“A comment by John Wells has often been quoted to sum up ‘St Ives’ art, which typically draws on nature and the artist’s emotions in equal measure: ‘If I paint what I see the result is deplorable. But how can one paint the warmth of the sun, the sound of the sea or the journey of a beetle across a rock or thoughts of one’s own whence and whither?’”
St Ives Artists: A Companion by Virginia Button
This hat design- Barnoon– is the first of a collection inspired by St Ives in Cornwall, something of a place of pilgrimage for me. It’s a place that continues to draw me back and inspire me, each time revealing a different aspect of itself, provoking a new way of seeing the world whenever I return.
I didn’t actually set foot in Cornwall until early adulthood, but my first visit took me way down to the North West of the county, to this little fishing community turned artists’ colony turned picture-perfect tourist town. After saving up from summer jobs, my cousin and I arrived one September on the impossibly cute little train that potters around Carbis Bay from St Erth to spend a week camping at a site on the cliff path to Zennor. Camping on cliffs made for a windswept week, but I was nevertheless entranced and I came back again and again, with companions and alone, in high summer season and blustery winter, for holidays, to mend a broken heart, to write and recently to take photos for this collection. Always the visitor, aching to return- this design is a love song to the place.
Often I’ve stayed in properties on or near Barnoon Terrace, and from here you can appreciate the fabled quality of light that has drawn so many artists to the town. I also love the way you can look down on the tumble of lichen-splashed rooftops that make up the Old Town, look across to the chapel on ‘The Island’ (actually a headland), catch glimpses of white crested waves rolling towards Porthmeor beach on one side and the gentler waters of the harbour on the other.
The sound of the sea is ever-present, and on giving in to its siren call you can disappear into cobbled alleyways that twist down from Barnoon between the tiniest of fisherman’s cottages (now mostly holiday lets), whose names and appearance seem to have come straight from the pages of a children’s storybook.
You might pop out by the starkly white and knowingly modern outpost of the Tate Gallery, or near to Alfred Wallis’ cottage and Norway Stores (the oldest shop in the town), or perhaps on the main shopping street, busy with tourists, Cornish pasties and gift boxes of fudge. When I visit, my first foray is usually straight through the old town and out the other side, around the headland to witness the waves exploding on the rocks, with the constant gulls above. I don’t think there’s any pain in my heart that this sight and sound couldn’t go some way to soothe.
Does this hat design go any way to express all this? I’m no artist, but I feel some affinity with the above-quoted John Wells here. In Barnoon I have drawn on what I learned from the inimitable Felicity Ford (both in her ‘Colours of Edinburgh’ workshop at EYF 2016 and her brilliant Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook), traditional stranded colourwork motifs and the spirit of some of the St Ives artists whose work I admire and which seems so perfectly tuned into the place where it was conceived. The colourwork is a semi-abstract representation of gulls, waves, rooftops and cottages and the palette created by sea, sky and that inspirational quality of light.
I used British yarns for this and all the designs in the collection. In later patterns you will see yarns with more of a close geographical connection to the town but for Barnoon I make no apologies for choosing Jamieson and Smith Jumper weight. I felt this was, in a way, the ultimate ‘artist’s palette’ needed for this stranded colourwork and made the shade selection using a combination of photographs, watercolour sketches and memories.
Barnoon hat pattern is available now through my Ravelry shop.