Designer Spotlight: Mona Zillah
e’re excited to get to know Mona Zillah of bunnymuff designs! She’s already designed the beautiful Bobcat Hills Cowl for us! Look out for her upcoming mystery KAL this January with one of our new colorways!
Mona is a bona-fide geologist by training with a unique background that includes a serious formal education in the arts too! Her swath of artistic experience ranges from painting to costume design! She's even spent time working in biology, studying ants to learn more about their amazing material properties. Nature is teaching us about how to design novel new structures and to solve complex human problems- it’s a field called biomimicry or biomimetics.
These days she’s knitting up stunning creations at lightspeed! With a vibrant hybrid of a background it's no wonder her designs are fresh and inspired. Her specialty is colorwork, and her huge pattern selection has something for everyone!
You seem to knit blazing fast! How do you do it? What’s your knitting style?
How did you get into knitwear design and how long have you been at it?
I sort of bumped into it one day and realized this was something I wanted to work with - yarn. I had done costuming and fashion design, but always with fabric and having an unusual shape, myself, found knitting as a terrific solution. It is the perfect medium for making adjustments and corrections as you go. I try to make my garments easily changeable or modular. If you are working a raglan you could work the front of one size and the back and sleeves of another for your own personal fit. And most are top down, which allows you to pop the garment on and evaluate the shaping.
Do you do other types of fiber arts?
I have been dancing around weaving for some time, now. It is quick and beautiful and offers a design challenge.
During art college, I enjoyed working with paper and fabric. Many of my works tended to take on forms that people could wear. I have always enjoyed manipulating fibre. Garments add interesting elements and challenges and are like architecture- they are this wonderful 3-D shape you must build and give structure.
How has your science background influenced your creative work?
The way one approaches their work is similar in art and science - the same disposition. Both are about curiosity, exploration, execution, and making mistakes as you learn.
I appreciate the process of experimentation and, in addition, science is the way people can say things simply. By that I mean an equation can explain a concept that with words would take many. And so it is with colourwork; there is a limited space to tell your ‘story’, there is an efficacy of communication needed.
What from your art background has helped you the most in designing?
Colour Theory - we were instructed to make hundreds of small squares including grey scales, colour scales, and grey on colour. I cried, “Hey Ho!” whilst doing it, but it has served me well. After it was all done, they are the most useful thing in my toolbox. This is similar to my sheet of basic equations I clung to during college. These are your base tools from which you can formulate everything.
What are some of your favorite things about your craft?
I enjoy the flexibility - the pieces are easy to change and shape to what I envision. Many projects I can take with me and work on anywhere. I have, also, met some lovely people. Some of my test knitters have been with me since the beginning and I have had the opportunity to visit them. Plus, the people who knit along our mystery shawls and accessories have been loyal and supportive. The group is relaxed and we are all about fun and helping each other out. It is a nice place to visit after a long day.
Do you have a favorite garment you’ve made?
In all time - probably the pink silk 18th century gown for my husband... with knitting - I would say - I feel I am building up to some cool Shetland Fair-Isle pieces, check back with me in a year!
How has fiber been a part of your life throughout the years? Does it have any special meaning for you?
My first fibre experience was with my Aunt Betty when I was very young - 5 or something. She was so fun and cheerful and always took time, showing me how to crochet.
I almost never talk about this, but my mother was extremely ill most of my childhood and towards the last months the only thing we could do together was watch ‘her stories’, so I would sit, avoiding schoolwork, and crochet in her hospital room and we would watch together. It was a calm time, a quiet time and despite my youth and feeble crochet skills, those projects kept me connected.
What places inspire you most, and where do you feel most at home?
I find our Earth pretty terrific, so to live/habitate - a big city, to immerse - swimming in the ocean, to feel small and great awe - mountains, to see the great oddities - deserts. I am a bit of a nomad by nature and am enamoured by the grand and small of it all.
Any favorite outdoor places to knit? Any special places you’d recommend to others? I know we’ve talked about Huntington Gardens!
Knitting outdoors can be lovely. The air is all around you and you can really breathe and get into a rhythm.
The Huntington is a terrific place to knit, surrounded by the gorgeous scents of flowers and plants and all the birds; they have so many lovely areas to sit. When it is not too hot or windy, the beach is great. We just pop a towel down and our umbrella and go to it. There are a number of birds to watch and I adore being settled in the warm sand!
For most of us who’ve studied science, it seems to somehow stick with us no matter what else we pursue. Is this true for you?
Well...I follow a number of science posts on Instagram, hahaha and sometimes you can find me knitting at the science museum!
We are nature and science is the discipline to communicate it. It inspires and excites me...I have in my car, at the moment, a CD of North American Frog and Toad sounds...I love it! (there has been a request for frogs in a colourwork design)
How do you view our National Parks & Forests?
We are nature. It is important to grasp the fact that we are nature. The forests are part of our experience and needed. One thing I adore about Paris, is this knowledge that spaces to sit should be in EVERY small neighbourhood. So, every few streets there is park and, in the summer, you see people relaxing in chairs and of every age (ok not the small ones they are hopping around). Paris is a dense and old city and the city planners understood we need parks for people and trees and flowers all over. The bee and pollinator populations, there, blew my mind! It thrilling to see and hear the bees and so many I had never seen before. And so with that - the big parks, National Parks, are the well spring, the reservoir of these small parks. Without them, we have no inspiration.
Any fun geology/science facts you’d like to share?!
And signing off you often write, “much aloha!” Where are you from? Does Hawaii hold special meaning for you?
One of my great grandfathers came over from China to Hawaii, back in the day, so I have a bit of cultural Hawaiian in my life. There are some lovely words in the culture for warmth and inclusion. I enjoy aloha, since it is familiar to people and it is hello, goodbye, good luck, well upon you, and evokes pineapples and cheeriness.