Thursday, 31 July 2008

Gone bloggin'

A little round-up of design and creative blogs that I love to dip into, a bit like a gallery, for a dollop of cranium food. Abbytryagain, based in Portland Oregon USA, has vignettes and images that flash through her eyes and camera. I love the little pieces of life around that she picks up.Jeanette at Fryd + design also captures little pieces of heaven through her lens. I love the truly personal tone of her blog. I really have a feeling of the Scandanavian calm and light in her world. I know that many agree with me - you need no other excuse to visit her blog.
sfgirlbybay has a special place for me as it taps me back into my northern California heritage which features large in my life and heart. Tips on great design, drive-by looks at great little sights in SF and over-views of what's happening in the design world.
Hearthandmade is really what it says. For all you crafty types this is a real inspiration fest and has lots and lots and lots of tips.
Lastly, if you enjoy the interviews here at chaincreative then Crafty Synergy is a must. Oodles of interviews with artists and designers into their motivations and inspirations. Reading these puts your own thoughts into context and clarity. Lovely Alicia is there in glorious technicolour too!
Happy blogging beckons!!

Monday, 28 July 2008

Keeping up your spirits

When I first started writing this blog I wondered where my inspiration would come from. Books, work, meeting and chatting with like-minded people? Little did I realise how much informative and beautiful things can be found on the internet! Well, now I know!
It all started with a purchase I made on e-bay, which led me to a blog printandpattern. Based here in the UK this is very much a personal take on graphic design at the moment. Commercial and studio design are all featured and even if you feel this doesn't have much relevance to crochet, it certainly will stir a part of you to go for that unusual colour choice or place that embellishment just there.
I mentioned my delight at what I was finding to a friend who pointed me in the direction of design*sponge, which is the mother-ship for many of these design-led blogs. Professional bloggers have a punishing schedule to feed our appetite for information and inspiration anddesign*sponge never fails to disappoint. An inspiring home, a beautiful shop space, a scrap of wallpaper, a cushion; they all can lead in directions with your creative work that you never expected.

Once I was set on my travels in e-land, I couldn't stop! Pathways opened up into unexpected waters and on one of these journeys I stumbled on poppytalk which, in a little way like design*sponge, offers peeks at what is going on but also shows the best of talent on etsy through poppytalkhandmade.

These were my tools in thinking that perhaps starting at blog school might be something worth trying. Curating and collecting inspiration and creativity from crochet did seem a tall-order but when it came to it I suddenly found that there were many others - artists, devotees and just fans - who were also doing the same thing and bringing all that together could be something rather interesting. And that's how chaincreative was born!

This week I'm going to tie up some loose-ends and set up the stage for September when we return. There's so much to look forward to with some great chainexhibitions to organise. In the meantime visit some of my suggestions to gather inspiration of your own.

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.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

July/August collection - Review of the month

So here it is - Review of the Month - and I'm including August as we'll be having a little 'rest' through those 4 weeks or so!
I've included, as usual, some selections that have caught my eye on Etsy and one little rogue - Lama - which is a showcase for Latin American talent.

1. Kathleen Holmes 2. Guro at Hobbykroken 3. Inger Carina 4. Leila and Ben 5. Two Beans 6. Karlita 7. Anarosa 8. Dadaya 9. Kjoo 10. Lama

Monday, 21 July 2008

Alicia Paulson

Wow! Last weeks postings were so much fun to compile and curate and I'm so pleased that many of the visitors to the blog enjoyed them. Crochet and art is such a fascinating area and I'm hoping we can return to the topic some time soon.

Now for someone who is very much a chaincreative friend - Alicia Paulson. I became first aware of Alicia in my teaching visits to Loop when I saw some of her charming designs for crochet children's clothes. Everything. The colours, the embellishments added up to a very desirable item and then it became available to all when Susan Cropper approached her to design for her must-have book, Vintage Crochet. At the same time, Susan also asked me if I would also contribute to the book and I was very honoured to be in the same arena as such talented names as Alicia, Leigh Radford, Kate Samphier and many more.

Alicia herself is a prolific blogger and I'm very glad that she has put me on her links list as we receive many a visitor to chaincreative from posiegetscosy. Thanks again, Alicia. It's always so nice to get appreciation from fellow designers and bloggers. Posie Gets Cosy is a wonderful landscape of all Alicia's interests and skills, from her sewing, through cooking, to knitting and crochet; and all of this shot in her skillful way, making up wonderfully atmospheric images and colours. Turquoise and rose, sunshine and buttercream. Many of her beautiful photographic shots are available to view on flikr.
As well as being able to indulge a little in her world you can buy her patterns and recreate a little of that vibe. They are all available by PDF and some are free! Hurray!!
As a final sign off, let me leave the last word to Alicia herself. I think it perfectly encapsulates her philosophy and ours. Keep it simple, keep it colourful and, above all, care about the work and it will always be appreciated. That's the recipe of success. Please continue the story on Friday when we share some more thoughts from Alicia with our chaincreative designer interview. On Wednesday will be a reprise of all things chaincreatively beautiful from this month!

'Of all of the crafts I do, crochet is probably my favorite. Though my grandma crocheted, I didn't learn how to do it until I taught myself from a book in 2001. I love to use traditional shapes, stitches, and motifs and rework them in fresh colors and fine yarns. For me, crochet has to be simple and stylish. I don't go in for anything that's too frilly, or too complicated.'

Friday, 18 July 2008

Art in nature

Judging by the comments, many of you have enjoyed this week's topic of crochet and the visual arts. I'm so glad because it's a particular favourite of mine too!!! I'm going to finish with two Etsy designers who use much of the philosophy of sculptural crochet in their work which they feature both on Etsy and flikr.
Firstly Yael Falk from Israel is an industrial product designer for a company called Baribua but her interests also lie with crochet and knitted designs which she sells through Etsy under her name of Yoola. Her speciality is jewellery of the most beautiful and imaginable kind and I love her work and was really pleased to find it through all the different ways chaincreative leads me. The description Yael gives her giraffe flower puts the essence of what she does into words better than I ever could. 'This colorful unusual piece is an imaginary combination of a vase, a giraffe and a flower.When creating this piece I felt the urge to explore the impact of installing a second object inside the main one.Naturally this is a limited edition piece .I created it as most of my creations using the smallest crochet needle available in the market and a colored copper wires.Enjoy it.' Her pomegranate at the top of the page is stunning.

Next is Leah Csiszar who also sells through Etsy as twobeans working in wire and hook as Yael does. I love the anthropromorphic shapes of her lanterns which remind me a little of the crocheted orb earlier in the week. The bowl is entitled 'Tidepool' - it does almost shimmer. There are more examples through her flikr pages. I must publish her sentiments for you as I think this is a nice postscript to our week of art. 'I make my dreams my reality. I voraciously read books. Swimming is the best shower. I admire the natural world. I love a challenge.'

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Crochet meets art

Let's continue our visit to the chaincreative sculptural crochet exhibition. Today is the turn of the American artists who exhibited at the Washington DC gallery Eleven Eleven Sculpture Space and the Not the Knitting You Know in 2005. I was so excited when I found this site as it really shows what crochet is capable of. I must admit it's one of my themes that crochet has dimensional potential and these artists really explore that. I'm going to feature two of the artists exhibited, Andrea Uravitch and Kathleen Holmes.

Andrea Uravitch is based in Northern Virginia and uses nature as her inspiration for her multi-media works. Her early work was predominantly crochet but has developed over the years. She says 'Crocheting and working with fiber is still my favorite part of the process.' and I think this grounds the work and makes it an almost living thing. This is particularly evident when the sculpture is placed in an environment as in her 1995 work 'Moth Sampler'.

The second artist, Kathleen Holmes, leads on to the more functional subject of clothing and yet these works have a life of their own. I love them and the 'stories' they tell. Her philosophy brings her very much in line with our Monday artist, Joana Vasconcelos, on the role of women in society. 'My sculpture is an ongoing study of the dress as icon and metaphor. I use common domestic found objects and media (crocheted textiles, ceramic, glass) in the sculptures to symbolize, honor, humorize, and otherwise reference (reverently or irreverently) women and the many facets of their lives in family, history, and in contemporary society.'

The images I've chosen are just a tiny section of the two talented women's works and I urge you to follow the links to view further examples of their skill in using crochet to such great effect.

Andrea Uravitch - Praying Mantis and Moth Sampler

Kathleen Holmes -top image on flikr (courtesy of shop monkey), Reading in Bed (left) and The Archivist

Monday, 14 July 2008

Joana Vasconcelos - crochet and the visual arts

I'm using this week to feature a number of artists who predominantly use crochet as part of their creative work and production. This means that crochet no longer stays in the home but presents itself as a fantastically sculptural and thought-provoking medium. The Crochet Coral Reef certainly shows one aspect of the dimensional quality of crochet and these artists this week show another more wide-ranging view. From the natural world to the surreal, this is what I really love about crochet's uses. There's no end to it's abilities if you take all these elements together.
Enough babbling, let's get started. Today is the turn of the Parisian born Joana Vasconcelos from Portugal. I first discovered her on the wonderfully informative blog, Craftystylish, which featured her work. Joana speaks of the universal quality of crochet, she can recognise Mexican crochet from Portugese, but what fascinates her more is democratising the craft and making it global. The objects become the message whether it's fashion, music, popular culture or whatever. One of her quotes I particularly love is when she was exhibiting and a curator remarked on the kitsch quality within her work (I disagree) saying that the crochet works were 'no good' as they were not 'works'. Her reply was 'Perfect. That's just what I wanted.'
Her works and philosophy are thoroughly covered by her website, which is incredibly comprehensive. There are images of all her collections, many of which make use of crochet.
Her attitude to crochet is that of a painter and his work, “Hand-craft gives you three things: time, repetition, and then, when things are repeated over and over again, they become abstract." and again, "I select them and put them together as if I were drawing." She wants us to get away from thinking that crochet is on a narrow spectrum of creativity - fashion, craft or hobby - and I love this pushing of the frontiers of crochet.Please do visit Joana Vasconcelos' website and enjoy the images I've chosen to inspire you.

Friday, 11 July 2008

Let there be light

What directions crochet and knitting can take! I liked these three projects so much I thought they'd make a neat threesome for posting. I'm particularly interested in the crossover between art and craft that the large installations bring. Sculptural crochet is an area that I think needs some looking into and I'm gathering quite a few artists to feature next week on that theme.
So here's a taster!!! The first installation is not crochet (but so easily could be); Nadine Sterk's Sleeping Beauty lamp which knits itself. "A lamp that develops like a living organism: switch it on and it slowly starts growing by knitting its own lampshade at a speed of three rotations per hour." What wonders to behold!! This was the 2006 graduation piece of Nadine Sterk from the University of Eindhoven.
A similar structure which reflects (in so many ways!) the magnificence that can be created by something so domestic as knitting and crochet is by Joana Vasconcelos a Parisian by birth from Portugal. We'll be seeing alot more about Joana on chaincreative next week but for the time being this is her A Noiva (The Bride)2001, which was exhibited in 2007 in the UK. Made up of 25,000 tampons she challenges us to see an object on unfamiliar terms, often using handicrafts as a means of bringing a different aspect to our understanding of an object. She extensively uses crochet which is obviously of great interest to us.

This leaves the average crocheter wondering how we can contribute and I found this project which has some elements of all these great works of art. It may be just a start but you can embellish and develop it as much as you want. 'Crochet an Orb' is the brainchild of knitalatte (also known as?) at Resurrection Fern. I think these glowing spheres would look beauifulscattered through the garden on a warm summer evening.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Filet crochet

This is a quickie blog today as I'm flying all over the place today. Following on from my Day in the Country on Saturday, I thought I'd leave a few words about filet crochet which we briefly dabbled in. Because it is made with a very fine hook, around the 1mm mark or even less, it is a little neglected. Finding examples of it in contemporary crochet are hard to find (I'll hang in there though!!!). The wonderful pictures of household items are a start. The crazy TV set is from Inger Carina's Flikr photostream. If this gets your creative streak zinging then how about downloading a program and make up your own patterns and letting chaincreative know. have a great little program for $35.95 which gives you everything you need to become a filet freak.

A little late entry here to the wonders of filet, from the Flikr 'Lace' pool of BisyBackson and 'Teapot' - a window display!!! Doesn't it make you want to grab that 1mm hook and get fileting!

Sunday, 6 July 2008

A day in country - July 2008

This weekend saw chaincreative's first 'A Day in the Country' of 2008. This was an opportunity for former students of mine from Loop to get together in lovely surroundings (my garden) to crochet, chat and swap experience of the yarns, patterns, glitches etc of the past few months. It was fabulous to see how complete beginners could become such amazingly skilled crocheters in a matter of such a short time! Everybody was able to bring finished and 'in progress' work to the table to compare and contrast and it was fascinating to see where everyone was going on this. In fact, each person had chosen a different path; interiors, fashion, embellishment, accessories and toys.

We started the day with...tea and coffee of course! Then on to some stitches that we rarely find in written patterns - loop stitch, spike stitch and cross stitch. That didn't give us too much trouble so, after lunch, it was on to a workshop on filet crochet. Not challenging in itself, it was interesting to scale down to the needle-thin hook and see just how skilled a professional fileter is in using such a small canvas to create their work. We had fun using the untraditional Coats Floretta in juicy pinks and yellows which really gave the style a trend zing. I thought a more extensive post on the subject is long overdue. Watch this blog!!!

The rest of the afternoon (there wasn't much of it left) was devoted to the basics of Tunisian crochet which is a personal favourite of mine, and very much to the rest of the group.
I'm glad that I can pass this skill on and get an enthusiastic response to it. I think it's really neglected and needs some updating of patterns and a wider profile.

Finally, after much happy talk about the lovely day, we displayed and admired the work that everyone had recently completed and said goodbye for now.
Name checks for all the lovely work.
Stacey - sad and sweet little bunny from Erika Knight 'Essential Crochet' Rowan Cotton Glace
Sarah - beautiful raspberry pink cardigan with ribbon from London Bead, Company. Yarn Rowan Cotton Glace
Kate - dress with crochet trim, designed and made by herself. You go, girl
Kim - Irish lace cushion cover in Sublime Cashmerino Silk DK from Crochet in No Time by Melody Griffiths
All yarns were from Loop London

Friday, 4 July 2008

Designer interview - Hobbykroken Guro Strandskog

Today is time for another designer interview from Guro Strandskog of Hobbykroken. We've seen quite a few mentions of her work on this, our anniversary/baby week, and deservedly so. When I read Guro's interview answers I was just wowed by her modesty and charm about her craft. So many really talented people take too little credit for what they bring to their skill. The reason why Guro's blog is such a pleasure to read and look at (and I'm not a Norweigan speaker!!!) is for the beautiful images, the carefully thought-out topics and the fact that she is happy to share all this for FREE!!! Let's hope that when people read this, they might feel inspired enough to follow a similar course. You never know, you might find yourself on chaincreative!
This picture I've chosen sets the scene of a chilly Nordic winter but with a warm heart!
Chain Creative Interview
Questions of creativity and inspiration

Your name
Guro Strandskog
Where you’re from?
Blog address
Flikr address
Describe your various creative skills.
Crochet, designing crochet patterns, knitting, some jewellery making, always wanting to try new crafts
When did you start to crochet and who taught you?
A very good friend of mine taught me to crochet about 6 years ago (I am eternally grateful to her, thank you Hilde!), so I’m a fairly new crocheter!
What, in your opinion, is the best thing about crochet?
It’s a lot quicker than knitting (at least for me it is… I’m a very slow knitter!). It’s very easy to understand once you get the hang of it, and that makes it easy to come up with new designs. Easy-easy-easy :O)
The name of the blog is interesting. What was the inspiration behind it?
I have to say it’s not the least bit interesting…. It means the corner where I do my crafting (or the corner of my home where I keep all my crafting stash), and the name is more a consequence of wanting to start a blog right away, than a well thought-through name. If I was to start a blog now, I would have tried to come up with a more creative name!
What was the motivation to start the blog?
The inspiration I got from all the talented bloggers, hoping that I could be an inspiration for someone as well. I have learned so much in the process (I started the blog in 2004 I think), and you could say that the blog has matured during the years. I always try to take good photos of my projects, and giving the blog a bright (Nordic?) feel.

What influences your style and output? What are your inspirations?
Sooo many things!
Colours: Lately I have been influenced by the colours of my childhood (late 70s colour combinations), other than that I often choose light colours, and sometimes bright colours (especially when I have a KoolAid-dying-session).
Texture: Sometimes the texture of a particular yarn can inspire me to make somethinglike the “Babushka ballerina slippers”, they all started with the yarn. I just thought it would be perfect for felted slippers.
Style: Again, I’m influenced by retro clothing, like the “retro baby flying helmet”.
Magazines, knitted clothes and of course all the wonderful crafting blogs out there, Flickr and Etsy are all great sources of inspiration.

What are the most important aspects of your work to you?
Crocheting is relaxing, almost meditative! Creating something just makes me feel good, and if I can be an inspiration to others, then that is an extra bonus.

Which project or piece of work are you most proud of?
I have to say the “Babushka ballerina slippers”. They are comfortable, easy to make and cute (in my opinion..!). I’m so happy that I could share the pattern, and grateful that so many have made them. That really makes me proud. I have even taught a friend to crochet with this pattern! And since they are so easy to make and has a simple design, the decoration is what makes them special.

When are you most happy when you’re working?
When I make someone happy! It can be by sharing a pattern, giving a handmade gift or just knowing that I have inspired someone. Also, what makes me happy is when I have just finished a project from one of my ideas, and I can see that it actually turns out great.

Thank you for chatting!

Love Bee