Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Shauna Richardson - Designer Interview

Many of you will have seen in the UK press the announcement of the awards, Artists taking the lead, which is one of the major projects of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad and is being developed by Arts Council England in partnership with London 2012 and the arts councils of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The project was launched in March 2009 with a call to artists to submit their big ideas in just 400 words. Over 2,000 artists applied, spanning a huge range of artforms and incorporating some spectacular ideas. All were competing for the award of up to £500,000 to produce their designs to be launched in 2012 in a unifying ceremony before the opening of the games.
Chaincreative's interest is in the artist, Shauna Richardson, based in the East Midlands and her plans for three 30 ft crochet lions to be encased in glass and installed in a as-yet-undisclosed location in the heart of England.
Peter Knott, director of arts and development with Arts Council England, East Midlands, said: "We considered Lionheart to be the best proposal as it is unique and on a grand scale. This monumental work will be striking and engaging. Its sheer audacity as an object of art will make it stand out and create considerable interest.

"It will celebrate the region's cultural, industrial and historical heritage."

Shauna, who studied art at De Montfort University in Leicester, said: "I was absolutely delighted to be selected, but I was a bit astounded really because of the calibre of the submissions alongside mine.

"This is the biggest project of my life and it is going to consume my daily life for the next two and a half years.

"I have estimated approximately two years to do the crocheting though I have built in some contingency time.

"This is something I have never done before. I am much more familiar working on a small scale. This is clearly going to be the largest piece I have ever made." (quoted with thanks to thisisnottingham.co.uk)

As soon as I heard that there was a crocheter, in fact Shauna terms herself a crochetdermist, in the short-lists, I contacted her for an interview on the blog and she kindly accepted despite being a pretty busy person at the moment. The fact that she's won is the cherry on the cake as far as chaincreative is concerned. It's a real honour. So here is the interview which I hope will give some insight into how crochet can be used as an art form. Let's have more of that, please!!

Has crochet always been a part of your artistic expression? If so, when and how did you to get to the point where you wanted to create using that medium?
I was taught to crochet at an early age, in fact I can't remember a time when I wasn't free-styling with wool and hook. It was a long time before I utilized crochet in my artwork however - I took the long route via a very enjoyable conceptual art practice

What was the first project that you first used crochet and how challenging was that? Can you just quickly describe the processes that you go through on your crochet work.
For me crochet is the most natural medium to sculpt with. The first Crochetdermy piece I made was a hare head quickly followed by a two metre brown bear. I like a big challenge.If I have a technique at all it could be described as free-style. I use a single colour and one stitch to trace the
different directions dictated by anatomy.
(The lions' bodies will be created by a professional polystyrene sculptor. Each will be positioned in a different pose – one on its rear legs, in a leaping position. As sections are produced they will receive crochet skins which will be created by Ms Richardson using wool and hook.)

Many of the animals aren't small!!! How long does a project, on average, take? How much yarn do you use and where do you source your materials? You're in 'knit' land up there in the Midlands so you must be quite a celebrity!
I estimate that the upcoming Lionheart project will take approximately 2 years to complete and will require 1 tonne of wool. The project celebrates the textile industry heritage of the East Midlands UK, and I am hoping to use the wool of local sheep in the making.It is my aim to promote and involve people from all walks of life in this project - it is an ideal opportunity to make a real crochet impact. As well as workshops across the East Midlands I would like to make this a worldwide affair and intend to utilize the internet to this end. Early days yet but in due course I will be sending a call out to crochet practitioners everywhere to join in with the fun. Watch this space...

Tell us about the paths you took to apply for the award - your decisions and inspirations etc. Can you give another brief description of the lions and how they'll look in situ in 2012?
Each Artists Taking the Lead commission relates to it's location. Both the wool and the three lions symbol are inspired by the East Midlands. Richard the Lionheart has strong connections with Nottingham not only in the Legend of Robin Hood but also in history. Richard's crest was the three lions, a widely used strong symbol to this day
The piece will be three 30ft life-like lions in different dynamic poses, housed in a walk-in taxidermy style display 'case'. I hope to start crocheting early 2010 and progress can be followed via webcam link up and studio visits.
Finally, from where do you draw inspiration and is crochet always an expression of your work or is it also something intrinsic to your artistic instincts?
Crochet is intrinsic to my work. I enjoy mixing crochet with realism and presenting it as contemporary art.Maybe anything can be art, and anything includes traditional craft.

I wish to extend my thanks to Shauna for taking time out of an already busy schedule to answer the questions. Her website is fantastic as follow up and for more images so leap like a lion over there and check out her other crochet creativity.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Wonders never cease

Whilst on my wonderful trip to California we visited the fabulous Joshua Tree National Park. I really didn't know what to expect but what we found was beyond marvellous. I'm a bit of a fan as far as 'high' deserts go - I love the nature! Joshua Tree did not disappoint and we stayed in the most delicious guest house, The Desert Lily, owned and run by Carrie and her husband.

Surrounded by mountains and, of course, joshua trees and watched over by red tail hawk, coyotes and mountain lion, this is the place to be to get away from it all.
Over a bottle of wine on our arrival, Carrie asked what I get up to and I had to confess to the crochet. Well, you've got to go to the World Famous Crochet Museum, she said. That stopped me in my tracks. But not for long.
Next day, it was down to Joshua Tree town and the extraordinary creation of Shari Elf. Despite being closed I was able to snoop about and take some pictures but couldn't delve into it's dusty depths!

I'll have to tip a nod of thanks to Cathy of California (another adorable blog) for the interior shot with poodles. The 'building' itself is a former photomat booth neatly recycled into this petite homage to all things crochet.

Shari Elf (above with her museum) is interesting in her own right and her website, Good and Sturdy Art reveals a creator of art through found things, a singer and traveller. Take time to listen to her songs which some how sum up my time in that wonderful and surprising part of the world.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Hook Heaven

Well, I'm back and today the weather is a lovely Autumnal glow. The trip away was divine and restful. I know when people go away some like to go shopping too but I certainly lose my shopping mojo - and a good thing too, I hear you say.

I didn't completely go off the radar, however, and found myself back in my old home town of Pacific Grove on the Monterey Peninsula and just happened to drift into Monarch Knitting and Quilts. Sadly I didn't have too much space for yarn but I could easily slip in a crochet hook and the one I chose is proving to be a bit of a find. I don't think it's stocked here in the UK (anyone know?). The hook in question comes from Laurel Hill handmade needles and hooks with the tag-line Exotic, Handmade and Sustainable. All at Reasonable Prices. I like the sound of that and certainly the hook I bought was all of that. Mine was made of palmwood which I couldn't find on the online store but they are such a nice bunch at the end of an e-mail that I'm sure I could track down more.

The hooks are so smooth and are light and comfortable to hold with it's special finger hold. I still love my Clover Soft Touch but this lovely natural alternative is coming into the favourite's paddock as a close second.