A wonderland of knitted creatures and characters is waiting to be discovered at The Customs House, as Tamzin Lewis learns
THE Materialistics. Despite what you might think, this is not an association for people lucky enough to be able to replace their sofa every year. It is a community-minded group of predominantly women who work collaboratively to produce incredible works of textile art.
Once Upon a Time is the latest Materialistics project leading to an impressive show at the Customs House in South Shields. It’s the fourth knitted exhibition since A Coat For A Boat in 2009 and follows on from Victorian Christmas and last year’s A Grand Tour.
This year’s creations are all inspired by the children’s stories or fairy tales which hold meaning for The Materialistics. So there is a magnificent triptych of The Gruffalo, a beautiful Jeremy Fisher, a heart-warming Snowman and an incredibly detailed wolf from Red Riding Hood.
The Customs House visual arts curator Esen Kaya has worked closely with The Materialistics on this exhibition since last February. She says: “We wanted to pick a subject matter which would be popular and which everyone could identify. Children’s stories seemed like a really good theme.
“Everyone jotted down their favourite stories which they had read as children or tales which they now read to their grandchildren.”
Chosen stories were a mix of the historical and contemporary, including Alice in Wonderland, Where the Wild Things Are, The Jungle Book, and Charlotte’s Web.
And since casting off a coat for coble Salma’s Dream, The Materialists have specialised in creating sculptural 3D work. The largest piece in this show is a life-size Gingerbread House for Hansel and Gretel.
“It is a challenge for the knitters,” Esen says. “But this is not twee knitting and the group have to think outside the box. They want to make their creations look like the real thing and knit in a sculptural way rather than in a very traditional sense.”