Monday, November 14, 2011

Alice Starmore's Colorful Life!

Welcome Alice Starmore

Alice Starmore
certainly needs no introduction.
She is a legend in the knitting world.

I feel so fortunate to have attended
Alice Starmore's talk
"My Colorful Life"
Interweave's Knitting Lab.

Alice captivated myself
and the capacity-filled ballroom of knitters
for over 2 hours
with her delightful Scottish accent,
humor and wonderful stories
about growing up
on the Isle of Lewis, Scotland.

My Colorful Life

"Color, texture and pattern
these are the elements I always work with."

Whether she's designing knitwear, artwork, tapestry, photography or environmental education
Alice always works those three elements.

And so began Alice's speech and slide show presentation
 My Colorful Life.

Alice grew up on the Isle of Lewis, Scotland where she says,
 "The coastline is pounded by the ocean."
According to Alice,
where she comes from and its physical landscape,
 shaped her.

She lovingly called the Isle
"A place that fires the imagination." 

Here's how growing up on the Isle of Lewis
its landscape and colors
shaped her as a designer and artist.

Growing Up on the Isle

Alice grew up in a traditional Lewis fishing family. 
You could sense her "Scottish pride" the way
she spoke lovingly about her family 
and life on the Isle of Lewis.  

She told us,
"My Grandfather was a fisherman in the era
of wooden ships and iron men."

She learned how to knit as a little girl from her aunties.
Her aunties taught her to knit
Gansies (fishermen sweaters).
Alice said , "I was fascinated with Gansies." 
Her father was also a fisherman
who eventually came to shore
(as they say on the Isle)
and became an engineer for Harris Tweed.  

Her father's career at Harris Tweed 
had an enormous influence on her.
 As a child she loved the going to the plant with her father
to see the dye vats and bolts of Scottish tweed. 

There was a lot of fabric at home, too.
Alice's mother was a skilled dressmaker, originally from
 Glasgow, Scotland. 
She continued dressmaking after marrying.
 Alice fondly remembers rushing home from school
just to see what new bolts of cloth had arrived. 

It was her mother who taught Alice Fair Isle knitting.  
Alice's mother had learned Fair Isle knitting
as a young nurse in Glasgow from her best friend from Shetland.
Alice obviously took a liking to stranded color work.

In her teens,  Alice told us she loved fashion magazines
and sewed all her own dresses for the
Friday night Disco dances. 

And how about this...
Alice said she "Always loved knitting."
She called herself "A bit of a secret knitter" as a young girl,
 because it wasn't thought of as cool. 

Hearing her story,
it was easy to see,
that Alice was destined to be a designer.

Signing My Books

Alice also talked about her knitting books
and their inspiration.

.In 1992 she wrote her  Fishermen's Sweaters book
with traditional Guernseys patterns.   
She wanted to "carry on those wonderful garments"
that her aunties taught her.

Her book The Celtic Collection was influenced
by her Celtic past. 
She grew up speaking both Gaelic and English.

She began the design process for this book
with Celtic doodles. 
Alice told us she doodles all the time.
As for her patterns,
she hand draws all of her designs
so they have swing and movement. 

The Celtic Collection has been her most popular book
and has never been out-of-print.
It's now in its 14th printing. 
(My copy is now signed by her.) 

As for Alice's beloved book, Tudor Roses
The number one question she is always asked,
 "Will it ever be reprinted?" 

Alice's response in her fabulous Scottish accent...
"You never know!"

Her Colorful Life
"My soul is where the moorland is".
~ Alice Starmore

As a child, Alice grew up playing on the moors
during the summer months.
The moors had a profound effect
in her design work and love for color.

Alice says "Color is everywhere."
"Forget the color wheel and look at nature around you."

Today, Alice Starmore is so much more than just a
 legendary knitter famous for color and pattern.
She is also a respected artist,
author, textile designer, photographer,
 environmental educator and conservationist.  

Alice said she was privileged that the
 "fireside craft of knitting"
 brought her to America back in 1985. 
For the next 15 years she came to America every year. 
This was her first time back in over a decade.

All I could think
during her entire talk,
 was how privileged we were at Knitting Lab
and that Interweave brought her all the way back to America 
so we could all learn about Alice's...
 Colorful Life!


Tina said...

What a wonderful women to meet! You're right, growing up with parents like hers it's no wonder she is such a talented lady.

Thanks for sharing the photos. It was quite the star-studded event!

Teresap said...

Lisette, for those of us not fortunate enough to have heard Alice Starmore you have certainly given us a wonderful flavour of the event and Alice's background. I was fortunate enough to have visited the Hebrides earlier this year and I know what Alice means when she says the landscape is such an influence.