Autumn's here and Corinne's new collection of sultry blues and moody ochres creates a warm, colourful display at one side of the gallery. Here is the story of Corinne's journey to becoming a knitwear designer-maker.
Designer-maker Corinne Carr sits in front of her Brother 950i machine, cones of lambswool feeding into the carriage below which a brightly coloured jumper emerges. She is reminiscing about her first foray into the craft of machine knitting.
“My first knitting machine was borrowed from a friend,” she explains. “Our home was an old Cornish cottage, more or less derelict, that had partly been used as a barn prior to our moving in. There was no running water and no electricity for ages, so for a long time I had only an ancient Singer sewing machine with a black treadle.” This rural Cornish life she had chosen was a far cry from her upbringing in central Paris, having been born and raised near the Trocadero and studying literature at the Sorbonne. But it was a wonderful time, even though there was not much money as she was at home with two young boys and the house needed so much improvement. A close friend offered to lend her a knitting machine - she accepted gratefully and immediately set about making jumpers for her family. “Knitting machines were new on the market from Japan. Home knitting offered an amazing new possibility for a lot of women in rural England – a wonderful way to combine motherhood, financial independence and the fulfilment of making your own clothing."
She never really considered making a serious business out of it until a chance encounter changed everything. “I was in Truro one day with my two sons and a boutique owner called Prudence Danby complemented me on my jumper. When she realised I had designed and knitted it myself, she asked me if I would make a few for her boutique.” What began as the opportunity to make a little money on the side was to grow into a thriving business for Corinne.
After a few years, renovations had progressed on their cottage and Corinne was finally able to have a room of her own. Up until then, she had sewed and knitted in the couple’s bedroom. “My studio was a wonderful luxury. It had a lovely little window with a view of the moors and a big skylight. The skylight was incredibly important in my development as a designer, because Cornish cottages are very dark with low ceilings and small windows, but with the abundance of light in my studio I was suddenly able to see all the colours of my wools on the shelves in all their splendour. This had a magical effect on my ability to play around with colour, juxtaposing different shades and blending to make new tones. I discovered fair isle which was a revelation.” Without realizing it, the view of Zennor moor through her little window started to filter into her designs and her knitwear began to strongly reflect the beauty of the changing seasons in the Cornish landscape.
As more galleries became interested in her jumpers, scarves, hats and felted accessories, Corinne began to develop relationships with Scottish spinning mills. The more she explored colour the better she felt able to ‘paint with the wool’. “Shades of wool are very different on the continent compared with Scotland,” she explains. “The French are especially strong with primary colours, the Italians excel at the ‘sludgy’, earthy shades – olivey greens and stone colours. But nothing can equal the subtlety of the colours that have evolved over centuries at the hands of skilled Scottish spinners and dyers in the mountains, highlands and near the moors covered with heather. These shades are so perfectly adapted to knitwear.”
More space in her own studio also meant another knitting machine - electronic as opposed to the older, basic punch-card model. The electronic knitting machine allowed more flexibility with design and Corinne moved away from Fair Isle and on to more intricate and complex designs, introducing some of her very striking trademark Ikats with geometric shapes inspired by ethnic fabrics.
Gradually as her business expanded, her talent came to the attention of well-known designer, Harvey Rothschild, who commissioned her to work as a freelance designer on his knitwear ranges. Corinne was integral to the process which resulted in international recognition for Harvey Rothschild. The experience of that creative venture has had a huge impact on her own craft, giving her confidence in the uniqueness of her design skills and leading her to experiment further with colour and shapes.
Since 2010, Corinne has worked in a new and very different space. She has opened Gallery Latitude 50 where her knitwear collection resides alongside an inspiring offering of paintings, sculpture, jewellery, glass and wood work and ceramics.
She finds that the main benefits of having a studio in a gallery is the interaction with customers. “Before I was in my little studio with the nearest neighbour half a mile down the road. I was knitting the shapes I wanted to wear, based on what was missing in my own wardrobe and for my own body shape. Designing was quite an abstract process. Now, I see women of all shapes and sizes trying on my knitwear all day long. I see what works and what doesn’t and I can tweak my designs accordingly. I see beyond my own colour preferences to what might look stunning on a blond or beautiful against a darker skin. And I get feedback direct from customers - what they like, what they would prefer - and I can feed that back into my designs.”
Her studio in Cripplesease has the most breathtaking view of the moors of Penwith. Not surprisingly, the spools of wool behind her on the shelves as she works away at her knitting machine are the mirror image of what she sees through the two large picture windows before her.
Visit Corinne on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/CorinneCarrUK or twitter @CorinnecarrUK
Hidden Art's Cornwall Design Fair 2011 took place last weekend and was a huge success. Wonderful weather combined with a very high standard of work from Designer-Makers and the loveliest of venues made the weekend a huge pleasure for exhibitors and visitors alike. Trereife House is a stone's throw from the fishing village of Newlyn and is owned and run by Le Grice family which has resided there since 1798.
Many artists whose work is available at Gallery Latitude 50 had stalls at the Design Fair, so we thought we would dedicate this week's blog to this wonderful event!
Claire Armitage - Textile Design
One of the highlights of this year's fair was Textile Designer Claire Armitage whose beautiful habatoi silk dresses from her 'History Dress Collection' were on show in the curated exhibition inside Trereife House (pictured below).
Claire, a graduate of Goldsmiths College, University of London, and University College Falmouth, launched her new range of screen printed silk scarves earlier this year and was the proud recipient of the Award for Innovation in Design from The Guild of Ten, Truro.
Claire’s textile print designs are inspired by the Cornish landscape and her sketchbook drawings of everyday objects, people and places. Her prints are rich in narrative, referencing poetry, fairytales and her research into historical dress at Helston Folk Museum, Cornwall. Her print designs are realised through a combination of digital print, screen-print and hand-painted screen processes onto silks and cottons. Claires' autumn collection of scarves is available at the gallery.
Remon Jephcott - Ceramics
Around the corner was Remon Jephcott's stall, with a delectable display of richly coloured gilded ceramic fruit which, on closer examination, are in the process of decomposing.
Remon's love and interest in ceramics began the first time that she witnessed the opening of a kiln. Amazed by the metamorphosis within fire of a lump of clay with the application of various chemicals to form, colour and a glaze have influenced her experimentation with colour and surface. A fascination, that feeds her thoughts and forms by this continuing metaphoric and metamorphic process.
Remon's work is multi-fired and multi-layered. The layers are built up with a combination of her own glazes, oxides and stains, commercial under-glazes and glazes, decals and lustres.
Remon uses an earthenware clay body, to hand-build, press-mould and slip-cast, which are bisque to 1120oc, and glaze firings to 1060oc. Next follows decal and lustre firings.
Remon aims to immerse the viewer in a sensory and symbolic visual experience.
Sarah Hyams - Jewellery
Sarah Hyams, who teaches Brazilian Samba dance in her spare time, brought her usually vibrant energy to the fair and her stall did not disappoint. Sarah graduated as an artist/maker in 2000 from the University of Brighton, having studied 3D Craft design. Since graduating, she has pursued a career as a jeweller and artist. She lives and works in Penryn.
Sarah’s jewellery has a contemporary feel, whilst drawing inspiration from ancient and folk jewellery - their stories, functions as amulets and their simple and beautiful forms. The love of Carnival also feeds into the work bringing colour, movement and sense of fun to some of the pieces. Sarah works mainly in Sterling silver and semi-precious stones. The silver is hammered creating a more tactile surface.
Russell Gibbs - Ceramics
We had the pleasure of catching up with ceramicist Russell Gibbs who had a beautifully appointed stand with lots of his distinctive pottery on show. Hi ever-popular striped and spotty pots, mugs and vessels can be used on a daily basis. Here are a few pictures of one of our favourite potters.
Naomi Singer - Glasswork
Naomi Singer had a fantastically decorated stall with her fused glass on show. During her studies at University College Falmouth, Naomi was introduced to glass craft and later specialised in this medium.
Much of her work is inspired by the flowers and plants around her home in Cornwall. She uses traditional fused glass techniques, combined with digital technology and water slide decals to create unique, contemporary pieces.
Naomi works from her studio in Redruth, Cornwall. She is a member of the Devon Guild of Craftsmen and the Cornwall Crafts Association.
Corinne Carr - Knitwear Designer-Maker
Corinne Carr, who owns and runs Gallery Latitude 50 and also has her studio in the gallery, exhibited her knitwear collection at the Design Fair for the first time, sharing stand duties with me (Kathryn Carr, daughter-in-law).
The best thing about the fair was the camaraderie with the other artists and craftspeople and the lovely conversations with visitors. What's great about craft fairs is that those who come to see the work are genuinely interested in the artists, their background, inspiration, and where and how the item is made. It's not just shopping for the sake of acquiring something new, and that genuine interest in all aspects of the product is so greatly appreciated by the designer-makers at the fair. The interaction is always respectful and kind and it allows those selling to get valuable feedback about their work.
Oh yes, there is another great thing about the fairs - on Sunday evening just before packing up we all get to 'swap' with the other designer-makers whose work we love. Thank you Margot Hartley, Louise Thompson, Kat Livesey for the beautiful pieces we now own and treasure!
Sally Bassett is known for the energy and movement she captures in her atmospheric paintings. She opened her workshop to visitors during Open Studios Cornwall recently and here she opens up her sketchbook to give us some fascinating insight into her 'visual diary' and way of working.
Way of working
My work usually commences with observational drawings and sketches made in a tiny sketch book which I try to have with me at all times (large handbag needed). In this notebook I write down a few words about what has engaged me, words that describe the scene and the colours I am seeing. I find the sensual impact of colour exciting. The notes in my book and my photographs help to jog my memory at a later date in the studio. I am not really looking for the picturesque, but a vibrancy, brilliance and contrast of colours; the brilliance of a field of poppies in the sun, or dark purple thunder clouds rolling in; a stream rushing over boulders; wet and luscious red hawthorn berries on a windswept tree or translucent turquoise waves crashing on the sand; storm waves pounding the rocks after a rough weather out to sea.
My mission in painting is to try and simplify what I see, get rid of unnecessary detail and to find the essence of the thing.
Making a body of work
A number of paintings often come from one sketch and some photographs. I view collecting information for paintings as a visual diary. If you can be accurate enough in describing what you see in both 'scribble' and words then long after the day you can recall what you saw, and the impact it had on you. A photograph can give you the position of a tree and its structure, but is no substitute for on the spot sketches.
The Wind Swept Hawthorn Bush with Lush Red Berries
One day en route back from delivering some paintings I stopped by a wind sculpted hawthorn bush. The bush was still dripping the bark of the tree shiny and black and the red berries wet and glistening. The bush seemed to ripple with movement as if it was alive. This is what I found exciting and what I tried to capture in a series of paintings.
Wild Sea Paintings
I do a lot of walking round the Penwith Peninsula and on the Lizard. Two of my favourite spots being Pendeen Watch facing the Atlantic and Kynance Cove on the Lizard. In both places the coast line is dramatic and the sea at its most awe inspiring as it pounds the shore.
When I am painting I do not want to make a photographic record, but to catch the essence, the movement, the splash, drip and roar of the waves on the shore or over rocks.
A selection of Sally's work is on exhibit at the gallery and can be enjoyed over a cream tea. We look forward to your visit!
Jo Lucksted's work is striking and unconventional in its subject matter. Strongly influenced by carvings in the cathedrals, churches and graveyards of her native Somerset, wonderfully detailed ceramic sculptures of angels and mythological figures abound, capturing the imagination.
This week we caught up with Jo about her artistic evolution, sources of inspiration and her studio in Shepton Mallet.
Jo, when did you first realise you had artistic leanings?
From a very early age really, it was probably at primary school that I first picked up clay and straight away the concept of in some way being able to create for your own pleasure became apparent. Throughout my childhood and teenage years art was a primary interest, whether that was through producing work myself in a range of media, appreciating book illustrations, having an interest in art history, visiting museums and galleries...I think I was a bit of a sponge soaking it all up.
When did you decide to do ceramics/sculpture?
It's just always been what I've done best and how I've best been able to express myself. Again it goes back to that childhood thing of wanting something, then making it. I was very lucky at secondary school in that when I was doing Art at 'A' level we had a well equipped 3D department, and the tutor, Mary Price, encouraged us to work in a wide range of sculptural materials such as chalk, plaster, wire, alabaster and clay. There were potters wheels in the sculpture rooms but I don't think I ever went near them at that point!
What inspires you?
Beauty in nature and art, and real skill and expertise in craftsmanship.
Who have you most been influenced by?
I still have the book Masquerade, written and illustrated by Kit Williams, which was given to me when I was about 10 years old. I have immense respect for Williams' artistic skills, in painting, jewellery and puzzle making - a real craftsman and master of many craft forms. He made me realise that you don't need to feel like a jack of all trades and master of none if you spread your wings and work in a range of media.
I think John Maltby's ceramics are amazing, the marriage of surface decoration, the palette he uses, the figures and heads are really gorgeous. I have tried to achieve some of that simplicity and cleanness in my own work.
Edwina Bridgeman makes the most exquisite mixed media narrative scenes. Her little figures have amazing presence and personality, and she's able to combine a variety of found and manufactured objects and natural forms and bring them together without it ever looking like a jumble.
I get a lot of inspiration from paintings-I would love to be able to paint but am well aware of my limitations! I particularly love Stanley Spencer, the brutal frankness of his self portraits contrast with his sentimental depictions of an imagined Utopia, mostly set in the village of Cookham.
There is also something in all of these artists that is uniquely English, an eccentricity that really appeals to and inspires me.
What's your studio like?
My studio is actually a shop on Town Street in Shepton Mallet. When it came up for rent I took it on as my workshop space and use the front room to display finished pieces that haven't made their way into a gallery yet. I quite enjoy the aspect of putting up window displays now, although initially I definitely hid from view when I first moved in and began working from there – I felt like a goldfish in a bowl! The back room is where I work and because there are no windows I have plenty of wall space to cover with photos and inspirational postcards. I also have shelves covered with bits and bobs that I have collected, natural objects, old and vintage pieces, books, generally the 'creative clutter' that would drive my family mad if it was at home. Because I'm on the high street I'm used to people wandering in to chat, to see what I've made and what is going on so it's a very sociable space which I enjoy.
Describe the process from conception to completion.
Often I run ideas around my head when I'm in bed, those moments before going off to sleep are perfect because my brain is at it's most uncluttered.Once I've got a mental picture of what I want to do I like to get it down in a sketchbook and refine it. That helps to get me thinking about the technical side of making it and clarifying what is and isn't achievable with the clay. I work best if I have the finished concept completely clear in my mind before I pick up any clay...I can't begin with an 'I'll see where this takes me' approach.
With certain pieces I use press moulds of my own construction, finishing each piece by hand to give it it's individuality, but a lot of the time I'm hand building from scratch. It's a very slow process, and often I have to put work to one side to harden up before I can do the next stage. In my workshop at the moment for example I have 4 busts that I'm making for a commission, out of their moulds, cleaned up and waiting to dry out a little before I add on wings and sculpted decorations, they will then be put to one side before I incise the final details, giving them their faces and 'personality'. Once dried out and bisque fired I apply colour – I tend to use underglazes as they are more consistent and reliable than oxides. Any touches of transparent glaze are used to highlight areas that may have gold lustre applied in a third firing, or just to intensify the underglaze colour where desired. I've recently made the switch to working only with stoneware clay so after the stoneware firing I give the pieces their final check over. If I'm not lustring the work I normally apply a little gold leaf instead – I love the contrast of neutral matt colours with a little bit of shiny gold.
What do you love most about what you do?
It's certainly not the financial rewards, but it is very satisfying to be able to look at a successfully finished piece and think 'I did that!'...That's usually when I begin to worry about whether I'd ever be able to do it again!
We have a beautiful selection of Jo's figurative sculptures and ceramics at the Gallery. Please pop by for a closer look. During Cornwall Open Studios May 28th - June 5th we are open daily 11am - 5.30pm.
This week we caught up with one of our favourite landscape artists, John Griffiths, who has lived and worked in Cornwall for the last 40 years and has been influenced by the rugged coastline and atmospheric valleys of the southwest. Here he gives us a peek inside his studio and explains the process from conception to completion.
John, tell us how you got into painting after teaching for so many years.
I did a course called the Creative Mind and the Arts at Christ Church College where we visited the places which influenced different artists - Shoreham for Samuel Palmer, Cookham for Stanley Spencer etc. The course really inspired me to start painting. When we moved to Cornwall I did a course on Ceramics at Redruth and as a result Vanessa (my wife) and I set up a ceramic studio where we lived in Nancledra (down the road from the Gallery in Cripplesease). The atmosphere of West Cornwall was also important as an inspiration to paint and make ceramic objects based on the landscape.
Who are your greatest influences?
I'm influenced by all kinds of things, but the painters I really like are Turner, Cezanne and Paul Henry.
What is your inspiration when you start a new piece?
It's difficult to explain, but there are certain landcapes which have a sense of wonder and provide the right composition, colour, abstraction etc. I like landscapes where I can use a lot of texture - goes back to my ceramic days.
Tell us about your studio and the process.
My studio is opposite my house in Cardinham - I'm a bit short of space but it's quiet and peaceful! I frame my paintings there as well. I also sketch, paint etc outdoors and at my daughter's gallery Wave7.
I sketch, photograph and paint in situ, then finish in the studio.
We currently have several of John's paintings in the gallery. We invite you to pop in and enjoy a closer look at his beautifully textured landscapes. See you soon!
The night before the Spring Opening feels a bit like Christmas eve, with all the gifts scattered on the lounge floor needing to be assigned and wrapped to deliver the next day (except that everything needs to be unwrapped and we are not really giving anything away!) In fact, as we are realising, the night before the Spring Opening is the equivalent of Christmas for the small gallery owner. We think about it and work up to it over many months, then, before you know it, it's here!
Over the winter there were many enjoyable visits to studios to see works in progress, meet new artists and generally catch up with everyone. Then there is a great buzz in the artistic and craft community in Cornwall in the Spring. Everyone brings out into the open what they have been quietly working on and galleries throw their doors open again and all of a sudden the car park fills up and the café is buzzing with visitors from near and far.
We thought we would show you a few before and after photos of our opening this month.
The opening also coincided with Corinne's birthday, so it was a double celebration. We were thrilled to catch up with many dear friends and artists and were particularly lucky to have the most glorious sunshine all afternoon!
The café and gallery are now open Monday to Saturday 11am to 5.30pm and you can find Corinne at her knitting machine as her studio is also housed inside. Looking forward to seeing you soon!
After 3 months of 'hibernation', the gallery will be reopened this Saturday April 2nd. It's been a productive winter, both in terms of designing and knitting in the studio here, and because of the time it has given us to find some wonderful new artists for the mixed show beginning in April. In this blog, we hope to introduce you to our artists with photos and discussions about their design inspiration and process. So, here goes: Blog #1!
CLAIRE ARMITAGE - TEXTILES DESIGNER-MAKER
We are particularly excited about having a collection of silk scarves by the incredibly talented designer Claire Armitage. Claire has worked as a freelance costume designer for almost a decade, collaborating with filmmakers, dancers, photographers, sculptors, choreographers, musicians and artistic directors. Her vibrant designs have toured stages internationally. Claire also makes bespoke dresses for those who want something beautifully hand-made and very different. In addition, she is a part-time lecturer at University College Falmouth where she teaches courses in textile repeat print, pattern cutting, fashion illustration and embroidery among others. We had a chat with this busy creative over a cup of tea in her new studio space in the stunning gardens of the Trewidden Estate, tucked away behind Newlyn.
How does the design process work?
Claire explains, 'I start with loads of drawings to scale in my sketchbook, most of them of and around Cornwall. Then I scan them and combine them with other drawings to fit the size and shape of the piece I'm working on. I like to mix digital printing with screen printing I've done by hand, which gives the work a more intimate, hand-made quality.' Indeed, her scarves feature frayed raw edges, hand embroidery and hand stitching - a particular interest that goes back to her studies of the historic dresses at the Helston Museum. She recently worked on the 'History Dress' project there - a collection of dresses that was exhibited to great acclaim tying together history, stories and narratives from the past with the present day.
Read more about Claire's History Dress project in her blog here.
Claire at work in her studio at Trewidden House, Newlyn
Claire has just finished what she calls the 'Salt Dress' collection which is being exhibited in a shipping container on the grounds of The Eden Project as part of Cornwall Design Season until April 25th. Many of her scarves feature prints developed during the course of the project. 'My design story for the Salt Dresses starts with the Tate St Ives. It is based on the architectural features of the Tate building contrasted with the village streets that surround it, all higgledy-piggledy, leading down to the cliffs jutting into the sea. Obviously the 'salt' comes from the sea which is a focal point for everything in Cornwall.' Isn't it strange that a dress collection featuring scenes from St Ives is being exhibited in a container at Eden? 'The idea behind the project is finding design in unlikely places and linking different cultural centres together.'
You can read more about Claire's Salt Dress Exhibition at The Eden Project by clicking here.
Silk scarves in progress...
The scarves that Claire will be exhibiting in the gallery will draw on the wonderfully illustrative prints from both the History Dress and the Salt Dress collections. Claire uses mainly Habatoi silk for her scarves, mixed in with satin chiffon that is used for layering and borders. We can't wait to get these wonderfully evocative designs on display. It will be the first time Claire's scarves will be available to the public and we are sure you will admire them as much as we do!