Rose Clark, a New Yorker and last year's grand prize raffle winner at the Vogue Knitting LIVE gala, was second in line to get into this year's gala. The line began forming just under an hour before the event started at 7:00p.m., and there were ropes flanking the path in front of the Astor Ballroom on the seventh floor of the New York Marriott Marquis.
Keynote speaker Barbara Kingsolver has that effect on people. While everyone at the event enjoys the posh food, the fashion show, and of course the chance to win amazing raffle prizes from the event sponsors ranging from a Della Q bag to the trip to Chicago's Vogue Knitting LIVE event, it is Kingsolver who attracted attendees. In addition to being an award-winning novelist, the group of knitters and fiber enthusiasts were interested in her personal life on her farm in the Southern Appalachia region of Virginia as much as her professional life.
After dinner was served and a few raffle prizes had been called out, Vogue Knitting editor Trisha Malcolm introduced the author, who was wearing the Cabled Colorblock Vest, an item appearing in the fall 2013 issue of Vogue Knitting. "I made this," said Kingsolver to the crowd, who for the most part did not realize she was a knitter, sheep farmer, and Norah Gaughan enthusiast until this chat. She then made a mock jaunt down the runway, full of strut and attitude until her pose was broken and she let out a hair-tossing laugh.
Her farm of Icelandic sheep is managed by her family and herself, and she introduced the audience to her family as if they were one in the same: sheep, a donkey named Sally, the lambs that appear every spring, her daughter, and her husband. She walked the group through the yearlong cycle of her farm, starting with a ram and ending with a large table full of yarn, wihch she sells at the Meadowview Farmer's Guild in Meadowview, Virginia. While her farm would be considered profitable by financial standards, she is not in the business for the money. The lifestyle itself is a sustainable one, and it is what sustains her spirit as well.
Kingsolver's wit appears as much in person as it does in her writing, with her slides almost unnecessary as an illustrative supplement to her descriptions of life in Virginia. She was unapologetic to showing a photo of her freezer with lamb meat, arguing that this is why the animals are bred in the first place (in addition to the uses of milk and wool), and in balance with the image, her wool is labeled with the name of the sheep from which it is shorn.
After her talk, Kingsolver took questions from the audience, many of which were based on her novels. A questions about her audio books, which she reads herself, prompted her to joke with the audience, "I read my own audio books because I just don't think an actor could get the accents right." After a collective laugh, she clarified that in all seriousness, she really just enjoys being her own voice of her books.
The night wrapped up with a fashion preview of the Spring 2014 Issue of Vogue Knitting, followed by the Grand Prize of the raffle, airfare and entrance into Vogue Knitting LIVE in Chicago in October given to one lucky winner. The garments were sure to have been viewed differently after Kingsolver's keynote speech, with her message of knowing where your yarn comes from hitting home with many people in the room who may have taken for granted that the color and feel of yarn is what draws them. By giving yarn her own personal story, audience members were able to identify more with their creative process going forward.
It is clear that Kingsolver keeps her office for writing inside her house on the farm, but goes outside to work her farm because that is how she identifies herself. It is not just the wool; her talk was a good reminder of where all of us comes from.
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