Friday, 29 February 2008

vik prjonsdottir (knit)

My last entry was about an artist concerned with an earthy reality of knit - the processes involved in obtaining the wool, treatment and connection with the animals that provide the wool and our everyday use of the items. This entry is about Vik Prjónsdóttir, an Icelandic collection of designers using myth and legend, storytelling and fantasy alongside the reality of knit as part of their very unique community.
There's something about knitting which often connects us with each other, different cultures or sometimes nods to our folk roots and history. Is it because it was historically a cheap source of clothing and industry, easy to source and make. 'Make do and mend'..? Perhaps because it grounds us? Or is it because we need only do it ourselves as a relaxing, almost meditative past time and are able to take time to reflect and wonder about the rhythmic stitching of other people at other times?Today there's a new tradition emerging from such designers as Vik Prjonsdottir and Cilla Ramnek (previous post). In their hands, the beauty of the ancient craft is being applauded, recorded and pushed into new territory in an elegant yet dynamic manner. In the case of these ground-breaking Icelandic pieces we are asked to re-evaluate the way in which we view knitting. Somehow, this historical grounding feels modern and new to us - perhaps because we have become so used to our narrow expectations of the discipline. We're so excited to see people using knitwear in new ways for fashion, employing modern fibres and new stitch techniques. But here we are being asked to re-think our concepts of how we use it entirely, whilst it is still moving with it's roots firmly in the soil of tradition. We have beautiful throws and quilts, but they're nearly always square and flat... here, the use of knit to warm us is taken in radically different directions drawing us to this fascinating part of the world and it's unique lifestyle.
The twosome blanket is a great innovation based in fact on practicality. In earlier times, when homes were without heating, it was traditional for Icelandic people to share a bed and thus share warmth.

The beard caps are obviously a reference to traditional caps that farmers in Iceland wore in heavy snowstorms. They had a small opening on the face but covered the head and neck.

The sea blanket refers to the fact that the Icelandic waters are among the best parts of the Atlantic Ocean to fish. Over the years, many ships have been caught there and many sailors drowned.
You can visit their website here and buy their products here

Monday, 25 February 2008

cilla ramnek (knit)

Framed plastic bead patterns, shown at Studio Laila

Another artist who uses knit to great effect is Cilla Ramnek. Having studied at the University College of Arts, Crafts & Design in Stockholm, she has shown enormous versatility by designing fabrics for IKEA, producing a couple of craft books, creating artworks for public spaces and exhibiting in Stockholm and Tokyo.

Ramnek has an eclectic but solid approach. Her work is primarily concerned with texture, such as the wonderful beaded glass panels (pictured top), which look like woven fabrics.

Floor decor, glass mosaic, Saturnus Café, Stockholm

Having the appearance of woven flooring, the floor above is in fact a carefully constructed glass mosaic. There is a tension between the materials represented versus the materials used to convey this. But it is an ultimately comfortable marriage of imagery and medium.

Souvenires. Mixed media. Exhibition at Teatergalleriet, Kalmar 2005

Her work shows great intelligence. Ramnek has an ability to make the works welcoming, democratic and not intellectually untouchable, regularly demonstrating an almost folksy feel.

Lucia, lamp by Cilla Ramnek, exhibited at Materia showroom 2003

Moving onto her light installations and we see more change and versatility as she happily skips from one discipline to another. Again a connection with stitch, pattern and texture is ever-present. Whilst colourful and densely patterned, the artworks remain conceptually spare, with no overstatement, waste or excess of detail - yet remaining able to demonstrate quite cleverly her playfulness with each medium.

She has an ability to apply pixie magic-dust, quirky individuality and straight, smart logic to any project. Her craft books show a totally unique approach to recycling, hand crafting and self-expression. The images shown are unique and beautifully stylish yet always unpretentious, which makes the projects feel attainable. The models appear interesting and warm. One imagines her personality is such that she cannot help this human touch creeping into everything she does.
knitwear images taken from knitprovisation by Cilla Ramnek

Ett eget rum, by Cilla Ramnek, Nanna Mörner and Pia Ulin, published by Ica-förlaget 2001.

Friday, 22 February 2008

christien meindertsma (knit)

The sheep pictured above is called Smudge - aka no. 006. Smudge (006) has her own passport because she was lucky enough to be involved in a project with the Dutch artist Christien Meindertsma.
Working with a farm in Wales, Meindertsma made items of clothing from each sheep. One sheep's wool, one item. Meindertsma met the sheep and each item is respectfully accompanied by said sheep's ear tag, his or her biography and any prizes or awards the sheep might have won. There is therefore an intimate relationship with the processes at each stage of the making of the pieces. She gives us a connection with the source of the item, respect for the craft and the animal.
Meindertsma is also well-known for the stunning creation of the giant hand knitted rug pictured below.
The rug was hand knitted using enormous custom made needles. The rugs are commissioned by the number of sheep used in their making. If you go to her website you'll find some lovely old instructions for sheering sheep, spinning wool and knitting.
So what's the pig connection? Well. Christien has now moved onto another brilliantly clever project. This is her book - the fascinating and true story of pig 05049.Here are all the parts pig 05049 was divided into...

Her book follows the journey of those parts - how they were used and how far they travelled.

Having also shown equal ingenuity with her photographic projects, whichever subject Christien Meindertsma approaches, she applies clarity of thought, and executes each project with respect and precision. The respect I speak of is of time, connection, patience. The obvious love of the sheep and the important wool they provide for us, not just for her knitted pieces but every day in so many other ways.

With regard to the journey of the pig, it makes us reflect, surprises us... makes us question the demands we put on that animal. Is it impressive and ghoulishly fascinating or does it upset us?

There is great dignity to these little digs in the ribs that she gives us. Is it because of her obviously genteel 'slow movement' techniques? Whatever the subject might be, we don't feel shocked or scandalised. We are courteously asked by a careful artisan, prompting us to simply admire her beautiful work then to quietly answer the questions it raises in our own time.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008


When I was a silly, frilly, deeply dippy young thing (in my 20's, not 'the' 20's) I knitted on my daily tube journey to glorious Sunny Soho - my very own shiny, spangly, sprinkly, happy clappy City of Adventure. I collected tank tops, (I had a label called Elvis' Tank Top Shop) wore bobble hats, scarves and specs... School children asked me what I was doing, older people would give me sly smiles... young-ish people knitting wasn't a regular sight then (the tasteful 80's).

(portraits above - chris tubbs for elle decration)

Whilst at St Martin's I knitted album covers and got told off (t'wasn't serious typography). So when I left.... I knitted a cover for my hoover.... for a fetish edition of Time Out magazine.
(hoover photo - Neil Juggins)

There were fluffy, but oh-so-irritating, pinch-me-tease-me-itch-me easter bonnets also made for Time Out. They were really quite creepy. Erm - then there were giant fairisle canvases, giant knitted road signs... and so on.

(masks shown to make kittypinkstars giggle)

This Christmas I keenly undertook my new mum responsibilities and dusted off the old needles. I started to knit bunting. I thought - what a great new family tradition. As my daughter grows older, she can add to it... It'll grow as we grow as a family and each year our memories will stretch across another little bit of our home... Then my partner walked in and asked why I'd strung my knickers across our ceiling.
(masks shown to make kittypinkstars giggle)

So - I'm not a natural born knitter.

Over the next few entries I'm going to blog about some people who can knit very well indeed. And in the meantime, here's some of the many splendid varieties of wonderful woolly eye candy:
knitted cars - tim walker - for vogue

Knitted-look ceramics by Madieke Fleuren (above & below).
Found on the bloesem blog

Ruth Cross knitted chair (above)

berber inspired necklace (above) - maria ribeiro

allyson mitchell installation above - found via eclectic gipsy

above & below - hilarious stitchmcyarnpants blog

Monday, 4 February 2008

AIDS quilts

These amazing AIDS quilts were on display at a gay festival in Barcelona last Spring. I find them heart-breakingly sad, but nevertheless stunning. They're frequently quite vibrant and riotous and their creativity is often used as a celebration of people's lives.
I hear they're becoming less popular because they're perceived to be mournful and sad. Of course it's true, they're a reminder of something awful and are a part of the process of grief for many of the makers. Yet I can't help but find the colour, variety, and amazing imagery to be positive (naively, perhaps?). The memories, planning, time and love that's gone into making them is surely a beautiful and wonderful thing.
To me they're a valuable and important part of textile history and I'd like to try and create a small visual library of them to pop on here every now and again, so if anyone wants to send me any - please do.