Skip to main content
Textiles (MA)

Emily Shires

Emily is a knit artist. Utilising primarily dead stock and second-hand yarns, she bring a new lease of life into yarns which were discarded. Her focus has been on responsible manufacture of this collection of temporary interior knitted sculptures. The collection which explores the shared characteristics between unconventional form and technical failure. If a knit sculpture was designed to look like that, is it a failure?

She also explores the imaginary, impossible and the temporary. By taking her work down and re arranging everyday throughout the textiles festival to experiment with different forms she creates work which just exists only in photos giving the work a dreamlike quality. 

Degree Details

School of DesignTextiles (MA)RCA2023 at Battersea and Kensington

RCA Kensington, Darwin Building, Seventh floor

A woman stands in front of a table which has flat, square knittin on it. There is a cone of bright orange yarn in the foreground

Recently emerging from a Textile Design BA at Norwich University of the Arts Emily previously worked with a keen interest in mixed media. Her more recent textile explorations have been into knitting which has provided stunning visuals with a background of unique story telling. During Emily’s time at the Royal College of Art she has focussed on knitting, primarily using dead stock yarn to explore the relationship between pictorial representation and abstract form. Perspective, unconscious validation and the idea of ‘The Temporary’ are the three main themes of her work. Working through the idea that each form is a temporary expression of the subject and therefore expressing that everything state in life is simply temporary.

She pictures the work below in an artistic interior setting. The use of dead stock and second hand yarns has always been important to her as she feels it is the more responsible choice. Her stuffed work, which explores unconventional form is filled with waste knitting and yarn. This allows for its three dimensional shape and unexpected stuffing 'leaks'. The use of dead stock yarns also allow for exploration into the makeup of the yarn as the yarns frequently aren't labelled, leaving Emily to draw out the exact content.

Knitted Sculpture and The Temporary

This sequence of sculptural form knitting images represents the idea of the temporary. Embodying the short, sharp structure of my process and proving that ultimately these forms live in these images alone and cannot be recreated.

Short videos helped me to bring the narrative and dreamlike quality to the project. Almost humanising the sculptural forms. Emily gave them nicknames throughout the project, such as 'Travelling Man' and ‘Knitted Man'.

Some colourful knitting is suspended to look like an old mad walking with increasingly heavy bags on his back.
Knitted Man
A pink, blue, orange and red knitted sculpture is suspended from the ceiling in the shape of a man carrying lots of bags.
Travelling Man
Some knitted coils hang next to a disintegrating knitted pillow. The waste stuffing spills out of the pillow.
The knitted coils are suspended almost on top of the knitted pillow.
Travelling Man Alive
The knitted coils are suspended almost on top of the knitted pillow. They now have some flatter knitting draped on them.
Closer II
Knitted Man Alive

Perception and Pictorial Language

These clean images define the almost ‘collage like’ section of this project. Allowing the viewer a more accessible take on what knitting is. This part of the project provides a healthy and realistic way into understanding what knitting as an art form is. Emily places a huge importance on including those who have never experienced textile art as her target audience. This is where the idea of perception emerges, those who know textiles and knitting may see it one way and those who have never been exposed to textile art will see it another, almost anew.

Two knitted coils hang on knitted ropes. They hang in front of two knitted wall hangings of abstract drawings.
Knitted coils hang on knitted ropes. They are joined by knitted ropes and a flatter piece of knitting surrounds them.
Two knitted coils hang on knitted ropes. They hang in front of two knitted wall hangings. The image is a closer crop than before
Three knitted wall hangings varying in size are suspended from the ceiling. A knitted coil on a knitted rope hang in front.
Five knitted coils hang on knitted ropes in front of a large red, pink and brown wall hanging.
Line up

Knitting the non existent

To further her exploration into unconventional form she wanted to understand how her pieces could be transformed and translated into the digital realm. This contributed to her theme of ‘the temporary’ by expressing the pieces in drawings that only exist in a visual/virtual space which ultimately is temporary. Learning the CAD software allowed her to realise knit designs that may only exist in the digital realm.

Some knitted coils are shown with a digital iteration of them to the right. There is an interpretation of the CAD drawing.
Some flatter knitted samples are shown on the left. There are some flatter CAD drawings next to the samples.
There are some flat knitted samples draped in a triangle formation. There is a corresponding CAD drawing and knitted iteration.
A CAD rendered drawing with a knitted iteration underneath.