Tanya

How does a non-conformist teenager with an artistic and musical bent turn into a math major, an airline captain, an unschooling mom, and then an entrepreneurial fiber artist?

One common thread that runs through all of it is personal challenge. Ever since I can remember I’ve been most motivated by one of two things: either being told “you can’t do that,” or being afraid to even try. Whether something is scary, complicated, nontraditional, or seemingly unobtainable, these tend to be the attributes that most attract me to any endeavor.

Taking flying lessons at age 15 was my way of facing down my panic-inducing fear of flying. That path took me on many adventures, from transcontinental air racing to airline captain. The challenge of being a fearless traveler took my 16-year old self and my 15-year old sister 800 miles away from Madison to East Tennessee and the Great Smokey Mountains to hike the Appalachian Trail on our own. My dog-with-a-bone determination to understand mathematics as deeply and broadly as I could led to a BS in Math from UW-Madison. My life-long dedication to non-conformity and following the path of my heart led to the most amazing experience of our family adopting an unschooling lifestyle while our son was growing up, a lifestyle that has become one of the primary lenses through which I see and interact with the world.

The other thing that has been a constant in my life is being a “maker.” Whether it’s crafting, fashioning tools, cooking, or organizing conferences, I feel compelled to create.

I have been endlessly fascinated and challenged by machine knitting for several years now. It is an incredibly demanding activity, requiring large doses of perseverance in both learning and doing, some of the most difficult fine motor activities I’ve ever done, thinking, planning and visualizing. It engages enough math, logic, physics, design, craft, art, and spacial awareness to make my brain hurt! Not to mention the incredibly beautiful and complex machines themselves, which I am totally in love with. I have taught myself to completely disassemble, clean, repair, and reassemble these machines, sometimes to the tune of 900 or more parts!

After relentlessly pursuing a way to combine illusion knitting with machine knitting I finally perfected the process and technique. When I realized that I could be the only person in the world offering these amazing pieces commercially, I faced down a new challenge: putting myself and my art in front of consumers as an entrepreneur. That is scary for an introverted, “Midwestern nice” gal. I took the plunge and decided to devote myself to Illusion Knits full time. I hope you like what you see, and perhaps you will find them as delightful and fascinating as I do.