In a way, Nicki Hitz Edson was the reason that I started my ongoing series about 1970s crochet designers. The book that she co-authored with Arlene Stimmel (Creative Crochet) was one of the first amazing vintage resources that I came across about the work from this era. With some quick Internet research I found out that she Nicki is still an active artist. I’ve even been in touch with her and she helped me to find out information about many of the other designers from that era that I’ve profiled here. So it’s about time that I did a profile of Nicki’s work, isn’t it?!
Nicki Hitz Edson
Nicki Hitz Edson started her art career as a photographer but quickly found the work unsatisfying. She began attending the Art Students League in 1965 and exploring other forms of art. On a visit home in 1969 her mother taught her how to crochet and she was hooked. In 1971 she crocheted the first of her masks, something she would become well known for, as part of a Halloween costume for a party at the house of fellow crocheter Janet Lipkin. She loved working with color and exploring structural pieces. Later on she began working in commercial knitwear and branched out into many different forms of fiber art. She received fiber arts awards in 1976 and then 20 years later in 1996, which I think is kind of a great testament to her long art career. She has been exhibiting her work in galleries and museums steadily since 1972; her most recent show was a Wearable Art show at the San Francisco Legion of Honor Museum in 2005. Her work has been featured in several books but Creative Crochet is the only book that she authored. Nicki’s work has been recognized in the crochet community as evidenced by her inclusion in the CGOA’s Hall of Fame.
When I first started looking at vintage crochet books in my local library I came across a few good resources and Creative Crochet was one of the best. Creative Crochet was co-authored by Niki Hitz Edson and Arlene Stimmel. What really struck me about Nicki’s work in the diversity of her works. Many of the designers of this era were making the same type of garment again and again, often a garment style similar to others working at the same time.
Nicki’s work is different. She makes items, like crocheted boots, that are different from what the other designers are making. And she doesn’t limit herself to just one type of garment – or to garments at all for that matter. She makes stuffed animals, a bag shaped like a fish and masks. Crochet masks were something she seems to be especially known for during these early days of her work.
Crochet Wolf Mask by Nikki Hitz Edson, 1970s
Creative Crochet has been modified for the 21st century and is now available for purchase as a CD.
Nicki Hitz Edson in Del Feldman’s Books
One of the designers from that time, Del Pitt Feldman, wrote several different crochet books of her own during that time. She featured Nicki’s work in at least two of her books: Discovery and Design and The Crocheter’s Art.
Nicki Hitz Edson in Art to Wear
In the early 1980s gallery owner Julie Schafler Dale published a book called Art To Wear that’s all about the popular wearable art of the time. Nicki’s work is featured in that book as well. It shows one of her crochet masks from the mid-1970s. It also shows a lot of loom knitted garments, which is what she had moved into by the beginning of the 80’s.
Nicki Hitz Edson in the 1990s
1996 knit tapestry by Nicki Hitz Edson, measures 5′ across
In Art To Wear we saw Nicki moving more into other forms of needlework besides crochet. She continued to explore different options in fiber arts. In the 1990s she started making many art tapestries. They were designed to look like woven tapestries but were actually knitted.
Nicki Hitz Edson Today
Black Jack, a fiber art pet portrait by Nicki Hitz Edson
Nicki Hitz Edson continues to create fiber art today. She is perhaps best known for her pet portraits. She uses knitting and needlefelting to make pet portraits that can be put on pillows or framed as well art. The work interests me, not just because it’s well done but also because it harkens back to something she was doing back in the 1970s. In Creative Crochet there’s actually a picture of the dog that she owned at the time next to a wolf mask. She was obviously inspired by pets and interested in creating fiber art replicas of animals even back then so it’s neat to see how this developed into her work today!