I remember going to an exhibition in around 1985 or 1986 at Leeds art gallery featuring the work of sculptor Jacob Epstein. You may be familiar with his work The Rock Drill that I first saw at the Tate. He moves between post apocalyptic, realistic, religious and voluptuous figures. I was completely fascinated especially since the gallery was quite small and you could get so close to the sculptures.
Jacob Epstein preceded Henry Moore and influenced his work. I didn’t ever really feel that much for Moore’s work, feeling a bit smug about discovering Epstein, which is probably why I have never been to Hoglands at Perry Green. This was Moore’s farm and now home to his foundation with a fantastic new visitor centre. It is just 45 minutes from where I live and now I could kick myself for not visiting sooner.
I went with my husband and 3D designer son on Saturday. The weather was amazing with huge fluffy clouds punctuating the blue sky and apple blossom everywhere. IT jus couldn’t have been a more perfect way to discover his work and marvel at the curves, his vision and drive.
A new exhibition called Becoming Henry Moore is brilliantly curated to include the artists and teachers who influenced him as well as his contemporaries to give his work context. The exhibition included early South American carvings from the British Museum as well as Modigliani, Hepworth, Epstein, Brancusi and other names I can’t remember. I just couldn’t help smiling as I wondered round just captivated by the richness of inspiration all gathered together in two rooms.
If you do get a chance I can’t recommend this exhibition highly enough. It is immersive, interesting, historical, inspirational and plain joyful.
I had such a productive week last week that I found myself with a little time on my hands on Friday, so I turned to two of my favourite books for inspiration.
When I worked for Courtaulds, one of my roles was to run the corporate identity programme. I found myself immersed in the world of graphic design and found it completely fascinating. I have never lost my love of fonts and pixels (I’m married to a graphic designer) and this extends to my designs. For me a Fair Isle chart is a graphic feast but I am not only drawn to traditional motifs. There are so many other graphic devices that work well when knitted up.
The two books I reached for were A Handbook of Weaves by G. H. Oelsner and Charted Peasant Designs from Saxon Transylvania by Heinz Edgar Kiewe.
Weaving charts are so very similar to the ones we use in knitting as you can see. I have worked the one on the left in to a hat for my hubby and will write the pattern up soon. I have two hanks of Kate Davies’ Buachaille earmarked for the final design.
And the charted cross stitch designs work really well too. You have to choose your motifs carefully otherwise you might end up doing more Intarsia than Fair Isle knitting – I am so rubbish at Intarsia. I am toying with the idea of a wrap in Kauni Effektgarn Laceweight with an extended steek so I can create some tassels when I cut it. Here is a little test swatch I have been working on.
So if you are looking for inspiration cast your net wide and keep your mind open – you won’t be disappointed.
There are so many things that inspire me in my life. It can be as simple as watching the birds feeding in the garden, walking the dogs, clouds through window, the sound of baby’s laughter, the colours in a sunset. If you just keep your eyes, ears and heart open our world is a glorious and miraculous place.
When it comes to my knitting and designing, I tend to be more inspired by the mathematical and the physical. I love to spend time trawling round museums such as the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert, just absorbing the things I see.
A year or so ago I was fortunate enough to visit the Knitting and Crochet Guild archive housed in an old mill building near Huddersfield. If you haven’t come across the Guild, it is well worth checking out to their website. Their aim is to keep the crafts of knitting and crochet alive; to celebrate and curate the history of our craft. The archive and collection are an important part of that remit.
As well as physical items such as jumpers, accessories, tablecloths and even bandages dating back to 1836, the archive has a comprehensive library of knitting patterns. They have a collection of Women’s Weekly magazines going back to the very first issue and original Weldons magazines – among my personal favourites. There are simply boxes and boxes and boxes stacked on metal shelving in the warehouse. Each week volunteers come along to help catalogue all the items that have been donated. When I visited, Coats Crafts had recently given the Guild their archive of knitted items and patterns, and I was allowed to open a few boxes at random. What a journey of adventure. Mittens from the 1950s, a beautifully delicate lace top from the 1960s and so much more. The knowledge that the curator Barbara and her team have is extraordinary. I have read so much about Bohus knitting and marvelled at the way the colours and designs are put together but to actually see examples of around 40 years old in front of me was the definition of inspiring.
I mentioned bandages above. The collection has items that date back to the First World War and that includes garter stitched bandages ready for the poor soldiers injured at the front, as well as the poignant tablecloth with the date 1915 on it, crocheted to welcome back the troops. No one then could possibly believe the war would go on so long. As well as all the physical items the archive also captures moments in history, peoples hopes and fears and the way communities come together. It’s amazing how simple a strand of wool connects us through the years.
The archive has several open days during the year and if you are a guild member you can visit and see some of the items I have described. It is so important we help and support their work, so please do think about joining the Knitting and Crochet Guild.