A short walk along Lerwick’s Waterfront from J&S, through the old industrial docks where the trade in Shetland knitwear boomed in the late 1800s and early 1900s, brings you to Lerwick’s new ‘Cultural Quarter’. And a great walk it is in the beautiful and calm frosty weather Shetland has enjoyed this week.
This area now contains the nucleus of Shetland’s history and heritage in the Shetland Museum and Archives and a centre for Shetland Arts in the new creative industries complex Mareel. Coincidentally J&S products currently feature in both of these at the moment.
Firstly, Da Gaddery gallery in the Museum and Archives is currently showcasing the work of a number of Shetland artists and designers who recently graduated from art schools on mainland Scotland in the New Shetland Graduates exhibition. This not only allows them to display their degree show and recent work to people in Shetland but is intended to inspire a new generation of Shetlanders to pursue a fine art or design course.
Helen Whitham recently graduated from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in Dundee with a BDes (Hons) in Textile Design, specialising in knitted fabrics. She was sponsored in her degree with yarn from J&S, which she used exclusively or combined with other fibres in her garments.
Her inspiration comes from Shetland’s landscapes, history and culture; particularly its rich knitting heritage. These traditions come through in her work in a timeless beauty that is bold and strong in some pieces and light and delicate in others.
Superior craftsmanship and attention to detail are of utmost importance to her and this shines through in her work which is beautifully detailed and hand-crafted.
She hopes that her work ‘will become part of and further Shetland’s longstanding culture of knitting’ and by looking at her work displayed in Da Gaddery we are sure that she will.
Find out more about Helen Whitham and her current collection here.
We have worked closely with The Shetland Museum and Archives, along with the Shetland Amenity Trust , in a number of projects. These are aimed at keeping Shetland’s traditional knitwear alive through learning from our heritage. Through looking at traditional garments in the Museum’s collection we have developed our Shetland Supreme Lace and Shetland Heritage ranges of yarns. These replicate the beautifully soft lace and ‘wirsit’ that was hand-spun and dyed then knitted into our world-famous knitwear in Shetland in the past.
As with the public art that was incorporated into The Museum when it was built, Shetland Arts encompass all types of art forms in Mareel as well as in their wider work. Their current Ignition project focusses on Islanders’ relationship to the car. In their words it is intended to ‘explore our bittersweet relationship with the automobile – how it shapes us, defines us, supports us, frees us, challenges our attitudes towards our dwindling resources and, sometimes, kills us.’ They will carry this out using a range of creative methods, including knitting; Shetland’s most famous artform.
Shetland Arts recently completed a car cover using our Aran Weight yarn that is displayed outside Mareel’s main entrance. This highlights the Ignition project to all visitors of Mareel and provides a focal point to stimulate conversation about it. It was knitted in sections by various knitters over the past few months then stitched together, giving a patchwork effect which is striking.
J&S are delighted to have been able to contribute to the development of art and design in Shetland. We have worked with a number of organisations and individuals over the years to ensure Shetland’s art remains innovative and exceptional and we look forward to continuing this. This is particularly true of the humble yet extremely talented Shetland knitters who have allowed Shetland Knitwear to reach the high level of renown that it has today.