"During a difficult time, I had a vision that opened the door to a new life. While I was asleep, a big loud booming voice said to me: You have to knit and it needs to be big."
Jacqui Fink is a fibre artist based in Sydney, Australia. She works predominantly with high-grade and naturally coloured merino wool from Australia and New Zealand. Through the lens of her bespoke studio Little Dandelion, Jacqui's focus is on creating installations and textiles both extreme in their scale and the physical challenge they represent for a single pair of hands. Each piece is as much a feat of endurance as it is a loving creative expression. As her quiet rebellion against mass production, she ensures that each piece is a one-of-a-kind creation: something very personal for the client, lusciously tactile to the touch, high textural by nature and meticulous in its construction.
In 2006, my Mum was diagnosed with a terminal lung disease. As you can imagine, it was a deeply traumatic time for my family but my Mum received a double lung transplant with only minutes to spare. And so she lives and seven years on she’s still going strong. In the days following my mum’s transplant, I found myself occupying a very heightened and surreal state of reality. Quite frankly, I was on another plane completely. I don’t know how else to describe it. It was during this time that I had a vision that opened the door to a new life. While I was asleep, a big loud booming voice said, “You have to knit and it needs to be big.” The command was as terrifying as it was profound and it woke me from my sleep. There was no way I wasn’t going to listen to it.
The day following my vision, without any external references, I set about discovering what knitting big meant to me, trusting my intuition implicitly. I took the instruction to knit big literally, so I knew regular yarn was not going to cut it. I searched “off the grid” for months before I happened upon my first bag of merino wool roving - straight from a farmer’s gate in South Australia. It was an instant love affair and I knew that I had found my joy.
I had my Dad make up a set of industrial-sized needles and I set about teaching myself how to knit with roving on such a large scale. It wasn’t easy and I made a load of mistakes. Roving is a difficult material to knit with. In fact, roving is mostly used for felting or for spinning yarn. No one in their right mind knits with it because it is as delicate as fairy floss and prone to excessive pilling and breaking with use. But so determined was I to find a way to successfully use this delightful and beautiful material that I was undeterred.
My time spent in retail taught me the importance of marrying a customer’s expectations with the reality of the performance of any given material and so I taught myself how to felt my made up pieces in order to give them stability and an inherent functionality. It was important for me to create pieces that could last a lifetime, not just one season. In the end, it took me two years of research and experimentation to refine my process. By the end of 2011, I had amassed a small collection of throws and blankets which I felt were commercially ready to launch on to the market.
I had two amazing friends, who happen to be amongst Australia’s top interior stylist and photographer take some lifestyle shots for me. Once I launched Little Dandelion in April 2012, these beautiful images opened many doors and caught the attention of interior and lifestyle magazines, bloggers and stylists. It just snowballed from there.
My backyard always look like this. Currently, it is just me and a huge set of stocks struggling to keep up with demand. I put a tremendous amount of effort into my work to ensure that every piece is bespoke and imbued with love and care. My work continues to evolve and I am on a constant quest to increase my scale and challenge myself physically to see how big I can go. My lack of technical know-how has been a blessing in disguise and my passion for merino wool underpins everything I create.
New York resonates very deeply with me. It is a city in which I feel anything is possible. My creativity feels heightened there. That place has an energy about it that I have never experienced anywhere else. This is me, all rugged up in Central Park.
All images used with permission of Jacqui Fink.