Kim Werker interviewed Carol Wang, newsletter editor for the Pacific Americas Branch of the International Knot Tying Guild.
In three sentences, would you please sum up the goals and activities of the Knot Tying Guild?
From the guild website:
We are an educational non-profit making organisation dedicated to furthering interest in practical, recreational and theoretical aspects of knotting. Our aim is to preserve traditional knotting techniques and promote the development of new techniques for new material and applications. We attend public events to advertise the Guild and its work, and conduct talks and demonstrations by arrangement with interested groups.
Note that the “theoretical aspects of knotting” mentioned above is not, y’know, Knot Theory.
It’s an international guild, and you’re part of the Pacific Americas Branch. What are some locally focused projects? What about international projects?
The guild’s main focus is teaching and general proselytizing, so its main activity is sending delegations to (usually) boat-related or scouting type festivals. Many members teach workshops or classes. A surprising (or not?) number of members have authored books, made instructional videos, websites, and apps. Members have consulted on movies, TV shows, novels, and historical re-creation events (both for entertainment and scientific research purposes).
What first got you excited about knots?
I first got interested in knots way back in grade 6 when I was visiting relatives in Taiwan (no specific dates, ha!). My college-age cousin who was supposed to be entertaining me gave me a Chinese knotting book and some string. As they say, the rest is history.
What keeps you excited?
Ok, this will date me: for the longest time there was no information in English about Chinese knotting with the single exception of “Chinese Knotting” by Lydia Chen. Part of the story that is told in that book is that the art of knotting nearly died out for lack of participants as the cultural revolution on the Mainland and the drives to modernize elsewhere left people little time for that humble little folk craft. But Ms. Chen got obsessed and went around interviewing surviving practitioners and recording what she found. It offended me that part of my cultural heritage was nearly lost due to craft secrecy and lack of proper recording and sharing practices, so a few years later I set about assembling a learning resource for Chinese knotting on the newfangled world wide web as a public service, more or less.
These days decorative Asian knotting has achieved a fairly low-key form of success in the English-speaking West, with a number of books written and the occasional magazine article. A more mature web brings the scattered pockets of practitioners together, but there’s still a gap between Asian and Western knotters due to the language issues. While I can’t actually read Chinese (or Japanese or Korean), a working knowledge of the subject matter allows me to sift the blogs and forums of decorative knot tyers in China and Japan for new and/or interesting developments, not to mention research new book releases in China and Taiwan (Japan and Korea, too) which I share with the Guild (plus the rest of the Anglophone world on my website and blog. Plus I like to think that my independent research and experimentation efforts occasionally contribute new things to the general body of knowledge.
I tie my shoes. Well, I tie some of my shoes. Those are pretty much the only knots I tie. What will I learn about knots when I stop by your booth at Vancouver Mini Maker Faire?
What would you like to learn? We will have a display of both practical and decorative knots for you to inspect and admire. We will have a selection of make-and-take projects for you to try your hand at. If you have any specific questions about particular knots or knotty applications, we will do our best to answer, discuss, teach or demonstrate if we know. We will occasionally demonstrate the making of rope.
Say you found yourself stranded on a deserted island and were able to fashion ropes from grasses you found. Would you prioritize applying your knot-tying skills to using your ropes to build shelter, or to build a vessel to sail away?
Being a complete land lubber, I’d stick with shelter.