For Katerina Knight, and perhaps for many of us, the act of creation becomes a healing balm. As the artist expresses, it is a journey made of raw, intimate, and nourishing moments that allow for a deep and authentic connection with oneself.
What’s particularly enchanting about The Healing Lace is how it encompasses all these facets of self-discovery through simple yet meaningful materials, such as a single needle, thread, and three varieties of lavender cultivated on Katerina’s Worcestershire allotment. The result is a seemingly delicate textile object that conceals within itself the remarkable strength of the interconnected threads – a fusion of fragility and resilience.
Why The Healing Lace?
Katerina Knight: The Healing Lace was the penultimate work in my master’s collection. The collection consisted of a series of one-of-a-kind textile artifacts that I created using living materials I had homegrown or locally foraged. As the final work I made at the Royal College of Art, it felt incredibly heartfelt. After completing the piece and reflecting on the journey I had been on, a journey that was raw, intimate, and self-nourishing, it felt like all of this had been imbued into that one piece. Through my connection with nature and the threads, I formed a new, deeper, and authentic connection with myself. When I looked back at the version of myself when I first arrived at the RCA, I realized I was now leaving strengthened. The name The Healing Lace is quite simple, but there could be no other name for the piece. Through the slow, continual making process, I healed over time. However, I also learned that healing is a cyclical process. The need to ‘heal’ will likely present itself again later in life, but now I have found my own toolkit—the needle, the thread, the soil—as a remedy to carry with me always.
Whilst this may not be a traditional needle lace per se, I believe lace can be defined as anything created from a connected network of threads. I spent time working within a lace archive, and I have a deep appreciation for the hours lacemakers invest in producing such intricate cloths. The Healing Lace reimagines the traditions of this technique through my personal language.
‘The Healing Lace is a handmade needle lace made of three varieties of lavender, grown on Katerina’s allotment in Worcestershire.’ Could you tell us more about the three varieties of lavender and its harvesting process?
Katerina Knight: Lavender has always been a favorite plant of mine. Its strong, sensorial aroma can immediately transcend me to a space of calm and serenity. On my allotment in Worcestershire, I planted three kinds of lavender: two varieties of English lavender and a French lavender, each producing a unique shade of purple. I collected and harvested the lavender over two summers, in 2021 and 2022, even though I had no idea of its intended use at the time. I often collect and store materials, and their true purpose usually reveals itself later. When making the lace, I continued until I ran out of lavender seeds; it was as if I had the perfect amount.
Creating The Healing Lace required 250 hours of hand threading, which sounds like a meditative process. Can you walk us through the creation of this piece?
Katerina Knight: It was a deeply meditative process; I repeated the same rhythms with my hands over and over. It was quite hypnotic, really. The threads are so delicate, and the lavender seeds are so small that they demand my complete concentration, consuming my thoughts.
I won’t deny that this kind of slow and intricate work can be incredibly testing. It tests your patience. However, what I have learned is that the process of ‘healing,’ to truly heal, requires patience and a willingness to endure the process. That’s where true growth is formed. I believe we all must learn that acts of care, whether it’s caring for our textiles, our Earth, our bodies, or our minds, all take time.
What thoughts crossed your mind throughout the development of this piece?
Katerina Knight: Whilst making the piece, I opened my mind completely to where the threads would lead me. I had no idea how long what I was creating would last, as I was working with living materials I had never produced or tested before. So, I decided to free my mind from overthinking, learned to be present in the making process, enjoyed the rhythms it offered, and stayed connected to the textile in hand.
I don’t meticulously plan my works, sketch out exact measurements, or create illustrations. My works form intuitively, guided by the spirit of my materials. This way of working is imbued with curiosity.
The final object seems to be fragile. how do you personally perceive it or feel about it?
Katerina Knight: Although it may appear incredibly delicate, the structure of connected threads is remarkably strong. The openness of threads also speaks to the idea that when we allow ourselves to be open and bear our vulnerabilities to the world, we can truly grow.
I was interested in exploring the concept of conceptual clothing, which is a textile object that represents a garment but is not meant to be worn. I spent time researching at the Royal Opera House costume archive, and the idea of questioning our notions of how we handle and view ‘preserved objects’—objects that almost seem too delicate to touch—greatly inspired this piece.
Can you share the main references, such as books or authors, that influenced or inspired you before or during the creation of this series?
Katerina Knight: I am inspired by the teachings of environmental activist and Buddhist scholar Joanna Macy. In the Work That Reconnects, Macy writes, ‘As your heart breaks open, there will be room for the world to heal.’ There is a deep spiritual and meditative philosophy behind the piece.
I have eternal admiration for the work of female land artists Teresa Murak and Ana Mendieta, who explore the relationship between our bodies and the Earth and the connection that is formed through the embodied experience of creating art.
Interview with Katerina Knight by Rita Trindade | Images by Ruby Pluhar, Ilona Nicoll and Katerina Knight