Q & A - Gaelle Chassery
How did you first start to create yarn art?
I learned to knit when I was 8 to make a scarf for a doll, and hated everything about it. Throughout the years I persisted in a lukewarm, aggravated sort of way! When I turned 20 I realized knitting was a brilliant way to play with colors, so I became much more committed to it. I also learned to weave with yarn, and through those two crafts, I explored my love of putting colors and textures together, really delighting in creating unique gradients and very tactile pieces.
When I had to stop knitting a few years ago due to chronic pain, I was crestfallen: working with yarn had become such a passion for me. I just had to find a way to continue—so I taught myself to crochet. I had always shunned crochet, thinking I would not enjoy it or be good at it, but to my surprise I took to it immediately and very quickly started improvising. Thankfully, crochet does not make the pain worse and even acts as a welcome respite from it, offering me a bubble of relaxation, contentment and creativity. I have been crocheting pretty much every day since!
Please describe the technical, creative process behind your yarn art.
I describe myself as an intuitive yarn artist who specializes in improvisation that brings soothing comfort. When I work on a piece, I do not plan or rehearse. I just pick a color palette and start crocheting. As each row is completed, it highlights the next steps: which type of yarn I will pick, which color will work best, which stitches I will choose and which size of hook I will use for the next row. It’s a really fun, immersive and meditative way to work, which prioritizes a continuous and relaxed dialogue with the piece. This way of working means that each piece is a completely unique heirloom with no existing pattern, so every creation is truly a one-off and is constructed like an interactive yarn sculpture that tells its own story, inspired by nature.
How are your heirloom pieces inspired by aspects of nature, particularly, along the West Coast of Scotland where you live?
I am always inspired by the colors and textures of nature. These are the dominant features in each heirloom piece through my signature wave pattern and my textural use of stitches. The colors invite the eye to rest and the textures invite the body to interact with the piece, to relax into it as “your very own piece of nature.” My Rocky Shore Throw made with Hebridean wool emulates the layers and textures of those beautiful rocks found on the Hebridean shores and the delicately intricate marks left by seawater running on grey sands. My Winter Shore Blanket evokes those moody days where sea foam flies over the sand and stormy waves rise in fascinating blues. My preference for working with small Scottish yarn producers is a direct connection to the land that grows and dyes the wool I love to use. Each piece offers its own natural little world to wrap up in and relax, allowing the recipient to create their own story.
Please also tell us about your paintings – what mediums do you use and how are these works inspired by the natural world too?
For my soothing paintings I also work intuitively in an open dialogue with each piece, allowing that to lead every choice of color, texture and tool. I love applying paint with sponges, toothbrushes, paintbrushes of all shapes and sizes, and my fingers. I enjoy working in shimmering shades that capture the light changes we are so privileged to enjoy on the Scottish West Coast. I use a lot of diluted gold and silver as a kind of filter on most of my paintings to honour the ethereal, gentle and mystical qualities of the landscape. Each painting is the accumulation of many thin layers of paint with a lot of water to create subtle color changes and relaxing gradients full of natural and captivating detail. I work in all sizes, but have a particular fondness for producing tiny paintings that fit in the palm of the hand, opening miniature windows into dream worlds, cherished memories of treasured moments and places. I love creating mini worlds to relax in. At the moment I work with acrylic on canvas, but would love to explore natural pigments in the future and a more monochromatic palette.
Do you have any personal reflections to share as an artist during the pandemic, or plans about what you will be working on next?
The pandemic has given me the space and time to fully focus on my art without neglecting self-care, which is an important foundation of my creativity. Having this complete permission to create without distraction has been a fertile journey, allowing me to explore all the ways in which we can thrive and stay connected. Creating pieces that celebrate our connection to nature as a reliable constant is a gift I never take for granted. I love how I can enhance people’s quality of life in that way, even when isolating for many months. One of my ongoing project is to source yarns from each Scottish Island and make a piece exclusive to that place, inspired by its colors and unique characteristics. I recently completed my first piece created in this way with yarn grown and dyed on Colonsay. It’s a very beautiful way to deeply relate to a place from a distance and pay tribute to it. In my painting I want to carry on exploring the wonderfully comforting wildness of the West Coast by creating landscapes that touch the heart and soul. I will also continue to share my writing and nature photography through my slow living blog.
With Scottish coastal waters as a muse, Gaelle Chassery gets creative with intricate yarn art and atmospheric paintings. The yarn art is influenced by detailed observations found in nature, from rough coastal rocks next to lively stormy seas, and the unique texture of lichen. As we have seen in the throws and shawls presented, each fabric color is carefully considered and reflects an aspect of the environment.
The material used is also not an after-thought, made of quality yarn sourced from small independent yarn producers. For Gaelle, crochet has been a valued outlet when dealing with chronic pain. Perhaps for many more, it can be a beneficial activity in times of personal difficulty.