Thursday, 26 July 2007


Shirley-Ann Dixon makes a range of hand crafted woven and knitted fashion artefacts made using high quality natural yarns. Each piece is constructed on either an antique 1898 Counterbalance floor loom or a domestic knitting machine. The creative philosophy that drives her work is to maintain consistent originality and innovation through the exploration of traditional weave or knit constructions. She tries to do this with honesty and truth to the materials used, culminating in contemporary pieces with textural surfaces that have a visual, sensual and ethereal aesthetic.

Money spent on a bar of Green & Blacks organic chocolate is never wasted because we should all spoil ourselves - at least once a week!

One favourite living craft maker - ?Reiko Sudo, the director and designer for the NUNO Corporation – a textile company based in Tokyo. I discovered her work when studying for my degrees in textiles and have been inspired by Japanese weavers ever since. I still follow the progression of her work. She creates beautiful fabrics for the modern world using the latest technologies but still with a very great reverence for craft traditions. Her last major exhibition was in 2005: 2121 The Textile Vision of Reiko Sudo and Nuno.

One favourite historical artist - I have many, Van Gogh for his colourful textural works but it would have to be Joseph Mallord William Turner because his atmospheric compositions look as though they were created with nothing more than wisps of coloured smoke.

When and where did you first want to do what you do? - As a child listening to the story of Rumplestiltskin . I was fascinated by the concept of spinning straw into gold. I later came to realise that weaving or knitting with the type of yarns I use (filament silks/fine wool crêpes) have a similar alchemy applied to them. I start with a single (often white) yarn, then that yarn goes through various processes (dyeing, weaving etc) until finally it is transformed into something completely unrecognisable from its original state. I marvel at it every time!

At age 15 who influenced your style? Was there any individual who very much helped you on your way? - That person would have to be my family’s oldest friend and godmother to one of my sisters - Ella Johnson. She took me to the Tate (now Tate Britain) during the holidays. It was my first encounter with the Pre-Raphaelites movement. The intensity of colours they used and the painstaking methods adopted to truthfully recapture nature within their paintings influenced me and is still an important part of my working ethic. I still love Arthurian legends, which was the narrative of a lot of their compositions.

Last best read ? - Raymond E. Feist’s “Magician” the classic fantasy epic which has enchanted readers for over 20 years and was voted one of the Nation’s top 100 reads.

How do you set about starting a new project? - I go to Kew Gardens or some other natural environment with my sketchbook and camera to capture what Mother Nature is up to at that particular period in time. I record colours, textures and emotional responses to what I see happening around me and use my research to find a suitable theme from which to begin exploring ideas.

What do you have on your pinboard? - A sprig of dried flowers (pale blue). A horse chestnut leaf that I found while out walking that is decayed and full of holes. Hand woven and knitted fabric samples that reflect the qualities of the former. A photo (close up) - a knitted raffia basket that has unravelled. A photo - box of various types of mushrooms. A V&A postcard - a pleated paper outfit by Hussein Chalayan (1995). Samples of hand woven fabrics that I have pleated. A pen and ink sketch of a leaf from my sketchbook. Yarn wrappings of selected colour ways.

Where and what is your studio? - I have a studio at Cockpit Arts. I am very fortunate to have single occupancy now – I was sharing when I first came to Cockpit. I work alone but the other Designer-makers here are very friendly and we often pop into each others studios for a chat, lunch or coffee. I tend to have Classic FM going most of the time but also like to listen to audio books while threading the loom. It’s a great way to catch up with all those books you never got round to reading.

What one word would describe your feeling of doing your work? - Gratitude. I’m so fortunate to be able to do what I do.

Would you rather be doing something else? - No, never. It’s not always easy-going but this is all I’ve ever wanted to do.

If you could exhibit in any gallery which would it be? - I’d love the V&A Museum to purchase one of my pieces for their textile collection/archives as a way of giving something to future generations.

1 comment:

Tisserande said...

You have some lovely, fine weaving!