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6th March 2017

Collect Open, Collect Closed.

This year’s instalment of Collect took place 2 - 6 February at West London’s Saatchi Gallery. As you will already know if you got the chance to visit the show, KUFstudios founder Kia Utzon-Frank and textile innovator Fay McCaul showcased their first collaborative project together, Curved Twist.
Combining colour-changing panels and adjustable slats, the installation was included in Collect Open by curator Faye Toogood and was a huge hit with visitors. We asked Kia and Fay to tell us a little about life after Collect and what we should be looking out for in 2017.
A detail of Curved Twist at Collect.
Hello Kia and Fay. So Collect happened! Your installation was a huge success, did you both enjoy the show? 

KIA: Yes, it was an amazing experience! I haven’t been showing KUFtwist for a while so being able to show this new installation in such an amazing and important space was really extraordinary. Especially because we were showing a new improved system, thanks to Fay’s knitting techniques.

FAY: It was a really great show to be part of and a fantastic showcase for the installation. It's always exhilarating exhibiting a new piece of work and receiving positive feedback. It was nice to do it with someone rather than on my own which is usually the case!
An installation view of Curved Twist.
Installation was a long and delicate process for you both, how did you find it and did it throw up any surprise challenges?

KIA: Working together with Fay was a dream. We compliment each other in the way we work and we had a really smooth collaboration. We were constantly faced with challenges, as it is in any process I guess. Making the curved bit was painstakingly stressful for example because the company bending the aluminium broke all the material we had sent them and told us the day we were supposed to have it delivered. We only got the working pieces three days before the show opened. For some reason it always works out in the end. It kind of just has to.

FAY: I don't think I've ever knitted so much in such a short period of time. It was physically and emotionally exhausting but I obviously feel that it was totally worth it in the end. The biggest challenge is accepting that the piece will always take longer to make than initially planned. Momentary panic is always part of the process and there were plenty of that.
Utzon-Frank discusses Curved Twist with a Collect attendee.
What were the best reactions you received or heard from visitors?

KIA: It was amazing to see how people really interacted with it and you could literally see them getting ideas for uses for the screen. We actually only had to move a module and peoples brains started brewing. Having invented the system and worked on it for so long not many of the uses came as surprises, but it was amazing to see how people got so into it and really started putting it into their own contexts

FAY: There were so many people that were totally blown away by the piece which was of course really exciting and flattering. One of the most frequent comments and my favourite was "it's so clever and so beautiful.” I feel this is perfect reference to each of our practices combined - the twist system being incredibly clever and the fabric being beautiful.
Curved Twist
Did you make any exciting new connections?

KIA: We spoke to so many people and have been using the past weeks following up on the chats we’ve had. It’s hard to say what has directly come out of it, these things can take years. It was mainly craft people at the fair (as it is a craft fair) and we really need designers and architects, but let’s see what comes out of it. We have already been offered spaces in both Milan and LDF and are showing at Clerkenwell Design Week at the Desso showroom. 

FAY: We had some really great chats which we hope will lead to some exciting opportunities, such as the ones Kia has mentioned.
What were your favourite aspects of the rest of Collect? Did you get much chance to look around?

KIA: I only had time for a quick look around but I was mesmerised by a cabinet of curiosities with jellyfish glass sculptures. They reminded me of my dad’s watercolour paintings. And then I absolutely loved Richard McVetis’ hand-embroidered piece on time that we were standing right next to.

FAY: I really liked the cabinet of curiosities and the Grayson Perry tapestries, though I only had about 20 minutes on one day to look around. The show was so consistently busy there wasn't much time to leave the stand.
Steffen Dam's cabinet of curiosities-like '6 Jars and Lightbox' at Collect.
What’s next? Will we see more from the two of you as a duo?

KIA: YES! We have made a submission for the woman’s hour prize so hopefully you’ll see us at the V&A with a new piece in the Autumn. We’re scaling the slats and the modules up and are making an even bigger installation. And then we’re gonna be using bamboo and brass. We’re also working on a three parted room divider screen in a dark wood and copper. Plus we’re looking into how we can make Fay’s knitting into a more commercial product so they can be used for production.

FAY: As Kia says…
What are your individual plans for the rest of 2017?

KIA: I am working on some cake and cocktail events, with some extremely amazing experimental cocktail makers. I have just secured a sponsorship with KitchenAid who are providing me with kitchen appliances, so that’s really amazing. It is early days and we still need to get the details settled, but I have a lot of ideas for how to make that really fun. I have a big KUFcake feature coming out in “How to Spend It” during Milan design week so I am looking for events where I can show the cakes as well. For CDW I am showing my work and making cake events at the Desso showroom. and me and Fay are also showing Curved Twist there. It’s in a big window, which will make the installation look completely different than in the artificial light in Saatchi. So everybody should swing by there. In December I am going to be making cakes with Kirstie Allsopp in her Christmas special on Channel 4 and I hope to start a collaboration with a window blinds company about making KUFtwist into a commercial blinds system. And then there are some very secret projects going on as well, that I can’t tell you about yet. But everything is extremely exciting!
A internal view of one of Utzon-Franks sculptural KufCakes
FAY: I’m really looking forward to seeing how the rest of this year unfolds as I've been having some really exciting conversations about potential projects. Me and Kia intend to continue working together and would like to showcase our installation during LDF as well as make an upscaled piece to exhibit abroad, hopefully in Basel. I'm about to start working with a great surface design company — they will be potentially be taking over the production of one of my new techniques/designs in an ongoing collaborative partnership which would be very exciting. Though I love making my work by hand it would be nice to be able to offer a diffusion collection alongside my bespoke pieces that is outsourced and can be sold in a higher volume.  I will be participating at Decorex International in September for LDF for the second time and showcasing a collection of new pieces. I might be also be doing an artist residency in Dubai for three to six months…. I haven't accepted yet but think I'll take them up on offer! I'm also continuing at Nottingham Trent University once a week as a visiting lecturer…. and having a wedding in Sri Lanka over the Easter holidays! Busy!
An installed view of McCauley's 'Vela' panel.
Check out kufstudios.com and faymccaul.com for more creative brilliance.

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