The Knitted Engine

I was artist in residence at BMW Plant Hams Hall in June and July 2011 as part of the Lichfield Festival. During this time, I worked with thirty year 6 pupils from Coleshill Primary School, and four BMW apprentices, to create the Knitted Engine. 

The Knitted Engine is a collaborative piece exploring the hidden similarities between engineering and knitting. We picture mechanical engineering to be professional, precise, masculine, industrial and serious, while knitting is thought of as feminine, domestic, amateur, thrifty and cosy. However, the two practices do share common characteristics. Both involve the application of knowledge to design and build objects, and success in either activity requires a deep understanding of the properties of a selected material.

I combined my knowledge of knitting with an understanding of the engine, gained through intensive conversation with BMW associates, to design the components. The items were constructed collaboratively, using hand knitting, french knitting, finger knitting, machine knitting and crochet, and each child’s contribution was tracked via production tags. The final display included the finished engine - presented as a three-dimensional exploded diagram - along with a number of labelled 'reject' samples.

The engine was displayed at Lichfield Cathedral during the 2011 festival, and then in the foyer of BMW Plant Hams Hall. In 2012 it was exhibited in 'WOW: wonder of wool and the art of knit and stitch', curated by Trevor Pitt, at Rheged in Penrith. Read my blog posts about the making of the Knitted Engine here.

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