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Article: Meet the Maker: Diane Rudge

Meet the Maker: Diane Rudge

Meet the Maker: Diane Rudge

Meet Diane Rudge, a fiber and textile artist based in Ucluelet, a small town on Vancouver Island. Join us on an exploration of artistic passions and climate consciousness, as she transforms wool into high-end and sustainable knitwear.

Can you provide a short introduction to who you are and textile and fibre artistry?

As a fiber artist, Diane creates stunning textural masterpieces from both wallhangings to timeless knitwear. Using natural fibers like Peruvian wool and alpaca, and a neutral earth toned colour pallet, she creates versatile designs and patterns, showcased in clothing and on the loom.

How did the journey to knitting and textile work unfold?

The exploration of art through texture was something that Diane didn’t discover until her mid-20’s. Growing up, she was most commonly exposed to art like painting and sculptures, but weaving wasn’t top of mind. She grew up in an athletic household, and though she had artistic talent and took classes up until high school, it didn’t cross her mind as a full-time pursuit. 

When Diane came across her first weaving, she felt an instant connection to the artform. She dove headfirst into the craft and it’s now been 8 years since she started her journey into creating wallhangings. Over the years, she’s learning how to colour fibers with natural dye, mixed in basket weaving, and most recently, honed in on knitting. After spending 4 years focusing on crafting woven art pieces, she had a desire to create knitwear. She now makes small collections of wearable knits, that feed on her personal style and Pacific Northwest roots. 

Tell us about the wearable knits that you create.

Diane's other business is owning a sustainable refill and giftshop in Ucuelet. Over the last three years, she chose to step back a bit from her textile art. This allowed her to focus on getting the shop off the ground. This shift also came at a time when she was feeling a bit uninspired in her craft. While she concentrated on the success of her store, her passion to create slowly started filtering back into her body. In the end, it was just the push she needed to direct some of that new-found creative energy into knitting. “The pause kind of gave me a chance to zoom out and reflect on what I was doing and what aligned with me as a person and as an artist”.

It all started with a small square knitted patch. Diane had a good hunch that she was onto something at that point, and she purchased a set of circular knitting needles. She dreamed of creating the perfect Canadian toque that we are oh so fond of in Canada. At first, there were quite a few hats that didn’t make it out of the testing phase, in Diane’s words…bad hats… But as she improved her patterns, her friends started to notice and wanted their own Diane originals! Naturally, she started stocking her knits in the store. Through word of mouth people began to realized how incredible her wearables were. As the popularity grew, along with her skill set, she added scarves and sweaters into the collection. These are the staples in Diane's repertoire now. 

What is the leading intention and inspiration behind the pieces that you create?

Timeless, versatile, and oversized. These are the words that best describe Diane’s knitwear. She pulls a lot of inspiration from her own style and it’s at the forefront of everything that she makes. She won’t make something that she doesn’t want to wear herself.

These pieces are also an investment, they’re something that you’ll want to wear for years and years to come, regardless of what styles are in or out. She creates them to be wardrobe staples, playing with neutral colour pallets for this exact reason. They’re designed to be easy to integrate into anyone’s closet. Diane’s suggestions range from styling one of her sweaters with your favourite pair of jeans or a flowy sundress. They're perfect for a casual weekday or a night out on the town, versatility is key. 

What is your process for creating new pieces?

There’s a little bit of winging it when it comes to first drafts of Diane’s knitwear. She jokes that her closet it full of those drafts, the not quite so perfect pieces. But each piece starts with a rough drawing and a little bit of math (it’s important to count stitches and work out proportions!). After the first piece is created, she works to fine-tune it and it can be turned into a pattern once she’s happy with the final product.

How does your surrounding environment/home influence what you create?

The Pacific Northwest is known for the misty chill that can appear at any time, and we secretly love it. Even during the summer months in British Columbia, Diane craves the feeling of warmth on a breezy day. These weather patterns have really dictated what she chooses to create. Toques are an essential wardrobe piece year-round in Canada and knitting these cozy hats just makes sense. So many of Diane’s wearables are also created with layering in mind. This is incredibly desirable when we’ve got days that feel like 3 different seasons have appeared in the span of 12 hours.

The use of natural fibers also serves a functional purpose in this West Coast weather. When materials such as wool get wet, like on a misty morning walk on the beach, you’ll be kept warm and dry. It can soak up to 30% of its weight in moisture without feeling damp and acts as the perfect insulator. The shape of the fibers has the unique ability of being able to self-regulate temperature.

 

Tell us how you embody the principles of sustainability? What makes your pieces sustainable, planet friendly, but also people friendly?

“I'm just passionate about protecting the planet in whatever way I can. And I'm a firm believer that every person can make a change no matter how big or small it is”. This profound care for Mother Earth has been woven deeply into her profession. Sustainability is top of mind in Diane’s art, she uses exclusively natural fibers and natural dyes to create all of her pieces. She acknowledges that it can be a privilege to make the conscious decision to purchase goods that are more environmentally friendly. However, it’s still important to vote with your dollar wherever you feel comfortable. This is the ethos that Diane carries into her business. She’s offering a hand-crafted, sustainable clothing option for those who are interested. As well, her art is an outlet for education, explaining the negative impacts of plastic fibers on the planet. Though it’s Diane’s intention for her wool pieces to stand the test of time and be passed down from closet to closet, even if they do end up in a landfill, the materials she uses are biodegradable.

Not only are natural fibers better for the planet, they’re also beneficial for the body. Your skin is your largest organ, something that’s often forgotten. It’s vital to take care and protect it, which can be challenging when the skin is constantly absorbing whatever touches it. Common fibers like Polyester are made of plastics and when clothing of this material is worn, tiny plastic fibers can rub off and get absorbed into our bodies. Overall, wool is much kinder to both our skin and the earth.

How do your knits inspire the wild within and connect people to place?

“I'm so inspired by the landscape and the wild beauty of the landscape that we live in, that we're so grateful for and so fortunate to live in on the West Coast”. Diane goes into each weaving or knitting season with the intention of having that piece connect you to the landscape in one way or another. The materials she’s using to create these sweaters and cardigans are in their purest, most natural form. Wearing a piece from Diane’s collections is a direct link to the land. Her hope is that the work she does can inspire a reciprocity with our beautiful planet. The land provides so much for us and she’s constantly thinking about how we can show up in return for it and treat it with respect. These are the layers of consciousness that are held within each wallhanging or knit that you can purchase from Diane.

 

Can you tell me about your trip to Nimmo and the exclusive new collection?

Diane spent her days at Nimmo Bay knitting in the cozy side room of the beautiful Anchor Lodge. With large windowed double doors that open up with a view of the bay, she was able to look out onto the forest and disconnect to the soothing soundtrack of rain hitting the water’s surface. “I love the rain and it's the perfect time and environment to knit. In the summer, when it's boiling hot out, I don't want to be knitting, it’s the last thing I'm thinking about. So it really was just absolutely perfect for me”. 

This residence also brought a new sense of awareness to Diane about her knitting. When she’s creating at home, she’s typically on the couch with a tv show on in the background. This was the first time she’s really had the conscious opportunity to just sit in her craft with minimal distractions. During this time, “I actually learned a lot about my knitting style and how fast I can knit. The process was very different there than when I'm giving it at home.” 

The exclusive collection Diane worked on at Nimmo Bay this fall is full of custom colour ways. She took a chance with us and strayed from her neutral colour pallet, and we explored some vibrant new shades. The collection includes a warm mustardy gold, a cool fuchsia, a vibrant cherry red, and deep navy. Of course though, there are still some beautiful neutral tones speckled in the mix. The collection is pure Pacific Northwest goodness with lots of heavier knits. However, it’s also considerate of those who live in warmer climates, with lighter city wearables that are perfect for layering on cooler days.

Shop the exclusive Diane Rudge Collection

 

How much time does it take to make each piece and what kind of life to you dream for them?

Each one of these pieces is crafted exclusively by-hand and by Diane, she is a one-woman operation. Though it may seem like a small action, knitting can be incredibly taxing on the body. The repetitive motion is something that Diane must warm her body up for and remember to take care of after a long session. From start to finish a toque will take her about 2 hours to make, these are her smallest pieces. Any of the sweaters and cardigans are a two-day long process, and she spends 10-15 hours of that time knitting.

The love and care that she puts into each wearable is evident. Though there are times when inspiration can waver, her clients bring that spark right back. When she produces something for an individual, and see’s the look on their face when they get it in their hands, her creative cup fills right back up. Diane’s favourite thing is being able to witness how someone chooses to style a pieces within their wardrobe. It brings her such joy seeing how clients honour the pieces they buy. She’s poured her soul into this work, and making that connection is incredibly gratifying.

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