Poetry in Motion
[Canadian fiber artist Karen Barnaby’s yarn-as-art creations are featured in the article “Yarn: The Art of Twist” by Tracy Hudson on page 34 of our Spring 2011 issue. Here she tells us a bit more about her creative process and inspirations for spinning poetic and kinetic sculptures made of yarn.]
I’m an executive chef, cookbook author, and cooking teacher based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The process of working with fiber is similar to cooking—choosing ingredients and figuring out the best way to put them together—until you get to the end product. Instead of tasting with your mouth, you taste with your eyes.
My inspiration comes from different places: words, phrases and concepts, or things that I’ve seen and experienced walking around outdoors. I like exploring alleyways as much as nature. Beautiful and unexpected objects, textures, and colors arrive, depart, and change in alleys on a daily basis.
I love rust, wind, waves and the sea. Windcomb was inspired by the Wind Comb (Peine del Viento) sculpture of Eduardo Chillida located in San Sebastien, Spain.
Above: Windcomb (with detail), 2011; assorted wool fibers and faux cashmere; handspun; 65 yd.
I am also constantly inspired by the art yarn groups I participate in on Ravelry.com. Brown Shirt was spun for a Ravelry “brown” challenge. It tells the story of a favorite shirt I had when I was seventeen. A male friend of mine started wearing it and I never got it back. This yarn is an homage to it, and to wherever it went.
Above: Karen Barnaby, Brown Shirt (with detail); 2010; wool: unknown brown fleece, silver Romney, brown alpaca, Icelandic nubs, dyed Wensleydale, red and turquoise silk, cotton thread; handspun; 100 yd.
As a medium, fiber is very expressive. It can be solid, fluid, thick, thin. It has roots, wings, thorns and petals. It is wonderful to start from the fleece and finish with the spinning. All of the steps in between are an adventure, and nothing beats the alive-feeling and the agility of wool you’ve processed yourself. Each time I spin, I learn a little more and that’s what keeps me on the quest; not for perfection but for the pleasure of progress.
And the Wind Cries Mary was created for a Jimi Hendrix challenge. I’ve always loved the opening chords of that song and wanted to capture their fluidity in yarn.
Above: And the Wind Cries Mary (with detail), 2011; wool, sequins, silk waste; handspun; 85 yd.
Spinning is simply capturing physical energy but it can capture the energy you offer the fiber. Thoughtful, emotional, healing, disturbing—it can all be captured in yarn as it flows through your hands. Yarn tells stories; sometimes in a blast of information, sometimes with subtle hints. Each yard has something different to say.