As our British Wool Cable Knit Sweater launches, we throw some light on the fascinating photo series that sparked the inspiration for its patchwork design.
Set in Galway Bay on the west coast of Ireland, the Aran Islands are steeped in myth, history and tradition. Their rugged and wave-battered coastlines encircle a green and vibrant mainland, criss-crossed by a network of around 1,600km of ancient stone walls.
It was these characterful stone walls that drew the eye of Sean Scully, the Irish/American painter, sculptor and photographer, who set about the task of capturing the many faces of these living structures.
The Riley Studio design team stumbled across a set of Scully's images when researching Collection 07. "Glamorous in their greyness", they quickly came to embody the themes of repair, reconnection and returning to nature that became central to the new collection.
As objects that exist to define boundaries, the walls of the Aran Islands are oddly hard to define themselves. They are clearly manmade but also look organic - "they are the ground made vertical", Scully says in his 2007 book, Walls of Aran. They are functional objects created with an artist's eye for form and detail. They are monolithic structures made from tiny interconnected fragments. It's no wonder that they draw the eye and capture the imagination so often.
If you think stone walls and jumpers are strange partners, consider another famous folk tradition of the Aran Islands: Aran knitwear. Like the walls, Aran sweaters are also deeply rooted in the history and culture of the Islands' communities. It's said that each Aran village developed its own unique knit pattern. They served as a point of local pride and the knitting methods were held as closely guarded secrets.
A story that's often repeated is that drowned fishermen would be identified postmortem by the unique pattern of their Aran sweater. We can't say whether that's myth or fact, instead we like to focus on the tradition and collective memory that is encoded within the history of each unique knit pattern.
"These are collaborations by artists who are mostly gone and mostly unremembered", notes Scully. It's this sense of collaboration between generations that we wanted to capture and celebrate with our British Wool Patchwork Cable Knit Sweater.
When you repair something you add to its story, writing a new chapter in a book that's not yet reached its end.