Freddie is an artist who challenges the common perception of knitting as craft. Internationally renowned, her practice crosses the boundaries of art, design and craft.
Freddie 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.
School, Centre or Area
Freddie’s 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.
‘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.
‘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’ 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.
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.
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.
Shortlisted for Women to Watch 2012, at the National Museum for Women in the Arts, Washington, USA. 2015 .
Current and recent projects
Specific themes for current academic research are digital knitting technology, contemporary feminism, the maternal and the power of the 'soft stuff'.
Research Keywords: Textiles, Knitting, Art, Craft, Digital Knitting Technology, Gender, Feminism, Motherhood, Humour, Subversion.
For a full catalogue of research outputs see the RCA Research Repository
Publications, exhibitions, other outcomes
Robins, F. and Coode-Adams, B. (2018) 'Resistant Materials', Sluice, Inter/nationalism, Autumn/Winter.
Robins, F. (2018) 'Do Not Touch', Surface Design Journal, Volume 42 Number 3.
Robins, F. Day, L and Gluckman, E. (2018) ‘Unpicking the narrative: difficult women, difficult work’ in TEXTILE: The Journal of Cloth and Culture Volume 16 Issue 3, 311-319
Robins, F. (2017) ‘Bad Mother’ in Bad Mothers: Representations, Regulations and Resistance, Ontario, Canada: Demeter Press.
Robins, F. (2016) ‘Bad Mother/Mad Mother’.Studies in the Maternal MAMSIE Journal Volume 8 Issue 2, 1-9.
Robins, F. (2015) ‘The Perfectly Imperfect’. Making Futures Journal Volume 4.
Robins, F. (2010) 'The Imperfect' THERE Journal of Design, 6, 60–1.
Robins, F. (2010) ‘The Perfect’ in In the Loop: Knitting Now, London: Black Dog Publishing, 18–23
Selected Exhibitions (since 2010)
Between Us: Biennial Conversations and Exchanges, Ex Marks the Spot, Great Yarmouth & University of Suffolk, Ipswich.
Resistant Materials III, Blackwater Polytechnic, Feering, Essex.
Sleepy Heads, Blyth Gallery, Imperial College, London.
Material: Textile, Messums Wiltshire.
Sluice Exchange 2018 – Berlin, with the Blackwater Polytechnic.
Resistant Materials, M100 Exhibition Centre for Contemporary Art, Odense, Denmark.
StrangeLands, Collyer Bristow Gallery, London.
Between things, Minories Art Gallery, Colchester.
Showtime, COLLECT, Saatchi Gallery, London.
Flat-out Lowlanders, Blackwater Polytechnic, Essex.
Big Steam Print, Museum of Art + Craft, Ditchling and Phoenix Gallery, Brighton.
COUNTER_FITTERS, Geddes Gallery, London.
Sluice Art Fair 2015 with The Essex Embassy from the Blackwater Polytechnic, Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf, London.
What do I need to do to make it OK? Pump House Gallery, London and touring UK.
Liberties, Collyer Bristow Gallery, London and The Exchange, Penzance, Cornwall.
Brocki, Blackwater Polytechnic, Essex.
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 and Transition Gallery, London.
The Essex Secession, Blackwater Polytechnic, Essex.
Freddie Robins, Artifex gallery, Vilnius Academy of Arts, Vilnius, Lithuania.
Sluice Art Fair 2013 with The Essex Embassy from the Blackwater Polytechnic, London.
Happy Days, Blackwater Polytechnic, Essex.
COLLECT, Project Space, Saatchi Gallery, London.
Bite-Size: miniature textiles from Japan and the UK, Daiwa Anglo
Japanese Foundation, London, Gallery Gallery, Kyoto, 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], 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, Switzerland.
The Art of Fashion: Installing Illusions, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam.
Extraordinary Measures, Belsay Hall, Northumberland.
The Endless Garment, RMIT Gallery, Melbourne, Australia.
Speaker, Instigator and organiser, RCA Cross-College Feminisms & Materialisms symposium (with Dr. Fiona Curran).
Speaker, ‘In the Loop @ 10’ International Conference organised by Winchester School of Art/Southampton University.
Keynote speaker at 'The Matter of Material' symposium, Turner Contemporary, Margate in collaboration with the International Textile Research Centre, University for the Creative Arts. (published)
Keynote speaker at 'Damage and Repair' symposium, Crafts Study Centre, University of the Creative Arts, Farnham.
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. (Published)
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.(Published)
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.
Speaker, ‘In the Loop 1: Knitting Past, present and Future’ International Conference organised by Winchester School of Art/Southampton University. (Published)
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).
Freddie 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). She was on the selection panel for Jerwood Contemporary Makers 2010 and The Arts Foundation (Craft/Design) 2018 Anniversary Award.