Knits with a view: Cozy, wearable art

The re-cast sweaters of Beldan K. Radcliffe.

Islanders (left to right) Sylvie Farrington .Candice Mais, and Kate Hennigan model Beldan K. Radcliffe's sweaters. – Photos by Siobhan Beasley

We found the perfect backdrop for Beldan K. Radcliffe’s upcycled fashion line in this sustainably designed up-Island contemporary Craftsman house (see box) nestled in a wooded expanse in Chilmark.

The work of artist/designer Beldan K. Radcliffe truly reflects the Martha’s Vineyard spirit.  Her one-of-a-kind upcycled sweaters are made entirely from cast off materials repurposed into unique creations that honor an ideal of sensitivity to the environment and also appeal to the individualist in us all.

For many years, Ms. Radcliffe has worked as a printmaker and collage artist, creating beautiful, nature-inspired designs in the form of etchings, tiles, lampshades and other design-oriented products. For her most recent endeavor, Ms. Radcliffe has transferred her artist’s eye for color and pattern to a unique fashion line.

“Always an admirer of fiber arts and quilting, the discovery of this new technique has ignited a new and exciting direction in my work,” says Ms. Radcliffe in her artist’s statement. “I search for beautiful colors and patterns in recycled knits and delight in re-combining these pieces to make one-of-a-kind wearable art. To me it’s like making an abstract collage out of sweaters. Because of my respect for the environment, the concept of recycling these beautiful fabrics otherwise cast aside is deeply satisfying.”

Ms. Radcliffe gathers her materials through an exhaustive search of thrift shops. She seeks out beautiful colors, patterns and textures – combining wools, cashmeres, cottons and synthetic fibers with an eye for both compatibility and contrast.

“When I look at a sweater I have an instant idea what I’m going to do with it,” says Ms. Radcliffe. Like the most talented of quilters, the designer sees the possibilities in interesting combinations, starting with a cohesive color palette.

Her line includes sweater coats, sweater dresses and shawls. Each piece is tailored to combine comfort and style. Her flattering fit-and-flare signature look makes the perfect alternative to the current style choices of either loose and shapeless or snug and cropped, making these pieces the perfect choice for all figure types.

Each sweater is meticulously crafted with many style features, such as hand-sewn pleating and ruffles. The individual knitted pieces are sewn together with a serger to prevent yarn raveling, which makes for sturdy construction. Some are designed to have visible seams.

Ms. Radcliffe’s latest line of shawls can be worn as a fashionable asymmetrical layering add-on or as a cozy poncho cover up.

Stylish women of all ages and all body types can be spotted around the Island sporting Ms. Radcliffe’s fashions. She sells her line at both the Martha’s Vineyard Artisans Festival and at the Night Heron cooperative gallery on Main Street, Vineyard Haven. You can also find her designs at Prices range from $75 to $225.

About That House

The featured house is a Chilmark contemporary Craftsman built off of North Road to be an up-Island retreat in 1994, with renovation and an addition in 2002, all by the renowned South Mountain Company, known for their quality craftsmanship, attention to detail, environmentally conscious design, use of reclaimed and salvaged materials, and energy efficient and sustainable systems. The house has four bedrooms, and three baths, with a guest house/studio on two lots totalling 6.6 acres, abutting conservation land. The home offers over 3000 square feet of indoor living space, including an expansive, light-filled open concept ground floor, with plenty of space for guests and entertaining.  Solar Panels mean low or no electric bills. A few of the special design features include: maple hardwood floors, African slate, wampum mosaic, and other high end tile work, a custom built stone fireplace and pellet stove, and interior timbers of salvaged redwood and douglas fir.

The current owner, Vera Pratt, grew up in New York City but spent childhood summers on the Vineyard. She bought 128 Old Farm Road when she decided to retire to the island in 2006. Ms. Pratt was trained as a landscape architect, and is an avid painter and gardener. The grounds are lovingly landscaped with native plantings and a huge fenced-in garden with thriving raspberries, strawberries, fruit trees and beach plum bushes. She found the natural lighting and peaceful serenity of the house conducive to painting and sculpting, and hopes the next owner will derive as much joy from the home as she has has.

The property is offered at $2.75 million and is available for showing by calling Elissa Lash agent/partner at Laer Realty and Realtor: 508-560-1213.

Elissa Lash, REALTOR ®


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