Artist's Statement: Becky Dodman on psychedelic contemporary knitting and the 90s dance and rave scene

| 25 January 2016

Becky Dodman’s year-long project, Metamorphosis, explores experimental themes of transformation and culture through psychedelic contemporary knitwear

A photo of colourful balls of knitwear
© Dom Moore
“The original concept came about because I’m interested in the transition from the old to the new. Knitting is a traditional practice that can be very versatile and contemporary if you approach it in new ways, but also very isolating. By working in collaboration with [photographer] Dom Moore it meant that I had somebody to bounce ideas off and share in the creative process.

Some of my most formative experiences happened during the 1990s dance and rave scene. There was something pagan and ritualistic about the best of that era and I wanted to create knitwear that could reflect that British neo-paganism in a way that responded to Charles Fréger’s Wilder Mann collection, photographing ritualistic ceremonies across Europe.

A photo of colourful balls of knitwear
© Dom Moore
Raves were our new myths and traditions. I wanted to capture them in a psychedelic, celebratory way.

In terms of the materials, the kaftans were created using a 1960s double-bed knit machine that was donated to me. It allowed me to create circular knitting, using partial stuffed sock techniques to make quilted structures.

A photo of colourful balls of knitwear
© Dom Moore
End-of-the-line yarn was sourced from Fairfield Yarns in Manchester and I didn’t buy anything new. Having a sustainable element to my fashion practice is important so whenever I’m not using pure wool I always try to seek out materials that have been previously loved.

I knew how strikingly I could transform the body silhouette through big, quilted pieces.

A photo of colourful balls of knitwear
© Dom Moore
Masks and mask structure contribute to that, allowing you to morph into another being. Masks give the wearer an additional freedom, they’re very liberating.

Reading Kafka confirmed the theme of insects to me. In his Metamorphosis, it’s left to the reader to interpret whether Gregor Samsa has actually transformed into this creature – or was it more that as society changed he became culturally irrelevant and was left behind?

A photo of colourful balls of knitwear
© Dom Moore
Knitting is a process that is often associated with older generations and we have a responsibility to infuse it with new energy and ensure that it remains relevant, so that knitting isn’t lost to time.

Arts Council funding for the project allowed me to experiment in our FabLab and use 3D printing and laser-cutting to create the surface embellishments for the insectoid masks. I knew from the day that I first watched a demonstration in there that I wanted to learn these new techniques, which is really what drove me to apply for funding. There was no way I’d have been able to do it justice in my spare time.

A photo of colourful balls of knitwear
© Dom Moore
I wouldn’t be able to offer students the same experience if I didn’t maintain a creative practice outside of the college. Also my daughter is nine years old, and while she’s very supportive, I need to make sure that I’m home for her as well.

My studio is attached to my house, which makes a big difference.”

  • Metamorphosis is at Plymouth College of Art until February 1 2016. Dodman and Moore plan to take the Kaftans out onto the moors of Dartmoor for a primitive, tribal photoshoot over the summer.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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