As part of the original Around the World in 80 Skeins tour, Serbia was our 26th stop to visit knitwear designer Jasna Kaludjerovic.
Hi, Jasna – welcome to the tour! Where are you from, where do you live now, and what brought you to your new country?
I come from Montenegro, a small country in the Balkans. I came to Belgrade, Serbia to study mathematics and now I live and work in Belgrade as an IT consultant.
How did you get started knitting and why did it turn into designing?
I started knitting at the age of 5. My grandmother taught me. I never actually knitted something while I was a little girl, but I got the basics by playing with needles, and I always loved it. After childhood, I haven’t been knitting for years, and then after many years, when I was a young girl, a student of mathematics, that’s when I first knitted a sweater for myself. During several years, I knitted a few sweaters from other people’s designs, and a few years ago, I just had to know what would happen if I tried to knit it my own way. Then I discovered the beauty of the design. Knitting is now not any more something that keeps me calm and keeps my hands busy when I have nothing else to do. Now it is an inspiring activity of my brain, something that looks much like art, but also has a technical part. It is a way to express myself through form, colors and style. It is a whole new world for me. I am not a designer by profession, so now I need to learn about shapes, colors, and yarns. All with an aim to produce beauty and show it to the world.
Where is your favorite place to work?
I like to knit at home. Sometimes I turn on some music that I like to sing while I knit. It reminds me of my childhood when my grandmother, my mother, my sister and I, we used to sit all together, everyone with her own pair of needles and sang together while knitting. A special kind of harmony. A special kind of peace of mind. And the special place where ideas for design sometimes come from.
How does where you live influence your designs?
Serbia is a very inspiring country for any kind of art. Our interesting past is full of all kinds of cultural influences. Wars that happen often in the Balkans, cause people moving from one territory to another, and every such movement influences people and their culture. You can feel this while eating our food or listening to our music. Today, the influence of the western European culture is predominant in our society, but many other influences are present in our culture as well. Music that is called Serbian folklore actually contains many different sounds. You can hear a guitar that sounds like Russian gypsies, or Serbian gypsies with trumpets with a completely other sound, or Romanian or Bulgarian national songs, or some sounds that reminds of the Orient, or Turkey or Greece. Serbia is one of the rare places in the world where east and west, oriental and European, traditional and modern meet together to make a wonderful mixture of opportunities to choose your own style of living the “merak” – the Serbian word for joy.
Also the nature of Serbia inspires me. I hike in the mountains a lot – Serbia has great views, forests, beautiful climate with hot summers and snowy winters. However clever and creative we are, we can’t even reach yet alone exceed the beauty and spirit nature puts into its creations. We can hope to catch a moment, a design, a whisper of it all, in some details. Snow on pines, rain drops on the leaves, yellows and reds of the forest in autumn, winters peace of mind in the cold breeze. No man can create that. But I use it to fill myself with sense of beauty and harmony. I can really enjoy the hobby, if I achieve to give away even little pieces of it to others.
What do you like to drink while you work?
Turkish coffee. They don’t make anything similar in Western Europe and when I travel, I really miss it. At home, my special place for knitting, I often begin knitting only after I prepare myself a real Turkish coffee. It is a special tradition. Many customs are connected to it. People from Balkans know that. The very special element in spending time with your loved ones, relaxing and enjoying yourself.
Do you have a favorite local yarn store?
Bumbar in Belgrade. It is near where I live.
What is your design process like? Do you plan it all out before you pick up your needles, or do you let the yarn show you where to go?
I always test first. I take a small portion of yarn and experiment. During this experiment I see how the yarn behaves, what will it look like when finished and only then I plan the real knitting. Sometimes these experiments can last for many days but usually this part of designing is more fun than the phases that come after that: the math and the real knitting.
Is there a big fiber arts culture where you live?
We have knitting wool as part of our tradition, our folklore. Many people, especially girls, learned knitting from their mothers and grandmothers when they were young. It is not now a very popular hobby, but some years ago, many women were knitting, sewing and crocheting. We all have needles in our homes, whether we use them or not. In the Balkans even today you can feel that people stick to their traditional/conservative way of life, putting women in a kind of traditional role where arts like knitting have always enjoyed their special place. In Serbia we traditionally make domestic row-wool outdoor sweaters and coats, thick woolen socks and slippers, hats and gloves.
Do you have a favorite design in your portfolio that was inspired by your culture/environment?
I don’t usually design traditional garments, so I can’t say any of my designs is inspired by my culture/environment. Besides the fact that Serbian girls pay much attention to their looks and almost everyone has her own style. And I’m one of them. My favourites are my new Priozd Hat (with a dress coming soon) and my Lilynet Collection.
Thank you for being a part of the tour and for sharing your lovely designs and inspirations with us!