For a number of years now, Knitty City has been host to a Men's Knitting Group. Meeting every Wednesday, from 6:00-8:00PM, it has brought together a very special band of creative men. The group, open to all, encompasses men of a variety of ages, professions, and cultures. For a number of years, the lead mentor in the group, Alphonse Poulin, was a treasured source of experience and support. Alphonse retired to Maine last year. He is missed, but the group soldiers on. This week we asked David Freeman, a gifted writer, fiber artist, and painter, to share with us his insights on what has transpired for him since he became a part of the Men's Group. Originally, with the help of Alphonse, he completed a beautiful Scandinavian style sweater that we reported on in a Facebook posting. As David's love of fiber art progressed, he discovered he had an affinity and passion for weaving. This, then, is that story, written in his own hand.
"My introduction to weaving was in the Saori style. The method is unique in that there are no mistakes in this style of weaving. The weaver is encouraged to experiment and play, with no pressure. I had just one class but it had a big impact on me. Initially, it was someone showing me the very basics of weaving andthen saying 'go play'. I was given tips and help if I ran into technical problems, but other than that, I was left to discover on my own."
"With no mistakes, the only questions I faced were how I felt about what I did and what I should do next. I was shocked to find out how much I liked the look of the random skipped threads and somewhat wavy lines of color. Itlooked lifean abstract textured landscape. I left feeling relaxed and at peace, plus I had a piece of original art that I made myself. It reminded me of why I got into fiber art in the first place."
"Now, before I go too much further, let me tell you a little bit about myself. I have lived and worked in NY most of my life. Currently, my wife and I reside in Montclair, NJ, with two dogs and a cat."
"After two decades of work in the IT field, I developed a very serious illness: Cancer. Today, I am a cancer survivor. Thankfully, I have been cancer free for about 9 years. Before I was diagnosed, the lymphoma had spread, and I had tumors throughout my torso. Many were in my lungs and large ones in my abdomen had damaged my left kidney. Some other large tumors at the base of my spine had damaged the nerves there and left me with permanent sciatic nerve pain."
"The following years were less than happy. I was getting great health care and therapy and that helped tremendously, but the pain and ongoing health problems were relentless. The discomfort can be relatively mild or brutal in intensity. At that time, pain was always present and I never felt at peace. A couple of years ago I discovered that while I was drawing, doodling really, I often forgot about my pain. I cannot describe my joy at being able to find some moments of peace."
"Those moments of peacefulness brought back the memory of my mom teaching me how to crochet. At the time, she was desperate to find some way to calm her ADD son and, to our mutual surprise, crochet worked! It didn't last, though. As a teenage boy, growing up in the Bronx, crochet was definitely not cool. But that was then."
"As an adult, I soon found myself drawing, painting, crocheting or knitting whenever I could. I found working with yarn to be even more relaxing than painting or drawing. Then something unexpected happened: I got 'kinda' good at it, and I kept striving to get better. I did not see it then, but I had gone from just taking a moment to relax and enjoy the process to constantly trying to improve the last thing I had done. More and more, I was finding less peace of mind in my artistic endeavors and I was at a loss to understand why."
"However, as I explored weaving after the Saori class, I began to understand that my real goal was not to get good at painting or knitting or weaving, but just to find some peace."
"Then another revelation occurred: I had been feeling poorly for weeks, both physically and emotionally. I was in pain and in a spiral of negative thinking. I decided to start a lush weaving project to boost my mood. I used an alpaca silk yarn for the warp and some very nice Merino wool for the weft. I was still in a bad mood when warping the loom and I tried to progress quickly without thinking it through. The predictable result was a mess. This did nothing for my mood. I tried to rush through fixing it and made even more of a mess. I realized that I needed to make a choice: Cut the alpaca off the loom and give it up or slow way down. I forgot about how long it would take to fix the whole thing. I looked at each individual tangle with compassion and an open mind, and I carefully untangled it. I did not cut my warp and two days later the loom was ready to go."
"Over those two days, an attitude of compassionate curiosity crept into my thoughts. I thought about the problems I was experiencing and I realized that it was all the same. The secret to untangling my warp was the secret to untangling my current drama and my life as a whole: Slow down and look at each individual issue with compassionate curiosity. That attitude is at the heart of the peace that fiber art has brought to me."
"These days I am weaving far more than anything else. This process of creation is spiritual. My loom is my altar. I go to it praying for peace and a way to create some beauty. I marvel as I feed it my worries and it turns them into my dreams."
I would like to end by saying thank you to Alphonse Poulin, and the staff at Knitty City for all of their help and support. I would also like to thank Bob Krasner for the photos of me.