Akua Lezli Hope with Akua Designs
I first met Akua when she interviewed me during the 2013 Gift-A-Long. It was then that I realized I had long admired one of her designs, the Daisy Hat, and decided to make one as part of my 2013 Stash Bust for Charity Challenge. Her designs are so unique and so creative. She is an artist who designs from the heart and someone I would very much like to sit down with and share a cup of coffee.
Sun Rays Shrug/Shawl by Akua Lezli Hope photo by Knit Picks
How long have you been crocheting and how did you first learn?
I’ve been crocheting over 50 years. My mother taught me, though she said she didn’t remember doing that, which underscores for me the importance of the person to person transmission. Her forté was knitting and sewing. She was a brilliant seamstress and tailor. Having her show me the basics launched me for a lifetime of exploration.
How long have you been designing and what led you to design?
Informally, it was just something you did to get what you thought about or wanted into being. When I began as a young person, there were few books and no patterns for hats I and my friends wanted, so I just made them up. So that mindset was a precursor to formally undertaking designing – that is, creating something and then writing down the process in such a way that others may replicate it. Encoding my process for sharing is relatively recent, just 9 years.
Why knitting/crochet? What is it that interests you? What do you enjoy most about the craft?
I used to crochet on the way to work, standing on the subway train , briefcase hanging off one arm, leaning against the door or arm wrapped around the pole — with one hook I could do it. It felt like freedom to create as I commuted, so it was self-reinforcing. A poet, I love the poetry of transmutation, transfiguring a line into a statement, a protection, a garment, a volume, a vessel, ornament, adornment. I love fiber from plant to thread, from animal to yarn and immediacy of creating that crocheting so generously offers, is healing and fulfilling.
Daisy Hat by Akua Lezli Hope photo by Tangled Online Magazine
What other crafts do you enjoy? or is there another craft you would like to learn?
I enjoy weaving, sculpting, hand paper-making, glass casting, flame working, and wire working. I occasionally work in polymer clay and shrink plastic. I like making earrings and am proud of my mixed media ones — glass and fiber, wire, etc. I love but can’t afford precious metal clay –I would love to do more in that. Metal-smithing, torch work is so compelling – I would like to do more of that, too. I would also like to learn about resin.
What influences your style?
My experiences, science fiction, the cold, indigenous design.
What inspires you and/or your designs?
Indigenous peoples, science fiction and the 4 seasons ( actually more like 3 here- cold, very cold, warm) that require different garb.
I used to live in NY, yes, it is COLD!
What challenges do you face when designing and how do you overcome them?
Patience with the process —I am usually swift in making, but find the challenge in doing it again and describing what I did. The way I think about creating an effect, or even in telling how to create an effect, is often at odds with how others describe it and do it. I am ever in search of the shortest way to achieve an effect. Testing and self-publishing eases that pain – there is no need to argue with a publication that has a ham handed way of describing a decrease or insists on loading a pattern with impenetrable jargon.
Leaf Bagette by Akua Lezli Hope photo by Knit Picks
What is your favorite design of yours, why?
Now that I’m up to about 140, that’s too hard. I’ve published 116 and I have a long list of designs that are done and may even have been out in the world in shows or competitions, but haven’t been tested.
What is your favorite project of yours, why?
It’s hard to choose among the hundreds, though I have a special affection for the sweaters I’ve designed. I’ve been unable to find testers for them, but I have great affection for them.
What pattern/design are you most proud of, why?
My sweaters, because they were so hard to write up, hard to grade and making them more than once was a long process, but alas, they remain unpublished until I can find testers.
How many WIPs do you currently have and do you think you will ever finish all of them?
I’ve lost count. I’ve come across a baby hat and sweater for a baby that is now 27. There’s finishing and there’s finishing, though …. to explain a bit, I work in freeform and so have bags of motifs and scrumbles on the way to becoming artworks or garments. There’s my 10 foot or so floral freeform door curtain that has pulled in a bit and so needs more motifs.
Flying Dragon Bookmarks by Akua Lezli Hope
What was the last thing you crocheted/knit for yourself?
I was taken by skulls early this fall and so made a couple and then designed one and made some more. Then I made some black cats and pumpkins for window decor. Although I’m not sure if decor is what you mean by for yourself.
What are your favorite stitches?
I like standing stitches, these have liberated crocheting for my appliqué/figure motifs, where I also delight in using extended single crochets. Earlier this year, I became enamored of tape lace and so explored stitch combinations that made quick lengths of braid. I adore cables and figure out how to do them in the round (Chemung hats) as well as in my sweater. Catherine’s Wheel and variations remains an enduring favorite. Then there’s this Russian/Ukranian rising falling form that increases and gathers/decreases across each row to create mountains and valleys…
What is/are your favorite crochet tool(s) or notion(s)?
My hooks, my hooks – hook anatomy is a subject I’ve thought and written about and researched. So my bullion hooks are beloved as are a particular Bates afghan hook that has an inline head. A Rav friend sent me some small- gauge inline head afghan hooks from Europe, so I could make e the tiny tunisian leaves and shells I designed this year. I now have hooks for particular yarn types as well as gauges. I use my Etimos for general work, but when I’m wrestling with piping and making rugs, I turn to my wood Century hooks. Sadly there are hook heads that are perfection but they may be on shafts that are too short for me as in Collage.
Freeform Crochet by Akua Lezlie Hope
How long have you been a member of the International FreeForm FiberArts Guild? What drew you to it and how has it inspired you as a designer?
I’m not sure how long, but at least 12 years. I was drawn to the Guild because I love freeform. I began doing dimensional crochet in the 90’s and found the books of James Walters and Sylvia Cosh. By this time, I was no longer in an urban area, and have been online since the late 80s, I was always in search of, or in touch with any creators I could find online. The Annual Challenge has always been a personal rallying point, to begin and complete a freeform project, be it art wear or art work. From the freeform explorations, directed by a topic have come many pattern ideas. This year’s Challenge, native flora and fauna, inspired me to design buffalo, deer, squirrels, several different birds, moose, and trees.
When you aren’t crocheting, what are you doing?
Writing poetry — my collection, THEM GONE, is due out this year; making paper — I’ve been exploring figured/shaped paper and layering using my vacuum table, watching anime, singing and dreaming.
Where can we find you?
Thank you so much Akua! I LOVE your freeform representation of native flora and fauna. I lived in the same area of NY and you have truly captured the beauty of Western NY.
Would you like to learn more about other crochet designers? Check out this link and be sure to follow CrochetByDarleenHopkins.com!