Meet the Artist: St. Louis Based knit designer Howl Carter of SilkenHavoc.com
Updated: May 19, 2020
Welcome to our NEW BLOG and thanks for visiting our first blog post! We interviewed, Howl Carter, knit designer and creator of silkenhavoc.com, asking 13 questions you definitely want to know the answers to. Read on to find out more. #BlackMenKnitToo
(Photo by: Menadarre Photograghy)
Question 1: Who are you? Tell us about yourself. Howl's Response: My birth name is Otis Howell Jr. but these days I go by Howl Carter. I was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. Early on I new I had an interest in the arts, I began by drawing and doing simple art projects when I was younger. My mom says I would design flip flops as a kid for each holiday out of cardboard. First tracing the soles of one of my sneakers, cutting them out and covering the cardboard cutouts with colored paper and adding string to complete the sandals. That still makes me laugh to this day. I grew up going to St. Louis public schools, I always took as many art classes as possible. I thought about perusing graphic design or something distinctly in the arts as a career but I hesitated. I went off to college, graduating in 2015 from a small liberal arts college in a small town in Wisconsin with a bachelor's degree in Sociology and a minor in Studio Art.
Question 2: How did you even get started with such an unconventional creative outlet such as knitting? Why have you continued to knit after so many years? Why did you start silkenhavoc.com? Howl's Response: In high school around my freshman or sophomore year I learned to knit in a crafting class and I just never stopped knitting. I eventually started a knitting club at my high school, serving as president until I graduated. In High school my father passed away and I found that knitting was very therapeutic and allowed me to express in a productive way and that became one of the things I valued about knitting the most and deepened my passion for it. Eventually, after moving back to St. Louis and settling in after graduating college, I began to envision starting my own knitting brand Silken Havoc. I had lots of reservations at first but I legitimately grew to love knitting. I decided that my mission with Silken Havoc would be to strive to revive and rejuvenate a once dying artform and to challenge the gender, racial and age norms that are associated with knit designing. So I decided to take the leap. I took time to think about what knitted products I wanted to sell, began designing my website and figuring out the logistics. In November 2016 I officially launched silkenhavoc.com online shop.
Question 3: What products are you currently selling in your online shop?
Howl's Response: Right now in our online shop we sell handmade knitted over-sized, circle scarves and ruff collar scarves of varied sizes and handmade jewelry including mini glass vial necklaces and wood necklaces.
Question 4: How does it feel being a young black male knitter and creator of Silkenhavoc.com? What types of reactions do you receive when people see you knitting?
Howl's Response: Years ago when I first began knitting I used to feel self-conscious about it but one thing that I did to get over that was I began to knit in public all the time. When I say all the time, I mean everywhere. Surprisingly I never got any backlash or absurd comments. Still to this day I get stares but I think it is more-so curiosity and the fact that I’m knitting so fast that catches peoples attention. I think one thing that I encounter the most is the shock that people have when they find out that I am the artist and creator behind Silkenhavoc.com and that I knit every scarf that we sell. I believe that representation truly matters, that's another reason why I started Silken Havoc. The nuance of my expression as a black man is important and essential.
(Photo by: Menadarre Photograghy)
Question 5: Do you have any knitter friends that you bounce ideas off of and or collaborate with? Howl's Response: I honestly don’t think I know any people that knit in my circle of friends. However, some knitters that I am inspired by and can be found on Instagram are John Brinegar from Knitboy1, Nathan Bryant from loopnthreads, Vanessa from Vanessknits.
Question 6: Do you have artistic/ creative parents? Howl's Response: Yes, growing up my father was an avid abstract painter using acrylic paint on foam board and canvas using lots of colors, drawing distorted faces and heavily focusing on the use of line. Growing up with an artistic father, art was very common in my home and encouraged.
"I believe that representation truly matters, that's another reason why I started Silken Havoc."
(photo via silkenhavoc.knits)
Question 7: What are your favorite artistic outlets? Howl's Response: Knitting is my all-time favorite and I’ve been knitting for about 10 years. I like it the most because I can and will literally do it anywhere. The phrase , “ If I’m sitting, I’m knitting” is my real life long motto. I enjoy print making and also I’m really into creating minimal tshirt designs and silk screening them. A few years back I took a black and white film photography class while studying abroad in Florence, Italy and since have grown to appreciate the work that goes into that process. I remember spending late nights in the lab developing photos for our class critiques. These days I’ve started dabbling in photography again mostly for images on silkenhavoc.knits instagram account and for our site. But I’m constantly trying out new artistic outlets.
(Photo taken by Howl Carter) ) Black and White Film Photography - Florence, Italy Fall 2015
(Photo taken by Howl Carter, Artist Howell Carter) Top: Woodcut Reduction Print, Bottom Left: Black and White Film Photography, Bottom Right: Linocut Print
Question 8: How do you make time to knit products and run your online shop in addition to your 9 to 5. Howl's Response: Yes, I do have a full time job in addition to running and creating for silkenhavoc.com, all I can say is it's true what they say, “you make time for things you love”. When silkenhavoc.com first launched last year I was working a full-time job and two part-time jobs.
Question 9: What do you enjoy doing when you have some downtime? Howl's Response: I don’t own a T.V, so I’ve become a YouTube lover and I watch lots of Youtube vloggers and content creators, men’s and women’s fashion influencers, knitting tutorials, DIY videos and music videos. My all-time guilty pleasure Youtuber is MirandaSings, she’s comedic gold. It takes a person with a special kind of humor to enjoy her content. I think my obsession with Youtube heavily influenced the start of this blog.
Question 10: What do you want to do next in your personal life or in a business sense?
Howl's Response: In my personal professional life my next step is to go to graduate school to get a master's degree in social work and become a youth counselor. When it comes to Silken Havoc I plan to grow the brand. For us the next step for Silken Havoc is to incorporate a blog and more content on our website that can appeal to a broader audience.
Question 11: How do you get your creative juices flowing?
Howl's Response: I usually don’t force myself to create, I let it happen naturally when something inspires me or I have an idea, I just do it. Sometimes I have an idea and I'll stay up all-night working it.
Question 12: I know that you plan on expanding so, what should we look forward to seeing from you in the near future?
Howl's Response: Next from us you can look forward to more content on our blog such as fashion look-books and outfits of the day, DIY project tutorials, Inspirational content, travel blogs and more. We welcome suggestions and hope to create content that our audience is interested in and will support.
Question 13: How can people connect with you on social media?