This autumn Niela will be involved with a series of workshops for young adults in Shetland, with the aim of designing a prototype inspired by the knitting traditions of Fair Isle. Knitting will provide inspiration, but the design outcome of the workshops need not be a garment, or a textile—the final idea could be for a building, or even a digital product.
As a starting point, the workshops will focus on a 1920s Fair Isle jumper from the collection of the V&A (the jumper originally belonged to General Sir Walter Kirke, Commander-in-Chief of the British Home Forces during WWII). In partnership with Mairi Maxwell of V&A Dundee, Shetland artist Amy Gear, and Shetland Arts, Niela and the participants will explore the circumstances that led to the creation of such distinctive patterns and textile construction. Shetland and Fair Isle are now world-famous for their knitting; global connections are of particular interest to Niela, in combination with how local communities can be enriched by design.
The idea of working with a group of young people is enormously inspiring to Niela, who believes them to be a great source of untapped design potential. She is excited to see how the members of the Shetland relay team will ‘pick up the baton’ from the crofters, spinners, dyers and knitters who shaped the traditions of Fair Isle knitting and, in doing so, created a design classic. Today’s young Shetlanders are undoubtedly capable of re-interpreting the craft and skill of previous generations, to create something new.
Between summer 2017 and spring 2018, teams in five other areas of Scotland will also respond to objects relating to their own local contexts: in Orkney the team will use a hundred year-old example of the Orkney chair as their inspiration. The Scottish Design Relay fits the theme of Visit Scotland’s 2018 ‘Year of Young People’, which sees a special year-long programme of cultural events.
The results of the relay will be on display (along with General Kirke’s jumper) at V&A Dundee, when it opens in 2018.
V&A launches the Scottish design relay (V&A, 11.07.17)
Join the Scottish Design Relay (Scotsman, 01.08.17)
Baton passed from past to present in Scottish Design Relay (BBC News, 12.07.17)