In the fashion world, graphic knitwear has had something of a resurgence. Brightly coloured and boldly patterned jumpers are now a mainstay for any major fashion retailer. But one place in which intricate knit still (unfairly) see’s a lack of representation is in the art world – a fact now being challenged by the masterful knitter Katya Budkovskaya. For Katya, her pieces exist as “abstract art”. Rather than creating work that has a “function” – as most knitted objects are – her works are intended to be placed upon a wall, and simply appreciated for the complex images they create.
Prior to picking up her knitting needles, Katya was primarily working in illustration and trying her hand at comics. It was then something of a lightbulb moment when Katya quite randomly remembered that she had learnt to knit in her early teens. Driven by this memory, Katya bought three balls of differently coloured wool and tried to knit a small, multicoloured image, thus beginning a long process of trial and error. “I made the first pretty bad one, and then the second was better. The third bigger piece I made was freehand, and it turned out pretty much exactly how I wanted,” Katya recalls. The whole process Katya found truly enriching, with “tons” of ideas coming to her as she progressed. “It felt wonderful, very rewarding”, she says.
When it comes to her process, Katya always begins each piece with a loose sketch, which she then often follows as she knits. Sometimes, however, Katya will make a pattern beforehand in Photoshop, with one pixel equalling one stitch. The medium of knitting is also one Katya see’s as full of experimental possibility – many, interestingly, dictated by its material constraints. “Trying to get the technique closer to perfect, finding ways to make something work also drives my work forward,” she says. The one aspect Katya often finds herself “obsessing” over most is structure. “I'm trying to get a piece to have a very particular physical form, while what is happening inside the piece I'm trying to keep loose and chaotic and dynamic.”
While Katya does include “light” references to her own experience throughout her artworks, she mainly aims to not include any messages in her work. Instead, her abstract, intricate patterns allow her audience to create their own narratives, or to simply enjoy the pleasing mixes of shapes, colours and lines. Katya does highlight one recent piece that she’s particularly fond of that strays away from her typical approach. Window, a small piece, uses a technique Katya calls ‘triple knitting’ which allows her to use more colours and make a more defined outline. The piece features a figure, or character, which Katya ended up really liking, and made her excited for the possibilities such techniques may present. “I think it’s my only knit that has a face in it, which is a big deal for me.” Armed with her knitting needles and a healthy dose of creative drive, it seems Katya’s artworks are only going to be getting more intricate and experimental in the future.
Copyright © Katya Budkovskaya, 2023
About the Author
Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.