Mollie Makes meets: Kate Jenkins


Kate Jenkins is a crafter extraordinaire. Not only does she create incredible crocheted pieces of art, she also runs her own knitwear label, Cardigan. We decided to pay this Brighton-based gal a visit to find out more…

When did you first start crocheting and how did you learn?
I was shown how to knit and crochet by my Nan and my Mother when I was about 14 or 15. I did try to get into hand-knitting for a long time, but found crochet the easier of the two.

Why did you opt for yarn as a medium for your art? What is it about the material that offers you such creative freedom?
It never ceases to amaze me that you can create anything out of a piece of string – whether it’s in the form of a garment hanging on a rail in a shop, or a piece of framed artwork hanging on the wall in an art gallery. I think because I’ve used the same medium in my work for so many years, it’s just become second nature to visualise things in 3D using yarn.

Who or what inspires you?
My family first and foremost, and my amazingly funny friends.

What blogs, books or magazines are key creative resources for you?
I tend not to read many blogs as it distracts me from my work, but a few I enjoy are Amelia’s Magazine, Make and Do with Perri and Lost at E Minor. I’m always buying various books and usually they are nothing related to fashion or art.
My most recent purchase was a pile of Seventies cooking magazines from a Brighton boot market. I recently visited New York and LA for a research trip and ended up coming back with a bag full of takeaway menus, so really my inspiration comes from everywhere. Very often it is usually something that makes me smile; this could be a conversation I’ve had with someone, or a random thought that pops into my head.

What’s a typical day like for you?
No day is the same for me really. Sometimes I’m crocheting all day, depending on what show I’m working on. Other days it could be an art commission for someone, or perhaps a design project that is fashion related. I’m usually in working from 8.30 until 6pm, but sometimes it’s much later.

Where do you work? Do you have a home or shared studio space?
I work in my studio, which is in a beautiful mews in Kemptown, Brighton. I have a large studio full of yarn, knitting machines, books etc and have worked there for roughly nine years. I also have a small shop that’s next door to the studio, which is open from 10.30 until 6pm, Monday to Friday.

How long do your projects take on average?
It really depends on the piece of work that I am creating, so it’s difficult to say. Sometimes things take a few days; others, a few weeks.

What’s the most challenging piece you’ve undertaken?
I was asked to create a self-portrait of myself in the style of the 16th Century Italian painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo. My face consisted of life-sized insects, amphibians, fauna and flora all executed in crocheted lambswool and sequins.

Please tell us a little about your workflow and how you design and tackle a project
I have a very addictive attitude when it comes to my work. So once I get an idea I concentrate on that until it is completed. I generally work best when under lots of pressure.

How do you balance the production of your clothing and accessories with your art projects?
As all the products for Cardigan are made in wool it has become a seasonal collection. I usually work on the Cardigan label during the autumn and winter months. I used to work on the art during the spring and summer months, but due to the response and interest it creates, this is now all year round.

What advice would you offer to a creative individual who’s keen to set up their own business?
Work hard and be original.

You’ve currently got an exhibition on, please tell us about this
It’s called Stitched Fish and is being held at the Field and Fork restaurant in Pallant House Gallery in Chichester, which is running from 23 June until 7 October. As the title suggests, it includes a series of fish dishes, ranging from sushi, seafood canapes, fish and chips and so on.

What’s next for you and Cardigan?
I’m currently working on my first solo show in New York in December 2012 at the Rebecca Hossack Gallery on Mott Street. The show is entitled Kate’s Diner and is an exhibition full of crocheted American food.

All images © Kate Jenkins