We had the good fortune of connecting with knittingbuddha studio and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi knittingbuddha, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
Starting our own business allowed us a creative outlet without constrictions, which is very appealing. But, we also needed a proactive approach to the possibility of losing our regular jobs. We knew the company we worked for would soon be sold, which was compounded by the fact that we are veteran workers. Age discrimination is a very real and daunting reality for many older workers. We needed to create a niche for ourselves. If no one else would hire us, the we would hire us.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
knittingbuddha studio is two people – Maxine Rothman and Elizabeth Fitzpatrick. We have been together for 23 years and we each have an artistic path that has converged into knittingbuddha studio. For many years, Maxine was a hair dresser. A “hair artist,” as she would say. In 2004 she hung up her scissors to work as a production assistant at a publishing company. Coincidentally, in 2004 on a trip to California, she walked into a yarn shop and that changed everything. She learned to crochet as a young girl, but now she wanted to learn to knit. She took a deep dive into learning the craft, graduating from basic to complex techniques, including Fair Isle knitting. Not long after that, she plunged into spinning, dyeing fiber, prepping fiber, and weaving. Maxine’s world view when it comes to her art is “embracing the wabisabi.” Basically, this means accepting the imperfections in your art and yourself. She approaches all fiber art with the idea that nothing is perfect. We are a part of nature and nature is simple, elegant, imperfect and impermanent. Getting to this point isn’t necessarily hard or easy, it’s a process. Maxine will tell you she’s a process knitter/spinner/weaver. She is interested in the journey. The steps. When she gets to the end of a project, that’s certainly satisfying, but it’s the process that is meaningful. Elizabeth grew up knowing she would be an artist. She came of age at a time when the bridge between art and advertising were beginning to meld. She attended the Art Institute of Houston back when it was just blip of a school in Montrose. Afterwards, she became a graphic designer and art director working a various small businesses in Houston. One of the lessons learned along the way is you have keep going forward. You have to recognize when you’re falling behind and you have to do something to push yourself ahead. Learning is a life long pursuit. At one point, Elizabeth realized if she didn’t learn to use the latest software (a new thing called Photoshop), she would be left behind. Since then she has been on a path of continuing education. Along the way, Elizabeth has also worked as a fine artist selling paintings at various festivals in Houston and driving around in a art car or two. With knittingbuddha studio, we have brought together this love of fiber art, fine art, and graphic art. We are very excited to have a studio at Sawyer Yards on Winter Street and have been on the waiting list to get a space for the past few years. We were able to acquire a studio last year. With COVID, it has been slow going, but we have people passing through with an interest in fiber and art. For that we are most grateful. We are all different and unique. Our story is we want to go with flow, enjoy the journey, and embrace the wabisabi.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
(I, Elizabeth, am going to write some of this in the first person. It’s just weird writing in the third person) In a perfect world without the threat of COVID, there would be a lot of eating and drinking. Unfortunately, some of our favorite places have closed or are temporarily closed. But, we can pretend it’s a perfect world. For breakfast, we could fill that slot every day of the week. The first stop would be Empire Cafe. We have been frequenting Empire for over 25 years. Another would be Lola in the Heights. We live in Spring Branch, lots of people head into town for tacos, but we’d take a friend to Tacos Dona Lena for street tacos and more. They opened last year and are thankfully still around. For a quick fix, we hit the Hot Bagel Shop on Shepherd. It’s too bad they changed locations because stepping into the old location was as close to NYC you would get in Houston. Best bagels in town. We love Slowpokes Spring Branch location for a cuppa and a nosh. For drinks, you can’t leave town without visiting La Carafe and Marfreless. I’ve been going to both bars since 1979. La Carafe never changes. Marfreless has changed, but is still a very cool place to catch a drink. Back in the day, the only way you found out about Marfreless was if a friend took you there. Things to see would definitely be the Cockrell Butterfly Center and the James Turell Twilight Skyscape. The MFAH is currently showing a Hockney/Van Gogh exhibit which is a definite must see. An offbeat day would be a visit to the Beer Can House, the Orange Show, Smither Park, and the Row Houses. The Art Car Parade is canceled this year, but that would be another must see for a visitor. I’ve painted my fair share of cars and have been in the parade. It’s truly a unique event. For dinner, Arturo Boada in the west Galleria area, too delicious for words. For some good for you awesomness, Vibrant, in Montrose. Need a ramen fix, Ramen Bar Ichi on Kirkwood. Our favorite quirky, cool shops are The Blue Hand and Surroundings in West U. 19th Street in the Heights is a fabulous, browsy destination, Casa Ramirez for Mexican folk art. We love Sloan Hall , can’t afford to buy anything, but we love to look. So many things, so little time, but these are some of our favorites.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Our shoutout goes to Susan Fricks of Yarnorama in Paige, Texas. We call her our number one enabler. Susan has been active as a fiber artist for over 40 years. She knits, she spins, she weaves. Everything we need to know, she is our encyclopedia. She has been with us every step of the way, imparting her vast knowledge and experience not only to us, but to so many in the fiber community. We are truly indebted to her.