Spotlight: Sam Barsky, Artistic Knitter
When traveling, most people take photographs or buy postcards of landmarks. Some even mark their visits with selfies. But Sam Barsky takes all of that to an artist’s extreme. Before his journey, he knits a sweater depicting the location, then takes a selfie at the famous location showing off his knitting artistry along with the real landmark. Then he shares his travels on his website for a unique digital scrapbook.
How long have you been knitting? How did you get started?
I’ve been knitting 20 years. I started in 1999.
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What inspired the landmarks sweaters?
I realized after knitting a few generic scenery sweaters and seeing a picture of London’s Tower Bridge in a magazine, which became inspiration, that anything could be a sweater.
What’s the count? How many sweaters of famous places have you designed and made? Any favorites?
I have 143 and counting. I haven’t counted how many are landmarks, but you could count on my website. But I don’t have a favorite; it’s just impossible.
What are the challenges of reproducing a recognizable image with yarn and knitting needles?
It can be hard sometimes to capture exact details, in which case I just try to make it look as close as possible. Sometimes I can’t get the yarn I’m looking for, so I get something as close as possible.
Do you have a dedicated space for creating? If so, what does it look like?
I spend lots of time knitting in knitting groups with other people. I go to up to a dozen of them a week. Other than that, I knit on my sofa at home or wherever I happen to be.
What are the indispensable tools and materials in your studio? How do they improve your work?
All I need pretty much in terms of tools are yarn, needles, and certain other equipment that I use for finishing that I carry in a small bag.
What is your favorite lesser-known tool for your trade? Have you taken something designed for another use and repurposed it for your studio?
I use bags to carry around my knitting.
What plays in the background while you work? Silence? Music, audiobooks, podcasts, movies? If so, what kind?
I usually knit when I’m with other people, so I have conversation with others to keep me going. When I’m at home, I watch TV or videos.
When you travel, do you knit on planes and in waiting areas? What is in your creative travel kit?
Yes, of course I knit on planes. It’s the main thing I do when I’m at 35,000 feet. And of course I knit in waiting areas too.
How many projects do you have going at once? Or do you focus on one creative project at a time?
Sometimes I have one project going on at a time, sometimes more than one. It depends on my needs at the time. I’ve juggled as many as 4 at a time.
When beginning a project, do you pre plan your entire endeavor or do you simply follow where your inspiration takes you?
Usually when I start a project, I know what it’ll be from the beginning. In my early projects, I just put in them what I felt like as I went along. Now since I have the full image in mind, I know what they will include, though sometimes I think of more details along the way.
What does being creative mean to you?
Being creative means that I’m in charge and I don’t have to follow someone else’s guidelines. Whatever I think is best works out. I don’t have to follow any conventions or traditions.
If you had the opportunity, what creative person, past or present, would you like to work with and why?
If given the opportunity, I would like to work with other star knitters. This is because I have things in common with them and we can talk about what we enjoy about knitting and designing.
When was the first time that you remember realizing that you are a creative person?
I realized my creativity when my first grade principal, in the last year of her life, told me that I’m an artist and I should pursue this in greater depth. So I took her advice to heart. Also, I had family members, many of whom are now deceased, who believed I would be successful.
How have other people supported or inspired you?
Many other people I know post pictures of their travels or other interesting things on social media that give me sweater theme ideas. I very often comment to them “Inspiration for possible future sweater.” Really, anything that crosses my eyes is a possible sweater. What I decide next though is usually based on my needs for upcoming travels and events.
What was the biggest challenge that you encountered on your creative journey ans what did you learn from it?
My biggest challenge is trying to promote my work to others and get people interested. I am not a skilled salesman or marketer. Art and knitting are where my talents lie.
Do you lecture or teach workshops? How can students/organizers get in touch with you to schedule an event?
I lecture and teach classes whenever someone hires me to do so, and I have done this in many places. I have info on my website about arranging this.
Do you sell your work? If so, where can people find it?
Currently, I do not sell my works. It takes me a month to make one sweater, and I cannot be a human sweater mill. But I sell prints of my stuff. I have prints available for order on calendars, pillows, mugs, and other merchandise. Starting in late October, I will have T-shirts available from Picture This Clothing in Las Vegas. You can find me on my website sambarsky.com and on Instagram.
Interview posted October, 2019.
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