Welcome Shawl Pin Shawl MKAL-ers & Knit Eco Chic readers, alike. Today’s first Shawl Pin Shawl MKAL interview is with artist and shawl pin designer Bonnie Bishoff.
1. From your background in the Fine Arts, what inspired you to apply your colorful polymers and metalwork mediums into knitting accessories?
I have the blessing of having married a wonderful artistic partner Mark Syron, and have the additional gift of having his mother, Barbara Jones as a muse in the fiber world and a support of all endeavors handmade.
I started knitting when I was very young- shown by my grandmother, who was an avid knitter. It didn’t stick ’til I picked up the needles again at 18 and started with a pair of Fair Isle leg warmers. (Never one for the easy button!) Later I discovered Kaffe Fassett’s Designs and exploration of color thru Barbara. She is a fiber artist, taylor, weaver, felter, knitter, and owned a yarn shop in Rushsylvania, OH for many years. She supplied me with all the colors I could handle for complex colorwork of the Kaffe Fassett style knitting. She also was very supportive of our pursuit of studio furniture for many years. Our work focused on the use of polymer clay as a decorative veneer for anything from credenzas to tables to lights.
She was making interesting line of woven jackets and looking for a simple decorative closure and asked if I could make her a shawl pin. I took the project on with great interest in doing it well and quickly saw that metalwork was needed. Coming from a discipline of mixed media and working with polymer and wood together – knowing the limitations of polymer and the amazing cooperative nature of the medium. Wanting to do it well, I pursued more metalworking skills and came up with some simple designs that would function well.
After years of showing our work at high end craft shows like the Philadephia Museum of Art Craft Show and the Baltimore Craft Show I wanted a beautiful, well made product. Well, the pins were so popular that they sold the jackets for Barbara and we saw what a niche this was in the fiber and jewelry world so we ( Mark and I ) decided to pursue a small wholesale business of designing and selling shawl pins.
2. I see two strong themes in your shawl pins – abstract and nature. Where do you find your inspiration and how do you convert inspiration into a finished piece?
There is a strong flow back and forth between the shawl pin designs and our one of a kind work which is now jewelry and sculpture and wall art. I have always looked to the line and patterns found in the natural world as a source for design.
My biggest love as a kid was to draw animals from National Wildlife and to paint with my watercolors outdoors. I also love historical geology, skeletal systems and fractal geometry. And yes I taught middle school science for 6 years. The way polymer clay designs are built in cross section lends itself to exploration of these types of patterns. Over the years pattern, color, and permutation have become my obsession as I explore polymer as a medium. I love the meditation of representational drawing but have become more and more excited by the challenge of color play and pattern as it relates to wearable art.
3. I love the whimsical and feminine wave motion to many of your shawl pins – “ring ring” shawl pin, stick pins, and your color sticks. How did you come up with this unique idea? I’ve noticed it holds the knitted fabric in a much different way than straight pins. Was it art following function or a function following art?
I love the swing of a line, current in the river, flow of air around an object so that patterning does show up a lot in our work. However in the case of the sticks for the shawl pins the wavy shape is more straight up engineering. I saw it used in bobby pins and hair sticks and after some noodling around saw that it made a difference in the function of a shawl pin.
Of course once it was established that this form worked well then I have tried to design pins that flow in and out of that form so it is not an awkward feature of the pins. So each of one of the stick pin designs feels like that swishing line relates to the image or form on the top of the pin. I have tried to avoid the “lollipop” feeling of any old object stuck on of pin.
4. Do you employ any eco initiatives in your creation or business in addition to the lead-free pewter?
First – the metal bezels are our designs that are cast in Rhode Island – so they do not travel far to get to me or to you. And while polymer is a plastic it produces very little waste. I use all the scrap clay for under layers in larger one of a kind works or art. We have a very small footprint- my husband and I in our studio at home in Maine. I believe living at a reasonable scale is the most basic step to lessening our footprint on earth.
5. Puddles species to species question. Do you have a furry friend who works with you? And if so, what role does he play in your creative process?
We do have a very old dog – Idaho , who has been our loyal studio companion for 16 years. It has been her job to make us get outside even on the dreariest of days.
I hope you enjoyed learning about Bonnie and her creative process as much as I have! You can find Bonnie around the world wide web at the following places:
Bonnie Bishoff Shawl Pins website: http://www.bonniebishoffshawlpins.com/
Bonnie Bishoff Shawl Pins on Facebook
Bonnie Bishoff on Pinterest
Bonnie Bishoff Shawl Pins on Twitter
Yarn shops that carry Bonnie’s creations: http://www.bonniebishoffshawlpins.com/purchasing/
Shawl Pin Shawl MKAL-ers, Bonnie is the generous donor of a “bee” shawl pin prize!