Art Inspired Knitwear {Guest Post}

On the last podcast episode I introduced Renee Callaghan's latest knitwear release, 'The Klee Collection' and promised a guest post sharing all her inspiration. Here it is and I love how much detail and form that Renee has captured from her time spent gazing at Klee's beautiful work. 

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I have always been attracted to the arts. Long before it ever occurred to me to make things myself, I studied and loved things that other people made; paintings, drawings, sculpture. When I began to study art history, it was the very uselessness of the fine arts that attracted me. These objects seemed like tangible proof that the need to create aesthetically pleasing things transcended the basic necessities of survival such as food and shelter. As long as people have existed, they have created objects and made marks above and beyond what was strictly useful. 

And yet… 

When I came to the decision that designing and making things was just too important to me to do anything else, I felt an overwhelming urge to make useful things that people would use—hopefully—every day. I felt, and continue to feel we live in a world full of stuff, much of it mass produced, and that the making of a thing with your own hands is valuable both as an act of creation and as a tiny defiance of the disposable nature of all that stuff in our world. 

This all sounds very worthy, but it is more than that. It is also about pleasure. The pleasure in making things by hand. The pleasure in seeing something beautiful. The pleasure in seeing something beautiful, and then following it into another act of creation…. 

Inspiration is a nebulous thing. A couple of years ago, the Tate Modern put on a wonderful exhibition of Paul Klee’s work and after going to see it, I was inspired to be more creatively ambitious and pursue my hand-knitting design with a collection. I choose a few of Klee’s paintings and started to extract little bits of beauty from them and try to make them my own. 

It was not a smooth or direct path. Sometimes it was a single colour, as the shocking red of Angel in the Making.

Angel in the Making

Sometimes it is a more subtle thing, such as the title of the painting. I took this concept into knit with the idea of an evolving lace stitch, a lace in the making beginning with a single eyelet, evolving as the eyelets multiply and resolve themselves into pretty lace patterns. The Angel in the Making shawl and Angel in the Making sweater were the results.

Angel in the Making Shawl & Sweater

Sometimes a metaphor morphs into another shape in the mind, as did the idea of graphic arm/wings in Angelus Novus.

Angelus Novus

Isn’t she a beauty? I imagined the arms wrapping around the body and turned into a wing-like pattern that envelops the body. There is joy in the simplicity of the shapes, something both childlike and elegant. My interpretation produced the Angelus Novus cardigan

Angelus Novus Cardigan
Angelus Novus Shawl

Twilight Flowers was painted just a few months before Klee’s death in 1940. I love the flat, patterned aspect of the simple geometric shapes and the pops of colour among the muted palette.

Twilight Flowers

Each design features unique geometric lace knitting inspired by the strange and wonderful shapes that run like a language through Klee’s work, and the Twilight Flowers Mitts…

Twilight Flower Mitts

…and Twilight Flowers pullover designs in particular focus on the beauty of simple repeats, and incorporating my inspiration and love of Klee into wearable garments that knitters will make and wear for years to come.

Twilight Flowers Sweater

The Klee Collection is available here.