Spending the afternoon at textile teacher/designer/maker David Pearce’s home is therapy for the soul.
I visit on an early spring afternoon and the light is soft and muted just like the beautiful blanket he is hand-knitting.
I’ve known David for 6 years now and I have always admired his gentle and considered manner - he never seems to rush anywhere or for anything. And this is the approach he takes with his textile work. In fact it can take him up to 15 hours to spin one 50 g ball of wool.
David is wearing an exquisite coat that he made from scratch - it took him 4 years to make but as far as he is concerned that is time well spent:
“Spinning and creating the yarn itself is a slow meditative process that I really enjoy. I like creating something with the intention of it having a full life rather than something that is disposable. Most of the work I do is fashion oriented - I create wearable garments. But I wouldn’t say I am a fashion designer because I often think that the detriment of the fashion industry is its disposability whereas I make clothing - something that I will potentially have for a lifetime. I also like repairing garments rather than just throwing them away. The slow processes are the ones that I really love like hand weaving and producing a length of fabric on the loom. This is a coat that I started off where I spun the yarn, wove the fabric and then cut and sewed it into a garment. Tailoring was another skill that I learnt along the way - which again is a slow process and one that I haven’t fully mastered yet but I am working on it.”
“It all started with my grandmother. When I was 18 my sister wanted to learn how to knit. So we went to my grandmothers and she tried to teach my sister how to knit but she didn’t get it. However I picked up the needles and just started knitting. My grandmother had taught me how to knit when I was eight years old and at the time I didn’t get very far but it was in my subconscious when I returned to it ten years later.
Because my sister didn’t really get the hang of it I became her personal knitter. So I made her a scarf or two and then moved onto gloves and beanies - things with really simple shaping and then went from there. Soon I was making entire garments.
I moved to Melbourne and applied for a textile design diploma at RMIT. There were particular things in the course that I had never tried before like weaving and tapestry that I loved. I was more drawn to the structural textiles rather than print, preferring to construct the fabric itself rather than decorating it. One of the main objectives of the course was to learn how to be more efficient and to use technology but I kind of went in the opposite direction particularly when it came to knitting. Machine knitting is completely different from hand-knitting. It is a much more industrial way of producing the fabric. You get a similar result from both approaches but hand knitting is relaxing whereas machine knitting can be very stressful - if you do something wrong it can take hours to fix and it just doesn’t have the same meditative quality. When I used the knitting machines I started straining my neck and did a lot of physical damage…so I suppose in my creative practice I have gone for a quality of life and process over production.”
David will be one of my studio mates at Popcraft Studio which we move into before the year is out. I ask him what he is looking forward to in the new space.
“The studio is exciting as it will allow me to explore my creative practice on a much deeper level. My bedroom space is quite limited as a making space and looms can be quite sad objects when they are sitting around unloved gathering dust! Once I have everything set up I’ll get so much inspiration and go off on tangents, discover new techniques and then who knows where that will lead me. I have many years of experience teaching and will definitely be passing on my extensive knowledge in the form of knitting and crotchet master classes. When teaching I love it when I capture someone’s imagination. There are a number of people who I have taught to knit or crochet and then I see them months or years later and find out that they kept going and have continued their learning. It is really great when you can inspire someone and set them off on a trajectory.”
Spending my studio days with David is something I look forward to...not only to be in his quiet company more often but also to glean a whole host of new skills for my textiles arsenal. And did I mention the part about getting to eat more of his homemade toasted banana bread?
Watch this space!
Extra note: Our studio collective is running a Pozible campaign to kickstart our textiles master classes, artist’s residencies and emerging textile artist programs. Go find out more and make a pledge if any of this tickles your fancy!