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Picking Heather and Berries for Winter.

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The moorland that borders Sheffield and Derbyshire and stretches as far as the eye can see toward Edale, is carpeted in heather and speckled with thistle. The heather is knee high.  

In the sun and breeze, the air is constantly heather scented. Everyone the you pass along the way, shares their complements on the miles and miles of purple. Apparently, it is a good year for heather.

If you walk from my flat, through the Hanging Water allotments, up the path winding through Whitely wood to Ringinglow, cross the road by the old toll bar house opposite the Norfolk Arms  and walk across Hound Kirk Moor, which is an Toll Road, you’ll see the360 degree purple carpet.  Along the moorland track are two old milestones. I head for them every time I walk this way. The most interesting milestone registers the miles to Tidswell (Now spelt Tideswell) and Buxton and has a skull and cross bones carved underneath it. The Milestone was reunited in 2014 with its base after it was found in a garden in Dore where it had been part of a Rockery. You can read about it here but go and see it for yourself – it’s always a joy.

This is the second walk that I have done in two weeks where I have seen this natural purple carpet.  Today, the view so enriched my walk that I have chosen the colours of heather, thistle, stone, rock, sand, pale sky, gravel, blackberry and blackberry for my yarn colour palette for my new work. I have been knitting the colours into Fair Isle samples for a workshop I am doing on 2nd September but in doing the samples, I can see how beautiful this colour palette is.

 

 

In September, I will bring Fair Isle back into my work and the colour palette will lean towards autumnal heathers. In the Winter, when I look at the yarns and colours,  I’ll remember this summer day and the carpet of heather.

Embodiment

To craft something that has taken a journey of almost one year incorporating everything from the ill-tempered, sleeping cat that lies by my side as I write this piece to the deeply difficult-to-learn (for me)  digital CAD knit design, to make a lace knitted piece that I never knew could exist an academic year ago, is a good place to be.

Is it craft?

If, as written by Louise Valentine in the paper ‘Craft as a form of Mindful Inquiry’ is the case, then, I feel entirely relieved.

‘On reflection of the intellectual and social meanings of craft practice, craft is often misunderstood as skilful making. The notion of craft as a concern for innovation, individual vision and future cultural concerns: a fusion of art, science, engineering and technology, is uncommon’

The relief is born from realising my knitted pieces are craft in the sense of a fusion, a journey of enquiry and perpetual activity, not as skilful making.   Because, the result would be denied as skill by many.   The knitted pieces look to ‘hold skill’ but don’t look quite skilful because they are messy and ill fitting.  It is uncommon to consider the fusion of knitting and technology as craft but the outcome can be.

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How to make messy – attractive?

The lace trousers are the embodiment of my practice to date. Each loop and knot and lace hole contains all that I have seen and felt in Shetland over the last two years – they are possibly my most intellectual activity to date but not the most attractive or practical. To make these trousers, unbeknown to me at the beginning, I navigated through the naivety of an idea (to make a tube of lace into sculptural trousers)  through basic technical mastery of a software package (CAD), to develop an art practice that shows not tells.   My thinking process was knocked and shaped by software and ideas whereby I gained an awareness and understanding of practical things to take forward such as drape, tension, size, linking, mirroring stitch patterns, and finishes. My initial aim was not trousers but to learn the software and to power knit machine lace. The trousers grew out of trial and error.

But really, the joy that has come far outweighs the practical learning.  My joy in holding something that I have made which has drawn on stitch patterns developed from what I saw in the lace cabinets in The Shetland Museum and the Bod of Gremista.  This joy far outweighs the acquired technical knowledge to get to this point.

The technical knowledge I can take away, the embodiment is within.

Hours of looking, seeing, sensing have gone into this small, slightly unattractive piece of wrongly shaped knitting, which now is the start of my second year as a part time student at NTU for a discourse for craft and mindful inquiry.   The lace trousers are currently my ‘capacity to synthesize and integrate information’

Exploration in knit design is, for me,  a dance with an unfolding imagination.  To dance needs time and space.

I will be undertaking an Artist Residency at The Booth in Scalloway – December 2017, surely, I will be dancing with time and imagination.

The tacit knowledge in a piece of broken knitting.

The final week of the first year of my part-time MA at NTU is drawing near and what have I learned?

More than that, what have I felt?

On a technical level, I have learned measurable things: how to use Digital CAD knit to a level where can design lace knit – maybe that’s the only measurable thing. (and maybe linking – but badly)

But from the perspective of just soaking in the atmosphere and feeling my way, I’ve taken leaps and bounds from that first day in Sept 2016. 

I arrived at Uni only being able to hand knit now I can see a future in my knitting that is beyond what I thought possible or considered and that is to make knitted lace – it’s as simple as that but what goes into that making isn’t simple at all. I suppose that this year, I have been working from accidental results and prototypes built from flawed outcomes from the digital CAD and power knit, but that’s also not the result.  Flawed endings are not a result. There may be a broken piece of power knit in front of me but it has a heart and a soul and a back story and here lies the unmeasurable learning.broken lace samples

To look at a broken piece of knitting with vision and joy is or has been the task of my countless attempts at trying  to knit lace – perfection was never an aim (but only when it seemed so risk ridden). The birth of my broken power knit samples involved multiple journeys to Shetland, taking in the light and the landscape and language, looking at traditional hand-knitted fine Shetland shawls in the Shetland museums, spending hours figuring out how the lace patterns are made and translating that into digital CAD designs, graphing lace patterns out in knit language that I had to learn,  then digitally positioning them to make an altogether knitted piece that is aesthetically pleasing in a number of yarns (some of which have been brought to the machine by contacting sponsors – some from the yarn bin at Uni – none purchased) stretching, pulling, steaming the pieces to flatten dishcloth shapes with holes in – sometimes unwelcome holes which were caringly darned to save the piece. Some pieces involved designing a garment shape and positioning the tried and tested lace patterns within the boundaries of the ever moving edges or mirroring, chevroning and altering patterns.  Why, then, are there still holes and errors? If I love it and have developed it to a sort of visual simulated perfection – then why does it still have broken areas – ah, take-down, tension, bent needles, programming, yarn waxing, yarn breakage, doubling up, single thread, finding something suitable. And why, then, is it still a bit broken – never mind, I’ll embrace the broken bit by darning into it. What? Darning? Dutch darning, boro darning – regular sock darning – it’s all in there in this broken piece of knitting that we will call unique’

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So, I look at the unique piece of knitting with joy and vision.

and, the latest samples are also intriguing  –  The gauge is too wide, the fairisle is like lace – nnoooo, it’s just like the drawn line.  It has a pencil line quality – that’s what it is. it’s quite beautiful in its looseness. The fairisle is like a loose pencil drawing. It’s not knitting at all – and I can see how it will look in a garment.

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When I look over my shoulder, I am pulling a faint thread of invisible yarn from Jamieson & Smith in Lerwick, Shetland to here in Nottingham to attach it to a power knit machine that I never knew existed 10 months ago, and I can (at last)  see the journey that I have travelled.

 

 

 

 

Flawed Work / Imperfect Beauty Series.

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This body of Flawed Work / Imperfect Beauty is a collaboration between the relationship of Process and the interface of place, travel, memory, history, tradition, language, people and returning. Fundamentally, I am interested in the creative process of knitting to explore and articulate memories and tracing journeys.   Knitting and returning, create the platform for the final work in a site-specific image, film and soundbite.

Journey

I initially found Shetland when traveling to Lerwick to learn traditional Fair Isle knitting techniques. But, the islands’ rich landscape and raw beauty completely drew me in.  I began to wander away from the stationary act of knitting to take hikes across the small islands. Now, the two acts are intrinsically brought together in images.

The more precise Artistic Impression is, the more real it seems and the freeer it feels – Lee Ufan – The Art of Encounter

 

Since my first visit, I have returned and built relationships both with people and with the landscape, both of which I found through spending time living a connected life with the surroundings. The purpose of my trip and residency in Scalloway in December 2017, is to continue to take site specific photographs of my knitted lace to evoke a quietness and stillness, yet express an energy that is about a real truth of living.  The locations that I have chosen to install my work are derelict and abandoned croft houses.  The images are as much about showing a place for what it is and for what it is not as about the knitted lace.  I’m drawn into the houses because they are full of the unexpected.  There are signs of the lives that have lived in these abandoned places with their insides open to the outside without roof or protections. I find walls with the imprint of the people who once lived and loved there and made a home. I look out of windows that look onto raw beauty that must have been a hard existence.  The architecture is quiet and simple with a sense of dignity. DSCN3527.JPG

I never snap the photographs – they are constantly deeply rooted in narrative. I try to get one good photograph a day – and that’s a good day.

In order to make the image, I connect completely with my surroundings – it could be that my hand traces the decaying croft walls where the palimpsest is so deeply felt through touch that I can feel what the life may have been like.

The Interrupted paint on walls, the hand cut stone slabs outside the front door to keep a skirt hem from getting muddy or a small, deeply inset window where a woman used to wait, the click of a latch will all narrate the image.

These are places of impermanence. They’re places that change every day over time.

Process – Conjuncture

Initially, the history of Shetland knitting began to excite me in the simplest terms of Fair Isle design and colour.  I experimented at home in Yorkshire but the knitting became a true art form when I travelled to Lerwick in order to fill my knitting colour palette with colour made and sold in Shetland.

It is only now that I realise that the act of finding a place and building relationships through the process of knitting is crucial to my work. In fact, it is the work.

I wanted to knit a feeling, so I bring these relationships of memory, travel, conversations and place into the process of my knitting.

Flawed Work / Imperfect Beauty is born out of a new relationship and fascination with Shetland Lace. My initial inspiration was a 1970’s lace knitted cardigan bought from a charity shop and owned by a friend. I trawled the library in Lerwick for information on traditional lace designs and patterns but I couldn’t find either, so I sat on the floor of her old Sea Captain’s house that overlooked the harbour in Lerwick and mapped out the old cardigan in a combination of patterns and rows to try to remake what I had seen.

This was not art but a process to understand lace knit structures. This understanding fed an appetite to learn more and led me onto researching traditional Shetland lace in the museums across the Shetland. All of the lace shawls are perfectly and beautifully knitted by skilled and experience hands.  The knitter had taken months to spin the wool, knit the shawl, make it pure white, then dress and stretch it into perfection to show every lace pattern to its best.

These shawls are all original to the maker. There are no two the same. They’re grown from a desire to make something exquisitely beautiful that, at the time of making, was sellable. I’m sure that the only aim was not just to make a sellable item but to show off a difficult skill to perfection with pride.  These fine shawls were not worn by the women of Shetland who made them but were made by them to supplement their crofting income.

Through my MA, I had a desire to experiment and make CAD machine knitted Shetland inspired, lace fabric. This is not an easy process and, since there were errors in the knitting results, I completely accepted the flaws as part of the piece.  I have developed lace patterns for Power Knit machines using Computer Aided Design. Each piece of work is unique and bespoke but inevitably subject to the conjuncture of design and process which often results in a flawed knit.   Even with imperfections, the work is still very beautiful and surprising.  In fact, I have capitalised on the flaws in the lace knitted fabric and use these errors to darn into – make the piece strong, make visible, add another layer, make a story, keep the piece alive.  On a practical level, I don’t want to waste the knitted fabric, not in a political, austere mend and make do way but out of pure gratitude that I have made something worth looking at, at all.  This is not the only reason I keep the flawed knitting – it has become another narrative in the work. When a broken piece of knitting drops from the Power knit machine at NTU, I reflect on both the designing and the knitting process to try to understand technically why it did not knit perfectly, did I want it to be perfect, what is its value.

The first time a ragged, puckered, broken, torn piece of lace knit dropped from the power knit machine at Uni, I picked it up and instantly saw a ragged lace curtain that had been hanging at a broken croft house window for years until it was shreds. And this is one of the reasons of why I returned to Shetland with my knitted lace curtains – a relationship between process and place and tradition.

 

Tracey Doxey – Studying an MA in Fashion, Textiles, Knit at Nottingham Trent University

Residency in The Booth, Scalloway, December 2017

East meets West

 

For some weeks, I have been hoping to collaborate with Yuka Kishi at NTU to make something together, without plan or expectation.  Yuka’s work is bright, fun, experimental and lively. She’s on a scholarship from Japan and has been in New York also working with Susan Cianciolo Thompson.  Yuka’s work is made of printed fabrics and found objects.  Mine is totally different – maybe more traditional – knitted and sewn but somewhere along the way, I felt that we had a common thread.     Yuka collects found pieces of fabric and knitting and other things to use in her work as well as creating very colourful prints and life size fabric dolls and smaller ones.  I’ve never really talked to Yuka about her work and strangely, even after working with her for 5 hours today, we never really talked about our respective creative practice.   We only really talked about what we were doing. There was great, unspoken, mutual respect and neither one took the lead and we also let each other do things to the piece with and without discussion.

 

We got together initially to make something out of found or thrown away fabrics and knitting.

I had collected two bags of machine knitted lace from my visit to G H Hurts in Nottingham from my visit earlier this year and Yuka brought pieces of jackets, sleeves, and fabrics that she had found in the sewing dept at Uni that had been thrown away.

We both liked the tweed jacket front that Yuka had found that had been discarded at uni and it took the lead in the piece that we decided to make.  We both agreed not to be obvious so we started working on the tailor’s dummy and pinned the front on – then immediately started working on the back.

During the 5 hours, we machine sewed, overlocked, hand sewed, embroidered, pinned and tacked random pieces of fabric together, with and without even talking.

Some ideas were discussed, and some were just run with.

The back is an East meets West, partly looking like a kimono, a tweed jacket and traditional lace knit. It grew into something quite lovely.

The sleeves were one found tweed sleeve that we used as a template for some vintage silk Japanese Kimono silk that I had had for some years and I machined them into shape. Yuka machined them into the body – when the whole thing was almost finished.  These two sleeves were really the only machine sewn parts in the piece.

It’s a piece born out of a quick chat – it’s a piece really of nothing but for me, it broke the spell of me not wanting to go to Uni.  I have begun to question why I am there.  And 5 hours flew by – 5 hours flew by.  I didn’t think of my worries or of anything other than making – that’s got to be good hasn’t it?

Afterwards, we reflected on what we’d made – really very little

but more than that, we both felt that the practice of just making and doing is quite priceless especially in the company of another where there is no conflict or difficulty – just having a go. 🙂

I really thank Yuka Kishi for today.

 

 

 

Lace curtain on tour.

PROCESS

Eventually, after some time, I designed a lace curtain that was entirely inspired and touched by Shetland. Couched within the design are memories from all of my previous visits. I was hoping to capture the essence of the landscape, language, tradition, and the people that I have met.

It’s not just a lace curtain.

This week, the curtain is on tour visiting old derelict croft houses.  There was always one particular croft house in my mind.  Last August, whilst walking across Bressay to catch the rubber dingy to Noss, I came across a derelict croft house with its roof only recently removed and the slate tiles scattered across the ground. Inside the traces of the people’s lives were visible across the walls in layers of flaking previously-lovingly designed patterns in paint. I fell in love with the place and imagined how the woman of the house had looked out of the small square windows waiting for family to come home.

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RETURN / TIMING

About a month ago, I contacted Shetland Amenity Trust to see if they knew who had lived in the small 2 roomed croft house, they forwarded my email on to Bressay Heritage Trust and last week a lady emailed me to say that she was born in the croft house and it had been in her mother’s family for over 100 years. I was so moved by this email that I quite tearful and had a vision of what it would be like to meet this lady and listen to her stories. We arranged to meet today and in celebration of the house and lives lived there and the walls and paint marks and all the things that had inspired me, I made a laser cut in the one of my lace designs to hang on the croft house wall and leave behind.

Now, there’s one flaw with visualising what might happen when you’re wearing rose tinted glasses.  It’s mostly a one-sided, personal made-up fairy story where you don’t quite figure the other person or their thoughts and wants into the equation. The croft has been ravaged by the last winter and the walls have no trace now of the beautiful floral border design. It seemed smaller than I remembered and had been gated off.

I did briefly hang the laser cut on the inside wall on an old nail painted green then I gave it to the lady who had been born in the croft house and we looked at her photographs. she didn’t want to go inside.  I am completely grateful to her for taking the time to meet me.  It was really kind of her – she is warm, honest and open – characteristics I find in Shetlanders all over the islands.

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It was not the right time or place to hang my curtain in this croft but I have hung it in other croft houses.

The Shetland lace curtain is one of three pieces that were made a few weeks ago leaving enough time to darn into any of the ‘natural’ breakages before bringing it to Lerwick.  ‘Natural breakages’ meaning the errors that may or may not occur when knitting lace on a power knit machine. Right from the beginning, I have embraced these ‘natural’ errors in the knit by using the holes to darn into. The darning keeps the piece alive and adds another layer – another story. Each of the 3 curtains that were knitted on that day came out with the same errors – largish gaping holes down the left side. I designed the lace in CAD and they were knitted on the Shima at Uni and darned with a connection to the memory of an interior wall in a derelict croft house in Bressay that we didn’t return to.

 

I was hoping to capture the energy and the strength of Shetland in one image.

I have made a start.

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Fashion Designer or Textile Artist

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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.

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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. DSCN3138

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.

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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…