Regine Faust Profile                   

Part 1: Regine Faust: Timeline: Germany by Joe Lewis volume 1 issue3 /Fall 2005

Part 2: Form & Intuition: Regine Faust’s Design by Ann Davis  vol 2 issue 1/winter 06      

Regine Faust (Schuett) in her Downsville studio in the mid 1980s  with argyle "samplers"

finding Regine

Regine Faust knitter, designer, teacher, artist left a legacy in the concrete form of an archive housed at Seneca College in Toronto; a series of knitted tapestries at the Museum of Civilization in Hull and in a non-tangible form of lasting influence. As a teacher at the Sheridan School of Fashion Design in Oakville in the seventies and early eighties and by giving workshops she has given both a methodology and a work ethic to thousands of people. Talking to people who knew her one discovers the primary aspect of her character was work, always work. From an early age it was her ability to turn ideas into objects that propelled her forward. She had her first patterns published while still a student, translating her creative thought into patterns easy for the novice to professional knitter to produce garments of individual quality.  

It is almost a decade since her death and it is time to present her to a generation that has benefited from her teaching and re-introduce her into the discourse of contemporary fibre scholarship.

The following profile consists of my “Regine Faust: Timeline”  and a reprint of “Form and Intuition: Regine Faust’s Design” an article written by art historian  Anne Davis Director of the Nickle Arts Museum at the University of Calgary Anne Davis met Regine while working on her book about Faust’s daughter “Somewhere Waiting: The Life And Art Of Christiane Pflug”. She wrote two articles about Regine’s life and art for MacKnit a magazine for machine knitting enthusiast that published Regine’s patterns and articles regularly

 

 

 Regine Faust: Timeline part one: Germany  

  Regine Schuett was born in 1912, Rostock, Germany, into a bourgeois middle class family. Her mother came from a family of craftsmen that included weavers dating back to 1530, and her father’s background was composed of well-to-do millers and bankers with a strong interest in intellectual and cultural pursuits. She attended the School of Textile and Fashion Art and the Academy of Art in Berlin. This was a radical move for an unmarried daughter to leave home and pursue a higher education. While at school and afterward, while specializing in Knitting, she immersed herself in the design library and consulted old art books and catalogues, and pattern books to develop a unique design portfolio. The director of the Library organized an exhibition of her designs which led to more work in the fashion design and publishing industries. In 1939 she was awarded a Master’s Degree from the Knitting Guild. She was the first women to be awarded this degree. She worked as an illustrator and designer for knitwear, lingerie and home handicraft magazines and began publishing her designs before graduation and continued to publish in leading European Fashion Magazines such as Die Dame, Die neue Line, Sport im Bild, Die Elegante Wels, and the textile paper The Konfectionar. Later she became the editor of a leading Knitwear Magazine

Her work was filled with motifs and designs taken from ethnographic sources and art history that depicted elements of nature, flowers, trees, and animals - images that continued to be foremost in her design and artwork for the rest of her life. Sweaters, suits, dresses, coats and accessories - designed, illustrated and transposed into instructions by Regine with the help of a few assistants from her home studio - graced the pages of these publications. During this period her designs were published internationally and she produced numerous special editions for the Leipzig publisher Verlag Otto Beyer. The work ethic and skills developed during this period stayed with her. However, the atmosphere in which she worked became more and more restricted, as the Nazis rose to power through the thirties. They sought to control everything, including women’s fashion. Eventually there was no yarn, no fashion industry or fashion magazines

In an excerpt from a recently published book “Nazi Chic” by Irene Guenther [1] published in the September/October 05 issue of Selvedge Magazine the following description of the period is given: “Hitler’s rise to power brought a national natural look for women to embody the health and strength of the Reich. They were to be fresh faced in the party uniform or the dirndl of the newly restored national costume; wholesome bastions of racial purity fulfilling their simple duties in the domestic sphere. The women complied with their duties, breeding and working en masse for the war effort, but despite intense pressures to conform to the proscribed style and to relinquish all cosmetics, permanents and dyes, most simply refused.”  During this period Regine joined the anti- Nazi group call the Adversary

When “Fashion” disappeared she joined the German Red Cross where politics were less emphasized and you didn’t have to be a member of the Nazi Party. “Soon however Regine returned to the publishing world, this time as a writer. Within a year she transferred from her nursing job to become head of the Press Division for Magazines of the German Red Cross. In an area dominated by men she was one of only three women correspondents allowed to cover activities at the Front. When Paris fell, she became a prisoner of war - an experience she actually relished because she was now able to express her anti Nazi feelings, openly.[2]

  Rebuilding her life and business after the war was easier because of her politics (having never joined the Nazi party) and her academic credentials. She moved from Berlin to Frankfurt and to design and edit for another Otto Beyer’s publication Handararbiet and Waesche. “In 1951 Regine moved to Hamburg where she became editor in Chief of Constanze Knit Fashions. In this position she produced four books featuring her own designs. Despite great success in re-establishing herself at the centre of the German fashion and knit world, Regine and her husband Peter no longer felt comfortable living in Germany. In the autumn of 1953 Regine took her daughter Mikki to meet Peter in Toronto, Canada. Her elder daughter, Christiane, stayed in Europe, attending courses in fashion design in Paris.”[3]

  To have come of age in the period between the two world wars in Germany and specifically in Berlin during the rise of the Weimar Republic and its subsequent failure making way for Hitler and the Nazi party was an experience that marked Regine Faust, to say the least. There is obviously more to say about her life in this period of time. As the roles of women where changing and opportunity for higher education increased the Bauhaus was reinventing an approach to Applied and Industrial Design, and creating architecture with Socialist leanings.

 During this period Regine made personal decisions that produced a daughter out of wedlock, engaged in political activity that if known, could have brought about her death by the Nazi SS and did cause the death of her partner.  (German Historian Hans Koppie is writing about this period of her life.)  From 1953 until 1970 Faust worked at various design jobs including doll costume designer for Regal Toys. It was a struggle to establish her autonomy, but all that changed when she was hired by the newly-opened Sheridan School of Fashion Design in Toronto to teach their machine knitting course (despite the fact that she had not yet worked on a knitting machine!). Working with an instructor from the knitting machine manufacturing company, she kept one class ahead with her first class but eventually discovered the range of the machine’s capabilities and created a four-year program. She developed a book from the curriculum, and then her creative self emerged to produce more books and patterns that expanded the "Home Use" of the machine into a tool of design.   

[1]Nazi Chic” , Irene Guethner, Berg ISBN 185973717 www.bergpublishers.com

[2]Regine Faust: A Life of Design” Ann Davis, MACKNIT Magazine, 199?

[3]Regine Faust: A Life of Design” Ann Davis, MACKNIT Magazine, 199?  

 

Regine Faust presents a machine knitted tapestry to then Ontario Premier Bill Davis and his wife Kathy in April 1977 during the official opening of Sheridan College's Brampton Campus and Sheridan's 10th anniversary 

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 Knitting Machine, like loom or sewing machine, is an implement of fabric construction.

"The tool does not create the artist does "

* Form & Intuition: Regine Faust’s Design by Ann Davis    

 Regine Faust’s knit design is remarkably consistent. From her earliest sweaters, produced while still in school in Berlin, to her most recent wall hangings, done over the last decade or so, her art is instantly recognizable. Even the switch from hand to machine knitting had little effect on her designs; the basic principles remained clearly apparent. Like renowned painters, her work need not be signed for its characteristics boldly proclaim it to be by her hand. Also, like all masters, she makes knitting look easy deceptively simple realistic images parade playfully across sweaters, shawls, pillows, and hangings. Boldly contrasting values complement subtly modulated hues, an unerring and often innovative sense of color. Balance is of importance, with a preference for the asymmetrical over the symmetrical. Regine’s production is very much her own. Although she looks for inspiration from nature and from art, she cannot name one person who was an overriding influence. The consistency apparent throughout her work underlines the very basis of her art: it documents her delights and demonstrates her ability to rise above the petty while dealing with everyday survival

   Regine’s design principles are already clearly visible in a hand knit matching mother and daughter sweater set produced in 1940. Here stylized two dimensional animals are contained in horizontal bands. Impact is created through her use of contrasting values, with the animals delineated in light values while the ground is relatively dark. Note how the design has been modified for the smaller sweater: the central column of animals has simply been removed.

   Five years later, just as the war was ending, Regine produced her famous Fish Tree sweater, pictured here being modeled by a friend while Regine makes adjustments. One central image has replaced the banded smaller images. Interest is assured and the design contained with the sharp value contrasts, the asymmetric order, and the hi-directional movement of the two types of fish. In a later version the right hand fish was replaced by a sea horse.

Regine’s interest in nature in general and water creatures in particular surfaced again in a much later jacket based on a simplified shell pattern. The finished product is composed of black swirls and irregular triangles banded vertically on a light ground. An earlier version, which Regine had knitted up in a swatch as she always did, then rejected, had the values reversed and the triangles and swirls integrated rather than separated. The final approved piece is lighter, less dense.  

Another water piece is a fish hanging ( see above) which graces the wall of an indoor pool. Divided, according to the golden rule, into two unequal vertical strips, the work is again subdivided into horizontal bands. The wider strip is the width of the knit ting machine. The fish on this wider vertical strip are ordered, regular in their placement, while those on the smaller strip relate, in general, to their fellows on the left, but refuse to swim in precise formation. The dividing line between the two vertical strips is accentuated, not diminished, by the continuation of end fish over the demarcation line. The large fish was executed by hand.  

Regine’s sense of whimsy is very apparent in another animal motif: the lizard sweaters. Here, two lizards, placed off- center, one positive and the other negative in value, climb up the front of the sweater. At the back, reversing direction, the lizard climbs down. Inspiration for this design came from a Maori carving, an example of Regine’s everlasting interest in other works of art.  

     

The artist who has probably inspired more of Regine’s knit designs than any other is her daughter Christiane Pflug. Christiane’s creativity was, in one respect, a mirror image of her mother’s: while Regine started off in art school and moved to fashion design, her daughter started off in design school and moved to painting. Christiane Pflug ’s Self-Portrait with Doves is small sketchy oil executed in about 1960. Regine’s initial drawing for her knitted hanging uses the canvas as a point of departure but superimposes her own familiar traits, including ordering on a horizontal and vertical grid, sharp outlining, and value contrast, all the while remaining true to the basic structure and ruling mood of the painting  

Blocking out her worked-up swatches, Regine critically studies her production, including the effects of color. Note; for example, how she shifted the ground color behind the dove sitting on the food bowl, putting a warm hue on the bottom and a cool one on top. Yet Christiane’s general color balance is maintained. Regine’s creative methodology is also apparent here, for she rejected her initial figure as being too sharp in outline, too much of a fashion drawing. She replaced it with a rounded, softer, hazier bust. The finished hanging is clearly a commanding work by Regine Faust.

- A.D.-

Regine Faust  Bibliography 

  • "Fashion Knit Course Outline for Knitting Machines", Ewa Lavoy, Regine Faust,  Regine Faust, Binding Unknown, 1978, ISBN 0808706470

  •  Tuck Knit", Provencal Printing,1979, ISBN 0920827799

  • " American Indian Designs Adapted to Knitting", Regine Studio,1980,

  • Design With Knit, Regine Faust, 1983

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Regine Faust Gallery 

Copyrighted images used with permission of the artist' estate.
Copyright © 2005 the estate of Regine Faust, All rights reserved

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