Vancouver's Mini Maker Faire is coming up on June 10th and 11th at the PNE Forum and after signing up to participate in the textile village I realized that I know very little about the event. I figured, surely I'm not the only one. So, naturally I wanted to find out more and share with you. Vancouver Mini Maker Faire co-founder Emily Smith agreed to answer a few questions! Lucky us! Read on for a mini-interview...
JANNA: Hey Emily, Thanks for sharing about Maker Faire. Can you explain what it is and how have you been involved?
EMILY: Maker Faire was born in San Mateo and is a merging together of projects and subcultures. From Burning Man enthusiasts, to Silicon valley innovators, computer hackers, urban farmers, tiny house builders, art cars, and more - it's where people share their passion projects and wild feats of imagination. It's a celebration of DIY advocacy, and a place where failure is celebrated, and making "for the fun of it" is encouraged.
Vancouver Mini Maker Faire is an offshoot of Maker Faire, and was founded back in 2011 as a result of a wild idea thrown out at a "Super Happy Hacker House" at the Vancouver Hacker Space. A few of us got together with no previous event management experience, and with a lot of hard work and a community effort, made it happen. The faire is all about learning by doing, risk-taking, and bringing together community. I was involved as a lead organizer for the first 3 years and have since served on the board, and am now community ambassador, building the textile village stitch & bitch area and helping out where I can!
JANNA: Is this the first year you're having a textile village? What will that look like?
EMILY: Nope! I've been organizing the textile village for about the past 3 years or so. So far, there will be some looms, knitting machines, spinning, and more! There are about 26 or so people signed up to craft together. We're still accepting more applications!
JANNA: Oh, cool! Yeah, I'm signed up for a 4-hour block on the Saturday. I'm bringing my 16" Mirrix tapestry loom. It'll be my first time at the Vancouver Maker Faire. I've actually only ever been to the Mini Maker Faire briefly last year in Gibsons on the Sunshine Coast, so I'm stoked to finally attend and participate in Vancouver.
I love this idea of people in the community coming together to share their skills. In my own art practice, I've done a lot of crafting and sharing textile skills in public. I'm not very familiar with your personal practice, but from what I've seen online it seems like Maker Faire has influenced your art practice... or perhaps vice versa. Can you tell me a bit about what you do and which came first?
EMILY: Yes, absolutely! I learned to knit when I was a kid, and it wasn't until a few years before Maker Faire (around 2008) that I picked it up again. Reading Make magazine really inspired me! And showed me that knitting and handicrafts are relevant and can even be critical.
Once I started knitting again - with an adult brain - I became curious about the fibres that made up the yarn. I guess it all really came as a reaction against fast fashion and the negative impacts of fashion overall. That curiosity motivated me learn more about the various fibres, their impacts, and study more closely how those fibres were manufactured. I was spending time with hackers at the time, whose ethos was, "If you can't open it you don't own it" - and in many ways, I was looking at textiles in the same way. What would it mean to 'hack' your clothes?
I find knitting to be a very social activity - and I found that I definitely wasn't alone in my curiosity about how to work with cloth. Immediately I started hosting craft nights everywhere. My house, the park, the hackspace, etc. I really fell in love with the idea of connecting with others over making.
In terms of what influenced what, I would say that Maker Faire and my own art process emerged concurrently. As soon as I was making for the love of it and sharing it with others, it became clear that my art practice was about empowering communities to take part and discover and share with one another. I share what I learned; they share what they know. In many ways, I'm more interested in the culture, conversation and performative aspect of making, than of having a specific art piece. I've made lots of different pieces that I'm proud of, but I choose to highlight the patterns of connection and discovery with others.
JANNA: There are more and more artists highlighting meaningful connections with others in their work these days. It's great! The craft and the do-it-yourself world are so prevalent online, but that space can be very alienating as each person independently navigates how to actually connect with people there. I'm still figuring out how to make the internet work for me in that way. I love that Maker Faire merges technology and actual socializing. It looks like an interactive science faire for the whole family. I was going to get a babysitter for the day but after looking through all your photos I think I would spend the day wishing my four-year-old could be there, too. I think I'll bring him and see what happens (maybe I'll bring a g-ma for back up)
I bought the Madelinetosh DK yarn for this newly finished cardigan on my birthday in 2013 at Downtown Yarns in Manhattan. It was day 2 of living there. We literally arrived in New York and the first thing I did after waking up the first morning was head to a yarn shop (it was my birthday after all). I snagged 5 skeins in the Oxblood colourway, and honestly that was so long ago that I don't really remember how I decided to begin knitting this Slant Special cardigan with it. I think I was attracted to the idea of the chevron pattern somewhat disappearing and becoming more about texture than pattern when knit up in a dark colour (it is so hard to photograph, though). I must have found the book at a thrift store, or my great aunt Franca did (I get a lot of great stuff from her that way). I then apparently saw this picture in the book and said, "yes, I want to knit that". It baffles me.
Nonetheless, I knit it and it turned out amazing. So, let me tell you about that process. It's a three-year story, so get a snack. I'm kidding, not about the three year part, but I'll make this snappy.
I knit the back first, and this is probably the only reason I finished it at all. After all that work I wasn't willing to frog it. Had I begun with the two front pieces there is no way I would have finished because that part of the pattern was maddening. The biggest complaints I have are that there were no charts and only one side of it is written out. The directions for the second half basically reads, "okay, now do the same as the right side but backwards". It was then that I realized why knitters read through a pattern before they knit it (Although, why anyone would think that it is okay to just flat out not write an entire section of a pattern is beyond me). I put it away for over a year before finally deciding to soldier through and write that part of the pattern out myself. I had three big pieces finished and could see how it was shaping up and wasn't overly thrilled so I put it down for another long while. When I picked it up again I decided pretty quickly that I didn't want baggy sleeves, nor did I want chevrons on them. So, I searched on Ravelry for a pattern that had a fitted sleeve using a similar yarn and gauge and used that pattern's stitch count to create my sleeves, knitting them cuff up. I decided to knit them in reverse stockinette - my favourite plain stitch. I loved how the first sleeve knit up but I was bored with all the purling so I put it down for another few months. I only got around to the second sleeve months later because I had learned about Portuguese knitting, and the easiest stitch with Portuguese knitting is the purl stitch - perfect for a reverse stockinette stitch. So, that's when I whipped up the second sleeve. 'Whipped' being the operative word - if you're a throwing knitter (english style) Portuguese knitting purl stitches is WAY faster, and super easy to pick up (I've never been able to pick up continental style).
To finish it up I knit the button bands and neck in a plain 2X2 rib. The buttons are copper-esque polymide from Urban Yarns.
It's by far my favourite sweater even though I knit the button holes too big (I won't be able to button it up until I reknit that part). I'm in love with the feel and look of the MadTosh DK, and it wears well so far, too (not too much pilling). One big downside is that because I knit it to fit my shoulders (as opposed to hang off them 80s style) It's all 'round smaller and I'm unable to close the top button comfortably, and it doesn't look good either, so I just won't ever be able to button it up that far. On the upside, though, it's the first sweater that I've worn where the sleeves are a bit long (I have really long arms) - and it feels amazing. When I first blocked it I was worried the arms were looking freakishly long, but it turns out they are the perfect length for wearing down or rolled up. Happy Janna.
Hi, I'm Janna. I'm a tapestry weaver, longtime knitter, 2013 graduate of Concordia University's Fibres and Material Practices program, and co-founder of Everlea Textiles. In my art practice I combine textiles and socially engaged media. Here on the VY blog I mostly share my knits, local events and about other local artists and crafters.