About Marie Bruhat
I was born and brought up in the beauty of rural Auvergne in France.
In 2015, I was granted an internship with Mati Ventrillon on Fair Isle whilst in my final year, studying for my degree in Textiles at l’ École Supérieur des Arts Appliqués et du textile in Roubaix. Mati passed on her love for the island and its knitting tradition. During my stay with her, I spent much time devoted to learning the history of the island and honing my skills in the artistry of Fair Isle knitting.
In 2017, I came to live on the island where I met my partner Thomas and consequently set up my own knitwear business. My passion for knitting began early on in life but working on Fair Isle brought me closer to so many things I value.
My work celebrates the lineage of people on this tiny remote island, battling rough weather in the middle of the sea, who wove such intricate beautiful patterns into unique and colourful jumpers. It is my aim to carry on the traditional craft whilst still being creative. My contribution is one of sensitive innovation within this time-honoured practice.
Living on Fair Isle intensifies my enthusiasm for all things wool! I love wool because it’s the fibre we harvest here. I like the fact that it’s locally produced, sustainable, good for us and good for the planet. The fact that we are constantly touching the wool—from helping the sheep to birth and grow to clipping their fleece—makes the practice so much more tactile. We are then handling the yarn, knitting the jumper and wearing it too; this is a pleasing circle that means a lot to me.
With time I am hoping to deepen my relationship with my craft, together with the island and its people, and continue sharing my love of this special place.
My Work As A Textile Artist
With my French art college training and a strong background in art and design, I continue to develop my ideas and my craft through ambitious pieces that express my ideas as a maker and push the boundaries of the traditions of Fair Isle knitting.
Living on a remote island like Fair Isle requires ingenuity and resourcefulness. The islanders are naturally inventive, challenged daily by the elements whilst living far from any supply shops or assistance of any kind. Early on, I found it a revelation that working with constraints such as these can actually be a blessing.
In 2020, I was awarded funding from VACMA to realise an artwork that grew out of my life on the island. The piece explores the connection between Fair Isle (the island) and Fair Isle (the knitting technique). I wanted the work to be as generous as the island and as powerful as the weather; something heavy and impressive.
27 shades of Shetland Blues began with knitting just one strand of yarn and finished with 27 strands. The idea was to knit exponentially—building the depth of colour in relation to the increasing size of the needles and volume of yarn.
The outcome involved performance in addition to production of a finished piece. Firstly, the process was incredible—for weeks I was just making, just doing, just knitting, for the sake of the action just to see the yarn going through my hands and the patterns revealing themselves. From a simple and easy knit, it became more and more difficult to manage; even though I designed it, I was continually surprised and impressed by how it grew. Ultimately, it became extremely heavy (around 12kg) and turned into a physical challenge.
The mass and dimensions of the piece present challenges in its final form. 27 shades of Shetland Blues is not a garment but the materiality of it still links back to the body. There is a natural desire to try to wear it yet the sheer weight of it immediately engulfs you. It was never intended to simply exist as a 2-dimensional wall hanging and so instead I have been compelled to allow it to re-inhabit and explore its relationship with the landscape that inspired it.