Meet the Maker, Made in Britain - Sarah Elwick

Monday, April 15, 2013
Hello, today's Meet the Maker is from textile artist Sarah Elwick, a self confessed colour and pattern addict... over to you Sarah..

Please can you introduce yourself and tell us a little about your work? 
Hello! *waves* I'm Sarah Elwick, and I design a range of luxury knitwear accessories, known for their eye-catching combinations of colour and graphic pattern. My accessories machine knitted from either 100% highest quality Scottish Lambswool, or finest Italian merino. It's not an overstatement to say am a colour and pattern addict! I am never happier than when translating my ideas into delicious new combinations of yarn and stitch combinations. I create my designs on amazing the Japanese digital knitting machines we have at Winchester School of Art, which allows me to produce beautiful fine gauge intricately patterned fabrics, that I would not be able to produce any other way. 

Apart from creating things what else do you do? 
I also teach part time on the Fashion Knitwear BA (hons) course at Winchester School of Art, where I studied myself before going to study for my MA in knitwear at the RCA. It's so great to be back teaching there now, working with and teaching up and coming knitwear designers. Hopefully giving them a good grounding in the technical and creative aspects of the subject. So my work life is 100% knit focussed which is great! 

When did you know you were an artist/maker? 
After graduating from my MA in knitwear I got a bit of a shock when I started working in industry, as after five years of studying knitwear design, a very practical and hands-on subject, I was surprised how far removed, and computer based my working life was. I really missed 'hands-on' making, creating and manipulating actual fabrics myself. So, after gaining a few years industry experience, at the end of 2009 I started my own business, primarily to get back to hands on making. I initially knitted everything myself on my domestic knitting machine at home, and through customer demand have gradually seen this expand to include utilising digital knitting technology. This allows me to produce finer, more highly patterned, luxurious knitted fabrics, than is possible on any other knitting machine, consequently allowing me to produce much higher end, and unique products. Last year, due to customer demand I sourced a small scale knitwear producer in the Shetlands to help me to reproduce my designs, which has been a very exciting step for my business! 

What do you love most about working in your chosen discipline? 
Working with colour, pattern & texture. This is an instinctive and intuitive urge for me. It's why I got into textiles over other disciplines I could have chosen on my Art Foundation course in 1998, and that love has stayed with me ever since. I love the feeling of that A-ha! moment when you've been sampling and testing different pattern and colour combinations, and suddenly something clicks into place, and you feel like you've hit on something that really speaks to you. I also love the fact that with knitwear, you have complete control over not only the colour and stitch structure, but also the shaping, so you can literally control the entire shape of the piece that you are making. 

Where does your inspiration come from? 
I get inspiration from all over the place, and am constantly taking photo's, but beautiful art & design books, exhibitions, and travelling are always good places to start. Since September last year I have got into the wonderful world of Instagram, and am still (a little too!) obsessed with it. It's such a wonderful visual log of your world, and a way of sharing this with other people. 

Describe your studio or workspace?
I work part time from Winchester School of Art on the digital knitting machines, and part time from home on my domestic knitting machine. I also put everything together by hand on my domestic linker. 

If you could peek inside the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman (dead or alive), who would it be? 
Ooh good question! Maybe William Morris? I love his work, & he's such a figurehead for excellent craftsmanship particularly in textiles, and it would have been great to see how he worked. 

How would you describe your creative process? 
I initially do quite broad research into pattern and colour that I'm inspired by. I then compose mood boards of particular 'looks' and colour combinations, to give me a starting point, and then start sampling stitch pattern and yarn combinations. This is the really fun bit, where you can test new ideas out, and hopefully come up with some ideas that you may not have originally thought of, through a trial and error process. I'm a big fan and advocate of the happy accident in the design process! I then hone and perfect these ideas into product ideas, as the finish of my pieces is hugely important to me, and want them to be finished to to highest standard possible. 

What handmade possession do you most cherish? 
A beautiful woven 'HOLD' wrap by my friend Holly Berry, a woven textiles designer. We did a scarf swap with each other last year when we did MADE LONDON, and we were both over the moon with it! 

What do you when you are stuck in a creative rut?
I have learnt the hard way over the years to make myself step away from it, rather than banging my head against a brick wall for hours trying to force things to work. I now let myself have a break and do something else. Maybe swimming, going for a walk, tidying my workspace, baking a cake, etc... and let my subconscious mull it over for a while - when I come back to it later it's usually a whole lot easier, and less painful experience than it was in the block. I also read a brilliant book last year called '12 Rules of Creativity' by Michael Atavar, which I would highly recommend for anyone experiencing a creative block. 

Where would you like to be in ten years? 
I would like to be happy and healthy, & doing what I love. I would like my business to have built up to a point where I can do that full time. To be in the position to employ a few brilliant people to work with me, and support me in my business, taking it from strength to strength.

Thank you Sarah - your blankets will brighten any home.  Sarah's work can be found in our Made in Britain shop until June 2013.

Made in Britain is open
Mon - Fri: 10am - 6pm
Sun: 11am - 5pm
Quakers Friars, Cabot Circus, Bristol

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