The New Zealand exhibition at the recent Knitting and Stitching Show in the UK proved popular as it shifted from the Alexandra Palace in London to Dublin and then to Harrogate. But onsite reports indicated Sherril Jennings’ work was among those drawing the largest audiences of the 16 Kiwis whose art was on display.
Little wonder, really, because as it turns out, Sherril had created several little wonders. She had 66 of her ‘girls’ in the show, a small representation of her creative talent when compared to the 500 she assembled for her ‘Ladies a Plate’ exhibition at Object Space and the Hastings City Art Gallery.
Sherril’s ‘girls’ are about 18cm tall. Their basic components consist of a wire frame supported by a button base. It’s what’s placed on those frames, however, that causes people to stop and admire.
Clothing is made out of assorted material - fabric, heads are a fantastical collection of found objects. One ‘lady’ has a kilt pin for a head, which matches her tartan outfit. Others are topped with spark plugs and computer parts and buckles. Each one is individual.
“I like my sense of humour to come through in my artwork.” says Sherril, whose professional life included teaching for 25 years, running a knitwear designer company and owning a florist shop. “I look at an object and it looks like a head to me. I can imagine a nose and the mouth.”
A diploma in Visual Arts and Design from EIT in 2009 may have a lit a fuse under Sherri’ls artistic endeavours, but she says she’s always been the creative sort, inspired by her family. She was all of six when her grandmother taught her to knit. “I was even given wool for my birthday presents, and my dolls had all sorts of trendy garments.” she says. “I would just walk around knitting.”
Her mother was also an influence on her future projects. “My mother made all our clothes. We could look at 17 magazine and choose a dress that we would like and she just made it. I got all these skills from my mother. No I’m turning the craft learned as a young child into an art form.”
Ask what the original inspiration was to create the ‘ladies’ and Sherril says they are just of hundreds of inspired ideas she has fostered over the years.
“Until I went to EIT, I didn’t realise I was different from other people in having so many ideas.” she says. “I just enjoy making things. I’ll sit at night and stitch the girls’ or crochet something.”
The series sent to the UK is called ‘Connections’, with each figurine taking about two days to put together, as she called on several skill sets, layering, sticking, crochet, embroidery, knitting, printing, and slashing and burning.
“There’s nothing cuddly about the dolls and yet they make a statement.” says Sherril. “They are girls of the future made up of parts from my family’s shared collective past.”
After the success of the Knitting and Stitching Show, Sherril is now working on her next project. Yes, it will involve more ‘ladies’.
And, no, she is not motivated by potential sales. “It’s not important for me to sell [my art], I don’t create it to sell it. I just love creating.”