Wednesday 11 January 2012

Celebrating the Intangible by Helen Yee

I just finished knitting a sweater for my boyfriend, and it gives me as much joy as it gives him. Each time he wears it I get to savor the feeling of achievement. It's the largest knitting project I've taken on so far: my first sweater, my first cable project, my first 2-way separating zipper. You can see more pictures of the sweater on my ravelry page.

And as I take time at the end of the year, looking back at the highlights, I notice that except for these end-of-year reviews I lose a lot of that delicious feeling of being done with something and gazing proudly at it. It's so different from my experience of knitting things and seeing them being worn. You see, as a performing artist, the work I do gets lost in time. There's all the work done in preparation, and I love that sense of anticipation and focused effort, but when the performance is over and the glow fades, so too does the memory of having done it. I'm off and rushing off to the next thing. Does this happen to you? Especially with creative endeavors where there is no physical "evidence"?

I don't often spend moments looking back at my achievements or celebrating them, and now I'm wondering if I can make the other creative processes more like knitting. In knitting, I get to see a piece gradually growing as I progress. So how could I apply this to learning a new piece of music, or trying to build a new technique on the violin? In knitting, I get to enjoy over and over again the feeling of "Yeah, I did that!" when I see a piece being worn. Could I maybe lengthen the afterglow by creating something tangible and visible to mark a performance or an achievement that would otherwise be lost to memory and time? Contemplation and journaling are great ways to put these on paper, but for me those pages also get lost in the shuffle. How can we enjoy more regularly what we "knit" into our creative lives?

Helen Yee is an improvising violinist, multi-instrumentalist and composer. Currently violinist for the eclectic string trio, Trio Tritticali she also performs on yangqin with Music From China. She considers the practice of improvisation in all its forms a profound teacher in art and in life.


  1. Helen, I understand perfectly what you are saying. Would pictures of yours performances displayed where you can see them everyday help to remind you of all that you are doing and accomplishing? I know that my watercolors remind me of the progress I am making on my creative journey. They are on the wall where I can not miss seeing them each day.

  2. I wonder if your composing gives you that same sense of gradual accomplishment, seeing something emerge, and completing it. But would recording it in some way be fun? Audiotaping, videotaping, or as Ginny suggests, photos?