Photo Credit: Asimina Chremos
Doilies often embody reverence for tradition and connection with the past. Does crochet have a personal connection for you Asimina?
Crochet connects me to my family lineage. My paternal grandmother is Greek and she did a lot of lace and doily type crochet. My mother’s mother, a Virginian, made a lot of crocheted blankets, afghans, etc. My mother did a lot of weaving, spinning, dyeing and knitting while I was still a girl. So yes, the whole world of yarns, threads and needles is part of my earliest memories.
What are some of the associations seen in your doily work?
People tell me they see biological images, connective tissues, cellular forms, and suggestions of underwater life.
Asimina, you have been identified as a movement/dance artist with a special focus in improvisation. Please tell us about the connection, the through line, between your movement and visual art.
My crochet work is improvisational in the same way as my dances are. I just start, and go along, and discover the form as it happens. I don’t set out with any preconceived notions other than selecting the basic tools for what I’m going to be doing. In the case of a dance, the basic tool needed is the dance space itself–secondary considerations include what I might be wearing and if I’m working with a musician or not. In the crochet work, the basic elements include the colors of thread and size of hook I will start with. In both cases, I’m using my body as the fundamental tool, along with my consciousness, imagination and residue of previous experiences. Then I just go from there, either manipulating the hook and thread with my hands (crochet) or just moving my body in space (dance).
What are some of your influences that are consistent throughout your work? What are some of the differences?
Hmmmm. Well, I think that both my crochet work and my dance reflect a certain kind of European “Age of Enlightenment” classicism that has then gone astray. The technique I use for crochet was originally used to make doilies and lace that had very symmetrical and regular patterns, much like the ballet technique I practiced diligently from ages 10-20. However, I use my technical training in both crochet and dance to explore forms that arise spontaneously from my body, mind and imagination. In straightforward ballet dancing or lace crochet, the idea is that you know what you are going to make and then you make it as perfectly as possible, asking your body or your materials to reflect this decision of your will. In what I do, I don’t start out knowing what I am going to do. I just start, and there is a great deal of following and feeling along, almost like a blind person discovering a new space.
More abstractly, is there an interplay between your sense of scale, between dance and your visual art?
That is an interesting question. Scale and size are relative. To an ant, a cookie crumb can look like a boulder. Certainly, my dances are “life size” in that I cannot change the size of my body so I dance at the scale that my anatomy allows. With the crochet, I love working with what looks to many like a small, tiny scale, although those who are familiar with fine needlework could see that my work is “big” enough to count as crude by some standards. However, I would say that in terms of comparing scale in the ways I dance and crochet, there is a very similar, if not the same, scale of proportion when it comes to the rate of change in pattern as it unfolds. I tend to work with a meandering pathway that modulates fairly frequently, with many small curves and occasional long pauses or spacious areas.
Does mathematics consciously come into play when creating your doilies?
Not really. I’m terrible at math! I’m aware of the very cool work that mathematician/crocheter Daina Tamina has done regarding hyperbolic crochet, and I do admire it very much. However the work that I do is based more on an intuitive feel for proportion. I don’t count stitches, I look at space, how big is this, how long does it need to be to reach to the next bump, that sort of thing. As I go along I feel like I am navigating a miniature landscape. I may at some point branch out into 3-dimensional shapes, but at present I’m very interested the how form spills across a horizontal plane, in a more or less 2-D type of way.
We have two of your pieces in our shop now. We’d like some more. How long does it take for you to make these?
I worked on those pieces for about a month each. I have a full-time job at the moment, so I try to squeeze in the crochet in my evening hours while watching TV or listening to the radio. I’m guessing each of those pieces took about 30-35 hours, actually crocheting. But the thing is, the way the design evolves, it is important that I pick the piece up, work on it for awhile, then put it down for a day or many hours, and then pick it up, examine it, and start working again. The intervals of working and crocheting alternating with being away and doing other things is an important part of the creative process. If I’m working on something and I don’t like how it is coming along, I will pull out stitches and re-do a section. There needs to be time for creation, reflection, revision, creation, and so on, in cycles, until I feel like I’m done with that particular item. So, patience is an important aspect of this work.