We had the good fortune of connecting with Al Monaco and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Al, do you have a favorite quote or affirmation?
Words that I have kept close to me since first hearing them are, “so I / will build” from “A Desolation” by Allen Ginsberg. I like the action of it. That when the circumstances of life are not what I have planned, not what I would have wanted, I will build anyway. Build around pain and disappointment but also build from the relationships I have, the lessons I have learned, the experiences I’ve had. I appreciate its simplicity and its acceptance. As someone with a lot of anxiety, the reminder of, “this is not the end of the world” is always helpful. I even got the words tattooed on me!
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.
I began knitting when I was about eighteen years old as a way to help with my anxiety and OCD. It was never meant to be anything more than knitting a bunch of rows, undoing all of my work, and then starting again. I didn’t start learning patterns until friends and family saw me knitting and asked me to make them things. From there I developed the skills and genuine love for the craft but never thought I could or would sell my knits. When I was twenty five I developed chronic neuropathy. Leaving me unable to walk at times. Because of this I was seeing, sometimes, up to five doctors a week. I was encouraged to begin selling my knits as a way to cover co-pays and costs of pain medication. I am grateful that I was nudged to do this. My love for knitting has always been tied to my health, mental and physical. I bring knitting with me everywhere; to the movies, baseball games, to the theater. It is also how I express my love for people. For example, I make a lot of blankets. Choosing colors based on how a person makes me feel, being able to tell a story through the colors, the hours that I put into making the item special for them…it sometimes feels like the best I can do when I don’t know what to say. My knitting is and always will be an act of love.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I would say we have to go to Paula’s Donuts. That is a must. We would also drive and find all the murals painted around the city funded by the Albright Knox Art Museum. We would have to catch a Bisons’ game and a show at Shea’s. We would get ice cream at Churn and do some shopping on Elmwood, Hertel, and Grant St. I would also take them down by the outer harbor, and walk along the water and grab a coffee at the Wonder Coffeehouse.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’d love to give a shoutout to Derick Sherrier from The New York Dose Podcast. Derick and I have been best friends for over ten years now. He is the first person who asked me to make him something when I was just knitting rows and rows to help with my anxiety. I had never made anything before and he told me I could do it. So I did. He still does this. He’ll ask me to make things and because he believes I can do it, I believe I can do it. I also want to shoutout ShopCraft in Buffalo, NY. ShopCraft is a store that supports and sells work from local artisans, including my knits!
All photos taken by Al Monaco