CRAFT CUBED: ANTHEA ABELL

Creative force behind crochet label Full Tilt Nanna, Anthea Abell is one of Craft's go to experts for our ongoing Outreach Professional Development Program - not only does she know all there is to know about crafting a creative career she's also a brilliant networker and generous mentor. This year Anthea is presenting Community Cake and Crochet on Sunday August 27 between 2-4pm in collaboration with the superfab Windsor Workshop. This afternoon draws together some of the most enduring and endearing aspects of communal craft making, with 100% of the profits from the event going directly to the very worthy St. Kilda Mums organisation. Completely excellent and highly recommended. 

What’s the significance of the handmade to you?

In this instance, the significance of the handmade is one of support and community. 
The handmade crochet blankets that I help collect, create and curate are given to complete strangers. But with each stitch, we hope that the recipient family knows that there is love and care for them and that they are not alone. 
In the winter time especially, we know that a handmade blanket provides physical warmth for a baby or young child and an metaphorical hug for their carer.

How would you describe your craft community?

The group of volunteers that take part in our ongoing project are from all different backgrounds, locations and assist in various ways. I co-ordinate a postal collection of crocheted and knitted squares that are handmade all over Australia and around the world!
The makers often include a note with their work - thanking ME for allowing THEM to contribute. I found this a bit odd and kind of topsy turvy to begin with, because it was me wanting to thank them for their help. 
Over time though, I've realised people often want to extend some kind of altruism, but don't know how. So I make it easy for them to become part of our volunteer community and assist in a really practical, crafty way.  Making a completed blanket is a really big ask of somebody, so by allowing people to make as much or as little as their life allows, I've found people are more likely to feel they can commit to helping.

What is your earliest craft memory?

Scratchy wool on my neck from handmade knitted jumpers!

What is your philosophy or motto when it comes to creativity?

That inspiration is everywhere, and even when you think you are making just for the fun of it, there is meaning in what your hands are creating... sometimes you just have to dig deep to find out what it is. Once you've grabbed the key, you need to open that part of your heart and keep expanding your work.

Where do you go in Melbourne for inspiration?

I spend a lot of time in parks around Melbourne with my daughter. Young children have this sweet way of slowing down their environment and looking at everything in minute detail.
Textures and colours of things like leaves and puddles and playgrounds are so fresh in my eyes from sharing these moments with someone so curious. I also quite like to wander around yarn shops and fondle fibres like a total creep! Often a ball of cotton comes first and THEN I decide what to make with it.

What are you reading OR listening to at the moment?

I am reading Alain De Botton on love and Clem Ford's "How To Be A Girl".
I listen to too many true crime podcasts and at lot of Richard Fiedler.

How would you describe your studio or making environment?

Unstable!
It's wherever I can sit for any amount of time and get some work done around the tiny woman I'm raising. Sometimes it's the kitchen table, sitting the floor, in the car while she's napping in the back or on public transport. I dream of a studio where things don't have to be packed up and sharp scissors can stay on a table.

How does good craft make you feel?

Impressed usually. I have absolutely no shame in exclaiming "YES" out loud when I see a piece that speaks to me. If given the chance, I also love to feel things. I work with fibres and I love touching textural works like weaving. Looking at a piece and imagining the time spent and skill involved regularly knocks my socks off.

What is your dream craft collaboration - if history and geography and money was no barrier?

I would love to travel back to the 70s and make a crocheted bikini collection with New Zealand artist Pony McTate. We'd take today's upcycled denim yarn in our time machine and blow everyone's mind. It would be so WILD!

What other Craft Cubed events are you excited about?

I'm excited to be having a piece in The Windsor Workshop's show "Stories Of Us" which is my first ever exhibition! Can't wait to see Christine Jame's work at Douglas & Hope and Craft & Design As A Career is always a highlight of my creative year!

FULL EVENT LISTING: COMMUNITY CAKE AND CROCHET