When we interviewed Kaffe Fassett we couldn’t have ever anticipated the response we got from fans and followers. Although Kaffe is a formidable artist in his own right we recognise the need to hear from more male contemporary textile artists. For this reason we’ve created a new series of inspirational artists – ‘Men in Textiles’ – which aims to showcase and promote the work of men in creative textiles.
We’re pleased to kick start the series with an interview from Sam Barsky.
Barsky is an American creative knitter who has sparked interest and fame through his many knitted designs of famous landmarks. Utilising the power of Social Media Barsky has recently started posting images of him wearing his designs next to the subject matter, which has generated worthy attention from The New York Times and Time Magazine. Barsky’s fame can be attributed to the success of his social media channels which he uses to promote his work. However, what’s more astonishing is his ability to knit his creations freehand without much planning and design.
Since learning how to knit in 1999, Barsky has created 120 different designs, each featuring famous landmarks, including including Stonehenge, Niagara Falls and the Eiffel Tower to name a few. Since he does not make to sell his mission is to promote and teach knitting to the world and regularly exhibits across the US. We interviewed Barsky to find out more about his knitting passion and where it all began.
Take us back to when you first started knitting.
‘I learned to knit from the owners of two yarn shops. After meeting some yarn shop owners at a flea market, I arranged for a lesson soon after. I came dressed in a paisley patterned commercial sweater to demonstrate my future goals. They told me a design like that is for very experienced knitters only.’
Do you think you were born creative or was it nurtured?
‘I believe creativity is inborn, though one must discover it. I did not realise the level of creativity I had during college. It was something I figured out accidentally afterwards.’
What are you currently working on?
‘I am working on several sweaters of places in Colorado.’
What sort of changes have you seen in knitting over time and any predictions for future trends?
‘I have noticed that social media is responsible for quite a lot of change, bringing all the knitters of the world together into a community, and allowing those who are talented to gain exposure.’
How has Social Media helped you as an artist?
‘It has helped me to gain exposure. One of my biggest achievement was getting media recognition, which has led to opportunities to travel and teach. I first started getting media recognition beyond small publications in early 2017 when an Imgur article went viral and has led to various venues all over the world seeking me out to make appearances. This wouldn’t have been possible without the far reach of social media or the internet.’
Who would you most like to sit next to at a dinner party and why?
‘First, I always like for my wife to sit next to me. She is not a knitter, but she is my best friend. But outside the family, I would like sitting with any fellow knitter who I have things in common with to talk about.’
What’s your development process for your designs, if any?
‘I use yarns that resemble things in the real world. I do not use patterns or graphs. I freehand everything. It’s like drawing a picture in which I place different objects within a rectangle.’
How have you found being a man in what is a traditionally female craft area – a help or a hindrance?
‘Being a man makes no difference to me. While most of the people I knit with are female, I don’t view them as people of a particular gender, just people who I have similar interests with and who I enjoy talking to. I just do what I have to do and this is not an issue to me.’
Do you ever struggle to find creativity or motivation?
‘Sometimes if I find a project difficult and I get stuck and I get frustrated. While I have not permanently abandoned many projects, I have put some on the back burner, sometimes for several years, as I’ve started others.’
What advice would you give to students who are studying with us and just starting to develop their own individual style?
‘To enjoy what you are doing and not to treat it as a job or something that needs accomplishing.’
If you’re in Colorado then be sure to check out Sam’s upcoming exhibition at the Boulder Central Library. The Exhibition ‘Wish You Were Here’ will run for two months and your chance to see 40 of Sam’s jumpers on display.
24th August – 14th October, Boulder Library, Colorado.
If you’d like to learn how to knit or develop your existing skills then check out our accredited courses. And for a short time only we’re offer 4 students the chance to study an accredited course for FREE through our Creative Bursary Scheme.