I used colour and string in many of the carvings of this time [in St Ives]. The colour in the concavities plunged me into the depth of water, caves, or shadows deeper than the carved concavities themselves. The strings were the tension I felt between myself and the sea, the wind or the hills.
Like many visitors to St Ives, I’m an admirer of the work of artist and sculptor Barbara Hepworth, a hugely important figure in 20th century art and particularly the Modernist movement.
Born in Yorkshire, she was influenced by the landscape of the moors there and attended Leeds School of Art, but the outbreak of World War II brought her to St Ives with her children. Here she worked more in wood than the stone she favoured earlier in her career and developed a style which explored the interiors of round or pointed oval shapes, often using strings and coloured paint (see above) and commenting on how working with organic, living material presented different challenges for her as a carver. Examples of work from this time often have a contrast of textures, with tool marks deliberately left in evidence on the interior, while the exterior is smooth, polished perfection.
St Ives is a town of contrasts. Porthmeor beach lies just a few minutes’ walk through the back streets from Barbara Hepworth’s home, studio and garden, now preserved as a museum. At one end of the beach is the stark white edifice of Tate St Ives, a temple-like structure full of the challenges and ideas of the Modernists who made the town their colony. At the other end old grey stone buildings- originally part of the fishing industry the town relied upon- seem to sit directly on the sand of the beach. Porthmeor Studios was originally built for the pilchard industry, then artists began using the net lofts for studios, then early in this century fisherman began using the cellars for storing and repairing gear again. And so it is with a tiny town on the edge of the ocean that used to bring in fish and now brings in artists and tourists. Like the relentless Atlantic waves rolling ceaselessly onto the beach, tradition and modernism, tough physical work and cerebral challenge, chocolate box prettiness and ancient, unchanging landscape tumble together in St Ives. For me, the intensity of the external experiences- light, sky, wind, waves on rocks, bustle of harbour, tumble of houses, clifftops curving away, calling of seabirds, taste of salt, ocean stretching away- sends me deeper into an internal space. This is a place where I go to work things out.
Porthmeor is a cowl to wear when walking and thinking. A Moebius loop, it can also be made flat, either narrower as a conventional scarf or with additional length for a wrap. It starts with a provisional cast on and then uses a combination of knit and purl stitches, worked from either a chart or written instructions, to create a pattern of oval shapes, contrasting in texture. At the same time a grid is formed and the spaces between the ovals form a pattern of their own. This is my nod to the exploration of form mentioned above.
I chose BaaRamEwe’s Dovestone Natural Aran for the Porthmeor sample, as using a natural, Yorkshire yarn seemed a fitting tribute to Hepworth’s roots. Knit on 4mm needles it produces enough density to be warm and springy but still has enough drape for the loop to be worn as a shrug and is so soft against the skin. I chose Shade 1- the lightest- as I think it works so well to show off the texture within the pattern.
Included in the pattern are instructions to help you to determine the best length for your loop, in order to suit your own height and build. If made to the correct dimensions, Porthmeor can be worn doubled around the neck as a thick and cosy scarf, tucked into the collar of your coat against the wind, as a single loop hanging down over your outer layers, equal amounts decoration and warmth or as a shrug over a fine knit or dress, using the twist of the Moebius to create asymmetric drape around the shoulders and perhaps accessorised with a brooch or shawl pin.