Friday 25 July 2008

Designer interview - Alicia Paulson

I hope you've enjoyed the Alicia Paulson week here at chaincreative. It's been such a pleasure to give greater depth to her creativity and to pass that on. These are some of her thoughts about crochet in particular and her motivations and inspirations.

Chain Creative Interview
Questions of creativity and inspiration

Your nameAlicia Ieronemo Paulson Where you’re from
I grew up just outside Chicago, but have lived in Portland, Oregon, since 1997

Website (if you have one)

Blog address

Describe your various creative skills.
Let's see. I like to sew, embroider, draw, crochet, knit a little, cook, read (I like to think that reading is creative), and write.

When did you start to crochet and who taught you?
I started to crochet in about 2000, and I actually learned from a book called Knitting and Crocheting for Dummies. I don't think I ever had a real, live teacher. I know that my grandma used to crochet, but she passed away before I was interested in learning, and I don't remember her ever trying to teach me. And my mom can crochet (she can do everything) but I don't think she's done it in twenty or thirty years, and I only discovered that she knew how after I started. So I came to it pretty randomly!

What, in your opinion, is the best thing about crochet?
The best thing about crochet is that I can do it while I'm watching TV with my feet up on a pillow, and I only ever have one hook to manage. And when I mess up, I just undo it all, without feeling like the undoing is even harder than the "do"ing (which is how I feel when frogging knitting!).

The name of the blog is interesting. What was the inspiration behind it?
Well, Posie has been the name of my business since I started it in 2000. I picked the word because at the time my business was exclusively dedicated to doing custom silk-ribbon embroidery, and most of what I embroidered were tiny clusters of blossoms. I spelled it with an "ie" because I had recently gotten married and changed my name from Ieronemo to Paulson, and I'd always felt connected to the letters "ie." Sounds weird, but true: whenever I see those letters together they look familiar to me, like home. So I think in the back of my mind it was a little private homage to my dad, Al Ieronemo, who had passed away just prior to me starting the business. He was a lifelong entrepreneur, and a great inspiration.

The "Gets Cozy" part just seemed right, since the blog was a place where I really felt I could take off my shoes and curl up on the couch with everybody.

What was the motivation to start the blog?
I started the blog because I was having a very hard time with all things Posie in the fall of 2005. I owned a boutique that wasn't doing well, and I spent a lot of time sitting in the store on my computer. We had a high-speed internet connection there, and, although I had known about blogs for a while, it wasn't until the the we-have-high-speed-internet-in-the-shop! thing that I really started exploring the community, and I was enchanted. I started writing the blog originally as a way of promoting our store, but I quickly realized that I was much more interested in just blathering on about myself. I had done an MFA in fiction-writing in the mid-'90s, but hadn't written much since then. The blog sort of brought me back to my writing roots. It was the first time I'd ever written in first person, and discovering that I had a voice to find was profound — I would say it was lifechanging, honestly. It has satisfied some deep need I had to be listened to, and for me that has gone a long way toward enhancing my life on every level.

You see how I ramble on?

What influences your style and output? What are your inspirations?
Let's see. I am a disturbingly nostalgic person (hereditary), so I am endlessly inspired by images from my midwestern childhood in the 1970s. Lately I've been researching Ukrainian and Hungarian folk art, and traditional Scandinavian design. I married into a long line of Swedes, and went to a Swedish college in the midwest, so I recognize a lot of influences from that culture in my home and work now. And of course I am a self-confessed Anglophile, and was weaned on '80s Laura Ashley — I loved Laura Ashley so so so much — and those calico interiors and Liberty lawn dresses still resonate strongly in my imagination.

What are the most important aspects of your work to you?
When I am creating something, I never think about how long it's going to take, how difficult it might be, or whether anyone else will like it. I think I am entirely motivated by some sort of personal vision I have for the thing — I seem to require it to express something I'm trying to get my hands around, whether it's a memory, a feeling, a person, a place. My projects all seem to be very personal these days — almost everything I design has its inspiration is an actual event or location, whether imaginary or real. So when the finished thing pops from my hands (eventually) I feel it is successful if it really feels like a distillation of whatever day, place, or person I was trying to evoke. For a long time I just made things that I thought were cool. Now I feel like the project has to do more than that — it has to do more than that in my own life. If other people like it, I feel flattered and very pleased, since I expect they recognize something of their own story in it. But I am always designing for myself, somehow, anymore, and never to meet a demand in the market, or whatever. I'm always using crafts to explore and help define my own place in the neighborhood, and my goal is always to somehow manifest whatever meaning I find there in fiber, whether it's fabric, yarn, or thread.

Which project or piece of work are you most proud of?
Oooo, good question. I guess I would have to say my book, since it was such an enormous project for me — I designed the projects and wrote the text and did the illustrations and took all of the photos, so it called upon me to deliver my very best on many different levels. I honestly put every ounce of skill and effort and sincerity I could muster into that project. And for much of the time I was working on it, I really felt that I was just out of my depth.

But then when I saw the page proofs for the first time, I have to say that I felt very proud, and a little shocked. I didn't see it coming together while it was happening, but now that it's done (though not out until November), I can look at it and say that I really think it represents my best work. It's an emotional book, too, and that was something I didn't plan for nor expect. But it was an emotional experience, so I guess it makes sense.

When are you most happy when you’re working?
Oh my! Another good question! I am most happy working when I am organized! That probably sounds weird, but I am so happy when I sort of have my chores done, and the house is clean, and I am caught up, and everyone's fed and happy, and there is nowhere to go — then I can really settle into my work. I also love when I can work at my own pace — I have a very difficult time rushing, and it seems that when you are a freelance designer, you are always rushing, because everyone needs things as fast as possible. But if I had my druthers, it would be me, my project, my puppers, a clean house, a snowstorm, a pile of
Miss Marple DVDs, and a whole entire Sunday to really settle in. That's my dream. Sometimes it happens, which is how I know how awesome it really is. Needs to happen more!

Thank you for chatting!

Love Bee

Wasn't that Lovely!!!! What a wonderful, informative, cheerful, chatty interview. I really enjoyed that and feel that Alicia is a real friend for chaincreative.

We'll let everyone know when Alicia's book, Stitched in Time, hits the streets. It is now available for pre-order through her blog.


Alicia P. said...

Thank you dear Bee. You are just too good to me. xoxo

Bee Creative said...

That's not too difficult. Enjoy the glory!!!

Vee said...

Very much enjoyed the interview! Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Love it, and glad to find you from Alicia! As a knitter AND crocheter, I'm glad to see a crochet blog!

rachael said...

Lovely interview. I can very much relate with the question about an ideal work environment. I also love the feeling of being organized and truly prepared to invest in my creativity.

Cathy Santarsiero, "The Christmas Corgi" said...

What a nice interview, and such a pretty blog. Have a happy week! Warmly, Cathy ^..^

Anonymous said...

Very inspiring interview!

Susannah said...

Lovely Crochet blog. I sew my designs but am very close to starting crochet and know where to go for inspiration now!