Interviewed by Jessie Aoife

How long have you been making clothes for?

I’ve been crafting and making things since I was little; as a kid I would try to make my own clothes or clothes for my dolls and stuffed animals but they never turned out very well. It wasn’t until I was in high school when I started to follow sewing patterns and make clothing that was actually functional. I did theatre for a long time and was specifically interested in costume design, so for a while I was mostly making costumes for theatre and dance performances.

For your knitwear do you use a machine or hand knit?

Everything I make is hand knit! I would love to learn how to use a knitting machine but have just never had the opportunity. I really love the process of hand knitting, how sometimes it takes extreme focus and other times I can do it while watching movies,. I like being able to keep my hands moving at all times.

What is the artistic process behind coming up with designs? 

I am mostly inspired by my materials. Since all of the yarn I use is second hand, coming from unraveled sweaters or yarn I find at thrift stores and reuse centres, I have to work backwards. The yarn I find dictates what I make as opposed to finding materials to complete a project I’ve designed. I am really inspired by colour and texture and I’m such a nerd for fibre content!

 

Where do you find inspiration for colour schemes?

Similarly to how I come up with designs, I just use what I have. I find that this pushes me to create things that are more interesting and out of my comfort zone than if I had endless options. I’m not really much of a planner, I kind of just start knitting and see what happens and having the restrictions of my materials makes this process go smoother.

How do you create your patterns? 

I learned how to knit garments by following other people’s patterns and then eventually gained enough knowledge of techniques to create my own. In terms of knitting patterns, mine aren’t very complex; they are mostly just elementary shapes with a little bit of shaping here and there. Other knitters out there have much more knowledge of advanced shaping and finishing. My pieces are all pretty boxy, with the focus being on the colours and patterns rather than the fit of the garment. For the intarsia patterns (the knit pieces with images on them) I start out with graph paper. I think of each stitch as one square on the graph paper and build images off of that, kind of like pixels.

What’s the most exciting project you have worked on?

Definitely my senior thesis project! I graduated college in May 2020 and my degree culminated in a capstone thesis. I was interested in exploring my own relationship to making things by hand, examining how these slow processes connected me to my materials and where they came from, pushing against the commodification of clothing and textiles. I researched what other makers had to say about their experiences of making, why they do it and what it means to them, and ultimately found this thread of spirituality that connected all of our experiences. My digital exhibition of this project can be found at

andreaarts.myportfolio.com

Do you have a dream/ultimate goal for your art?

The dream is to be a full-time working artist, although what exactly that looks like I’m not sure. I want to pursue making knit pieces for people to wear out in the world as well as the more “fine art” sculptural side of my art practice. There is a distinction between the world of “craft” and the world of “art” and I don’t really know where I belong - I want to exist in both. I hope to make work that people connect with, that inspires them, and that engages with the world around us. Making means so much to me and I hope to be able to translate the power it has in my life out into the world somehow.

"There is a distinction between the world of craft and the world of art and I don’t really know where I belong - I want to exist in both."

Did you find the lockdown helped or hindered your creative mind? 

I had to finish my thesis in lockdown, so that helped me to push past the initial block that might have happened. I also think that I was able to focus on making and selling sweaters in a way that wouldn’t have happened otherwise, although I definitely experienced (and still experience) a lot of existential angst about what it means to make art in the midst of global crisis.

Who taught you how to knit and sew? 

My mom taught me how to sew! She learned from her grandmother and would make me and my siblings clothing when we were kids. I taught myself how to knit, which took many, many years. I first started trying to learn when I was seven or eight, but it wasn’t until I was nineteen , in my first year of college, when I made my first functional object (a beanie!).

Where do you get your materials from? 

All of my materials are second hand. It’s important to me to make things consciously and actively strive to make positive change, even if that change is as small as saving a little bit of yarn from the landfill. My favourite way to get materials is by unraveling sweaters from thrift stores; I feel so inspired by the layers of life that that yarn has had. I also am able to find a significant amount of unknit yarn from local thrift stores and reuse centres.

Finally, what's your next step?

I’m moving at the end of September to start a nine-month textile art residency at an art institute in Western Michigan. I feel so grateful to have found the opportunity amidst all this uncertainty and chaos. I’m looking at grad school for the near future, but who knows where we’ll be at this time next year.

"I feel so inspired by the layers of life that that yarn has had."

C O N T A C T

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