Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Knitting for Peace at the Courtauld Gallery

When I look back over the last few months I am amazed at all the places that my knitting has taken me - Camp Bestival, the foot of the Plinth...and today is no exception. Knitters for Peace were invited to be Knitters in Residence for the weekend at the Courtauld Gallery which is housed in the very grand surroundings of Somerset House on the Strand in London.

So what connection might knitting have with the rarefied fine art atmosphere of the Courtauld? Well, it all starts here with their current special exhibition: Beyond Bloomsbury -designs of the Omega Workshops 1913-19.
Here, in the words of the exhibition is a synopsis of the work of the Omega Workshop.
The designers who worked at the Omega Workshop decided not to sign their work - instead it was all marked with the Omega symbol. Other aspects of their values were that they valued the hand made and irregular, bright colours and bold lines and group activity. They were also pacifists who worked with refugee women in France to produce embroideries for them to make a living after they had been driven from their villages by the advancing armies. Can you see the reference points for Knitters for Peace?
Much of the works are applied arts - here is a painted screen.
And a needlepoint chair back. The colours are bold and the designs are moving towards abstraction.
Many of the pieces are designs for textiles such as rugs drawn on graph paper.

Some have a deceptive simplicity.
When we were discussing the project and things we might do I had the opportunity to look at the catalogue and decided that it might be in keeping with the spirit of the exhibition to put together a piece that was inspired by one of the designs of the Omega Workshop.

One of the patterns caught my eye as being vaguely reminiscent of a log cabin blanket.

However, it needed to be simplified and adjusted to be suitable as a group project to suit most levels of skills.
Knitters soon got to work.

Refreshments were, of course, essential.

Over the two days we not only knitted a good number of squares but encouraged members of the public to stop and knit a couple of rows or we taught children to knit and added their contributions.
And here you can see the way in which the project is developing. The differences in tension make the squares a little irregular so the finished piece will require some fairly ferocious blocking if it is to be neat and regular. However, having spoken to the curator and several other very knowledgeable members of staff I may leave it a little rough and ready as this is very much in the style of the Omega Workshop.

All in all this was a fabulous experience. We raised awareness for Knitters for Peace, we connected people with parts of their past they had forgotten by allowing them to knit a few rows and reminisce, we set children on a path of what we hope is a fun and worthwhile pastime and we paid appropriate tribute to the Omega Workshop by working on a piece that not only referenced the exhibition but worked very much in the spirit of the members.
I think Roger Fry would not only have approved, he would have picked up a pair of needles and asked for a quick lesson!


LynS said...

What a wonderful project in a beautiful location. I love the Courtauld Gallery - both its current housing and the collection - and this rug was a perfect choice of project for the occasion. So many resonances between the rug and the artists that inspired it.

Cornflower said...

Thankyou so much for this glimpse of the exhibition and the knitting it has inspired. Wonderful!

Rosie said...

What an amazing project and your design, too: wow.

Suse-the-slow-knitta said...

how wonderful! I love look & ethos of the Omega group.
The rug looks tremendous too, well done peeps!

Ice Princess said...

Awesome !!!!!

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