The more precise Artistic Impression is, the more real it seems and freer it feels.
– Lee Ufan – The Art of Encounter.
I’m supposed to know what I am, but how can I when my eye is so acutely drawn to the exquisite couture lace and ruffles of the new McQueen collection, I see in words and speak in pictures and I like to knit and to darn.
I’ve knitted so long now that I see in stitches and patterns and blended colours drawn from the places that I have been deeply drawn to or a moment when someone looks up without speaking and the air is full of words or I remember something someone once said, like, ‘never sell these, Tracey, I had them during my grandiose period’ and ‘I read widely, if somewhat cursorily’. I went home and looked up the word cursorily.
These moments inform my creative practice – not a fashion design.
I am supposed to choose – just choose what I am, but it isn’t like that. I can be a knitter, a dressmaker, a traveller or a writer because I have no real home. I am rootless and cannot imagine now, putting roots in one place or one creative discipline. Solitude is a place where pictures and words develop, like an old polaroid that is a little out of date but still quite visible. These pictures and words are also my input into my designs – whether it is a vest or a dress or a curtain.
At Uni, I am involved in so many artistic disciplines that they merge into one big, cultivated concept picking up skills and dropping ideas along the way. Artistic expression leads to reflection. But, this can be fashion. And, it can be textile art.
The lace vests I am making in Nottingham, are a story born out of a dark, grey, solidly wet rainy day in Lerwick.
The dull yellow, hand knitted, utility vest that caught my eye, was hanging in a charity shop in a row of three – all with slight variations. It looked simple, boring, basic but if you listened to its story, it had a marvellous tale, being knitted in one piece, without seams, with care, in the round, with grafted shoulders.
There are no errors, it is a utility item, made for a purpose that no one will ever wear – perfect – it’s mine. The vest became my integrity-anchor – a basic item of clothing that now grows a new life-form in lace patterns. The vest was added to my memories of seeing fine lace in museum cabinets, drawers in photographs and in the history and tradition of the islands North of Scotland, South of Iceland and next to Norway.
My attempted samples of CAD lace knit struggled to deliver perfection and threw out random sections with holes. Beautiful imperfect. So, I darned the holes. Why waste a beautiful sample, why not keep it alive, why not see the colours of the place in the weave and give it another chance? Is the darning aesthetic or sustainable or for reasons of austerity?
Now, I have to choose, is the vest fashion or is it textile art? What am I A Fashion Designer or a Textile Artist?
And, then there is the lace curtain…