Knittin’ for a Livin’ (Issue 7, Comnference June 2010)

– Art & Enterprise – making a business out of creativity

I have been frustrated with having to answer this question since I started teaching and decided that it was high time I did something about it! So when Ian and Naomi mentioned that they had seen this slightly kooky ‘big knitter’, who had started her own business with this inventive idea, I thought this would be an excellent insight for the Applied Art and Design course. Showing the students that you can make a successful business from your creativity must be better than just telling them, and also to give them a break from their teacher for a day!

Ingrid’s ‘big knitting’ business involves her knitting with super sized needles, and instead of wool she used recycled lengths of fabric. She also holds the world record for knitting with the biggest knitting needles!

The first half of the day the students asked pre-planned questions to Ingrid about her business and how she started and developed it. They discovered where she got her inspiration from and how she made sure she retained her creativity in a sea of business paperwork and form filling!

The students soon warmed to Ingrid’s anecdotal way of speaking and were making notes about her life and business. The students were aware that these notes would turn into a presentation in their sketchbooks about the day.

Ingrid and I were keen that the students get an insight into what her business entailed and the only way to do that was to get out the big knitting needle and start knitting. This proved to be extremely taxing for both the students and myself, although luckily Ingrid was in her element. She organised a production line where one half of the class ripped up the fabric that the other half of the class needed to knit.

I was asked to make sure that a small group of students managed to cast on their knitting and this was where the fun began, this was the first demonstration I had of casting on…so we all were making sure that everyone else’s knitting was working out. Then, one of the students caught on faster than me so was able to show me and the others in easier terms that I was able to. The knitting came on really well and in the afternoon the students swapped over so everyone got an experience at the big knitting.

By the end of the day the air in the classroom was full of fabric fibre and all you could hear was the clunking of the wooden knitting needles. In the evaluation of the day students spoke of how refreshing it was to see a successful artist and they could see how with a bit of insight and organisation they might be able to achieve the same. One student enjoyed the day so much that they have organised to go to Ingrid’s studio in Northumberland for their work experience.

Nicola English

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