School of Design
Senior Tutor, Knitted Textiles
Reader in Textiles
Freddie Robins is an artist who challenges the common perception of knitting as craft. Her work is internationally renowned; her practice crosses the boundaries of art, design and craft. She is a Senior Tutor in Knitted Textiles and Reader in Textiles in the School of Material at the Royal College of Art, where she has taught since 2001.
‘The centrepiece of Freddie Robins's new show comes as something of a shock. A floor-based installation of knitted life-size bodies – displayed as an interlocking circle – it brilliantly transforms the craft of knitting into conceptual art.’ Liz Hoggard, Review of The Perfect, Contemporary Applied Arts, London.Show more
‘She knits blood-soaked gloves and murderers’ houses, and collects everything from fake limbs to Shrek memorabilia. She knits in concepts – at the same time humorous and familiar, yet also sinister and disconcerting.’ Tamsin Blanchard, The Observer. Click here for full article.
Freddie Robins studied constructed textiles at Middlesex Polytechnic and the RCA, graduating in 1989. On graduation she established Tait & Style, a design company specialising in embroidered, knitted and needle-punched fabrics, with fellow RCA graduate Ingrid Tait, designing fashion and furnishing fabrics and accessories for eight years. The collections were sold to major stores worldwide, including Conran Shop, Liberty and Harvey Nichols in London, and Barneys and Takashimaya in the USA and Japan. They also designed and produced pieces for other designers including Paul Smith, Marithé and François Girbaud, Commes des Garçons, John Galliano, John Rocha, Dior, Givenchy and Kenzo.
Changing the focus of her practice in 1997, Freddie has concentrated on producing conceptually led knitted textile pieces. In 1998 she received a Crafts Council Setting Up Award and also received a Public Art Commission from the London Borough of Hackney for Shoreditch Library, London. In 2002 she was shortlisted for the Jerwood Applied Arts Prize: Textiles. In the same year, she had her first solo show, Cosy, originated by firstsite at the Minories Art Gallery, Colchester, and touring to the Pier Art Centre, Orkney.
In 2003 Freddie represented the UK at a Triangle Arts Workshop, Britto International Artists’ Workshop, in Bangladesh, receiving funding from the British Council. In 2004 she was invited to co-curate Knit 2 Together – Concepts in Knitting for the Crafts Council. She also instigated and curated Ceremony at the Pump House Gallery in Battersea Park, London. The exhibition culminated in the ‘Knitted Wedding of Freddie and artist Ben Coode-Adams’, organised by knitting collective Cast Off.
In 2006 she received an AHRC Small Grant for the Creative and Performing Arts to enable her to further develop her work through the use of computerised, automated knitting machinery and ‘seamless’ knitting technology. The resulting pieces formed part of her solo exhibition Body, Nobody, Somebody at KODE – kunstmuseene i Bergen, Norway. They were also shown at her solo exhibition, The Perfect, at Contemporary Applied Arts, London. In 2012 she was placed on the UK shortlist for Women to Watch 2012, at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, USA.In 2009 Freddie and artist Ben Coode-Adams began converting a Grade II listed, sixteenth-century, timber-framed barn into a live/work space. The project appeared in Grand Designs on Channel 4 in 2011. The space is now home to the Blackwater Polytechnic, an informal establishment that exhibits and promotes the creativity that is found in Essex.
Freddie Robins’ studio practice questions conformity and notions of normality, and intersects the categorisations of art, design and craft. She uses knitting to explore pertinent contemporary issues of the domestic, gender and the human condition, more recently exploring and expressing intimate feelings of sadness, fear and loss.Show more
Freddie finds knitting to be a powerful medium for self-expression and communication because of the cultural preconceptions surrounding it. Her work subverts these preconceptions and disrupts the notion of the medium being passive and benign.
Freddie has built up an extensive and innovative body of figurative works and has exhibited extensively in the UK and abroad, most notably in Radical Lace & Subversive Knitting, Museum of Arts & Design, New York, and The Art of Fashion: Installing Allusions, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam.
Freddie's work is held in both private and public collections including the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Crafts Council, London; Castle Museum, Nottingham; Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museum; Spring Studios, London; KODE – kunstmuseene i Bergen, Norway and Szombathely Art Gallery, Hungary.
Since 1990 Freddie Robins has acted as a Visiting Tutor, and given lectures, at many of the UK’s leading universities and museums including: Goldsmiths’ College (University of London), Buckinghamshire New University, Winchester School of Art, Central St. Martins and Chelsea College of Arts (University of the Arts, London), De Montfort University, Glasgow School of Art, Norwich University of the Arts, Belfast School of Art, Victoria & Albert Museum and Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, UEA, Norwich. She has acted as an External Examiner at Buckinghamshire New University, Bath Spa University and the University of Hertfordshire. She has taught projects and delivered lectures at institutions outside of the UK: Bergen National Academy of the Arts (Norway), Konstfack (Stockholm, Sweden), Vilnius Academy of the Arts (Lithuania) and the School of Design and Craft (HDK) at the University of Gothenburg Steneby (Sweden).Show moreFreddie has a long-standing relationship with the Crafts Council, from 2002-2006 she was a member of the Development Award Selection Committee. She has spoken at many of their Seminars and Forums (1999-2013), acted as a Mentor on the Hothouse scheme (2012-2013) and was invited to curate their exhibition K2tog: Concepts in Knitting (2005). She has been the Makers representative on the steering group for AA2A – artist’s access to art schools scheme (2000-2001) and a Curatorial Advisor to Axis (the online resource for UK contemporary art) for their curated online programme, Open Frequency (2006–2007).
Publications, exhibitions and other outcomes
Robins, F. (2010) 'The Imperfect', THERE Journal of Design, 6, 60–1
Robins, F. (2010) in: In the Loop: Knitting Now, London: Black Dog Publishing, 18–23
Sluice 2015 with the Blackwater Polytechnic, Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf, London
What do I need to do to make it OK? Pump House Gallery, London.
Liberties, Collyer Bristow Gallery, London
Sex Shop, Transition Gallery, London
Exchange Rates: The Bushwick Expo, Theodore:Art, Brooklyn, New York, USA
Yan Tan Tethera, Cecil Sharp House, Camden, London and touring UK
Sex Shop, Folkestone Fringe 2014, Kent
Freddie Robins, Artifex gallery, Vilnius Academy of Arts, Vilnius, Lithuania
The Essex Embassy, Blackwater Polytechnic, Sluice Art Fair, London
Happy Days, Blackwater Polytechnic, Feering, Essex
COLLECT – Project Space, Saatchi Gallery, London
A celebration of works by Martha Fiennes, Freddie Robins and Alice Cicolini, curated by Andrée Cooke, Spring Studios
Transformations, Smiths Row, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
Transformers, National Centre for Craft and Design, Sleaford, Lincolnshire
40:40 – Forty Objects for Forty Years, Crafts Council online exhibition
Entlang des Fadens (Along the Thread), Kunst Archiv Darmstadt, Germany
Bite-Size: Miniature Textiles from Japan and the UK, Daiwa Anglo Japanese Foundation, London, Gallery Gallery, Kyoto, Japan, and Nagoya University of the Arts and Sciences, Japan
Contemporary Craft, HERE & NOW, Cheongju International Craft Biennale 2011, Korea
Fifties, Fashion and Emerging Feminism [A contemporary response], curated by Day + Gluckman, Collyer Bristow Gallery, London
7th International Triennial of Contemporary Textile Arts, Tournai, Belgium
Art & Fashion: Between Skin and Clothing, Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Germany
A New Hook: Re-thinking Needlework, Museum Bellerive, Zurich
Smile, Ruthin Craft Centre, Denbighshire, Wales, and touring UK; curated by Mary La Trobe-Bateman
The Art of Fashion: Installing Illusions, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam
Extraordinary Measures, Belsay Hall, Northumberland
The Endless Garment, RMIT Gallery, Melbourne, Australia
Draw: Turning Thoughts into Line, Royal College of Art, London
Making and Mending, Smiths Row (formerly Bury St Edmunds Art Gallery), Suffolk
Dritto Rovescio, La Triennale di Milano, Milan, Italy
Dress Codes: Clothing as Metaphor, Katonah Museum of Art, New York
Concerning Matter, curated by Day + Gluckman, Collyer Bristow Gallery, London
Think Tank Takes on Skill, Contemporary Applied Arts, London and touring Europe
The Peckham Experiment, curated by Space Station Sixty-five, Camberwell Space, Camberwell Art College, London
Cloth & Culture Now, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich, and Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester
Deviants, Crafts Council Collection Touring Exhibition, the Hub, Sleaford, Lincolnshire, and touring
Bottom Drawers, curated by Carl Clerkin, PM Gallery & House, London
Presented paper, ‘Motherhood and creative practice: Maternal structures in creative work’ conference, Centre for Media and Culture Research, School of Arts and Creative Industries, London South Bank University
Presented paper, ‘Dis-Identifications: Gender Matters in Practice’ symposium, ICA, London organised by CREATE/feminisms, a research cluster in the School of Design, Middlesex University.
Presented paper through Digital Crafting Network Panel, ‘Making Futures 4’, Plymouth College of Art.
Keynote speaker, ‘In the Loop 3.5: Making Connections’, International Conference organised by Shetland Arts and Southampton University, Shetland, Scotland.
Speaker, ‘Counterculture Crochet’, Women’s Art Library/Make, Goldsmiths’ College, University of London.
Speaker, ‘Cut on the Bias: Textiles, Collaboration and Pedagogy’,
Conference and workshop at the Faculty of Fine Arts, Concordia University, Montreal, Canada, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
Selection and curation (with Hans Stofer (chair) and Richard Slee), Jerwood Contemporary Makers 2010
Awards and Grants
2013 Grants for the Arts award, Arts Council England/National Lottery to support the creation and exhibition of a new body of work, Out on a Limb, in the Project Space at COLLECT at the Saatchi Gallery, London.
Freddie Robins’ research field is the exploration of the potential of knitting as a serious medium for self-expression within the territories of fine and applied art. She challenges the preconceptions that surround the medium, demonstrating the conceptual and structural possibilities that knitting offers beyond the expected outcomes of fashion and textile design.
This exploration encompasses the fullest breadth of processes and techniques from traditional hand-knitting to the use of the latest automated, computerised machinery.
Current and recent research
Research Projects in Chronological Order (see below project pages for further details)
- Out on a Limb, Project Space at COLLECT, Saatchi Gallery,
- He’s Behind You, exhibited in the joint show, Fifties, Fashion and Emerging Feminism: a contemporary response, Collyer Bristow Gallery, London
- 'The Perfect', an illustrated chapter in the book, In the Loop: Knitting Now, edited by Dr Jessica Hemmings
- The Imperfect, two related knitted body forms, created in collaboration with artist Celia Pym
- Knit 2 Together – Concepts in Knitting, a touring exhibition of 15 international artists and designers working with knitted textiles co-curated by Freddie Robins.
- Ceremony, Freddie Robins co-curated this exhibition of 14 artists as part of her exploration of the curatorial rationale underpinning craft shows and contribution to the debate around crafts' position within visual arts.