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Friday, 4 April 2014

INTERVIEW - Nikki Gabriel

Nikki Gabriel is a knitwear and textile designer with a passion for unusual construction and a deep love and appreciation of beautiful artisan objects. Her abiding love of the handcrafted sees her more as a curator of unique pieces - collecting these exquisitely beautiful items from makers and designers across the globe, and selling them in her shop, Gather. This emporium of making is situated in the New Zealand seaside town of Napier, in a 'shabby, art deco building', a backdrop against which her collection sits perfectly.

Nikki describes herself as having a 'gatherer's instinct' - something she attributes to a childhood spent in South Africa, gathering material from all around her to create and make.

1) Tell us a bit about yourself and the inspiration behind Gather.
Gather sprouted on the side of my studio as I had a couple of extra rooms in a new space that I had moved into. I have filled the shop with beautiful yarns including (MillaMia), natural dyes, books, handmade knitting needles including giant 35mm ones that you knit rugs with; and a range of objects from other designers such as the fluorescent macramé from Spoonful Design, the Helvetica cross stitch kits from Tamara Maynes, the doily bowls by Lightly, Textiles from Sophie Digard (Paris). I wanted to create this shop to be an inspiring and creative space, for knitters and non-knitters alike.
Inside Gather
2) You are well known for your "construction" patterns – how did you come to this style of design and do you have any new construction patterns planned?
The Construction Patterns began as a design project to engage a wider audience into knitting by making patterns that are simple to read with diagrams and basic knitting techniques to make shapes such as squares, rectangles and triangles. The patterns show how to make several garment combinations in stages by joining these shapes together, so the maker not only learns how to knit but also participates in garment construction through a logical and step-by-step design process. Projects are quick and creative, and accessible.

Construction pattern No.4

3) You have collated an amazing array of incredible designers, yarn and handmade pieces. How do you go about selecting who to stock?
I choose items that reflect a modernism to craft, rather than nostalgia. I don’t really do vintage in the shop. Knitting is not an old-fashioned hobby, it's actually very current. The knitting patterns and yarns I choose is a reflection of this. The made objects such as the ‘Lightly by CL Davies’ product in store; Davies is an industrial designer who has dubbed the term ‘nanna-technology’ where there is a cross-over of craft and industrial technique in her practice. Craft plays a very pivotal role in the design industry, and good design is crucial to the survival of the wool and knitting industry. For those who have missed the relevance of craft in everyday life, my shop is way of showing how it fits and can actually enhance everyday life.

Construction pattern No.4

4) What are you currently designing and or knitting?
I am working on a book-publishing contract with an international publisher (can’t say who), to extend the construction knitting pattern project and concept for a wider readership. This is a 2 year project, so a lot of knitting, experimenting and pattern design development for this book.
I am also completing a Masters of Design Degree at Auckland University investigating the role of craft in the knitting industry and how to translate the Construction Knitting Patterns into procedure for industrial knitting machines. There is a lot of design development for this research project.

5) Who are the up and coming knitwear designers on your radar?
The Issey Miyake studio, Walter Van Beirendonck, Sandra Backlund, as even though they are established designers, they're always pushing the boundaries of our perception of knitting. I exhibited alongside all these designers in 2010, and what was important about this exhibition is how the hand-craft of knitting plays a very important role in fashion, and the development of knitting technology. It’s valuable for the wider public to understand the craft of technology too, the materiality, how yarn is made, where it comes from, etc, and designers like this highlight this process.
Beautiful knitted homeware available at Gather

6) Tell us your most interesting/awkward/embarrassing knitting story?
Kirsten, my whole career is awkward; I’ve given up trying to explain what I do at dinner parties. For most people, knitting is still associated with their grandmothers and outside of economy, as their grandmothers were never paid to knit.

7) What is the one thing you think should NEVER be knitted?
Anything can be knitted.

 (posted by Kirsten)

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