In the Blog
Leanne Prain: Knit Graffiti Artist
Every other Thursday I profile a new incredible woman, each from a different walk of life. Different professions, causes, backgrounds, ethnicities, orientations, and anything/everything else!
So without further delay, let me introduce the awesome Leanne Prain…
Vancouver, BC graphic designer and author Leanne Prain is passionate about creativity: yarn, fabric, street art, design, handmade goods, art, publishing, pop culture, antiquarian printing, typography, social media, and technology. She has a particular interest in how handmade skills can flourish and be taught in the digital age. Co-author of the subversive knitting graffiti book Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti, Leanne also blogs about knit graffiti at www.yarnbombing.com and about design, publishing, writing, and life at www.leanneprain.com and is this week’s Shameless Woman.
What drives you to do what you do?
I don’t think as myself as driven as much as obsessed. When something, like knitting, captures my attention - I tend to want to learn as much about it as I possibly can.
My family didn’t have a lot of money, but from a very early age, I was always taken to art galleries and libraries and encouraged to explore my interests. Everyone in my family has their own creative pursuits - and we all seem to amass the tools and time to follow our interests. My father is interested in alternative buildings and boats; my mom is a gardener who saves her own seeds and experiments with growing lemons; and my sister was a professional ballet dancer. I have always drawn pictures and I have always been writing stories.
I was really lucky to have received encouragement from my family at an early age. My parents held artists, writers, and craftspeople in high esteem, and I took those values from them. While in some families being a doctor or lawyer is the career that one should aspire too; in mine, it was an artist. I associate making and owning handmade things with experiencing a high quality of life.
How does being a woman empower / challenge you?
Being a woman is challenging but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Right now I’m thirty three and I’m having a great time in life - this past year I wrote my first book and finished a masters degree. I have a challenging design job, a great relationship, and friendships that I really value. While I’m happy with what I have achieved, I have a big list of things that I want to accomplish. I know that I’m fortunate to live in a time and country where I, as a woman, have the choice to do whatever I want - but sometimes I feel overwhelmed by my responsibilities, goals, and the expectations of others. Should I really feel guilty for two weeks because I chose to skip a potluck so that I could find time to write or that I forgot to send a birthday card because I was lost in my work? Would I feel the same if I were a man?
What advice would you give to young women who want to follow in your footsteps?
Be true to yourself and listen to your intuition. When I was graduating high school, a teacher who I admired very much cautioned me not to pursue a field in the creative arts because he thought that I couldn’t handle the pressure. I remember being shocked and hurt but I choose not to follow his advice. I have supported myself in the arts for almost fifteen years. I have worked in community arts councils, art galleries, a graphic design firm, as an in-house designer, and as a writer.
When I pitched my book Yarn Bombing to a group of publishing experts, a literary agent with an illustrious career basically said that my idea was so ludicrous that it didn’t even deserve feedback. Knitting, from her standpoint, was stupid and irrelevant. I chose not to let her intimidate me, raised my voice, stated my point of view, and in doing so managed to connect with the publisher who ended up signing my book. Yarn Bombing is now being sold on three different continents and has resonated with people from all over the world. Not everybody understands the book - and that’s fine with me. You have to find your community and those who get your viewpoint, and forge ahead.
Don’t let other people decide your path for you. Surround yourself with people who not only love who you are, but who you may grow to be. Life is too short for false limitations. Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do something - you can.
Name one person, place, or thing every young woman should know about?
I am incredibly grateful for the suffragette movement of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s - I think every young woman should know about the women who struggled for us - either working underground or putting themselves in great physical danger while protesting for the rights that most men took for granted at the time. Because of the suffragette movement we have the right to vote, own land, run our own businesses, have safe working conditions, and be financially independent.
When you consider that women across Canada couldn’t vote until 1940 (Quebec was the last province to join, other provinces allowed women to vote between 1916-1925), it is amazing to think about how many freedoms we have because a group of women decided to fight for it. I’d like to see more young women become involved in the electoral process. Do your research on the issues at hand, talk about politics with your friends, and register to vote. Casting a ballot is a way to let your voice be heard. Being able to vote is not something to take lightly - it is our responsibility and our right.
What is the most important thing we can do in order to change the world?
I think the most important thing that we can do to change the world is to reclaim some of the simple acts that used to be so common in society such barter and trade, cooking from raw ingredients, repairing our own clothing, and living in small spaces. The more people who choose to purchase from farmers markets and small businesses, the better off we will be. I’d highly recommend reading Michael Pollans’ In Defense of Food and Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. We can’t rely on corporations for our food security and environmental safety. Every dollar that we spend as consumers is a sign of the kind of world that we want to live in and the world that we want to leave for the generations that will follow us.
Check out Leanne’s websites at www.yarnbombing.com and www.leanneprain.com. Also make sure to pick up a copy of her book Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti.