Q&A: Artist Steffi Glaves | Living North

Q&A: Artist Steffi Glaves

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Steffi Glaves crochet work
Steffi Glaves picked up crochet to help pass time on a long coach journey during a college trip; now she’s doing it to make a living. We chat to the artist about perks of the job, Yorkshire puddings and where to get the best espresso martini

Have you always been artistic?
I suppose I have been, yes, and I think that is largely down to my artist mother who brought me up selling at craft fairs and gallery trips from a very young age. My artistic interests are fairly broad and my focus can shift from one medium to another quite often. I love textiles and print, but also jewellery and metal work, and I enjoyed exploring all of these while I studied Design Crafts at De Montfort University.

When did you get into crochet? It's not something younger generations necessarily tend to be seen doing?
Ooh, I would disagree. Though crochet has always been popular, it has made a resurgence over the past eight years or so, especially with amigurumi, micro-crochet and yarn bombing becoming more mainstream. I used to work at a well-known haberdashery in York called Duttons For Buttons and would see just as many teenagers coming in to buy wool, crochet hooks and knitting needles as older customers. Social media sites like Pinterest and YouTube have been strong contributors in making crochet more accessible as a skill to younger people. 

I got into crochet when I was going to London on a college trip aged 18, and didn’t want to read on the long journey. My mum taught me the basics beforehand and I started practising on the coach. My first samples were awful and misshapen, but once I got the hang of basic stitches, I took to YouTube to learn more and develop my skills. I kept crocheting throughout my degree, but it took a back seat in favour of metal work, laser cutting and enamelling. When I graduated, I found myself without a workshop so I picked up crocheting again. As I started using sewing threads instead of wool and crochet cotton, my work got much smaller and I was able translate it into wearable jewellery pieces. 

What do you love most about your job? 
I love that my work is very portable – I can crochet anywhere. I carry around a bag that contains my cotton, crochet hooks and jewellery findings, so I can be making whenever and wherever I have a little spare time. If I’m not at home, I crochet in my mother’s shop, Hares & Hedgerows in Pickering, and on public transport. I take my work on holiday with me and I have even been known to get a little bit of crochet done at the pub.

Last summer I started doing craft fairs, which I really enjoy doing. I can get feedback from the public, work out which colours in my range are the most popular, and I can make stock while having a natter with other stall holders. I don’t drive, so my entire stall set-up fits in a small suitcase, so that I can take it on the bus easily. I have attended craft fairs in Helmsley and the Shambles Market in York, and I am really looking forward to trying out the York River Art Market on 15 July, and going to Whitby Steam Punk Weekend for the first time.

What's the biggest challenge you've encountered so far?
I have managed – up until the past year or so – to crochet and make my jewellery without being able to read or write a crochet pattern. As my jewellery collection started to grow, I realised that I wasn’t going to be able to commit every piece I make to memory, and I’d have to find a better way of recording my designs. I have a little scrap book in which I make notes about each piece, but whenever I revisited a design I often couldn’t understand what I had written. I also wanted to approach craft magazines, and in order to do that I had to have a comprehensive understanding of how to write and format an easily read pattern. With help from Liz Ward of Amigurumi Barmy I managed get a grasp on it, and I had my first pattern published in February with Inside Crochet Magazine. I still find it mind boggling and I will always choose diagrams over the written form any day. 

What pieces tend to be bestsellers?
I would say that my best sellers are my forget-me-not studs, Yorkshire rose studs and my little leaf-shaped earrings, especially in dark purple. 

Is your crochet work your favourite? We've seen it's not the only art you're good at.
I couldn’t really tell you which is my favourite. I love working in silver, copper, enamel and paper, but crochet is so addictive and it requires very little in terms of tools and workshop space. Jewellery is definitely my main area of interest, but I will always flitter between those four, and maybe pick up a few others as well. I also work part time as a Design & Technology technician in a school, and I am frequently inspired by the work that the students make, and I have picked up a couple of skills while working there which one day I would like to use in my own practice.  

Do you think you'll ever combine your other mediums with crochet?
I have used crochet for some of my book binding, which has also involved enamelled copper and laser cutting. I’m always trying to find new mediums and objects that will complement my crochet. At the moment, I’m thinking about combining crochet with little paper cut art pieces. 

What do you love most about Yorkshire?
As I split my time between York and Pickering, I think that I experience the best of what Yorkshire has to offer: the tranquility and friendliness of the countryside as well as the history and bustle of the city. That said, I do love a good Yorkshire pudding. 

Where's your favourite place to eat in Yorkshire?
When I’m in York I like to go to El Piano on Grape Lane. I’m not a vegetarian, but their vegan, nut and dairy free food is so creative and delicious it makes me forget about meat altogether.

And favourite place to head for a drink?
That would have to be Whistler’s bar in Pickering. It’s a small stable conversion with a gorgeous copper bar and a counter top made of lots of large old pennies. Their espresso martini is my little weekly treat – it tastes dreamy.  

www.steffiglaves.co.uk
www.etsy.com/uk/shop/SteffiGlaves

Published in: May 2017

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