Angie Smales is the Potty Knitter. She lives in a colorful bayside suburb of Melbourne with her husband Ian, a biologist, with whom she travels regularly into the Australian hinterlands to locate endangered animal species. Angie is a talented and creative artisan who has embraced midlife with curiosity, creativity and energy. Always on the lookout for the new and challenging, Angie talks candidly with Midlifexpress about her own unfolding midlife journey.
What’s it like being a midlife woman?
This is a bit tricky to answer as I don’t feel like a middle – aged woman. I feel like I always did and it’s hard to define what age that is. It ‘s only every now and then, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror, that I think, “Who is this old woman?”‘, that I realize my age. Likewise, when you find yourself in a group of people and feel quite at home and then you realize you’re by far the oldest amongst them. It’s then I find myself wondering, ” How did this happen?”
Germaine Greer has written about the “invisibility” of midlife women. Do you feel invisible?
Ah, the invisibility of the older women. Rachel Ward’s released a book, entitled ‘I Am Strong. I Am Invisible’. Yes, I do, and I don’t see it as a negative at all. It started for me when interest in or conversation about you turns into interest in or conversation about your children. I think that’s the way it should be, and I enjoy the anonymity that comes with it. I find it gives me a kind of freedom to be myself; it’s liberating NOT to be the focus of attention.
What do you enjoy?
Simple things: A good crime novel, music that touches me somehow, a garden, having my children and their partners together for a meal and, above all, my grandchildren. Grandchildren are life’s little surprise packages no one tells you about. Once you get over the shock of now ‘truly’ being the older generation, they bring pure happiness. For myself, this is because – for the first time – you get to be the ‘good guy’. It’s not your responsibility to provide the necessary boundaries, so you’re no longer viewed as the ogre you might have been in your children’s eyes. What remains is pure joy.
What kinds of things do you create?
Functional and beautiful everyday items, such as bowls, platters and – these days – textiles like socks, throws etc.
What inspires you to create?
My complete boredom with ( and the lifeless sterility of ) the mass produced item. We all need things like dishes and clothes and, like our immediate surrounds, they have an effect on our state of mind, often subconsciously. Well, that’s my theory anyhow, and I’ll stick to it. I believe beautiful, hand-made items add richness and life to the everyday – not to mention gainful employment for the artisan, less factory pollution, the retention of creative skills and community building. I could go on and on….
What do you know now you wish you’d known years ago?
The utter un-importance of other folks’ opinion of you and knowing how little I really need to be happy and fulfilled.
What’s “potty” about your knitting?
Calling myself ‘potty’ originated from my being a potter but remains apt as I view any comment like ‘You can’t do that’ as a challenge. I like nothing better than trying something different. In daily life, something that is done by everyone else, or a belief held by the majority, gets my alarm bells ringing and motivates me to look at said issue again from a new, some might say, ‘potty’, angle. It feeds my desire to live simply and to tread lightly on this earth.
How have you managed the transition to midlife? Do you have a particular diet, exercise regime or spiritual practice?
Never having been one to pop pills, I tend to prefer herbal remedies for any imbalances I might be experiencing. So, no HRT for me! I rely on herbal teas, the gentle stretches yoga postures bring and a vegetarian diet. I also notice the messages my body sends me and acting on them often brings relief from the symptoms of hormonal imbalance. I do not view these symptoms as an illness – more as just another time of change. Over the years, I’ve come to welcome change – it’s a symptom of LIFE.
Do you have a motto?
‘Actions speak louder than words!’ Anybody can say anything, and many do; sadly, too few of us act on what we say.
What kind of music inspires you?
I like music that touches me in some way; not any particular genre. So it can be the feeling an instrumental piece evokes or the lyrics of a song that mean something to me. Mostly, I’m a lyrics girl , so I love songs written by artists as varied as Leonard Cohen and Paul Kelly to The Pretenders and Don McLean.
Three midlife women you admire?
Germaine Greer, the late Anita Roddick and Julia Gillard – all women who spoke and acted against popular opinion or the majority view – and cop flack for it.
You can find Angie’s work at www.thepottyknitter.com