October 25, 2010

A Crafty Questionnaire: Veena Burry

Veena Burry has been knitting and crocheting since the age of four, when her mother taught her how to make magic from two sticks and some yarn. Since she couldn't yet read, she made up all of her own designs. Not content to stop there, Veena went on to learn how to weave, embroider, quilt, sew, braid, and bead. A virtual craft whirlwind, Venna is constantly working on all kinds of projects to tickle her creative fancy. Not a day goes by where she isn't knitting or crocheting at least one project, if not more.

But where does she find the time? When asked, Venna laughs and says "Time? Who has time? There's never enough! However, it's important to make time for what matters to you. I'd much rather knit than vacuum!" Her trade secret? Doubling up on activities, like knitting and crochet while watching movies, or riding in cars or trains.

One of Veena's passions is using natural fibers. Not only because they feel and look good, but they are earth friendly. She takes seriously educating her peers and customers alike about the dangers of using acrylics and other synthetics that are petroleum based and not biodegradable. From her point of view, with so many wonderful natural fibers, why use yarns that harm the planet?

It all fits with her philosophy of creating beautiful and flattering garments in wonderful, rich colors. Her greatest pleasure is knowing people wear and use her knitwear with enjoyment. Every design is one of a kind -- she rarely ever repeats a project -- which means the buyer has the only one. To Veena, it's akin to the difference between buying a print copy of a painting, and buying the original. Why not get the real thing?

Veena sells her original designs exclusively online at her shop, KnittingGuru.etsy.com, but you can find more about her designs and inspirations on her websites, KnittingGuru.com and BurryBabies.com.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
My idea of perfect happiness is having a loving family and doing the work I love, so my perfect happiness is right now.

What is your greatest fear?
I've had a lot of physical therapy on my hands over the years. I've had to go for long stretches without knitting, crochet or even writing. I worry about that happening again since I use my hands repetitively every day. However, I do know what exercises and stretches to do when I have any pain and I work ergonomically too. The articles on my KnittingGuru website on exercises and ergonomics for knitters have been popular pages for years so this seems to be a common fear among fiber artists.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?
I've always identified with Odysseus' wife, Penelope. While he was on his 20-year-long odyssey she was harassed by suitors. She promised to marry when the tapestry she was making was finished. Every day she wove and every night she unwove to put them off until her true love returned. And they say he was wily!

Which living person do you most admire?
It's just impossible for me to single out one person, but I will say that I admire the musicians of the New York Philharmonic for their talent, hard work, and for keeping Classical music alive and well in NYC. They're the greatest.

Do you have a theme song, and what is it?
I don't have a theme song, but I do love vocal music. My favorites include: Puccini's La Boheme, Wagner's Ring Cycle, Schumann and Schubert lieder, Bach's B Minor Mass and Mozart's Requiem. There is a sadness in each of these works, but they are also uplifting, inspiring and incredibly beautiful music.

What is the trait you most like in yourself?
I like that I'm creative, intelligent and empathetic.

What is the trait you most like in others?
People who are creative, intelligent and empathetic.

What is your greatest extravagance?
Endless yarn purchases! I have enough yarn for three lifetimes, but I always find reasons to buy more.

When and where were you happiest?
I'm a generally happy person so it's hard to pick just one time and place. I was extremely happy when each of my three children were born. I'm supremely happy now working from my studio in New York City -- my hometown and a place I've always dearly loved. I'm also always deeply happy when I'm in Paris -- the most beautiful city of all.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I wish I had left the NYC Board of Education much sooner to do the work I truly love full time.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Only one thing again? I'm proud of having my own business where my work is my pleasure, of having raised three wonderful children and of having some of my work published.

If you were to be reincarnated as a person, animal, or thing, what do you think you would be?
A fiber artist! I'm at Nirvana right now!

What is your most treasured possession?
I think we all need to treasure our health. Without that all possibilities are diminished. I also really treasure my large personal library and my enormous yarn collection.

Which talent or skill would you most like to have?
I'd love to be able to tap dance like Fred Astaire!

Who are your heroes in real life?
I admire people who have broken ethnic, gender, religious and racial barriers to become successful. I'm excited that Elena Kagan, who graduated from my alma mater Hunter College High School, is now a Supreme Court Justice. In fact, I'm thrilled that there are three New York women on the Supreme Court now!

What is it the one thing you dislike the most?
People who are biased, hate-filled and narrow-minded. I'm not too fond of philistines either.

What is your motto?
Good knitters are good rippers! Also, a mistake is an opportunity to learn and design something new.

Who are your favorite artists?
It's hard to narrow down to a manageable list, but I adore Monet, Degas, Van Gogh, Picasso, Rembrandt, El Greco, Klimt, Mary Cassatt, Vermeer, Gaudi, Munch, Renoir, Gauguin, Cezanne, Ancient Greek art, and pre-historic art (in no particular order).

Is there any invention you wish you had thought of?
It would have been great to have been the first person to take two sticks and some fiber and knit something.

What's the first thing you remember making?
A Little Bo Peep costume for a small doll that I designed and crocheted with fine cotton thread -- including lacy pantaloons. At around the same time I used one of those potholder looms to weave so many potholders that everyone who knew me started to get a glazed look when they saw me coming.

jewelry made for you


Jacqueline Gikow said...

I loved Veena's profile, but wish you had shown more of her work. I also liked this quote from her "... a mistake is an opportunity to learn and design something new."

persuede said...

It so difficult, she has so many gorgeous things to chose from! None the less, our reader's wish is our command...added an additional photo of a black bobble shawl, just in time for Halloween!

Simone said...

What a wonderful interview. This is an inspiring way to start the day. Happy knitting

Veena (KnittingGuru) said...

Jacqueline, Simone and especially Susan (persued) -- Thank you all so much!