Daniela Pavone is the creative mind behind the Yarnbomb Trivento Festival that took place in Italy this summer and she tells us all about it! Come check it out!Read more
I'm pretty darn excited about the growing list of bad ass artists that keep agreeing to be interviewed! If you scroll back through the archives you'll find interviews with Yarn Vandalette in Germany, Montana Banksy in the USA, and Yarnomaniac in Denmark. They all have a passion for sharing their art with the world and in telling their tales, leave me feeling super creative and inspired. It's a huge win to connect with these creative souls from all over the world, and it's not over yet!Today, I'm sharing an interview with Alyssa and Liz, of Threadwinners-a dynamic, crocheting duo who make largely for galleries and entirely for fun. Their art has social and political undertones yet remains pretty, warm and fuzzy. How do they do it? Read on to get the full scoop, including how they met and get inspired, their advice for new crocheters and their favourite clip about stress and growth!*************************************************************************************Can you start off by telling us about yourselves, your maker-name and your art?Liz: Sure! Alyssa and I work together as Threadwinners, and have been doing so for about two years. We met when we had an internship together at the Orange County Museum of Art in California and we learned about our mutual love for art and creating.In 2015/2016, Alyssa asked if I wanted to be her crochet assistant for a fiber arts exhibition that she was planning revolving around the themes of body image and the mental/physical relationships we have with food. I became more and more involved with the creation of the pieces, to the point where Alyssa asked if I would be comfortable labelling myself as an artist with equal contribution and credit. This show, Pleasure Objects, was our first collaborative crochet project, and we’ve been going strong ever since!Alyssa: Liz and I aim to create subversive works through an accessible medium. Because we often talk about darker and more serious themes in our exhibitions, we want to give our audience the chance to interact with the objects. Our blankets and installations couple as plushy toys or stuffed animals.We enjoy the idea that our work can serve as coping mechanisms for people to discuss the deeper themes, to offer a refreshing take on crochet and to help them question the potential of needlework; a craft they normally associate with their grandmas (not that there’s anything wrong with that, we absolutely love grandma fashion!)Additionally, Liz and I chose the name Threadwinners because it’s a play on the term ‘Breadwinner’. We’re obviously feminists and we get fed up with the bifurcation between the craft world and the high art realm. Craft art was just a way for the hegemony to relegate women’s work into a space that doesn’t give them the same opportunity for exposure or money.Can you fill us in on your creative process? Where you work with specific themes, make for galleries on a rather large scale and do so as a pair-what does the social dynamic and creative process typically look like from start to finish?A: Liz was the one who introduced me to crochet. I was knitting when I met her and she told me about the medium. My mother always did it and tried to teach me as a kid, but to no avail.Finally I sat down and got onto YouTube, taught myself and fell in love. I really don’t knit that often because with crochet it’s easier for us to formulate 3-D objects, and to really crank out work. We honestly use YouTube, Ravelry and other forums on the internet to teach ourselves, or to appropriate other’s patterns to incorporate in our designs.Practice is the biggest things here, because a lot of our work comes from improvisation.Normally, we stumble across calls for art, or we each have dreams/visions of what we’d like to see in a gallery. We’ll then make a general outline of what kind of pieces we’d like to make and then we talk to a gallery that we think aligns with our artistic goals to see if they’d be on board for whatever theme we’re interested in exploring. A lot of galleries are very flexible and willing to take a risk on us delivering the full exhibition.When we actually crochet the pieces, Liz and I will work together, but the majority of the items can be made independently. We prefer working together when we can, because we’re friends on top of partners and it’s just a nice time for creating and being social.When we have everything made, we’ll come together to arrange all of the pieces and begin to sew it all together. It’s pretty demanding because we both have 40 hour a week careers now and we have to find time after hours or on the weekends to work.Can you recall/describe the point where each of your crocheting shifted from utility to art or messenger? A: Yes, for me it was pretty instantaneous. I always watched my mom work on crochet projects as a kid and was fascinated by her skill and speed. I never thought I’d be able to do anything like that, let alone what Liz and I are making now. But when I first moved out to California at age 23 I was determined to overcome my fear of learning needlepoint and first taught myself how to knit on YouTube. I was practicing making scarves and doilies, but then when Liz suggested I switch to crochet, I started making amigurumi cacti as one of my first projects.L: For me, the point was when we began making our Comfort Food Blanket, which was featured in Pleasure Objects at Gallery 211 (which is sadly no longer open). Before Alyssa and I began collaborating, I had made blankets and other random crochet objects, simply because I was addicted to creating through the medium of crochet. When we began putting together all of the small food components to form Comfort Food Blanket, it was so satisfying to see the dark themes of shame, repulsion, addiction, and emotional eating culminate in this soft piece of fiber art. I still crochet for utility; I have made blankets and other crochet objects for my friend’s babies and family members. Crocheting is a stress-reliever for me, and I love how we can use this medium to create art pieces and more utilitarian pieces.Who/What are your main sources of inspiration?A: We look up to and admire so many artists, writers, people in general. I would say that Instagram has connected us with so many incredible fiber artists that we would never have heard of because they aren't in the history books yet; some of those people include Twinkie Chan, JuJuJust, Elizabeth Pawle, Kathryn Vercillo, Pat Ahern (Padurn) etc.Some of our favorite artists from the history books would include: Frida Khalo, Eva Hesse, Yoko Ono, Claes Oldenburg and Christo and Jeanne Claude. Writers: Roxane Gay, Lindy West, Jesmyn Ward, Anaïs Nin, etc. Comedians and celebrities: Beyonce and Solange and basically the whole dynasty of the Knowles family, Barack and Michelle Obama, Janelle Monae, Rihanna, Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson from 2 Dope Queens, and Alana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson from Broad CitIs your work all completely free form crochet or do you follow/modify patterns? Ps. I love your recent succulent photo!L: We do a bit of both. Alyssa is way better at freeform than I am, but I’d say we do about equal parts freeform and modifying patterns. Succulent, for example, contains a lot of pieces that are based off of free patterns available on Martha Stewart!There are so many talented fiber artists and pattern writers out there, and we are very grateful that so many of them have decided to share their skills and patterns online. (We always give credit when we use a pattern written by someone else, of course!) Our skills doing freeform crochet also stem from practicing different patterns over the years and learning different techniques in regards to creating certain shapes, angles, etc.L: Sadly, our pieces go into storage in Alyssa’s garage after our exhibitions are over. In a perfect world, we would love to have our own studio space where we are able to display our pieces on a rotating basis, but that is just not financially feasible right now. We are always looking for juried exhibitions to submit our pieces to throughout the year, and all of our pieces are available for purchase upon inquiry. If anyone’s interested, you can check them out on our email us!I understand that you both work full time jobs outside of Threadwinners. How many hours a week do you each dedicate to this creative pursuit?L: When we are actively working on a project, I’d say we dedicate a few hours a day to crocheting and planning, usually after work. We always tell each other that we should count our hours, but we never doRight now, we are taking a bit of a break before we begin work on an upcoming project, so personally speaking I haven’t been spending too much time crocheting. We’re going to start creating a new tapestry piece in the next few months, though, so things are going to get busy!A: Yes, in our heyday, Liz and I were working hundreds of hours to create our tapestries and installations since I was only working part time and was able to dedicate more attention to our art. However, the work doesn’t stop when the pieces are made because we design our own exhibition books, graphics, flyers etc. and then for the majority of the exhibitions, we’re the ones actually installing our work. We get lucky with juried exhibitions and calls for art, because we can literally submit them and ship them off and they’ll be responsible for hanging the piece.What do you credit as the secret to your success? :)L: Thank you for the compliment- you are too kind! :) This is going to sound cheesy, but I think plain hard work has gotten us to where we are with Threadwinners today. Any success that we have had thus far is because we both treat Threadwinners as a second job; something that we have agreed to dedicate time and effort to.We spend hours practicing our stitches, testing improvised patterns, networking, scouring the internet for calls for art, and much more. It can be exhausting at times, but it’s also really fun and rewarding because we both love doing it. And we have met so many amazing artists within the crochet community who have helped us and supported us along the way! I don’t think we would be where we are today career-wise without their support.Can you share what you are working on now or fill us in on what we can look forward to from Threadwinners?A: We are currently in talks with Gather DTLA, a yarn store located inside of The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles. Our friend and crochet genius, Pat Ahern, recommended us, and now they want us to yarnbomb their space! Thank you Pat and Tifanee!Threadwinners also has plans for a fall retrospective outside of St. Louis at McKendree University. We will be showing all of our old tapestries as well as creating a new piece to premier there! We’ve been posting sneak pieces on our Instagram, so feel free to follow us and check it out!What advice would you give to someone who is just learning to knit or crochet?L: YouTube is your friend! Alyssa and I both learned to crochet from watching a ton of tutorials online, and we still refer to YouTube videos when we want to learn a new stitch or try a new, cute pattern for fun.A: Practice, practice, practice. It’s obviously frustrating in the beginning, but don’t stop because something is hard and challenging; Being pushed helps you get better. Recently, my favorite video to describe stress and growth is this clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcUAIpZrwogWhere can we find and follow you online?A: Liz is incredible at keeping our Facebook, Instagram and website for Threadwinners up to date and those are honestly the best places to find out what we’re doing. And of course, anyone we shouted out for inspiration, please give them a follow and support your local craft artists!**********************************************************************************So there you have it-the Threadwinners! Aren't they impressive? Be sure to follow them in their crochet adventure and take heed of their advice about practice and dedication (I know I will). And if you haven't yet, take a listen to the clip on stress and growth-there's wisdom there! I'm so grateful to them for sharing their thoughts and art and for taking the time to collaborate with us. And if you find that you are inspired by their work and message be sure to let them know, either in the comment section below or through their social media. I know they'de love to hear that their message resonated with you!
I've been having a wonderful time scouring the internet for rad guerrilla artists and have had the good fortune to interview a few lately. Yarn Vandalette from Germany and Montana Banksy from the States were kind enough to share their back stories, inspirations and plans for the future and now Yarnomaniac is joining the gang!Yarnomaniac is a Danish artist with an important environmental message that she shares with the world using plastic, crochet and street art! I wont give away any more because all the juicy details and beautiful pics are just below, right at your finger tips and best described by the Yarnomaniac herself! Enjoy and be sure to comment at the end of it all.*************************************************************************************Yarnomaniac, tell us about yourself and art:I am a Danish artist wanting to draw attention to the world's big plastic issue. I do it with bright full colours and positivity. I collect old plastic bags, transform them into yarn and spend weeks crocheting big WHATs in the shape of graffiti.WHAT is the beginning of a whole sentence by which I want to remind myself and others who bump into the pieces: WHAT do we do to reduce disposable/single use plastics?My mission is to place pieces all around the world. Reminding more and more people to say no to single use plastics. When installing the pieces I like to wear one of my favourite sweatshirts, that - if you take a closer look at it - reveals a crocheted f*ckfinger/hand (), going all the way from the front and ends on back. This plastic-comment gives me the power to go outside and do the things I do.Tell us about how you came to be inspired to advocate for this cause:Well, I’ve always been environmentally conscious, a big fan of Greenpeace and fan of graffiti too. As a teenager I imagined myself being one of the activists going speedboating risking my life to prevent an environmental disaster.And somewhat inspired by Michael Jackson’s song "Man in the mirror” I started collecting plastic bags and cut out statements against plastic, but never got them installed.Years later, at the same time as the plastic problem got huge, I got the idea to transform the bags into yarn and made the first WHAT.You crochet with plastic or plarn-tell us more about the materials you use and how you source them: That’s right. I collect worn out plastic bags from everywhere. Some by plogging, some by collecting from people in my neighbourhood. Then I cut the bags into yarn to crochet a WHAT.Each peace takes a lot of time and patience/stubbornness to produce. And to be honest, I’m not totally happy/thrilled about letting all this plastic glide through my hands.Whenever crocheting a WHAT, I try to focus on the impact it has. The WHAT-project has already made people change their single-use-plastic-behaviour - like my parents, people I meet and people joining on Instagram - so I think it’s all worth itTell us about your installation and inspiration process: some pieces appear in nature, some urban.... how do you choose where to install?I haven’t really thought about that before... Only that there should be no rules, because plastic has no rules either.It’s everywhere. In the ocean, in our food, and since it’s airborn it’s also found in honey and places where people usually have no access. Like on the mountains of Switzerland. My pieces have to be everywhere - to stress that plastic is everywhere.But since/now you’re asking... I realize that all the places have one thing on common. My eyes always look for beautiful places and spots. And since I appreciate both nature and urban (actually I find most beauty in rough, abandoned, or over tagged places either colorful or rough/raw), I’m installing all these different places. I want to preserve the beauty of our Earth and not let it be heaped with plastic.How do you install them, for how long, are you able to re-use them?I always take my pieces down after shooting, but not just because they are reusable. If I left it hanging, it would end up polluting the nature. And besides... each piece takes quite some time to produce. Sometimes a piece is up for ten minutes for the shoot, like in deserted places in nature. The urban ones I often let hang for some hours.It’s very rewarding. People are curious, express lots of support and there is always someone ready to give a hand. On a parking lot I wasn’t high enough to reach the top-notch-installation-space and got help from a lady who literally lifted me by folding her hands, letting me step into them x 20 times before the piece was in place.Next time I’ll bring a ladder...! But usually I bring one or two pieces along with my installation gear containing: clamps, ordinary yarn, double sided tape (looking for a sustainable version), scissor and hooks.What does the future hold for the WHAT project?I’ll go to unexpected places, climb high mountains, dive deep, deep down in the sea or whatever I can do to bring the message forward.And for sure I’ll be climbing Mount Fuji facing my fear of heights to install a big WHAT in the blazing wind on the top. Only I’ll have to figure out how to reach Japan and many other destinations without an airplane. To me it doesn’t make sense to fight plastic by polluting/ contaminating with co2.Usually I go by train, but WHAT am I gonna do to reach Greenland, India and of course Japan? Right now I’m looking for other artists and photographers who would like to collaborate to spread the message all around the world.What advice would give an aspiring street artist with an important message?My best advise for aspiring street artist is; just get started. I made a “DO IT” sign, to remind me of that; just do it.Final question: What are you top tips for reducing plastic use?Reducing plastic is also easy. Simply by saying no to all single use plastic bags, cutlery and all other single use plastic stuff. You can also try plogging. Plogging is a Swedish sport where you run and pick up rubbish at the same time. In that way plastic pollution isn’t totally bad… at least/actually it got me out there running without peeping but with a big smile on my face.How can we follow your mission or learn more about you? It’s great to link to www.yarnomaniac.com and you can see the latest and greatest of the What's via Instagram.**************************************************************************************So there you have it: Yarnomaniac filling us in on how she got started spreading her message, how you make tiny steps to help the environment (and your health if you plog) and also how you can get going as a street artist. I feel so inspired to read her words and connect with her passion for 'making' the world a better, cleaner place, and of course this has lead me to think about my single plastic use. Not surprisingly, there is definitely room for improvement in this regard. I'm also super excited to report we are in talks around a What collaboration, so stay tuned to see how this shakes down! This all leads quite nicely to passing along a huge, warm thanks to Yarnomaniac for the time she took to share her story with us and the energy and effort she puts out in the Universe. We'de both love to hear back from you in the comment section below- on how you or your community reduce single plastic use, whether youve tried plogging or anything else Yarnomaniac's interview brought to mind.Craft well, be well!