Tell us a bit about yourself.
I was born in 1972, in Novosibirsk – a scientific, cultural and industrial center of Siberia in the former Soviet Union. The year of my birth is mentioned here in order to emphasize that my childhood took place in the real Soviet Russia. I went to real Soviet school, was fond of sports and believed in the promising future of Communism like most of the children. I was crazy about running in the summer rain, eating wild strawberries and going on holidays with my parents to the Black sea, Moscow, Alma-Ata and Tashkent.
My adult life started in Israel, where my family immigrated at the beginning of ’90s. A lot happened during this time. There were happy moments and disappointments. I started studying applied mathematics in Technion, then quit and went to the States. I came back, and graduated from the Haifa University statistics department. I tried to teach math in secondary school but couldn’t do it – I felt unhappy and unwanted. That’s when I started knitting. Since then, I knit all the time – everywhere and everything. It’s a kind of an obsession. Soon, my hobby grew into a profession. I started selling my stuff in designer shops in Israel and the United States. People liked it and bought it. I continued knitting, and was noticed by publishers of craft books. They offered me the opportunity to publish a book on knitting. I was really scared to write my first book – I didn’t know how to do it! Since then, I’ve had six books published. There is one thing I can say for sure: I enjoy knitting much more than writing books.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
I live in Givatayim with my husband and two boys, Ilay, 6, and Oz, 3. It’s a 10-minute drive to Tel Aviv and 20 minutes to the Mediterranean. The sun shines almost all year round, and I think that’s why people here are sunny and open.
I spend almost all my free time with the kids. I feed them, wash them, put on their clothes, take them for a walk, play with them, read books and then feed them again, take off their clothes, wash them and put them to bed. Of course I don’t do it all by myself– I have a wonderful husband and wonderful parents. My interests have gradually shifted to the interests of my kids. Thus I started skating, and playing football and chess. I often go to the beach to build sandcastles, or I go to the playgrounds to play astronauts. I’ve discovered the magic world of children’s books all over again.
What would be the title of your memoir?
To tell the truth, I think about the answer to this question quite often. I’m not really going to write a memoir, but I would like to have my own web page or blog. I would publish different things: my short stories (which I wrote long ago), my dreams, my experiences (old and new), and also photos of my creations and works of others that I admire. I don’t know whether I am going to carry out this project, but if I did the title might be Peels – unless that sounds too pretentious. What do you think?
Where does your inspiration come from?
I love yarns. I like to look at them, touch them, and choose which ones I like. I’m attracted to their texture, color and structure. Often a yarn itself inspires me to develop my concept and plays a crucial role in the creation of the new designs. I like to work within certain boundaries and develop given themes. Since I am a former math teacher, my approach to creating new designs is similar to completing a mathematical task: I’m always trying to achieve an optimal solution.
What does handmade mean to you?
It seems to me that in every handmade item is a part of its creator. It conveys his or her character, mood and feelings. One wants to possess them; to cherish them. They are eternal and priceless. Sometimes, thinking about the fact that my creations have their own possessors, I feel happy and at the same time a bit scared. I worry how are they treated – do people love them? The destiny of my creations is important to me. Please, treat them well.
Who has been most influential in your craft?
My maternal grandmother Raya was a needlewoman. She sewed, knitted and baked the most appetizing rolls. A morning at grandmother’s place usually started with the smell of those cinnamon rolls. I would eat them while they were still warm and drink cold milk. When I was 5 years old I most wanted to be a witch, and my grandmother taught me how to knit. Grandmother used handmade knitting-needles. They were kind of like metal sticks that were sharpened at the ends, and at one end, she put a piece of eraser. One couldn’t find needles in the shops. To get yarn wasn’t easy either. From early childhood, I was familiar with the word “deficit” (shortage). In the case of knitting, it means the following: let’s imagine you’ve decided to knit a green woolen vest, but in the shops you could find only gray synthetic thread. What shall you do? Soviet needlewomen came up with brilliant ideas. They sheared dogs and made yarn from their hair. They bought ready-made sweaters in ugly cuts and undid them. They painted yarn in the baths and then knitted. All of these methods fascinate me. There’s something witchy about it.
When did you know you were an artist/maker?
I knew when I tried to work as a math teacher. Standing in front of the class, I thought about who I was, why I was there, what I could give the children other than math, what they needed math for, and what I needed it for. Different kinds of philosophical questions came into my head during my lessons.
And then one day I got a hat as a present. It was very stylish– knitted, striped, shaped like a bright square with horns. The first thing I thought was: what a wonderful gift! When I pulled the hat over my head and looked in the mirror, I suddenly remembered that I knew how to knit. Then, noticing that the hat suited me, I realized that I could handle such a project. I bought needles and yarn and started knitting.
How would you describe your creative process?
Sometimes at the beginning I make sketches, which are only clear to me. Then I choose the appropriate materials, do the necessary calculations and start knitting.
During the process itself, I realize that this or that could be done another way. Thus, every new version is more perfect than the previous one. I have to take pictures of my creations. Sometimes I do it by myself – every time dreaming about a decent camera – or my friends come to help.
If you could peek inside the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman (dead or alive), who would it be?
I discovered Pasha Setrova, an artist and sculptor, quite unexpectedly. I chanced upon one of her photos on Facebook. Her dolls fascinate me. They are incredibly emotional and expressive. I could spend hours considering all the small details in her works. I was really delighted by her Colored Children.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
An old yellowing school checkered notebook with Winnie the Pooh on the cover – inside are my grandmother’s recipes written down by hand. All of her cakes, biscuits, crackers, bagels, rolls, jams, pickles … I’ve got all of her culinary secrets! It’s very dear to me. Sometimes my kitchen is filled with the smells of my childhood, which I hope will be remembered by my kids as well.
How do you get out of your creative ruts?
It’s very rare that I am not working. I take my needles/crochet hook everywhere: the park; the bus stop; in the bus; on the beach; in the forest. I am knitting everywhere there is an opportunity to sit for a certain period of time.
Where would you like to be in ten years?
I would like to create collections with fashion designers, try my hand in art and have my own exhibition. It could be interesting to collaborate with sculptors and jewelers, and see what unexpected things result. Maybe in the next 10 years…