The multi-media artist: knit & glass

Wednesday Aug 09, 2017

The Byre collection

Shetland knitwear inspired by the work of artist and architect, Karlyn Sutherland.

Installation by Karlyn Sutherland of glass panels tracking the shapes of light falling into the Byre at Latheronwheel, Caithness

The Byre. Installation by Karlyn Sutherland—part of the exhibition Permeable Structure at The Byre, Latheronwheel, Caithness, 2016-17.

Many designers and artists work in more than one discipline, and I confess to quietly working within another medium, namely glass.

As some of you might already know: if I cannot be found in the knitwear studio, I will invariably be found in the glass workshop. This confession is made simply by way of explanation... how did I end up showing a knitwear collection at BeCon 2017, a glass-making conference?!

Glass-making at a workshop. A woman wearing safety glasses holds a long rod with molten glass on the end
A workshop lead by glass artist Silvia Levenson, at Bullseye Glass, Portland.

Work in glass by Karlyn Sutherland, installed at The Byre, Latheronwheel, Caithness

Bullseye Projects holds events all over the world. Permeable Structure took place at The Byre, Latheron House, Caithness.

Glass and knitwear

Over the past year I’ve been fortunate enough to get to know the inspiring people behind Bullseye Projects, part of Bullseye Glass—an amazing organisation based in Portland, Oregon. Bullseye works with a worldwide community of glass artists and itself manufactures, promotes, exhibits, and educates in matters art glass.

After I attended a Bullseye-initiated symposium at North Lands (the Caithness centre dedicated to glass making), an idea was hatched. Lani McGregor, director of Bullseye Projects (the exhibitions and education arm of Bullseye), asked me to respond to the work of another glass artist.

The response was not to be made in glass, but in knitwear: how would cross-fertilisation between media influence a new Nielanell knit collection?

Glass panels by Karlyn Sutherland at The Byre, Latheronwheel

Karlyn Sutherland traced patterns of falling light in the Byre, before making representations of the light slivers in glass. These shapes will be fully lit by natural light for only one fleeting moment per year.

Wearable art

It was the work of Karlyn Sutherland that ultimately became the inspiration for my new knitwear collection—The Byre Collection. Karlyn is an architect and artist, who I met at the North Lands symposium: I looked to the glass installation that she’d made in the Byre at Latheron House, Caithness (exhibited together with fabulous work by Silvia Levenson, Michael Rogers and Emily Nachison).

A woman wearing a contemporary knitted cape with abstract designs in charcoal and stone white yarn. She spins to allow the cape to fly out.

Karlyn tries on the Nielanell Byre cape, inspired by her own work, at Bullseye's BeCon 2017 in Portland, Oregon.

After months of work, my new collection of glass-influenced knitwear was launched at the Bullseye Glass BeCon 2017, in Portland, at the end of June 2017. I was so nervous! But, as you can see Bullseye staff, tutors, artists and conference attendees had a great time trying on the pieces...

A man and two women wearing pieces from the Nielanell Byre collection of contemporary Shetland knitwear. Charcoal and stone white yarn with abstract motifs and some lettering knitted into the pattern.

Scarf, wrap, cravat: there are seven styles in the collection, from necklets and scarves to large, drapey wraps and capes.

A scarf from the Byre collection of knitwear with abstract shapes and patterns in charcoal grey and stone white. Worn with a white cardigan. Detail.

Texture into pattern: Karlyn's work, and its site-specific nature, was full of detail to inspire the knitted textile.

What comes of sharing ideas 

I am still overwhelmed at the reception that The Byre Collection received in Portland, and online, via my social media channels. I am so grateful to Lani and all at Bullseye, for including some Shetland knits in their programme.

Most of all I would like to thank Karlyn, who let me experiment with her ideas and reinterpret her own work. Ideas are an artist’s currency—it is incredibly generous of Karlyn to share hers.

Knitwear made in Shetland

All pieces are knitted in Shetland, in luxurious 100% merino, and hand-finished at the Nielanell studio.

How to order

The Byre Collection is available to order from Bullseye Projects, Portland and from

Photography & credits
  • BeCon 2017 photography by kind permission of Anna Caitlin Harris
  • Permeable Space photography by Karlyn Sutherland and Michael Endo
  • Studio photography by Austin Taylor (with thanks to DJ Stefek for assistance)
  • With additional thanks to Lani McGregor, Michael Endo, Laura O'Quin, Nicole Leaper, Sarah Douglass, and all at Bullseye.


Tagged with: design process

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