Design notes from Niela
What do you talk about with your friends?
After the experience of the pandemic, lockdown and isolation, the important discussions that I usually have with friends—all together, in person—feel more precious than ever.
My Conversation Pieces collection is a sort of time capsule, as it was designed in response to a trip with friends who live in other countries. The kind of trip that has now been impossible for more than a year.
In 2019, two artist friends and I met in London. We visited the Anni Albers exhibition at Tate. It was such a moving experience, and filled me with ideas for a collection using a restricted palette of colour.
Anni Albers at Tate: I was so inspired by Albers' restricted use of colour in her woven pieces
At the same time as visiting various other exhibitions and museums, my friends and I continued the debates and discussions that we always have, with overlapping (and disagreeing!) opinions and ways of seeing the world.
The conversation pieces design process gets going with linocuts used to experiment with motif
Back in Shetland, I started my design process with drawing and printmaking with linocuts, experimenting with colour and motif.
Linocut motifs printed on glass
When looking at the knit itself, we used a slightly looser tension to give extra drape to the merino fabric.
Experimenting with colour in initital swatches
We swatched a large number of colours, but chose two final retro-ish colourways (subconsciously rather marine-ish, too!). Each sees three colours move between each other, mixing and overlapping—or not—to create shape and colour.
Conversation pieces in blues and coral
An Albers-esque approach to colour comes together with my response to the fact of differing opinions, and the idea of discussion itself. In the design, overlapping and separate colours behave like points of view and discussions on thorny subjects: sometimes blending, sometimes staying separate. Reflecting the pattern of conversation, I see the balance of the shapes themselves as being uncomfortable in places.
Conversation Pieces is a knitted tribute to friendship, thrashing out big ideas, and just how much we have missed in-person conversations with friends.