Welcome to April’s edition of Spotlight where I shine the light on a crafter/maker/artist/creative from around the world.
This month I am so thrilled to announce we have Matthew Spiers from One Man Crochet. I’ve been following Matthews work for nearly four years now and he was one of the very first crochet blogs that I came across. Every time I checked his blog there would be a new interesting and quirky piece up. He makes crochet art which I am endlessly fascinated with and inspired by, his own jumpers and socks, jewellery, incredible costumes and more. He also post about his yarn adventures locally and globally. I’m so excited that Matthew agreed to be interviewed for my blog please read on to find out more!
Hi Matt, can you introduce yourself and your work.
Hi. My name is Matthew Spiers and I’m the blogger/artist/designer known as One Man Crochet. As well as designing crochet patterns for magazines, I also dabble in crochet art, most notably the costumes I make to wear to festivals and my large scale abstract crochet wall-hangings.
What is creativity to you?
To me creativity isn’t really even a choice – it’s a force. I have to create, in some ways it’s my life blood. It doesn’t matter if it never goes anywhere, never does anything, it doesn’t even matter if it doesn’t work! If I don’t create, I feel trapped, imprisoned, out of control, that I’m wasting my life – I struggle to just sit and do nothing (which isn’t always a good thing, when I’m not being creative I’m very restless and find it difficult to relax). That might all sound over-dramatic, but creativity is very important to me, in some ways it’s my raison d’etre (whether it’s judged to be worth-while or a life-well-lived is a different question).
Where do you find inspiration for your pieces?
I get asked this question quite often and I genuinely find it quite difficult to answer. Inspiration comes to me in many different forms (art/tv/music/books/dreams/crap on the streets), but often it’s just the ideas that pop into my head randomly that have the strongest influence. Take my crochet pattern designs for example. Sometimes if I sit down and try to come up with ideas, my mind goes completely blank. But if I just start playing with my hook and some yarn, ideas just manifest from nowhere. I love the discoveries that come from the thoughts of ‘oh that kind of looks like that’ and ‘I wonder what will happen if I try this?’
What is your creative routine/process?
On the sofa, shoes off, feet up, beer open! Although that’s kind of a joke it’s also the truth. I’m a strong believer in tidy desk=tidy mind – but unfortunately I’m incredibly messy so I normally have to spend a good 10 minutes tidying up before actually doing anything at my craft area, hence a lot of my work is done on the sofa. In terms of my process, I normally start off with a quick sketch or crochet tester (or a swatch as they call it in the business), from that I’ll develop a more detailed sketch or notes that I can reference whilst working, and then I just go for it.
What do you see for yourself in 2017?
At the time of writing this, that’s very much unknown. I don’t want to say too much as I don’t want to set myself up for a fall, but 2017 is a year where a big change is coming. I’m hoping that in some ways it will be the year that makes me. I’m gonna have to suck it up, take some risks and work pretty hard to get to where I want. So many people in the crochet community give me so much support and have so much belief in my crochet abilities that I figure now is the time to believe in myself and really go for it.
When did you see yourself as a crochet artist? And when did you realise crochet was your medium of choice.
I’ve told the story of how I got into crochet many times, so I’ll try and answer this a little differently than I normally do. Basically I decided to learn crochet as I was feeling stifled by a lack of space and wanted to learn a craft that required a minimum of tools and work area (this is before I knew the perils of yarn hoarding!). At first it was just a case of I was learning the skill, so I would make presents for my loved ones. Then people started saying I should take pictures of the things I made, as others wanted to see them. That led to me making my blog, and then that led to interest from all kinds of people and press, and the various opportunities that come from that. So really, it was when I started writing my blog that I realised that I was doing something different, and that it had gone beyond just being a hobby. It was this point I realised that crochet was my medium and that I felt comfortable enough to call myself a crochet artist (although there are days that I feel like a fraud in using this description). I never set out to go down this path, it was never a narcissistic deliberate attempt to do ‘something different that could get me lots of attention’. It’s been a very natural and progressive exploration into a craft that has allowed me to release some artistic expression.
What is your favourite project to work on?
I think my favourite projects are the ones where I have complete freedom, very little planning and use lots of different yarns. I love experimenting and finding ways to make things work. In some ways it’s instant gratification. At the same time, there’s nothing quite like spending an eternity prepping a project and seeing it all come together at the very last minute.
What advice would you give to crochet beginners?
I’ve previously taught people how to crochet and there are a lot of stumbling blocks that can catch a beginner out. Also, some people just plain don’t have the patience. But if you’ve got the basics down, my one piece of advice is this – never stop learning. I may be breaking somewhat of an unwritten rule by saying this, but there are so many tricks that designers use but don’t always tell you. Sometimes this is because it’s just taken for granted, sometimes because it’s too complicated to write, and sometimes it’s just a matter of personal taste. Basically if you make something from a pattern and end up thinking ‘why doesn’t mine look like the one in the picture’, it’s probably because they’ve done something ever so slightly differently. Keep your mind open and seek out different techniques, the internet is a treasure trove of knowledge when it comes to this.
Will we be seeing your artwork in a gallery soon?
I would love to say yes, but at the moment there’s nothing planned. I hope to one day finish my collection of large scale wall hangings and exhibit them all together as a series, but it’s always kind of on the back burner. I’ll complete them one day, there’s such a mammoth amount of work that has gone into them that I refuse to give up. But at the same time I have to wait until I am content that the collection is complete – until then my artwork sits patiently waiting in a box under my desk. Creating crochet art is a dream, but dreams take hard work, if you force them they can become nightmares!
Do you have a travel bag kit for crochet when travelling?
I don’t have a travel bag/kit, but I am never without my Swiss army knife – very specifically the ‘ladies’ model of Swiss army knife. I’m always using the super sharp scissors for cutting yarn and the nail file for smoothing out any bits that might catch on the crochet work.
Which artists inspire you?
Oooh tough question. In the knitting/crochet design world – Georgia Farrell, Elena Fedotova, Kath Webber and Ilaria Caliri are all killing it at the moment in my opinion. Obviously Joanna Vasconcelos and Olek are my big-time modern textile art heroes. But in the wider art world, Goya, Pollock and Magritte are some of my favourites, and rather stereotypically for anyone who’s done an art degree, Duchamp holds a bit of a special place in my heart. But as a rule I’m a big fan of the Dada, Surrealist, Constructivist, Abstraction-Création and Bauhaus movements – anything abstract is cool with me.
How did you develop your crochet style?
As I said earlier, my crochet experience has been a very natural progression. That said, it’s taught me a lot about myself and my style. Anyone that knows my work will know that I’m all about bright bold colours, the brighter the better. But in some ways, this was an unexpected evolution for me and really shows how much crochet has affected my life. People look at colourful work, and it makes them happy, or they think that it conveys a message or feeling of fun. In all honesty, day to day, that’s not how I think of myself. I struggle with anxiety and depression, and am a natural pessimist and cynic. But crochet makes me happy, if fulfils me, and it brings out the best in me. I think my work projects the person that I want to be, someone that does what they want and doesn’t worry about the opinions of others, while showing me that I am that person at the same time.
Did fine art influence/help your crochet?
Doing a fine art degree didn’t help my crochet directly, as it wasn’t till many years afterwards that I picked up the hook. But it did certainly affect the way I think and the way I look at things, and allowed me to embrace and be comfortable with my creativity. It taught me the importance of valuing yourself as an artist, and that whether it is good or bad art is subjective, it is the belief in yourself and your practice that truly defines whether it is art or not.
Thank you so much for that Matthew. I found it a fascinating read!
See below for other Spotlight Interviews!