Category Archives: Art

Help Peters Valley and Bid on Amazing Artwork!

Peters Valley

November 14th is the Annual Fine Craft Auction & Benefit Dinner at the Lafayette House Restaurant, Lafayette, NJ. This annual event helps provide much needed funding to the Peters Valley Craft Center in Layton, NJ.

Artists donate some amazing items for bidding! The best part is even if you can’t make the event in person, you can still view and bid on these amazing pieces of art! Just check out and bid at the official Peters Valley Auction Page. You can also sign up to receive email updates on items added to the list and keep an eye on your favorite items!

Many different mediums are represented, including blacksmithing, woodworking, glass, ceramics, pottery and of course, fiber and textiles. Also be sure to check back often because new items will be added regularly. The items offered are just amazing and something can be found for every budget!

These tough economic times have hit many non-profits hard and Peters Valley is no exception. It is important we all help when we can and support our favorite non-profits and as many of you know, the arts have a special place in my heart!

I hope if you are able, you will consider bidding on an item or two or even attending. You won’t be sorry!

Artist Katherine Kowalski and Her Fiber Arts Tools

OK, I’ll admit it…I love buying crochet hooks. Recently I purchased an absolutely goregous hook made by Katherine Kowalski that is a dream to use! I asked if she would be willing to share a little information about herself and her amazing hooks and she was happy to. I hope you enjoy learning about her!

ALVB:
 When did you start to make fiber arts tools?
KK: I started making fiber arts tools in 2007 after I bought my first lathe. (I’ve been doing fiber arts for 25+ years, so I have a unique perspective on creating crochet hooks, knitting needles, etc.). In fact, when I was doing fiber arts more prolifically, I used to buy wooden crochet hooks, and some of the makers out there *clearly* had no concept of the functionality of a crochet hook: how it should be held, how the yarn runs through, comfortability, etc. So when I started making hooks, I wanted them to be made from a fiber artist’s perspective…. and beautiful as well!

ALVB: What drew you to woodworking in the first place?
KK: I was drawn to woodworking with a box… a puzzle box. I’d bought it in Charleston, SC on vacation when I was about 13. I wanted to make more sooooo very badly, but my father wouldn’t buy us a scroll saw. So, when I was 27, the idea resurfaced, but now as an adult I had my own money… and was able to spend it as I saw fit! (I bought the scroll saw). Anyway, on a jaunt to a specialty wood store I saw this marvelous looking machine. I was instantly drawn to it… it whispered sweet nothings in my ear and said “I must come home with you!”

Well, that mysterious machine was a lathe, and it must have been some special power in the universe that brought me to it, because I find that woodturning is a craft that gives me ultimate satisfaction. I now have *three* lathes, plus a host of other woodworking equipment, where, two and a half years ago I thought that “woodworking” was putting a nail in the wall to hang a picture. Now, as a professional craftsman, I *definitely* appreciate the skill and practice and design that goes into creating refined pieces from a seemingly rough and rigid material.

ALVB: What are your favorite materials to use?
KK: I love working with exotic woods: my very favorites are the True Rosewoods, (Dalbergia genus), Olivewood, Pink Ivory, Holly, and Ivorywood. The Rosewoods and Olivewood have a rather “oily” texture, and are super fine-grained. These make for excellent tiny hooks, (down to a size D 3.25mm), because they are incredibly strong yet are able to flex ever so slightly to handle the stresses of being made into an itty-bitty crochet hook… and they feel soooooooo wonderful in the hand! Holly and Ivorywood are fantastic for making finials for fine art boxes, which I love to create as well. Each of the woods is an absolute *pleasure* to work with! The shavings/chips fly off with angelic grace!

I also like working with the dyed and laminated hardwoods because they’re so very colorful. (In fact, I special-ordered several of my own color combinations that appealed to me more than the standards. (The factory has no less than FIVE different “camo” colorways! What are we color-lovers to do?!) Anyway, I created a rainbow colorway, and others that incorporate more purples, pinks, greens, and blues.

I also have definite proclivities for working with Turquoise, Malachite, Chrysocolla, Mother of Pearl and other stones/materials with which I create inlays. They add something very special to a “plain wood” hook! Of course the ultimate material is a diamond… I’ve inset diamonds (set in 14k gold) into several of my pieces from my Ornate Hooks collection. (I also like to use any number of other “sparklies” — Mexican Fire Opal, Chrome Diopside, Garnet, Amethyst, Peridot, etc.)

ALVB: What would you recommend to someone looking to purchase a hook from you for the first time? What should they look at?
KK: When someone buys a hook they should look at their own comfort first. That’s the way I would buy a hook Thus I try to make them as comfortable as possible. When I crochet, I use the “knife” hold, so I like my crochet hooks longer. (The metal ones from the store bite into my palm and are quite painful to use). My hooks, which are around 8″ long, are perfect for knife-holders. I also make a Pacifica series of hooks which are shorter, geared toward people who prefer short hooks, or like to use the “pencil” hold.

I also carve “yarn grooves” into the head of the hook to make crocheting faster and easier. My hooks are smooth as glass, so the yarn slips through almost effortlessly.

After essentials like comfortability are taken care of, choose a hook that “speaks” to you. Many of my clients like brilliant colors, or love the natural grain of the wood. I also use acrylic materials which have sparkly swirls of color rippling through! Jingly rings attract a lot attention — they’re marvelous free-spinning captive rings that are turned in place. This is the perfect hook to “twiddle” if you’re bored!

Above all, choose a hook that’s well made. Mine are made to be heirloom quality — they will last generations. For my multi-wood hooks, I use proper joinery techniques, such as are used in the furniture making industry. My crochet hooks with inlays or gemstones are fastened with epoxies that are the highest-quality on the market today and are designed to last into the future. I do take a great deal of care making my fiber arts tools, and even though these steps take much more time, it’s worth it to me to know that one day, a client’s great-granddaughter might be using my crochet hook. 

ALVB: What new design ideas do you have on the horizon? 
KK: Ahhh! Now time for me to spill the secrets! LOL! I’m just kidding. In woodturning, we have no secrets — it’s a very sharing community. In fact, that’s where my new ideas come from. My most recent series of Ornate Crochet Hooks came from attending the Utah Woodturning Symposium this year and seeing various artists’ work. My mentor, world-renowned woodturning artist Cindy Drozda, also gave me the idea of inlaying precious gemstones. After I came back from that whirlwind trip, my mind was buzzing with ideas, and I decided to 1. turn a crochet hook, 2. carve a design into the top of the hook, 3. paint it with metallic paints, adding layer upon layer, then 4. inset a semi- or precious gemstone in sterling silver or 14k gold. The result was a stunning new creation… I’d taken the crochet hook to a new level approaching artwork, and these pieces have been well-received in the community.

Of course, there are definite design limitations when you require the hook to be absolutely functional: the carving cannot go below a certain point, or it would interfere with comfortability, etc. To go beyond those restrictions, I’ve made a series of Art Hooks — only a couple so far, and one for a dear friend of mine… who doesn’t even crochet! I’ve recently attended the AAW National Symposium as well as the Rocky Mountain Woodturning Symposium, and have even more new design thoughts in mind. I guess the answer to the question is… I have new ideas all the time and put them into creation as soon as I can! Long-time clients will have noticed changes in my designs over the years, more as an evolutionary process, rather than a *bang* one. For a definitive answer — I’m planning on making more Art Hooks, as well as new designs within the Ornate Hook series. I absolutely LOVE trying new things!

What is Art?

It is a question for the ages. Artists have always pushed the envelope and they have always been questioned. For example, I never quite understood why Duchamp signed a urinal, called it art and put it on display, but who am I to judge? Maybe I never understood what he was trying to say by doing so.

While I believe everyone is entitled to their opinion on their interpretation of art, I have never used hurtful language when describing it. However, this past week someone online had some pretty harsh words for some crochet art. There are many fiber artists I admire – Myra Wood, Prudence Mapstone, Margaret Hubert to name a few – and when I see someone not only to break copyright law and post photos of some amazing artist’s work with permission but to write hurtful opinions of the work, well, that just didn’t sit right with me. The worst comment referred to someone’s work by commenting “a retarded money on crack could do a better job.” Well, that’s a bit over the top for me. When I asked why he had such a harsh opinion, I was told the work was “not easily copied.” Well, I would think art shouldn’t be easily copied.

I would be curious to hear from all of you on how you describe and react to art you don’t like.

San Luis Valley Folk Arts and Fiber Festival Hosts the International Freeform Crochet Guild Exhibit in Monte Vista, CO

Released by the San Luis Valley Folk Arts and Fiber Festival…

The San Luis Valley Folk Arts and Fiber Festival kicks off its third year on June 23, in Monte Vista, with an exhibit of fiber artists whose work spans the globe. The SLV Fest is a celebration of the handmade and traditional arts.

Admission to both the exhibit and festival are free. Saturday and Sunday convene with two, full days of vendors, food, music, demonstrations, exhibits and contests—including the favorite wool spinning races.  There will also be children’s knitting classes on Saturday.

From the International Freeform Guild website:
“… Freeform crochet is like painting. The hook is a brush and the yarn, a paint. The result can be abstract or realistic. Freeform is original design, not a reproduction of another person’s pattern; it goes beyond the realm of patterns and restrictions that usually apply toward our art. The outcome is a piece of art like no other, not only functional, but beautiful as well. Freeform includes 2-D and 3-D art, clothing and useful items.”

Fifty-two artists contributed to the original show; At least fourteen will participate in the Monte Vista exhibit. Many of these artists exhibit locally and internationally; several have been published recurrently.

“Four Seasons” will be published in book form later this year. A calendar is also planned. All proceeds from the sales of both will benefit Woman to Woman, a non-profit organization that provides aid to women in war-torn countries. 

Participating Artists:
• Andrea Lyn Van Benschoten, Rockaway, NJ USA
• Orla Breslin. County Kerry, Ireland
• Marie Castro, Guarulhos,Sao Paulo, Brazil
• Kathie Cureington, Alabama, US
• Margaret Hubert, Pawling, NY US
• Myra Wood, Sherman Oaks, CA US
• Kerri Lincoln, Oneonta, NY, US
• Perry Lowell, Framingham, MA, US
• Renate Kirkpatrick, Mooloolaba, Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia
• Prudence Mapstone, Brisbane, Queensland AUS
• Sheryl Means, Richmond, TX, US
• Laura Murphy, Monte Vista, CO US
• Zelda Pheonix, West Salem, OH US
• Susan Wolf Swartz, Highland Park, IL, US
• Leslie Nelle Urinyi, New Jersey, US

The Four Seasons Free Form Style

I am both honored and excited to announce the 2009 International Freeform Exhibit is now available for your viewing pleasure!

This year’s theme is “the four seasons.” A total of 52 artists from around the globe participated this year. The artists were given the choice of creating one or more freeform pieces interpreting the four seasons. Unlike other years, they were not restricted to scrumbles and many of the pieces are wearable art and sculptural as well. None of the artists saw each other’s pieces until this online show.

Later this year, a professionally printed book will be available highlighting the entire project and all the artists who participated.

You can check out the online show at the official 2009 Four Seasons Show web site. You will definitely not be disappointed!

Opening of The Great Goblet Gala 2008

I just got home a short while ago from the opening of The Great Goblet Gala 2008 at Peter’s Valley in Layton, NJ. I don’t mind admitting I was quite nervous about the whole event. When Glenn and I arrived I took a deep breath and ascended the stairs to the gallery above the shop. There it was right in the middle of the room! The best part of the evening was that as you looked around the room, you couldn’t really “tell” that this was my first gallery piece. I felt like it really belonged…if that makes any sense.

Glenn and I sort of stood back as people came to look, so I could observe their reaction. I saw lots of smiles and heard lots of positive comments. I can’t tell you how good it made me feel!

The show will be on until the end of September, so I highly recommend you go and check out all the great goblets. The room was filled with wonderfully creative pieces! For more information on the show, click here.

Alert: My First Gallery Piece at The Great Goblet Gala 2008

I am excited to announce that my first crochet sculpture will be on display at The Great Goblet Gala 2008 in the Peter’s Valley Museum in Layton, NJ. The show opens on Saturday, July 26th. There will be an opening day reception that day from 4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Additionly, George’s wine and Spirits Gallery in Branchville, NJ will present wines during the Opening Reception celebration.

I can’t tell you how excited I am! I am going to hold off on posting images of my piece until the day of the show opening. I will be at the reception on the 26th (of course!), so if you stop by, please say hi!

For more information on the show, click here.

Freeform: Through Our Eyes

As I have written before, I love freeform. For the last few years, the International Freeform Crochet Guild has done an annual project focused on a specific theme. This year the theme was “through our eyes,” where guild members were challenged to interpret the theme in any needlework technique. Thirty-five members accepted the challenge and the results are truly amazing!

You can view the entire installation online by clicking here. Each participant also write a short piece about the inspiration behind their creation.

You can also see the past exhibits on the site as well. You will truly be amazed by the talent these fiber artists display! They are a real inspiration and am proud to call them my colleagues in fiber and my friends.

Great Sculptural Crochet Site!

I wanted to share a great site that can help with sculptural crochet! It is from SuperNaturale and I have to say this is going to be a great help to me when attempting some of the more tricky 3D shapes. This is a great site and I can’t wait to fully explore it. Make sure you check out the baby octopus. Amazing!

I can’t tell you how happy I am this site was passed along to me! I must thank my fellow freeformers, who passed on this site. They are true artists and I am proud to call many of them my friends.

A Great Fly Fishing Honor!

You all already know, crochet is one of my great loves. Well, you may not know that my other great love is fly fishing. There is a zen quality I feel when fly casting and standing in the water, listening to the water move downstream.

The Catskill Fly Fishing Museum and Center has a great exhibit on the evolution of women in fly fishing. During the fall last year, while speaking with the Executive Director, I told him about a jacket I embellished with a trout scene. He immediately wanted to see it. I shipped it to him and he just loved it. I am proud to say that it is now part of the exhibit!

On Sunday, I had the opportunity to see the exhibit and my jacket was prominently displayed! I was just walking on air! Glenn took several photos of me standing in front of the display with my jacket. I am both excited and honored to have something I created that combines both my love for crochet and my love for fly fishing displayed in such an important place in the sport. Words just can’t describe…