May 7, 2008
Thank you for sending down the St. Bernard with the little
casket cask (whoopsy! thanks, Michelle!) around its neck with the brandy in it and everything. I really am fine, I promise, under this avalanche of school-end foolishness and miscellaneous hooha. If I had any more room on my back bumper, I’d add a new bumper sticker: “I’d rather be knitblogging.” Or “My other car is a basket of yarn.” Or “My sweater is an honor student at Grassland Elementary.” Or “If you don’t like my knitting, call 1-800-Kiss-My-@$$.” Anywaaaaaay . . .
Now. Can we talk about Gale, now? I’ve been dying to talk about Gale.
One of the year’s biggest new knitting books is Gale Zucker’s Shear Spirit: Ten Fiber Farms, Twenty Patterns, and Miles of Yarn.
How big is this book? People, it is currently the Number One Best-selling Animal Husbandry Book on Amazon! It is kicking The Chicken Health Handbook’s feathered behind!
But more important, it’s deluxe, and lush, and very beautiful. It doesn’t look very much like The Chicken Health Handbook. And it’s because Gale’s photographs are so special.
Gale and her co-author, Joan Tapper, traveled across the country to visit fiber farms where people are living out their dreams of working close to the land. At one point, I do believe Gale spent the night underneath a Navajo rug loom.
I had the chance to see early proofs of this book, and since then, I have kept in the back of my head Gale’s images of beautiful places, memorable people, and sheep who look a lot like people. A lot of big sky.
You don’t have to be a spinner or dyer (or animal husbander, for that matter) to love this book. In fact, the less you know about this world, the more fascinating it becomes. “I trade time for temperature,” says Nanney Kennedy, a Maine fiber farmer who does her dyeing in big tubs in her yard. She lets the sun heat the vats–a slower process, but no carbon footprint for her! She hauls saltwater from the Damariscotta River, uses it as as a natural mordant for her dyes.
The Shear Spirit blog has a lot of juicy tidbits about the book.
And there are a bunch of patterns, too. (What’s a fiber book without patterns?) This book is my favorite sort of mash-up: stories, patterns, superlush photographs. If you put it on your bedside table, it will leave you with a lot of nutty yarn-related dreams.
The Brush with Fame Part
I first discovered Gale Zucker while trolling knitting blogs, several years ago. Her blog, She Shoots Sheep Shots, struck me immediately. Gale was always knitting something interesting, but it was her photographs that really knocked me out. The photographs were really beautiful, like magazine photographs. They were composed. They tended to be rich in color and humanity. It didn’t really matter that there were often no people in them–they were intensely human.
On the front page of her blog is a photograph that I have gazed upon many, many times. See those sheep? That’s a portrait.
It took me a while to figure out that Gale was not simply an unusually fine knitting blog photographer. She’s a serious, professional photographer, which was instantly clear to me once I discovered her portfolio.
Back when we were trying to figure out the look we wanted for our second knitting book, I kept thinking about those sheep, and the people that she photographed so well, and the funny sensibility that came through her pictures.
So, in the fine tradition of discovering great friends via the Internet, we emailed Gale and asked if she had any interest in taking the photographs for our new book. We finally met in person, for lunch in New York, on a sunny, chilly day more than a year ago. By the end of lunch, which of course involved viewing sheep shots on her laptop in the middle of the restaurant, which seemed like a perfectly sensible thing to do, we hoped against hope that she’d risk her sanity to help us out.
I think it was the double-teaming that did it. We wore her down, and she realized it would be easier to say yes than to listen to us anymore. I can hardly describe how delighted we were.
And are, especially now that the photographs are done and off in China being printed.
So there you go: the co-author of the Number One Best-selling Animal Husbandry Book on Amazon, the fabulous Gale Zucker, is the photographer for Mason-Dixon Knitting Outside the Lines.
We couldn’t be prouder that we had the chance to work with Gale.
We have a lot of tales from the travels she took with us last summer, which I’ll share in the days to come.
PS We just got the bound galleys–very exciting to see it looking more like a book and less like a pile of Post Its: