Sunday, February 15, 2009

Biology 101 with The Crafty Hedgehog

This week's featured artist is Emily of The Crafty Hedgehog. Based in Burlington, Vermont, Emily opened her Etsy shop in June 2007 and has been going strong ever since!

How did you choose your shop name?
Oy! When you open your Etsy shop, you are required to choose a name. I racked my brain because I wasn't sure at that time what direction I wanted to take the shop in, crafts-wise. I finally just decided on Crafty Hedgehog because I'm crafty and hedgies are cute. I figured I could change it later. Turns out, Etsy doesn't allow that. So Crafty Hedgehog it is.

What is your specialty and what drew you to it?
My specialty is knitting. I took up knitting about 10 years ago to help me quit smoking. I bought a ball of yarn, needles, a 1 pound bag of Twizzlers, and locked myself in my apartment over a long weekend. When I returned to work, I no longer smoked, but I still took a 5-minute break every hour to knit! I particularly like to knit toys and oddities like knitted dissections. I love making garments, too, but there is no way that I could sell those for any reasonable price. No one wants to buy a thousand dollar sweater! (P.S. It works like a charm, almost a decade smoke-free!!)
Congratulations Emily!! Way to go!

I guess the most popular thing I've ever made is Knitting in Biology 101

What inspired the creation of this item?
Hmmmm. I started out making very cute, very not-dissected frogs (which I still love to make). One afternoon, my husband made a joke about knitting a mutated frog with an extra leg. We started riffing on that idea, and soon the thought of a dissected frog came up. We argue over which of us actually thought of it (I think he just wants a finders fee!).

Does this item have any personal significance to you?
It actually does. I'm not a scientist, but I have a deep and abiding respect for what they do. I worry sometimes that egg-headedness is so looked down upon in America. Like Stephen Colbert says: many people seem to want to know things with their gut, not with their brains. I know I will never make any breakthrough scientific discoveries, but I can craft, and this is my little homage to the beauty of science.

What is your favorite part of the process of creating your item?
My favorite part is the knitting itself. I do like to come up with an idea and see it through the design process, but that can be a bit tedious and often involves a lot of math. I really just enjoy letting my hands do their work while my mind wanders. I can state definitively that needle-felting is the worst part of the process. You wouldn't think that there was anything in the fiber arts that would require you to get a tetanus shot, but you would be wrong. Yikes!

Please briefly describe a workday in your studio and how you created this item:
Well, it really depends on the piece, but many of my projects can be done in a day. Each animal is hand-knit, usually on double pointed needles. I used to knit while I was at work (my boss was awesome that way!), but the economic downturn has made me into an unemployment statistic. So, now I get up, put in a favorite DVD, plop on the couch, and knit for about 6 hours a day. I also knit on the bus, while riding in cars, while waiting for food at restaurants, and at friends' houses. A lot of my studio time is actually spent keeping up with emails and shipping. It's amazing how much time goes into boxing and labeling things.

If this item is part of a special line that you do, has there been an evolution in your process? For example, if we were to compare the first one you made to this one, what differences would there be, if any?
The dissected frog is part of a biological specimen series that I am working on. It started with the frog, and soon I added a dissected lab rat. I am currently working on a dissected fetal pig, with more creatures lined up after that. The frog itself hasn't changed insofar as the body construction. I would say that I have certainly gotten faster at knitting them up. The innards have become more interesting over time, though. I discovered a beautiful, super-bulky alpaca yarn in a light blue that I have recently been making into "intestines"!

I have had some emails from actual biologists who complain that my guts aren't accurate enough, but for some things I just had to use a little artistic license. I picked out the wool roving for the innards based on my own favorite natural color scheme!


MooreMagnets said...

How cool! What unique pieces! I can not imagine the amount of patience required to come up with your biology creations! But I can say that I would much rather have messed with your frog and rat than the ones that I actually did in biology!!!

Tracey Gurley said...

What a cool interview!!

kingfishercrafts said...

Great interview, got a real sense of the evolution of the idea and the interesting day to day process that backs up such an intriguing craft venture. Wish I had a kid in biology class so I could send this as a gift to the teacher. Might have to get one for myself though.

Laksaware said...

How cute! Great interview!

Dawn said...

L.O.V.E. love the frogs... oh my gosh... saving up to by one... super unique brilliant idea! Kudos to you and your husband!