One of the things that I love to do in my free time is to browse through Etsy. There are three things I look for on Etsy: great works of crochet, anything made by people local to the San Francisco Bay Area and yarn (because I admit that I have a yarn fetish). While doing such browsing, I came across the Etsy store of San Francisco crocheter SnippetFairy, aka Zhenya. I was very intrigued by Zenhya’s crochet work, something that she uses to enhance the other fiber arts and sculpture work that she does. I was thrilled when she agreed to do an interview with me. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
CROCHETBLOGGER: If you remember, what was the first thing that you crocheted?
SNIPPETFAIRY: My mom taught me the very basic stitch when I was a little kid. I remember being fascinated by the process and creating many long “chains”. It was a while before I learned to actually add the stitches together in more than just a single row. It was my grandmother that guided me through my first “real” crochet project. It was a pincushion with a circle of black velvet fabric on top, surrounded by several rows of colorful crochet. I still have the thing! I must have been about 8 or 9 years old.
CROCHETBLOGGER: * smile * I also remember creating a super long chain after a lesson from my mom. It was a hideous yellow acrylic chain that I wrapped around and around an old rolling pin. The pincushion sounds adorable!
CROCHETBLOGGER: How does crochet enhance the other art work / sculpture that you do? For example, when would you choose crochet over another type of fiber art for a sculpture?
SNIPPETFAIRY: I love the texture of crocheted surfaces, so when I want to make something with textural interest I find it a good choice. I also just really enjoy the cozy feeling of building up from simple yarn to create something interesting. I’m often drawn to crochet when I’m tired, stressed, or sick — I guess this is less about how crochet enhances the product and more about how it enhances my emotional wellbeing.
CROCHETBLOGGER: I totally understand that sentiment. I was originally drawn back to crochet when I was going through a particularly tough time, spending long hours in bed and needing something to do to help me feel better. Crochet is definitely a healing craft!
CROCHETBLOGGER: What is your favorite yarn to work with? Where do you get your yarn?
SNIPPETFAIRY: I’ll use anything I have, different types of yarn are good for different things, but I love them all. Friends and family tend to give me leftover yarn from projects, so I rarely buy any (I buy yarn for doll hair, as that needs to be uniform, but not so much for crochet).
I’m kind of backwards when it comes to the relationship between art and materials, I guess. I let the materials I have on hand inspire and dictate how my next piece of art takes shape, instead of conceiving of a piece first and then purchasing materials to fulfill it. It’s sort of like cooking. Some people find a recipe and then go buy all the ingredients, while others see what they’ve got and come up with something interesting to cook from that. I do some of each, but I’m usually in the latter camp.
CROCHETBLOGGER: I think that sounds like a terrific approach to crochet art!
CROCHETBLOGGER: I love your soft crocheted monsters. (pictured above) You note on your store that you don’t use a pattern for these. Did you use any type of pattern at first to get the basic design down or was it all freeform design?
SNIPPETFAIRY: Nope, no pattern at all. Just the basic knowledge of how to add and subtract stitches to expand and contract the shape, the rest was improvisation. I just started crocheting from the top of the future monster’s head, and “sculpted” features as I got further down. I made them up as I went along. If it didn’t look good, I unraveled a bit and redid that part. The first monster was an experiment, but I liked what I got, so I made a few more in other colors. With each next one, I was more certain how to sculpt the features with the crochet stitches, but I never did settle on an exact pattern, which is why they all look slightly different in shape and size.
Same story with the horses. Those were a lot more challenging to improvise with no pattern, so I had a lot more trial and error going on and had to unravel quite a few times, but it was fun.
CROCHETBLOGGER: How creative! I love it!
CROCHETBLOGGER: Are there any particular items in your store right now that you’d like me to highlight on the blog?
Well, I love those monsters too.
I guess another group that I’d like to highlight is my eco-friendly recycled yarn crochet. Mainly that’s the dish scrubbies, but I have a zippered pouch made with similar materials, and I plan to do more things, because I just love the idea of using up resources that would otherwise end up in the landfills. You can crochet out of anything, as long as it’s long and skinny and flexible. It doesn’t have to be traditional yarn. I have a lot of colorful knit fabrics leftover from other projects (I do costuming work off Etsy), so I cut them into narrow strips and use them for crochet. The backs of the scrubbies and the outside of the zippered pouch are made using this “yarn”. The rough sides of the scrubbies are crocheted from cut up nylon grocery nets, like the ones you’d buy tangerines or potatoes in. It’s a tedious process and they are tricky to crochet from, as the little bristles get caught and tangled easily, but I love to make something useful from something that would have been otherwise thrown out!
CROCHETBLOGGER: I am a huge fan of recycled art and fashion so I think this is great! And you do a good job of putting together interesting colors and materials to make a cool finished product.
CROCHETBLOGGER: Finally, what is one thing about crochet that you want other people to know?
I think that when people think of crochet, what typically comes to mind is something very exact and organized, something you need to do “just so” or it wouldn’t be “correct”. Something that follows a complicated and precise pattern and order to produce a very specific result. This traditional approach can be used to create gorgeous things; I admire it greatly, but I want people to know that that’s only one way of thinking of crochet.
The other way is the exact opposite! One can use just the very basic stitches and techniques for expansion and contraction to produce shapes in two and three dimensions. When looked at it this way, as basically a soft sculpting technique, crochet becomes as free flowing and flexible as any other artistic medium, and while the result may not be as precise or easy to replicate, it can be extremely rewarding and liberating.
The beautiful thing is that not only can crochet be approached in these two very different styles, but the two can also be combined, in an unlimited number ways. Which means it’s a technique that is as versatile as the artist will allow it to be.