Friday, October 14, 2011
THey Walk Among Us: Meet Purple Claire
I’ve always loved making things. My main passion has been dressmaking. I love making clothes mainly using Vogue patterns, although I don’t do this nearly as often as I used to.
My Mum taught me how to knit. My first memory of knitting an object is making a teddy bear at school. This was made using a pattern composed of a rectangular structure, which was stuffed with old tights (American tan was the popular colour then!) Talking to friends of my own age, I think that particular pattern must have been knitted in schools across the UK at the time. Knitting was a popular activity then. I remember a friend at school giving me a birthday present of a tin full of balls of yarn and some knitting needles. I still have the tin in the kitchen cupboard and use it for storing coffee. My maternal grandmother was always knitting or crocheting, I hardly ever saw her without needles or crochet hook in her hand. My paternal grandmother also knitted, she made us lovely knitted dresses and continued to do so after she lost her sight. My Mum did both knitting and dressmaking, when she had the time.
After the knitting at school, I stopped for a while and started again. Second time around, I remember following complex patterns, including a jumper designed by Patricia Roberts which was knitted in very fine cotton, covered with rows of cherries and bunches of grapes in a 3D effect. It took about a year to knit and I still have it, although it looks rather dated now.
Throughout my life I have always liked to have an activity that I am passionate about, to participate in alongside work and family interests and activities. Before taking up knitting again recently, my passion was for ice-skating!
At the end of 2009 a combination of factors led me to pick up knitting needles again. I started, as I had done many years earlier, by knitting scarves in garter stitch, experimenting with different yarns. My search for local knitting group led to my the website for knitters called ravelry, which I had never heard of before. In thinking of a login name I decided on purpleclaire. Purple is of course my favourite colour and I was wearing purple at the time. Purpleclaire has stuck with me, and it is what I am known by with knitting friends and when I meet ravelry friends in person. I do love lots of other colours too!
Almost immediately after joining ravelry I came across the Jane Thornley group. I’m not sure how it happened but this style of knitting was there waiting for me and I have never looked back! I love the freedom that freeform knitting gives. I joined the Inspired Knitters Club and the second issue provided a real turning point for me. Here was a new way to knit! Knitting doesn’t have to “be” anything. I loved the idea of knitting as art and, inspired by Jane, I soon knitted four large wallhangings – spring, summer, autumn and winter. I felt very flattered when Jane described them as “Vivaldi in fibre”. Sometimes I just cast on a knit a piece, just as a painter starts to put colour onto a canvas. Many of things to wear, many are wallhangings and others are neither. Travel is another of my passions and I always like to collect yarn when I travel and to knit interpretations of where I visit. My latest one was a knitted piece on Iceland, using Icelandic lopi wool.
I went to Jane’s workshops in Glossop in 2010 and it was great to meet a group of free-form knitters in person. This workshop gave me the inspiration to study textiles and I am about to complete my first assignment for a textiles course conducted by distance learning with the Open College of the Arts. For this piece, I am knitting and weaving an interpretation of a city, as viewed though a window. Although many of my pieces are inspired by nature, I also love urban inspirations. I have lived in London for all my adult life and I love it here.
Alongside knitting, I also do weaving, mainly on a pegloom. This very basic loom allows the weaver to blend colour and texture, very like freeform knitting.
So far, my creative activities have been undertaken alongside a very busy full-time job. They help me to relax and unwind. I am now at a position in my career when I am diversifying and knitting/weaving/other creative activities will be a part of work, as well as part of my play. I’m looking forward to it very much!
As well as being a fun and relaxing way to spend time, knitting has brought me many friends, both in real-life and on-line.
CLAIRE: Yes, I definitely like to express myself through clothing and accessories! However, I do think that there are times when it is important to fit the clothing to the occasion and to show appropriate respect. When the occasion calls for, say, a formal tailored suit, I might add a pair of spotty tights or red high-heeled shoes. I think I am the same in other areas of life. I can conform when needs be but I like to push the boundaries, sometimes gently and sometimes not!
JANE: You are my wall-hanging maestro. Since the moment you launched your first, your pieces continue mincreasingly more explorative and artistic. What is it about this medium that captures you?
CLAIRE: Thank you Jane! This type of knitting has just grabbed me! My first wallhanging was inspired by your aboriginal wallhanging but I ended up knitting a beach wallhanging! I think it is the freedom to be creative which captures me. I assemble yarns at the beginning of the project and I may add to them later. It is rather like an artist assembling and mixing paints. I combine colours and textures and then I just trust the process! it feels like painting with yarn. I have never unpicked any section of a wallhanging - I just go with the flow. I have sometimes been quite surprised by the results myself. I am about to start a more abstract wallhanging inspired by Jackson Pollock.
JANE: Is there one creative/artistic thing you long to do but have been unable to accomplish for one reason or another?
CLAIRE: I would like to explore painting some more, especially acrylic painting. Oh, and I would really love to have an exhibition of my textile art. In fact, just after receiving your questions for this interview I have been exploring this further. This would be very exciting for me! I would also love to have a studio ... but that is more than one "artistsic/creative thing".
JANE: I know the answer to this question but will pose it anyway: Do you wear what you knit?
CLAIRE: Yes, I do. I feel that we can all share a little art every day in what we wear. I really enjoy wearing things that are a little (or very!) different. Having said that, you have introduced me to a new way of knitting - knitting that doesn't have to be a garment or indeed doesn't have to be anything at all
JANE: Do you see yourself moving on from knitting and replacing it with a different interest, as you have done before?