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Zofia Zoltek

“You have the scarf right next to your skin, and my emotions are knitted into it.”

Interview by L. Valena

What did you respond to?

It was a black and white photo of a man with his hands next to his cheek. It was a bit blurry- a nice picture.

What was your first reaction to that?

It looked a bit sad, so I had to look closer to see something more in it. The softness. It was a really simple piece, so I had to go deeper.

Tell me more about that- what does that mean?

There's a kind of softness in it. There's a person touching their cheek, so it's a really intimate moment. It's a softness, and something about being close to yourself. When you really look at it, it starts to be a call, and not really sad.

I love that softness- that's a really beautiful way to think about that. What happened next?

First I thought about a good medium. Should I do a drawing or should I do something more like a sculpture? And I think the sculpture was more interesting to me, because the piece was black and white, so I didn't have any inspiration when I comes to colors. When it comes to making a form, it's easier to make without any color inspiration. You can really go it with shapes and with textures. So I stuck with the softness, and made a scarf. And within the scarf I made a sculpture of my hand.

I love that it's like you've captured your hand in the scarf. How do you feel about scarves?

I really love them. I started knitting when I was 12 or something, and all my friends have scarves that I've made them. Most of them are really old- from the beginning of my knitting, just a striped piece of wool, sometimes not really good wool. I love to knit, and I love to knit for people. Now I make more sophisticated projects, but still the scarf is the basic act of caring about someone. I never give scarves to people I don't like, and I never take commissions from people. If I don't know someone, or I don't really like the person, I'm not willing to make them a scarf. You have the scarf right next to your skin, and my emotions are knitted into it. It becomes really personal for me.

I've never thought about how personal a scarf is. It's right next to your mouth, and your face, very intimate.

And the neck! The neck is a really sexual part of a human being.

And you said that you went into this without any color inspiration, since the prompt was black and white. Can you tell me about the colors in this piece though? You have this beautiful blue, and I see some other colors as well.

Yes, I stuffed it with some colorful pieces- mostly orange and red, warm colors. Blue is a cold color, and in English, it also means sad. So it was inspired by the initial thoughts about the previous piece.

Yes- the moodiness.

Then I added these colors, because there's this different thing about the initial piece. This moment for yourself. This softness, kindness- it's warm like skin-on-skin.

Tell me more about the process. Did you knit this and then sew your hand inside it?

Yes. I folded the end of the scarf, and put my hand into it, and then I did a few stitches, and stuffed it with some leftovers from my old projects, since they were the right colors, and I put in there also a pencil to keep the shape. It's still a functional scarf, at the moment.

Have you worn it?

Not yet, because it's not cold enough yet, but I'm thinking about it.

How does this connect with the rest of your work? Aside from knitting a lot of scarves, do you think about garments in your work?

I think so- for me it's kind of important. But also, it's my hands, and I have a complicated relationship with my hands. When I was little I really didn't like my hands because they were too big. And then I started making things, and when I think about art, I think about my hands. When I write poetry, I also write about all kinds of heartbreaks, and the touch of things. It's really close to things I usually think about. Starting with knitting was great- it was a really simple stitch, so it was kind of meditative. I could think about the rest of the process, and the final effect- I had time to really sink into it.

Call Number: Y14VA | Y18VA.zoWa

Zofia Zoltek


Zofia Zoltek is knitter and poet based in Warsaw, Poland. She studied theology, Polish language and literature, and history. She likes rats and hedgehogs but not hamsters.