US Vogue Knitting Magazine Automn 2015

Great Taste

With knitted sculptures of meat, cheese and other edibles Madame Tricot stitches up food for thought.


Dominique Kaehler Schweizer, alias Madame Tricot has simple rules for good health: Knit. Quite a lot. Mostly meats. Inspired in part by the illustrated cookbooks of Jules Gouffé, and Antonin Carême, thhe Swiss-based fiber artist turns out “knitted butchery,” artful renderings of sausages, cheeses, fruits— and the occasional chicken or hog head— in angora, mohair, alpaca and more humbly homespun fibers. “I like food, feasts and the art of dining,” says Kaehler Schweizer of her reasons for rendering food in stitches. “I also like the macabre—the thin space between life and death, between freshness and decomposition. I can knit meat, fresh or rotten, but I cannot capture the soul of a live animal.”


Kaehler Schweizer grew up in Paris, the child of a journalist and a fashion designer. (For 25 years, her mother did a weekly show on French television— Le Magazine Féminin— where she explained how to cut clothing patterns.) Making things was in the genes, though Kaehler Schweizer was the only one to truly embrace yarn and needles. “In my family, all the women were and are sewers,” she says. “ I am the only knitter. I got my talent from…the sky?” Her grandmother introduced her to basic knitting and crochet tools when she was 6 years old, but she is mostly self-taught. “I discovered the other techniques by myself,” she says.  “I am not able to follow a [commercial] pattern. But I’m a good observer. It’s a little bit like a lecture in natural science, where in order to learn about anatomy you have to draw organs very precisely.”


She may have been born an artist (“I have always been very creative, she says) but Kaehler Schweizer chose medicine as a career, mainly at the insistence of her father.  A bit of a prodigy as student, she finished school early and by the age of 16 had earned her bachelor’s degree. “”I was good in natural sciences and my father really didn’t give me a choice to study anything other than medicine,” she says,  “But fortunately I lived in Paris and had the opportunity to visit many museums.” While pursuing her medical degree she also took art history courses at the Ecole du Louvres.


The two academic pursuits worked in tandem. Kaehler Schweizer points out that medicine is also an art. “A good physician needs to be very creative to adapt the treatment of illnesses for the individual patient,” she says.  “Today, the trend is to have standardized treatment, which does not care for the personality and particularity of the patient. I always check the needs of the patient, and then I adapt the therapy to the patient’s individual needs.


Madame Tricot and her knitted butchery emerged in 2012. By then Kaehler Schweizer was living in Switzerland and had been a practicing psychiatrist for some 40 years. Medicine and psychiatry in particular is stressful profession and Kaehler coped by practicing Zen meditation and going on weeklong retreats that required complete silence. “I found them very enjoyable,” she says. “They always gave me inner peace.” Six years ago she swapped meditation for knitting. “I had a spine surgery,” she explains. “And I was no longer able to sit on the floor in a lotus position.” Picking up her needles she discovered that knitting gave her the same soothing experience.  “Knitting is also a form of meditation,” she says. “In a Zen meditation, or a contemplation, there is the same principle as knitting. You sit quietly and are focused on the object you want to knit. For example, when I want to knit a simple sausage, my mind has to be focused on the picture of a sausage. I have to hold this picture in my mind and then reproduce by knitting. My awareness is bound to this picture, and cannot follow other pictures that constantly invade the brain. These pictures always come and go; they are called thought. With a meditative state of mind, you let these thoughts go, just like clouds in the sky.”


There’s also a more concrete process that takes place with the clicking of needles. “Knitting is a repetitive activity where hands are moving in a synchronized way,” Kaehler Schweizer explains, ” this helps to synchronize both left and right brain hemispheres. The synchronizing of the brain hemispheres is very important in trauma therapy, because a trauma disconnects the brain hemispheres from other.”


So why knit a sausage instead of sweater? “ The way is the goal,” says Kaehler Schweizer. “ And so for me what’s best is to knit absolutely useless objects, like for example my food. My only obsession is to realize this object as close to reality as possible, but in it’s the performance itself, that is the most important.” She certainly has the reality down—along with the details. Fuzzy yarns create the perfect rind on wheels of goat cheese, meats have the perfect mottling of fat—at a quick glance you can almost mistake them for the real thing.  Pastries are delectably stacked on dessert stands; sausages hang from butcher’s hooks or are stacked on metal trays. Installations include elaborate dinner table settings, a deli counter complete with scales and price cards, or in the case her installation at New York’s VK Live, a full-on kitchen vignette complete with tiled floor and a real refrigerator.


There’s humor too. Look closely at the kitchen vignette and you’ll see a wicked detail—a rat’s tail peeking out from underneath the refrigerator. “I don’t take myself too seriously and I like black humor,” Kaehler Schweizer says. “In Switzerland people are so serious and relatively humorless. So I try to disturb them a little. Friedrich Dürrenmatt, a famous Swiss writer, said, ‘Man is the only creature that knows that it will die. The repression of this knowledge is his only drama.’

I accept death, enjoy life, and make jokes about both!”


She creates her pieces without a pattern, seamlessly letting the object take shape without counting stitches. It’s knitting for it’s own sake a sentiment she espouses on both her website and blog: Je tricot, donc je suis (I knit therefore, I am). That said, she also embraces the craft’s practical side. ““I love to knit clothes,” she says. “But they are for my own personal use. I love eccentric things but my daughters and grandsons do not. They prefer it classic, and my pieces are too weird for them—remember, they grew up in Switzerland.”


I have so many ideas,” she continues. “It can be really overwhelming; it’s difficult to stop following all these creative impulses.”


Sample more of Madame Tricot’s delicacies at her website,, and blog,


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