This blog would not be complete without acknowledging the artists who provided me with help and inspiration on my journey. The series “Voices” is meant to put their art and perception of their surroundings center stage. The first interviewee is Nicola Hodges, textile craftsperson and aspiring park ranger in Vancouver.
How did you get interested in knitting?
I first learned to knit when I was given a Learn How to Knit book when I was 11. I learned the basics then but really sunk my teeth in when I was 15 and working as a nanny for a textile artist named Kirsten Zerbini, who gave me lots of resources and inspiration. I went right down the rabbit hole after that.
What is the Vancouver textile scene like?
It has always seemed pretty big to me compared to the size of the city. As far as knitting goes, there’s a lot of local yarn stores that all have their own community of crafters. There’s also a lot of Vancouver-based knitting pattern designers that are well known in the international knitting scene. When you go beyond knitting though, there is a lot of variety. There definitely seems to be a split between „crafters“ and „textile artists“. I feel there’s a push to identify as a „textile artist“ as a way of being more respected or credible in one’s time spent with these materials, so there’s definitely a bit of a hierarchy between scenes. Where I’m working right now I’m kinda straddling this middle ground but personally feel more comfortable identifying as a textile craftsperson as it fits my way of working better.
What does making things by hand and with natural resources mean today?
I feel as many people are more and more disconnected from the natural world and more to the worlds and systems we’ve created there is a loss of meaning, or say fulfillment. I’m not against technology but I do feel I want a balance, I want a connection to the earth and I get that by building a relationship with my environment through crafting. Using natural materials that I forage or glean from gardens can create an embodied knowing of seasons, environments, and life that I don’t get by working a job or being online. Making physical things with your hands is a very particular thing, it grounds you, it gives you perspective, and I think it’s fun! I’ve been getting this most from my other crafts at the moment but knitting is where I started this journey, and by using yarn and wool from animals I know or can directly trace, I can get a little taste of that bigger feeling. I guess there’s a lot of other people realizing the same thing and they are on their own journeys of discovering where the balance lies for them.
You spent time in Mexico, Iceland, and Scotland to learn more about local textile traditions. How do they influence your work?
Being back home from those travels I think one major influence on my work has been to look more and more closely at my own ancestral history with textiles. I have ancestors from both Scotland and Scandinavia and both of these traditions are very appealing to me. I like studying traditional textiles, sometimes making recreations, and then using that background as a lens to look at the objects I need for the life I have now and the environment that I live in. I also just love looking at the wonderful things people make and come up with, that’s a big part of why I love to travel and look at textiles.
Do your textiles tell stories?
They do to me! Whenever I see something I made I remember the story of it, when or where I bought the yarn, picked the rushes, or was gifted the materials, when I worked on it, how I was feeling, what was going on, how it came together. And then I usually remember how I used it after, the sense of accomplishment and pride. If it’s something that stays with me and is used, it collects more of a story along the way. I’m wearing the sweater that I knit in Iceland and wore for the rest of my trip in Europe right now. When I wear it, I’m collecting new stories and also invoking the stories of its past. It’s got everything from climbing mountains and looking for lost lambs to doing math homework in it! So, definitely a lot of personal meaning but I couldn’t say for sure what another person could see when looking at any given object. I think it would probably be more ethereal, though I personally try to imagine and glean these kinds of stories from textiles I look at.