The inspiration for my product design comes from Bovey Lee’s 1994 painting Cross Section, gifted by the artist to the Escalette Collection in the 2022 acquisitions. Upon first viewing the work, I took notice of the use of colors and their seemingly flat planes, which upon further observation consist of a variety of shades and underlying colors, likely achieved by glazing with oils, as well as a secondary composition that uses these colors to play with the sight of a nearly unidentifiable object in its background (one which is of a floral nature/motif). My product design intends to emulate these colors in a more simplified manner, finding the balance between detail and necessity, and using rudimentary colors to accurately represent the piece.
About the Artist:
Bovey Lee is an artist born in Hong Kong in 1969 and currently based in Los Angeles, California. After receiving her BFA in 1991, she moved from China to the United States in 1993, and received her MFA in Painting and Drawing from the University of California at Berkeley in 1995. Her earlier artistic practices revolved around painting and drawing, and it was during her graduate years at UC Berkeley that she created Cross Section. Described to depict seemingly weightless objects floating over transitional planes (American Art Center Press Release; ‘Mid Career: Bing Lee & Bovey Lee’, 2007), these paintings addressed her feelings of displacement after her immigration to the United States, and contain a level of intricacy that it still reflected in her work today. Lee’s art practice shifted from painting in 2005, when she began to create traditional Chinese cut rice paper artworks. Influences from her past works can continue to be seen in these complex and delicate pieces, which are often referred to as having a ‘floating’ character (Squarecylinder, Art Journal Review; ‘Bovey Lee @ Rena Bransten’, 2019).
Graphic Object; Sweater Vest:
My product design and graphic object is a knit sweater vest, or sleeveless sweater. My intention with this design was to utilize only the necessary aspects of the work in order to properly and successfully represent it; to do so I deconstructed the colors used in the painting, simplifying the palette considerably. The colors that would be used within this piece were also dependent on available materials, meaning that I had to narrow my range to fit any pre-dyed colors of yarn that I was able to find. As I was searching, I came across a number of yarns with similar colors, and chose each of these specifically based on the overall appearance of the main colors within the painting, rather than through direct color swatching, as I felt this would provide a more similar and recognizable finished product.
In the end, I selected a total of 13 colors of Light or Double Knitting (DK) weight yarn, which provided me with some variation between hues while still keeping the rudimentary values that I had been aiming for:
- Jamieson’s Shetland Double Knitting in Coffee and Old Gold
- Rauma Summerlite in Linen and Pickles
- Rauma Strikkegarn in Dark Yellow
- Rauma Petter in Sky Blue
- Rauma Petunia in Melon, Yellow Green, Brick Red, Yellow, and Navy
- Malabrigo Arroyo in Cereza
- Cascade Sarasota in Baby Yellow
Product Design and Process:
I drafted the design of the garment directly from the composition of the painting, transferring the square of the canvas onto the flat plane of the sweater vest. Initially I had also created three designs for the collar of the garment, including a high neck, a round/crew neck, and a v-neck. During the planning stages, I had also entertained the idea of additions to the garment such as buttons or ties on the sides or back of the piece, but abandoned these concepts as I felt that they distracted from the imagery of the painting which was reflected on the vest.
The body of the vest is knitted flat on gauge 6 (4mm) knitting needles, and is made up of one front piece and one back piece which are seamed together after each panel has been finished. The design for the front piece of this garment is accomplished using the intarsia knitting method to create the larger blocks of separate colors, as well as with stranded colorwork in order to create shifts of color within these blocks. The back panel was designed referencing the front panel, using striped of color with an approximation of the amount of colors used and in the same order which the colors were used in the front panel. Each panel piece is 126 sts (stitches) wide, with each large color block being 21 sts wide and 21 rows tall. As can be seen in the pattern images shown below, which were followed as a reference when knitting the garment.
For further division, these larger sections were also split into nine smaller squares, each being 7 sts wide and 7 rows tall.
Embroidery will also be used to depict the navy flowers overtop the grid of colors. The collar and ribbing along the neck, arm holes, and bottom of the garment, will be knitted last and after seaming by picking up stitches along the edge of the garment using circular knitting needles. These will be knitted in the same navy blue color that will be used to embroider the flowers, and will be knitted with a rib stitch.
The ribbing for the garment is knitted on gauge 4 (3.5mm) knitting needles. with Rauma Petunia Yarn in the color Navy, with a rib of k2 p2 (Knit 2, Purl 2); the bottom ribbing is a total of 16 rows tall, and the arm and neck ribbings are a total of 8 rows tall.
One additional step within this process was the inclusion of wet blocking, the process of which consisted of submerging the completed garment in water, and leaving the fabric to dry over a flat surface, using pins to help the garment keep its shape. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, the garment was unable to dry completely in this position; however, this step still helped the garment lose stiffness, enabling it to fall more naturally around the shoulders and arms.
The main purpose of this project was to explore the process of translating one medium; painting, into a separate form; a knit garment. Due to the large number of restrictions that come with the materials used in this product, the final product is not an identical match to the painting referenced; instead, the painting Cross Section acted as a main inspiration source from which the product was designed. One large area of restriction which was mentioned earlier came from the fact that it would be impossible to include all of the true colors that can be found in the original painting, and as such, I was forced to narrow down the pattern to include only the most necessary colors. Another source of restriction came from the amount of material available; one issue that surfaced later on was the lack of navy yarn, which meant that I was unable to fully fill in the larger flowers that were a part of the original painting. Further simplification from the use of outlines enabled me to still allude to the original flowers; however, this further simplification also meant that I was unable to properly incorporate the light blue flowers that could be found in Cross Section, and in the end I was left with a garment that resembled but was not identical to the painting referenced within this project.
- Artist’s Website: https://www.boveylee.com/
- Squarecylinder, Art Journal Review: https://www.squarecylinder.com/2019/01/bovey-lee-rena-bransten-2/
- Asian American Art Center, Archived Press Release: http://artasiamerica.org/documents/5219
- Chapman University's Escallete Collection: https://chapman.emuseum.com/objects/2130/cross-section?ctx=7a86e7469251947b054c9ef45df8d0ad03e85677&idx=1