teaching adult education or ESL classes, helping out in our computer lab, working on outreach campaigns, etc. I share a cute little apartment with two good friends from college and two pets, a rabbit named Einstein Jones and a cat named Eli the Barrow Boy (who usually just goes by "kitten cat," "shmitty kitty," "shmitten," "dumbass," and so on).

twiggy scarf - blush (eco)

It's hard to sum yourself up in a little blurb like this, but if I had to try, it would look something like: Vegetarian, slightly perfectionist, freethinker with mild asthma, Reynaud's (another interesting thing to look up), and the tiniest bladder known to man, who is obsessed with Felicity, recycling, music and books of all sorts, Indian food, coffee, earth tones, Gilmore Girls, the mountains, thoughts of travel, and ridiculous hypothetical situations.

Apart from creating art, what do you do?
I'm a huge book nerd, for one thing. I just finished How We Are Hungry, a collection of short stories by Dave Eggers, and now I'm reading his novel called What is the What, which is great so far. I also love listening to music, cranked up really loud, while I lie on my stomach with my ear pressed to the floor. My favorite bands are Cloud Cult, Frightened Rabbit, Metric, and Mates of State, slash anything bluegrass or indie pop. Sometimes I use Finale [software] to arrange music for the acappella group at Furman that I used to direct, stuff like "Semi-charmed Life" by Third Eye Blind, "Buddy Holly" by Weezer, and "Criminal" by Fiona Apple.

On Tuesday nights I play trivia at this Irish pub downtown with some friends, and on the weekends I enjoy contra dancing, hiking, cooking with my roommates, and going to Falls Park downtown to enjoy the nice weather. Oh, and right now my friend Jen and I are working our way through a season of Dawson's Creek on DVD. So emotional!

modern stripes scarf - midnight/charcoal (eco), appleseed headband - charcoal (eco)

What first made you want to become an artist?
Well, I don't even know that I'd call myself an "artist," because I'm really just a girl who knits a lot, likes to sew and paint sometimes, and looks at everything with the mindset of "what can I make with that?" But that issue aside, I think the identity of "artist" isn't one you can decide to take on--true artists are just born with that predisposition to think more creatively.

For me, it started with music: my mom is a church musician and private piano teacher and my dad is a singer and floutist who has built and taught himself to play a hammered dulcimer. It was rather inescapable: I've been singing since I had a voice and playing piano since my mom finally gave in and starting teaching me at age 6. At my visual and performing arts middle/high school, I learned violin and started dabbling in sculpture and 2D drawing. Around that same time, my friends and I got into sewing and clothing reconstruction and I really started enjoying knitting and crocheting, which my grandmother had taught me when I was younger.

twin rivers scarf - merlot & violet (eco), twiggy scarf - ocean (eco)

On top of the creativity that runs in my family, I've just never been able to see myself in a "normal" job where I have to sit in a cubicle and stare at a computer screen all day. The idea physically repulses me; I can't stand artificial light and office drama and 9-to-5 schedules. My brain doesn't work that way. I have this weird need to be making beautiful things with my hands, even if that means living quite modestly on whatever I can earn by selling those things.

Please describe your creative process how, when, materials, etc.
My creative process is all over the place, really. A lot of times I'll see something, knitted or otherwise, that sparks an idea, and I'll sit down, sketch something out, and go, "okay, how do I make this?" Then, I usually find that whatever I'm trying to do requires a new technique that I haven't mastered yet, so I'll do some research and figure it out so I can make whatever it is I wanted to make.

That's pretty much what happened with double knitting; I had been making simple scarves for my shop and wanted to do something a little more complex, with patterns and different colors, but I knew that stranding wouldn't work because a scarf doesn't have a "backside." So I ended up learning about double knitting, testing it out, and running with it. I now have a couple of scarves for sale that I knitted this way. More recently I've been focusing on circular knitting, which I learned how to do when I decided to make some fingerless gloves and wrist cuffs.

warm fuzzy scarf - sandstone, autumn tree scarf - twig/natural (eco)

Now that I have a few new techniques under my belt, I have plans to drastically expand my horizons, project-wise. In terms of materials, I have made a deliberate effort to be eco-friendly when I create. There's this yarn I use a lot that I really love, that's a blend of acrylic and polyester fiber made from 100% recycled plastic bottles--it's affordable and really soft, and also green, which you really can't beat. I've also used bamboo and alpaca, both of which are earth-friendly and a joy to work with. Next on my list to try is hemp, but I'm worried it won't be very soft. We'll see.

Since I have a full-time job, I basically have to do my knitting around my work schedule. This generally means that I'm thinking about projects in my head all day and the minute I leave the office I'm headed home to put some of my ideas into action. I'm sure my boyfriend and roommates get sick of me always knitting, but hey, I like keeping my hands busy and it sometimes brings in a little extra money, which is nice!

What artists have influenced you and inspire you to create?
I'm inspired by many of the knitters (and crocheters!) on Etsy. Some of them come up with the coolest ideas! I particularly love shannongerard's stuff; she does these crocheted mustaches and mature finger puppets that are just great. And actually, my boyfriend gave me one of her crocheted anatomical hearts for Valentine's Day this year--I was pumped. I also like the knitted/crocheted jewelry that I've seen, like yokoo's Sweetheart Chain.

It's incredible what you can make with yarn if you really put your mind to it. Whenever I'm feeling uninspired, I can also check the forums for EtsyKnitters Team, which I'm part of. There are always new ideas and words of encouragement there.

appleseed scarf - sunflower (eco)

Where else can people find your work?
I really only sell my stuff on Etsy at this point, but I'm hoping to start attending craft fairs sometime in the near future. I have a website, too, where you can read my blog and see pictures of my currently available items (I link to Etsy for purchases). Check it out and tell your friends!

Visit Emily's Etsy shop HERE.


Char said...

great interview

Sam said...

Gorgeous scarves! Something to keep in mind as we move into Autumn/Winter!

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