Feathers & Layers
Observation is the first step in producing any work based on the natural world, and birds and their behaviour supremely exemplify the value of watching. Ravens have nested on the cliffs of my croft for years and so I have observed them closely on a daily basis: their form, postures, habits and their spectacular aerobatic antics are so indelibly imprinted in my mind that my initial sketch for the raven costume consisted of a few minimal outlines. It really began with knitting a few small experimental feather shapes. Then it was a matter of five months of dedicated craftsmanship to create a costume of layered feathers worked into curving, knitted core body shapes which I precisely fitted for the dancer who modelled it. It was important that she was able to strike poses that would accurately reflect the postures of the raven.
The raven feathers illustrate how just one experiment can lead to further applications and new directions. The original feather shapes that I created for the raven – when worked in shades of red and then felted – became the tentacles for the Sea Anemone costume. Felting, and rolling and shaping to varying degrees, led to leafy forms depicting underwater foliage. I then used the same knitted shaping techniques and added texture with knitted stitches and embroidery to create the body of the costume.
The process of creating wearable art provides me with innumerable innovative ideas for producing original commercial designs with full instructions for knitters. These collars are entirely composed of elements from several costumes and are well within the scope of anyone who has mastered the basics of hand knitting.