Saturday, March 29, 2014

CGOA Celebrates 20 Years ~ Part 3: Juried Crochet Art Exhibits

Saturday, March 29, 2014

In August 1994, I hosted 90 avid crocheters for a weekend conference at De Paul University in Chicago that included classes taught by Bill Elmore, Joan Davis, Arlene Mintzer and more;  a Keynote Address by Sylvia Landman (Crafting for Dollars); a lecture by Annie Potter; marketplace, meals together, door prizes a plenty. An optional tour of Lake Michigan on the Spirit of Chicago was offered along with an optional post conference workshop with Pauline Turner. The most ambitious of all during the weekend was the Juried Exhibit of Crochet Art.

At the time, I firmly believed that crochet art was an amazing way to educate people about the vast possibilities of crochet. It is amazing to see what can be achieved with just a hook and flexible lines from many, many materials. Today I still hold the same belief: crochet is as varied as the crocheter who does it. Crochet art, however, moves and amazes even the most seasoned professionals when they see how artists apply the hook to the fiber and create amazing works of art.

In my on-going series, looking back at CGOA we celebrate its 20th Anniversary, I want to focus today on the early juried exhibits of crochet art that we produced at our annual crochet conferences from 1994 until 2003. I was privileged to meet and learn from many of the artists whom I met through CGOA. It was a thrill that they were so willing to participate in our juried exhibits and their willingness to send their art for crocheters as well the public to enjoy. From these various exhibits, I eventually chose many of them to be in my book, The Fine Art of Crochet.

I couldn't have done those exhibits without the help of my friend Susan Kenyon who, like me, was a charter member of our local CGOA chapter. I asked her to look back at her experience organizing several juried exhibits and this is what she had to say:

"Beginning with the first CGOA conference, the juried exhibit was a showcase of crocheted artwork.  I was privileged to chair the first exhibit plus two others.  It was exciting to see how people used crochet as their medium and to express themselves. They were creating wall hangings and three dimensional pieces using crochet in such a way that the viewer forgot about the crochet and saw only the piece of artwork.  Often the viewer had to get close to be sure it was crocheted and to see the stitch used.  Other artists made wearable crochet in creative new designs and stitch patterns.  We had to put up 'do not touch' signs around the exhibits because we crocheters like to touch.
One of the things I enjoyed the most was our ability to provide a venue for people to submit their crochet artwork.  We encouraged all crocheters to stretch their creativity.  It has always been my belief  anything we see or feel, externally or internally, can be crocheted.   Time and again the juried exhibits confirmed that to be true."

One of my proudest moments was  collaboration between the Textile Arts Centre in Chicago and CGOA - Chain in Reaction. This traveling art exhibit was juried by Arline Fisch. and we also invited 9 outstanding established artists to exhibit.

Rowan Schussheim Anderson: Staffs of Life
Today, there is still an opportunity for you to exhibit your crochet art. The CGOA Design Competition includes an Artistic Expression category along with Fashion, Accessories, Home Decor and Thread Crochet. An entry form and payment information for the $15.00 fee will be available in mid-June on the CGOA website.

In July 2012, I did a survey of juried exhibits from 1994-2004. Here are some more artworks that evolved out of those incredible shows which we hung like gallery exhibits  in the conference hotels. The work was only up for the short weekend conference, but it was well worth the effort and expense. We educated legions of crocheters about the value of crochet as art and even the most seasoned crocheters learned a thing or two they didn't already know about crochet!

Chunghie Lee:

Tracy Krumm

Carol Ventura:

Norma Minkowitz

Yvette Kaiser Smith

Karen Searle

Bonnie Meltzer
Is there a memorable work of art from a past Chain Link conference/juried art exhibit that stands out in your mind?

After our little trip here down memory lane, I'd like to update you on some of the significant works these artists are STILL doing.

Arline Fisch will be featured in a solo exhibit, "Hanging Gardens," at Mobilia Gallery during April 2014.

Yvette Kaiser Smith created a commission for St. Mary's Breast Center, Epworth Crossing, Newburgh, Indiana in January 2014:

Yvett eKaiser Smith: Pi in Paschal's Triangle Round 3

Chunghie Lee is a fiber artist and writer who lectures at the Rhode Island School of Design and abroad in universities Seoul, Korea including and Evtek Institute of Art & Design, Finland. Her study of Pojagi: Korean Traditional Wrapping Cloths, has inspired wall pieces, sculptures and wearable work.  She has exhibited throughout Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Germany, Poland, France, Norway, Finland, Canada, Indonesia, England, Australia, Netherlands, and North America. 

Bonnie Meltzer has completed a series about coal and its related environmental issues.
who pays?
Mixed Media Art Magazine featured a wonderful article in 2014 about Bonnie including an amazing video tutorial on re-purposing found objects.

The 9th International Fiber Biennial at Snyderman-Works Gallery features Norma Minkowitz until April 26, 2014. The Biennial goal has remained the same: "The re-examination of textiles and fibers as a pathway connecting modern art to the oldest instincts in human culture."

Norma Minkowitz: Migration
Rowan Schussheim Anderson had a feature article, "A World of Color," in Fiber Art Now Magazine (Spring 2014)

Mobilia Gallery installs an annual teapot exhibit. Ellen Moon is included in the exhibit this year.

Ellen Moon: White Peony Teapot
Karen Searle serves as a coordinator of the Women's Art Resources of Minnesota's Mentoring Program. See a video of her describing her philosophies and work, past and present.

Dr. Carol Ventura is a professor of art history at Tennessee Technological University. She is working on 3 books and teaches the tapestry crochet method. She is the architect and general contractor for her insulated concrete form home and studio where she plans to offer workshops and studio space for all of the fiber arts in the near future.

Keep me posted on any crochet art that you discover or  your own projects. I'd love to see them!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Guest Blogger: Loren ~ Ravelry Moderator Extraordinaire!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Today it is my honor to feature my wonderful Ravelry Moderator, Loren. March is the anniversary month for my Ravelry Group Croc-Kween Designs and later today we'll be celebrating by going into the chat room to continue to enjoy each other's company. Please join us at 4:00 PM EST. Since Loren has been such a constant supporter in my group since the beginning and is an experienced moderator, I thought it would be interesting to get her perspective on volunteer job:

"I am one of the moderators for Cro-Kween Designs group on Ravelry.  I get to play “Jester” to our beloved Kween, Gwen Blakly Kinsler, and keep the “Courtesans” (group members) entertained!

I love Ravelry, where I am known as twisted1. I get to meet people from all over the world who share my interests; and I am so inspired by the limitless creativity running throughout this crochet & knit community. I like being able to catalog my projects, and I am happy to have a place where I can learn new things, teach others and see how other stitchers interpret patterns. I am an “idea” person and this role of moderator provides a creative outlet for me.

When I first joined Ravelry in 2008, I looked up designer Lisa Gentry whose work I had admired on TV. She “friended” me and invited me to join her group, Hook and Needle Designs. It was near my birthday, and the group started a “happy birthday” thread for me, a newbie. Amazed and touched, I was also hooked!

Currently, I moderate three groups: Cro-Kween Designs, International Freeform Forum, and laughing purple designs group. I met Gwen in another group during a freeform CAL (crochet-a-long) four years ago. She was starting her own group, and I was invited by Darlene a/k/a Hummywinger, who moderates the Lisa Gentry fan group. I admired Gwen’s creativity and humor, and her commitment to teaching others and spreading the joys of crochet wherever she goes. She has a love for the unconventional, as do I. We also share a mutual adoration for freeform, vintage crochet and beads! I thought Cro-Kween Designs would be a fun place to hang out.

It was during our first CAL that the idea for the “Court” came into being, with each participant taking a Courtly role. It was during that year-long CAL that I became moderator when I took the reins from the previous volunteer who had to drop out.

I am a total CAL addict and one of my duties is to come up with novel ideas for CALs. I seem to have a gift for thinking up clever titles, or so Gwen has told me! For example, “Crown Jewels” dealt with beading, “Child’s Play” was interpreting a child’s drawing in crochet. 

Child's Play by Loren
We have also done CALs revolving around specific themes, such as vacation memories, recycling, and hearts.  Hearts are big in the Court. Next to crochet, Crochetkween is the Kween of Hearts!

My favorite CAL was “Somewhere Beneath the Sea”. It was different because not only did we have dfads (designer-for-a-day), but we made it a guessing game. Each dfad had to choose a sea creature, then post up to 3 clues about the creature. Once a participant guessed what it was, the instructions to make the creature were given. The completed projects were just stunning!

Somewhere Beneath the Sea by Loren
We have a lot of variety in the Court. We have done tutorials on techniques such as beading and hairpin lace. We encourage members to post photos or links to crochet spotted in the “real world”. We discuss yarn-bombing, books we like, and provide a place for members to ask questions. We don’t usually discuss cooking and the weather, we are too wrapped up in yarn for that! I love it when we have a really good CAL going, with lots of chatting and participation. I truly believe that creativity cannot exist in a vacuum.

As moderator, I try to be positive, non-judgmental and encouraging; a helpful attitude is key. Whether someone wants advice on a color choice, gets stuck on a pattern, needs help with photo posting or navigating the site, they know they can ask and I will provide an answer or find someone who can. A moderator keeps the conversations going, and thinks of ways to keep the group active. A moderator should have the ability to work well with others…it seems rather obvious. Lead by example and inspire others.

A sense of humor doesn’t hurt, either! I’m not out to be the “police,” although part of the duties are to step in if things get heated, which thankfully doesn’t occur in my groups. Humor is a good way to deflect issues. Written communication is different than spoken communication. It is interpreted without inflection and body language; so sometimes it’s hard to understand what a writer really means in a post. Things can be taken the wrong way. I read the posts to make sure the person is communicating clearly. If not, I might reply, “Do you mean…” to clarify things before someone gets confused or takes offense. I also get things back on track when people get off topic; moderators are guilty of this, too.

For the past five years, I ran an after school crochet program for ages 8-12, and I recently taught a finger crochet class at my local library. Kids bring so much enthusiasm and that’s what I enjoy (most) about teaching them. I was so impressed with the students who went above and beyond what was taught in class allowing me to create more than a few yarn addicts!

If I had to choose a favorite technique, it would be freeform crochet. I adore the method, but the stars must be aligned, so to speak. One doesn’t always have the freeform muse.

Ka' anapali Beach by Loren
Luckily for me I always have multiple projects going at once. Typically I have at least one knitting project and one “car project” that is easy and portable. Being bi-stitchual helps keep repetitive stress injuries to a minimum. I am fortunate that the “Court” offers so much variety; there is always something going on. I do hope you will join me along with the Kween and her creative Courtesans. We’ll lower the drawbridge for you!" 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

March is National Crochet Month ~ Spring Gardens Not Far Behind!

March 2014

Do you love to crochet? Can’t get enough? Do you say, “Just one more row” even though your eyes are bleary and it’s way past your bedtime? Shout about your love of crochet from the rooftops all this month during the annual National Crochet Month celebration of crochet! I have much to celebrate and I'm proud to let you know about my new book, The Fine Art of Crochet

"The artists have clearly been selected for innovation. The variety of techniques and materials used forces the reader to question any pre-conceived ideas about this particular craft; the results are a real eye-opener. From elegant jewellery and wearable art to bold and striking sculptures and installations; the range covered is breathtaking."

You can win a copy of my book! Just sign up with your email to "follow" my blog (at the right of this blog), and let me know in the comments section that you have done so. You will then be entered into a drawing to win a copy. Deadline: March 31, at midnight. Open to U.S. residents.

I'm excited to be on the Designer Blog Tour sponsored by Crochetville again this year, and happy to be sharing today with Kate Steinke, CGOA board member and the brains behind the Buddy Program at the CGOA conferences. Kate and I share a common passion for crochet and we constantly spread the word about what we love about our favorite hobby! Read her post today on the tour to see what she has in store for National Crochet Month.

Thanks to the efforts of Past President Pam Oddi, the Crochet Guild of America (CGOA) initiated National Crochet Week back in 1998 as a way to promote our guild and crochet.  The idea was so well-received that it soon became national Crochet Month; and a whole month was necessary to celebrate everything about our beloved craft!  Today during National Crochet Month, many other associated groups have jumped on he bandwagon to celebrate, finding creative ways to have fun during March (and every month!) with other crocheters. Our senses are saturated with promotional blasts; huge sales get our attention; free how-to tutorials get us over the hump; and we chat with crochet friends all over the world, or even face-to-face if we want. There are no boundaries and it certainly goes to show what an impact our organization of passionate crocheters has had on the crochet world!

As 2014 began, I was in a state of overwhelm. So addicted to the computer and the amazingly huge amount of crochet across social media, I spend a lot of time at my desk and get all “tangled up” with the day in and day out bombardment of crochet stimulus. But wait, don’t get me wrong! I’m not so addicted that I don’t make time for my beloved crochet each and every day! It is a solid part of my life and no day is complete unless I express myself through crochet.

National Crochet Month 2014 is special because it is a way to kick off the celebration of the 20th Anniversary of  CGOA which will get started officially at our Manchester Conference, July 24-27, 2014. Who would have thought back in 1993 when I typed the Chain Link newsletter laboriously on an Apple 2 word processor, cutting and pasting illustrations, that I would become cyber-savvy enough to participate in a great blog tour like this one organized by Crochetville?  

The first CGOA conference in Chicago in 1994 was amazing. Without all the new-fangled tools that we enjoy today, a small but dedicated group put together an exciting weekend of crochet excitement. I can still remember it as if it were yesterday! How happy those ninety participants were to be together with like-minded crocheters who shared the same level of passion! My Northern IL Chapter is the very first CGOA chapter. Read about how we celebrate National Crochet Month each year at our annual Crochet Buffet which is in its eighth year! 

This year each designer on the Blog Tour donated a pattern, based on the theme "Spring Garden." They are included in an eBook that will be available from Crochetville soon. Here’s a sneak peek at the pattern I designed for this occasion. 

Spring Garden Miser Purse
Also this year, the designers on the Blog Tour voted to support Halos of Hope as our charity of choice. The touching motto of Halos of Hope is as follows: “Cancer is a journey of courage. Let us embrace you along the way.” This non-profit organization provides stylish and soft hats for patients going through chemotherapy. I have a particular fondness for the organization, because the founder, Pam Haschke, is a member of my local Northern IL Chapter of CGOA. If you wish you can contribute your crochet talents and make hats for this worthwhile organization; or if you’d prefer, you can also donate. 

Thank you so much, Amy and Donna, for all your efforts on behalf of crocheters everywhere!  To read Kate Steinke's blog post today and to keep up with the other Designers on this year’s blog tour, see the list at Crochetville. You’ll want to visit these blogs often; they always have crochet goodness to share with you!

Even though today's cyber-world allows us to connect with crocheters all over the world via our computers, there is really nothing like meeting face-to-face at the Chain Link Conference during the Knit & Crochet Show. See you in Manchester!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

CGOA Celebrates 20 Years: Part 2 The First Chapter

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Today I  honor the very first chapter of CGOA: The Northern IL Chapter.

Our current logo
This year, along with CGOA, we will be celebrating a twentieth anniversary: that of our chapter! Thanks to Dana Kahan Benjamin, who I met while planning the first Chain Link conference, we had a meet-up for what was to become the first CGOA chapter in June 1994 at the Mt. Prospect, IL library. Dana insisted that we make an effort to meet other crocheters before the conference which would take place in August that same summer. She made the arrangements with the library and announced it in the paper. Together we taught the participants an introduction to free form crochet.

We were quite pleased that seventeen enthusiastic crocheters showed up. We charged $3.00 to pay for the library room and refreshments; and that day The Northern IL group was formed. Many of our chapter members have gone on to hold volunteer positions with the national organization, CGOA: Pam Oddi served as President;  Dana Kahan Benjamin was the first Treasure and Lori Zalewski and Cindy Cooper served as well. Barb Sizemore was the first Nominations Chair and BJ Licko Keel served as Membership Chair as did Marge Scensny; Marge also served on the Education  and Pattern Line Committees. Many, many of our members have also served on the planning committees for the 3 Chain Link Conferences we hosted: 1994, 1997, and 2003.

Present at the first chapter meeting and still members of the chapter after twenty years, Barb Collister, Dorothy Hansen and I comprise the 20th anniversary planning committee and we are currently planning a bang-up chapter party to celebrate our chapter's twenty years on June 14, 2014. The committee held a logo design contest and the winner of our new logo will be announced next month at our April meeting. We'll celebrate with a cake, games and prizes as well as a surprise crochet visitor!

Since it is National Crochet Month, here's more about our 8th Annual Crochet Buffet which will take place on March 22, 2014 from 10:00 to 3:00 at the Rolling Meadows, IL library where we now meet regularly. It is open to the public each year and is our way of celebrating. Our buffet "dishes" up a "taste" of the various techniques of crochet. Members with special crochet technique interests volunteer to set up their display and to demonstrate their particular technique. It is a "feast" for the eyes" and a "smorgasbord" for the senses!

Crochet for Charity
Crochet Toys
This year fashion, Irish crochet, toys, food, free form, charity crochet, and thread crochet will be represented and on display. The exhibit is open to the public and it is our way of showing our best crochet and letting potential new members know about the works of our chapter.

Here's a sampling from my display, Crochet Food:
Bacon & Eggs
Hamburger & Fries
Dish of Candy
Chocolate/Coconut Cake

Have you ever crocheted food items? Let me know in the comments section here on the blog.

Our chapter has grown and grown and we hover around seventy members. Our mission is education and we strive to have an educational component at each meeting except March. We have officers and a well-established schedule of activities each month. Included here are examples of past crochet lessons at our meetings from 2013:
January: Annual yarn exchange; plan the schedule of classes for each meeting. Members request techniques they want to learn and other members with know-how volunteer to teach.
February: Free form crochet
March: Crochet Buffet to celebrate National Crochet Month: Open to the Public
April: Diagonal Box Stitch
May: Double-ended crochet
June: Cables
July: Bead crochet and attend the Chain Link Conference; work at booth at Irish Fest

Gwen at Irish Fest Crochet Booth
August: Miser's purses; Chapter Challenge; assemble squares to give blankets to Warm Up America (WUA); assist WUA at Stitches Midwest; assist CGOA at Stitches Midwest
September: Tunisian wrist warmers
October: Socks; annual weekend retreat
November: Snowflakes; annual Pattern exchange; in cooperation with 2 other IL chapters, staff a booth at Vogue Knitting Live, Chicago
December: Education, holiday party

Are you a member of a CGOA chapter? Tell me some of the special activities your chapter does. If you are not a chapter member, why not start one in your own neighborhood. It's a great way to celebrate crochet!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Book Review: Crochet for Dolls

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Crochet for Dolls by Nicky Epstein

Crochet For Dolls
I love the American Girl doll, and I even have two of my own! Of course, someday when granddaughter Chloe is a bit older, she will have her own too; and we will play with our dolls together!

I got a copy of this very fashionable doll clothes book at Vogue Knitting Live Chicago, and Vogue very generously was selling them at a deep discount. I’ve made two ensembles already and enjoyed the finished results. I did run into a couple of little glitches with the pattern instructions, but I just used my common sense and made them work.

Nicky Epstein is a very well known and popular knit designer. By her own admission in the book, she says that she is a better knitter than crocheter. She also goes on to offer that she hasn’t forgotten us crocheters and by request she has done this sister book to her Knitting for Dolls. She confirms that she believes that we (knitters and crocheters) are in a mutual “hood” (brother or sister).

I like the opening pages which show thumbnails of each of the 25 designs in the book. There are also separate pages with thumbnails of all the darling little purses that enhance the fashions included with page numbers so you can find them quickly and get to crocheting!

Crown Princess

I crocheted it with Optima size 10 cotton; Nicky recommended Aunt Lydia's Bamboo crochet thread.  

Nikki also has designed her fashions around the Madame Alexander doll, but any 18-inch doll will benefit by being outfitted in any of these costumes! These 25 designs would all essentially be suitable for a little girl or a woman for that matter. If you have the skills, you could even translate them to the size you would like to wear! In the “Extras and Resources” section, special jewelry coordinated with the dolls’ outfits are listed with page references, along with a few recipes that are “as sweet as your doll.” Colorful and well-photographed, all of the unique fashions in this book are elegant and interesting in the yarns chosen by Nicky.   
A wide range of yarn types are used in the projects for these privileged dolls, from merino silk and bamboo to wool/nylon/metallic and acrylics to fine perle cotton. Many brands are represented. Whether crocheters rush out to buy the specified yarns or use their skills at choosing from their stashes, these will be the best-dressed dolls around! I know my dolls are the best-dressed in my neighborhood!

Irish Eyes
I crocheted the coat in Bernat Sox Multi. Nicky recommended Grignasco Champagne

Crochet for Dolls was published by Nicky Epstein Books in 2013 and retails for $19.95. It is available at the Crafter’s Choice Book Club and on Amazon.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Book Review: Modern Baby Crochet by Stacey Trock

March 6, 2014
Modern Baby Crochet by Stacey Trock

I like to always have at least one baby gift on hand because nine months flies by really quickly and it is too much pressure to wait until the last minute to make a baby gift. Modern Baby Crochet is my new go-to pattern source for choosing the next gift on my to-do list! As Stacey Trock’s website indicates, she puts a fresh spin on the look of baby projects.

Bold & Bright: Mondrian-Inspired Afghan
Stacey encourages her readers to step it up a notch when it comes to choosing colors. She says modern babies don’t need to be stuck with just pastels anymore! Focused on the hub of baby’s life, the nursery, the twenty-one designs are divided into 3 color groups: Bold & Bright, Pretty in Pastel and Naturally Neutral.

Pretty in Pastel: Crinkly Toy
Before even getting to the projects, crocheters receive a wealth of crochet knowledge about gauge, choosing hook size and finishing techniques. Presented in a comfortable and nurturing tone, I felt like I was in the classroom actually learning from Stacey! Her anatomy of a stitch section is excellent; and I have found that learning to recognize the parts of the crochet stitches is half the battle for new crocheters who struggle with pattern reading. Be sure to read all of the instructional pages before getting started. Taking a little time with this will surely lead you to success! Obviously experienced with baby’s and their most snugly needs, Stacey is also careful to stress the safety aspect, and she includes instructions on making baby-safe embroidered eyes.

Naturally Neutral: Buzzy Bee Mobile
Modern Baby Crochet is published by Martingale and they have also published two other baby-oriented books by Stacey Trock: Cuddly Crochet (2010) and Crocheted Softies (2011). it retails  for $22.99, and is also available in a Kindle version.