Billy Wool

Billy Wool

machine knitted wool

600 × 600 mm
Private Collection

This piece is a natural progression for me. For the past couple of years I have been working on a series of distorted body pieces.   These knitted “jumpers” have a sleeve instead of a neck, a spare torso projecting from the stomach, four shoulders with four sleeves and sealed cuffs for missing hands. The series culminates in two full bodies joined at the head. A piece which two people can enter but which otherwise lies or hangs like an empty skin.   My research has been around the human body, medicine, disability and disfigurement, the freak show, taxidermy, mummies, religious iconography and other “curiosities”. I find the medium of knitted textiles a powerful tool for expression and communication because of the cultural preconceptions surrounding the area. It is a “friendly” medium, which can be used to engage your audience with a subject, which might otherwise cause them to turn away.

In “Billy Wool” I tackle the head with features. A piece, which presents more technical challenges than any of my previous work. The whole piece is knitted on a domestic knitting machine with many of the stitches being moved around and worked by hand. The final piece is more of a skin than a balaclava. When it came off the machine and lay on the ironing board it resembled a mummified body. In particular Lindow Man, who has become known as “Pete Marsh”, hence its’ title, “Billy Wool”.

(Written statement for Ikons of Identity, a Craftspace touring exhibition 2001 – 2002)

07 June 2001