BY Karen Gibbs | December 30, 2010
Kate Jenkins serves up crocheted entrees at Kate’s Café
There comes a time that most people finally throw in the towel and say, "Diet be damned. I need some comfort food." Now thanks to Kate Jenkins, they can savor calorie-free versions of their favorite meals.
Jenkins, the creative force behind Cardigan, a knitwear shop based in Brighton, England, believes "that anything can be created from yarn as long as it is made with love." She’s not talking just socks and scarves. Jenkins offers a menu of delectable and delicious goodies all made out of wool, beads, and sequins. Got a hankering for a sardine salad, fish and chips, or maybe something sweet? Kate's Café is your kind of place.
The notion of creating foods made out of wool came about when Jenkins started to promote Cardigan. She chose food for its universal appeal, and crocheted a hearty woolen breakfast of bacon, egg and tomato, and then a lunch of classic English fish and chips. From there the possibilities seemed endless. The "kitchen" was open – and eventually took over the shop with a 2007 installation called Comfort Food. In 2009, Jenkins transformed The Rebecca Hossack Gallery into Kate's Café.
At Kate’s, "diners" can succumb to Gut Buster: a colorful, all-lamb’s-wool, zero-cholesterol English breakfast of scrambled eggs on toast, sausage, bacons, beans and black pudding served on a blue plate with a delicate white ring around the border. For fish lovers, Jenkins, who seems to have a fondness for silvery sardines, whipped up Sardines on Toast with bright yellow lemon wedges on the side. Each sardine has a dark beaded eye, and silver sequined body, and a special yarn found in Japan that resembles chain mail. Have a yen for a sweet morsel? Jenkins beautifully rendered Wool Patisserie’s assortment of berry, kiwi and cream tartlets is the perfect eye candy.
Jenkins learned how to crotchet at 15, having been taught by both her grandmother and mother, who were always making clothes and toys. Taking her love for all things woolen Jenkins graduated with a fashion and textiles degree from the University of Brighton. She began her professional career working as a freelance designer in East London until she was approached by Knit 1 to become the company's design director and overseas sales executive. Two years later, Jenkins was designing collections of machine knit, crochet, and embroidery designs which were sold as ‘swatch’ ideas to designer and High Street companies including Donna Karan, Etro, Missoni, Gap and French Connections Arcadia group. In 2003, the Cardigan label was launched, specializing in knitted, embroidered and crocheted accessories, and can be bought in Whistles and exclusive boutiques in London, Cardiff, Bath and Brighton.
Jenkins is typically inspired by everyday life, and inspiration comes from enjoying a meal with friends, visits at flea markets, and trips to the supermarket feed. Unlike some artists who make draft drawings of their pieces, Jenkins finds an item and then starts crocheting. The time scale for each piece depends on the complexity of the project—some may take a few days, others can stretch out to several weeks.
As for the tools of her "kitchen," Jenkins uses most yarns that are sourced from many countries, but primarily uses lamb's wool in all her work. She adds, "I find it easier to manipulate and there is a vast range of colors to choose from."
When asked which piece she created is her favorite, Jenkins says, "I always try to challenge my abilities each time I start on a new piece, so when I embark on something that is extremely difficult and I succeed in creating it in yarn, then that becomes my favorite. If I was forced to decide on one in particular it would have to be the large tin of Lyles Golden Syrup as it was possibly the hardest one to do and took the longest to make."
Jenkins's work is represented by The Rebecca Hossack Gallery in London. Some of her pieces have been exhibited at the Affordable Art Fair in New York, and very recently at the Los Angeles Art Fair. To feed a craving for traditional English tea, canapés or even pizza, drop by Kate's Café at www.r-h-g.co.uk or pop in for a cuppa at www.cardigan.ltd.uk where you'll also find a sweater or two.
Karen Gibbs is an expert in international craft development and marketing.