Q & A with Dan Chilcott
In October 2013, the Campaign for Wool had the pleasure of meeting Dan Chilcott as part of Wool Week 2013. Dan featured prominently in our Wool Week activities as part of our brilliant team of yarn bombers and live knitters that transformed the John Lewis Oxford Street store from a blank white canvas, to a vibrant woolly paradise. Following his busy few months since Wool Week, we caught up with Dan to see how his 2014 is shaping out to be.
Dan is currently based at Resort Studios in Margate with a collective of other artists.
1, Tell us a little about why you choose wool over other fibres?
It’s natural – sustainable and good for the environment; it has a history – economic, social, cultural; and it’s got character – if you did enough research you could probably go for a walk in your jumper and share a carrot with the sheep it came from. Do sheep like carrots?
2, What was your favourite moment from your Wool Week experience?
I had two: an italian lady who came past the window every day and told me through the glass that I was a clever boy. I loved the look of joy and surprise on people’s faces as they went by – lots of thumbs up, big grins & photos taken.
3, How do you source your wool?
I get some projects sponsored, but in an ideal world I like working with small-scale British producers & natural-died yarns. My dream is to find really bright garish colours that are all natural…
4, What does the Campaign for Wool mean to you?
I think it’s a really good way of raising the profile of a material that can be overlooked. People are surprised by it’s versatility – all the different products and the way it can feel industrial or very refined. I think it’s also important to raising awareness of the local economic importance of the material.
5, What does the SS14 season hold for you?
I’m knitting signage for Wilderness Festival and will be running a knitting table there and at Secret Garden Party in the summer. I’m at the knitting and stitching show in March at Olympia in London collaborating on an installation titled “The most magnificent cultural construction that has ever been imagined” which it will be of course, because it will be wooly and knitted.
6, At what age did you first start knitting/crocheting?
I grew up in a wool shop but I really learnt properly when I was at college – I did Textiles at Central Saint Martins and I remember a group of girls & me sat round a big table learning to hand-knit. We were silent for quite a while, concentrating on different stitches, and then someone said “Did anyone see Eastenders last night?” and I thought – yes the stereotypes are true!
7, Technologies to further the potential of wool are advancing all the time, i.e. wool velvet, how do you think this will affect the wool and clothing industries?
I’m a basic kind of guy! Give me a couple of sticks and a few balls of something bright and I’m a happy man. But I love the idea of wool becoming an everyday material again, like it was in the middle ages when it was one of the things that made Britain a rich nation. I think anywhere where the economy is built on a connection to the land, natural products and good craftsmanship probably has a healthier outlook on life & humanity’s balance and interconnectedness with nature.
8, How does using woollen cloths differ to other man-made materials?
It feels different. When people start knitting, even just trying it out, and they use acrylic and they use wool, they have this realisation that there is a difference – something a bit intangible, in the quality and the feel, the way it breaths or holds warmth better. Wool is more tactile and there’s more variety to it.
9, What is your favourite woollen item of clothing and why?
Am i allowed two? They’re both jumpers that belonged to my parents – my dad’s old Gurnsey which needs darning, and a light blue & grey fair-isle that my mum wore in the 80s. They’re garments that were hand-made, with traditional patterns & wools, work-wear, unisex and comfortable. They look as relevant now as they did when they were made, and they would be recognisable to people a century ago. I guess it’s that mixture of practicality, rootedness and romance that I like. They’re comfy and I feel at home in them.
Top L Image credit Alessio D’Addario