Celebrating creativity

Posted by Sylvia Olsen on

When I was a girl I was taught that humans were made in the image and likeness of God. It was an elusive idea that I could never really get my mind around. It wasn’t until I was a teenager and moved into the indigenous world where God was primarily the Creator that I began to relate to something about myself that connected me to the divine. I too am a creator.

I woke up this morning with these words on my mind, almost exactly word for word. At first I thought they were too heavy and ambitious to explore in a New Year’s blog about knitting. But they are not. Humans are, at our core, creators, makers, generators, designers. While 2015 has highlighted some of our most negative creations—havoc, violence, natural destruction—I want to celebrate the profound joy that comes from creating.


A beautiful drum made by Carl Olsen with the hands of our grandchildren

When I write I am repeatedly amazed and delighted when, after hours of shuffle, words begin to line up in a satisfying order. I read some of my sentences over and over in awe knowing that I have made something completely new. As a novice with a sketchbook and pencil I watch lines turn into expressions of my imagination like magic. Joni’s (my oldest daughter) simple act of cutting vegetables and chicken and adding herbs, oils, sweeteners when she caters for the elders in Tsartlip is like installation art—assembled as beauty only for a short time. Heather (my younger daughter) and Cory’s garden is the same—rows of asparagus, tomatoes, beets, like a mosaic, then a tumble of weeds, then freshly turned soil again.


Maddy (my 12 year old granddaughter) creates something new every time she sits at the piano. "I am turning three Adele songs into one," she says and then her medley emerges. The photos Tex (my partner) takes of everything—Maddy singing, Nick (son-in-law) and Adam (son) hanging smoked fish, Yetsa (other granddaughter) dancing, Adam speaking and rallying, and the photos of me, some hated, some loved, are his unique expression of the world as he sees it. Pat Shultis's (Adam and Joni's mother-in-law) rocks start on the beach and are gathered and lovingly caressed and imagined until something emerges


Nick's fish 

Pat's rock 

The ideas I wake up to in the morning are some of my favourite acts of spontaneous creation. They appear upon waking as if they are fully formed but as my mind clears they become damp clay that I model and sculpt like the concrete sculptures and mosaics my sister Heather makes for the garden. They are reassembled bits of dishes, mirrors and pottery and branches, boots, second hand made new again. 


Perhaps the greatest creative act is the grandchildren themselves, each a unique arrangement, fully whole from the start but always becoming.

Granddaughter Ella, fully formed but there is a lot more to come.

Hardly a day goes by that I do not design a new knitted idea. Sometimes I sketch them on random pieces of paper, sometimes I forget them in their specific form--at least temporarily. I used to panic thinking that I had lost something irreplaceable. But creative thoughts are like sparks, mist, fragrances…bits of something else.They are not what they become until they have a tangible expression. 

After finishing dozens of pieces for Salish Fusion’s orders Joni finally gave me a break about a week before Christmas. I had two knitting designs rumbling around in my head, one for Ella, my youngest granddaughter and one for me. 

I have dabbled with designing shoes, dreaming of sending my ideas to John Fluevog and wearing them one day. For now teddy bear shoes will have to do. After many many tear downs they fit. They did not turn out exactly as I had imagined them…they were better. They make me smile when I look at them. They are pure enjoyment.


I had imagined knitting myself a coat for several months before I got started. I wanted several design elements incorporated into the piece. The initial size needed to account for a heavy felting process that would transform the knitting into a more structurally sound fabric and also give the garment added wind resistance. I wanted it to be predominately white with the designs providing a deeper but still bright contrast. This was to be a coat not a sweater so I aimed at several inches above my knees. I would be walking in this coat so I wanted wide, deep pockets in exactly the right place for my hands to keep warm without dragging on the fabric. I wanted to highlight a new shoulder seam (at least new for me).


The design element I was most excited about was a new one piece shawl collar/button band I had been working on in my head for weeks and couldn’t wait to experiment with. After several abandoned starts I worked it until I was completely satisfied. In the process I finally corrected a flaw in my collar construction that I had been repeating for over 40 years. It’s scary when that happens.

This coat is pure comfort. It's warm, but like all woollen garments it breathes. But perhaps the most enjoyable thing about it is the way I picked up the stitches around the neck and then down the fronts to make a continuous collar and button band. It's a knitting thing.

Enjoy the new year my friends. Explore the divine. Celebrate your creativity. Honour the emergence of something new however small and seemingly insignificant. Love your button bands. 



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