John Brinegar Interview Part 2: Knitting as Fine Art


As you may have noticed, I spend a lot of time thinking about knitting and practicing my favorite craft. I love to create beautiful, functional things by hand and admire those made by other people, but I do not consider myself an artist; I am comfortable in my niche as a craftswoman. However, I am delighted with recent attention knitting has gotten in the world of Fine Arts and I am inspired by the artists who have the vision to use needles and yarn as their medium.

I interviewed John Brinegar in an earlier post on this blog where we discussed his Acros Collection designs for Tahki Stacy Charles and Vogue Knitting, as well as his role as a guest teacher at Vogue Knitting Live and Craftsy.

John trained as an artist, and is currently set to launch a new show at Daniel Clooney Fine Arts in NYC. John’s website: presents all of his commercial designs as well as a different side to his work.

The interview continues below where we discuss Tainted Wool, the gallery show, his inspirations and how he translates his vision into a 3 dimensional garment.

Would you say there are 3 or 4 separate collections represented on Tainted Wool, in addition to Acros? And would you consider those collections mainly menswear collections?

Tainted Wool is like my alter ego. It’s the platform where I get to really use my other creative juices. It’s more of an “anything goes” brand. I experiment more with different fibers and techniques. I think those collections could be worn by anyone who is comfortable enough to wear them.

Will your gallery exhibit, “I Would Never Wear That” at Daniel Clooney Fine Art consist of photography, textiles, a runway show or all the above?

The show is going to be a lot of fun and is broken down into several suites of work: garments, sculpture and abstractions – all made with yarn.


  What was the inspiration for the title of the gallery show?

“I Would Never Wear That” is in response to feedback I hear quite a lot whenever something is presented to the world by a designer, so many people say “Well, I would never wear it”. That statement seems so dangerous, so final. It’s like someone feels the need to slay the garment because of all it’s imperfections for them. It doesn’t suit them, so it gets dismissed. I think it’s more than just a personal opinion for people too – people have very strong feelings about garments and things that are worn. They signify things, people bring their experiences to them, they remind them of things, and on and on. So in that regard, they are a lot like art works. The power to invoke is something that I really want to focus on for this show, and inspire people to think outside that concept.

Regarding this excerpt from the statement on Tainted Wool:

With roots in the organic flows of nature, musical arrangements, dance movements and color, my work creates representations of how fiber and textile designs give voice to these symbiotic relationships. Would you say this is the inspiration for all your designs?

It comes and goes. Sometimes my work can just start with a “I think I’m gonna make cables next”, and sometimes it takes a really interesting rich inspired journey. I’ve been known to make garments inspired by one song; I’ll just listen to it over and over and over until I’ve sucked all the energy I can from it and it goes right into the garment. Music has a lot of color and movement, and this is huge for me. Other times it’s a little simpler. 

How do those organic expressions translate to the drape and stitch definition of a garment?

I close my eyes a lot and try to “see” what’s there. I really listen to what my inspiration source is trying to say (and I leave no stone unturned, believe me). I get really granular sometimes, and I can get lost, but ultimately it’s about an overall feel – what language the inspiration is speaking, and if a translation to garment will even work. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. But as a concrete example, if a song I’m listening to is really aggressive or heavy, that could translate into sharp angles or black / grey yarn, etc.

Do you think about the medium (yarn and stitch) first or do you think about how you want the finished fabric to look?

I’ve done both. I think that’s one of those things that can go either way.

Thank you, John. I Would Never Wear That will be at: Daniel Cooney Fine Art 508 W 26TH St #9C | New York, NY 10001 212 255 8158 March 5-8 2015 Other resources to explore Knitting as Fine Art: The Art Gallery of Ontario Supports Yarn Bombing! Brinegar3 And even encourages your children to join the fun: Two videos with Lisa Anne Auerbach describing her knitted designs in the 2014 Whitney Biennial. Ruth Marshall is also an Artist known for naturalistic installations created entirely of knitted objects.  

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