We’re excited to have a brand new decor editor at ELLE Decoration, but there’s a lot more to her, as you’ll find out in this post, as she’s the subject of the Design Showcase feature in the latest issue:
With her beautifully stitched woollen creations sold under the lable Wolmer, Anna Loubser takes the humble craft of knitting into the realm of contemporary design.
‘I grew up in Pretoria North. My friends and I called ourselves ‘The Wolmers’ after one of the area’s neighbourhoods. It’s a Ford Cortina and mullet valley – things that I still appreciate today. Wolmer starts with the word wol which is Afrikaans for wool, a happy coincidence that reinforced my decision to use the name for my business.’
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
‘I studied fine arts in Pretoria and thereafter went to Red & Yellow, an advertising college in Cape Town. My professional career has been lead by art direction and graphic design. It was only during a quiet holiday visiting my mother about five years ago that I picked up the knitting needles. She and I still knit together in bed while discussing the state of the nation and drinking tea. Good times.’
‘I love the knobs, bobbles, cables and holes you can create by using two sharpened sticks. It’s so simple and so beautiful. And there’s this whole other world of materials: pure merino wool, kid mohair, cotton and synthetic fibres… all in different shapes and forms. The possibilities are endless, that’s what’s so exciting.’
PASSION AND COMMITMENT
‘There was always something about the hand-knitted jerseys that some kids wore to school that I found beautiful, even though everyone else thought them ugly. Maybe I was already aware of the level of commitment evident in every stitch. It simply takes too long to make not to love it. I sometimes redo a pattern up to four times before I’m happy with it. I believe that the needles can become as precious as a painter’s brush.’
‘It’s important to me to push the knitting boundaries in its simplest form. If I can make something beautiful using standard 4mm needles and cotton, then I think I’ve done well. The biggest challenge is to make work that lives beyond the boundaries of previous perceptions of knitting. If someone picks up one of my pieces without thinking about the old and the ugly they’ve been exposed to, I feel great. It’s such a fine line – it’s a bit of nostalgia combined with the new and unexpected that makes for a good product.’
‘Ideas come while I knit. The more knitting I do, the more inspired I get.’
‘I try to not be precious about my ideas or my work. Sometimes I have something in mind that I think will be amazing but once I’ve made it, it’s not much to look at. Other times the least astounding idea just works. I think it’s important to be honest and, at the same time, not too hard on myself once I’ve decided that it wasn’t the best result. Every project is about learning, and I like to think that I can also learn from the work that didn’t turn out so well.’
‘I have a group of eight women who’ve been knitting for me for the last two years. When we started, they were hesitant to do the difficult patterns, but now they challenge each other. They work extremely hard and take pride in what they do. We’ve grown together and I’m lucky to have them.’
‘It’s a great feeling when shop owners tell me that their customers come back to tell them how happy they are with their purchases. One parent said that the toy they bought became the only thing that comforts their crying child. I’m also really proud of the fact that people buy the same thing more than once so they can give one to their family and friends.’
See more of Anna’s work at the Wolmer website.
Production: Anna Loubser Photographs: Antonia Steyn