Jewel of Donetsk

Last week I paid another visit to Donetsk, a city in Eastern Ukraine where I’ve been regularly working as a teacher over the past few months.glass03

In November, I came across the most breathtakingly beautiful thing I’ve seen in the city so far – even more so because it was completely unexpected. While on a hunt for Ukrainian linen, I ended up in the central market, ЦУМ. A large neoclassical block of a building, ЦУМ is fairly impressive from the outside, if a little dull. There’s certainly no hint of dazzling creativity from its grey exterior.

Inside, it looks pretty much like any other department store in Europe, but at the more rundown end of the scale. Wires trail, there’s a distinct lack of heating and it seems that the decorators never quite finished after the fire that gutted the building in the 1980s.

To reach the fabric stalls on the top floor, I head for the stairs, weaving through a maze of glass-topped jewelry counters and glassy-eyed security guards to the back of the building. I push open an unassuming little door – and stop dead in my tracks. The bare walls of the stairwell are lit by the brilliant colours of one enormous stained glass window that spans the three floors of the building. It’s hard to do it justice in photos, but that’s what I tried to do with these, taken a few days later, when I returned, armed with a camera.glass09glass05glass04I know little about the window, except that it was made in the 1960s when the original 1937 building was rebuilt (having been nearly completely destroyed during the Second World War).

The window seems to flow up through the building, with its central composition of near-life-size figures set against a swirling, semi-abstract background. In typical Soviet style, it depicts the ideals of culture and industry: elegant dancers wearing traditional costume, scientists gazing nobly into test tubes, farm workers proffering baskets of fruit, and broad-shouldered figures at work in the mines and steelworks that Donetsk was originally built on (the name of the city’s football team Shakhtar means ‘miner’, the equivalent of Northampton ‘cobblers’ or Arsenal ‘gunners’).

glass03The whole enormous composition is full brilliant bits of detail. Pieces of glass have been cleverly cut and arranged to depict the shadow of a jacket lapel, smoke rising from factory chimneys and the light cast by a miner’s torch. Even in areas of the background where only one or two colours have been used, the orientation of triangular-shaped pieces suggest the outline of the distant, mountainous slag heaps on the outskirts of the city.

glass12The colour scheme reflects the blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag, itself supposed to be based on the broad sky and fields of the country’s landscape. The designer has used it to great effect to contrast blue-shadowed workers against the flames of the forge roasting their backs.

Of course, this also reflects the temperature of Donetsk, ranging from 30 in August to  -30 degrees in January. In these pictures, a cloudy and dull -20 degrees day lights the window; I look forward to seeing how the warmer rays of summer will illuminate it.

glass08On a final note, there are plans to redevelop the building, but, according to a recent article, the new owners are planning to keep the windows. I’ll certainly be keeping a watchful eye on proceedings.

Thursday’s paradigm knit

Having been a bit lax about posting lately, I’ve given myself a pinch this week. I started this blog and want to continue it because  a) I want to post things that I think others would find interesting/ inspiring/ helpful and give something back to the huge online pool of amazing talent and work that I dip into so much, b) I have a poor memory and need an easily accessible archive full of images to remind myself what I’ve been doing and making and c) my self-motivation varies hugely from obsessive and hyper about getting something done to chewing nails and staring into space – I wanted a long-term project that would keep both it and me going. However, being in that uninspired, flat state of mind makes it difficult to write or photograph or DO anything.

So.. the point of this particular post is to have a regular feature that I have to post every week because ..otherwise that bomb on the bus*/ milk float** will go BOOM!! and Bruce Willis*/ Father Ted** won’t be around to help this time.

Anyway.

Every Thursday I’ll post a new design with a little bit about its source of inspiration. The design might be taken directly from a historical piece of knitting, adapted from another medium e.g. ceramics or emerge from the jelly-like substance of the sea on the surface of the planet Solaris.

Here, like this:

Oak leaf design

leafsample

A new knitting pattern, taken from a piece of embroidery in Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire. The yarn is Jamiesons of Shetland spindrift in ‘moss’ and ‘scotch broom’.

Detail of a framed cushion cover of crimson silk worked in long-armed, cross or tent-stiches with various types of oak leaves. From the Paved Room, Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire.

leafdesign

*popular culture reference for the general readership

**popular culture reference for Aunty Penny

Square Dance

Remember that commission I mentioned aaages ago? Well, I finished, wrapped and waved it off in April.

Now, two months on, having allowed any suspense I may have hoped to build up to whither and die (sigh), here’s a post to tell you (and remind me) what it was exactly that I made.

Ready?

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Ta da!

blanket1blanket

An excellent friend commissioned this blanket for her friend’s first baby. We settled on bamboo wool in cream, yellow and grey, and simple squares in garter stitch so it would be the same on both sides. Before sewing it together I photographed different patterns to help decide the layout, and ended up making this stop motion animation film in the process.