By Emily Clingman-Johnson
When you hear “arts and crafts,” scissors, crayons and glue might come to mind, or church bazaars that sell quirky hand-painted yard ornaments and perfumed sachets with initials on them.
There’s a new wave of crafters emerging, however, that use their hands and creative ideas to produce unique, high-end goods that you won’t find at a holiday craft fair in a gymnasium. These contemporary artisans with fashionable ideas are giving the craft business an up-to-date makeover. Two local women are turning textiles into trends here in Fort Collins.
Not Your Grandma’s Afghan
Though Courtney Meiu remembers doing crafty things with her mom a lot when she was little, she’s never had any formal arts and crafts training. So, when her musician boyfriend (who travels a lot) suggested she pick up a hobby to occupy her spare time, crocheting wasn’t the first thing that came to mind.
“I have no idea what prompted me to pick up crochet hooks,” Meiu said. “I was just at the store one day and bought some hooks and some red, gold, and green yarn.”
When Meiu got home, she decided to make a scarf. It was awkward at first. The hardest part, she recalled, was figuring out how to hold the needle. But, she made her first scarf – red, gold and green – for her boyfriend, who’s in a reggae band. Meiu laughed about how it’s sort of “off” on one side.
“I realized about halfway through that I should have been counting the stitches in each row.”
That didn’t discourage her, though. Meiu said it took her about a month to become fluid with the needles and the stitching. She moved on from scarves to hats and bags. Once she started wearing her own creations around town, people asked her if they could pay her to make them things.
“That part of it never occurred to me,” Meiu said.
Two years later, she has created hundreds of crocheted scarves, hats, bags, baby items and more. Her stitches are perfect and she can whip out popular items, like her signature $25 Colorado flag beanie, in record time.
Meiu sells her “wears” in some boutiques and stores around Colorado as well as on popular online craft stores like Etsy and Artfire. She still has a day job, but hopes to make Crocheted Creations her full-time business eventually.
Meiu claims to be mildly obsessed at this point.
“I literally have crocheting on my mind all the time,” she said. “If I’m not doing it, I’m thinking of new ideas to try.”
Meiu’s creations can be purchased through artfire.com/users/CourtneysCrochetedCreations. She also takes emails about custom project ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lifetime Crafter Finds Meaning in Talent and Community Pride
Self-taught fiber artist Chelsea Pearson has been crafting for years. After learning batik (fabric art using wax and dyes) in a high school art class, Pearson developed a love for the unlimited potential of textile design.
As a young adult, Pearson went on the road for a few years, selling her Batik artwork. Along the way, she learned from other crafters around the country how to sew, macramé, make jewelry, and even how to elaborately braid hair.
Ten years later, Pearson was interested in trying something new and discovered Nuno felting – a Japanese technique of felting wet wool into loosely woven fibers, like silk chiffon. She hand dyes the silk and weaves stunning color combinations of wool into the scarves. She names each scarf’s color scheme appropriately after elements of nature and fantasy. “Mermaid,” for example is a combination of deep emerald, greens and blues. “Tiger’s Eye” is mixture of rich tones of brown and yellow.
“I’ve always loved color and working with my hands,” Pearson said. “I was also raised to nurture my creative side. I’ve just naturally evolved.”
Pearson likes the idea of wearable art.
“It’s nice to be able to create something that will travel around for people to see instead of it staying on my wall,” she said.
It can take up to fifteen hours to finish a Nuno-felted scarf, though Pearson works on several at a time, in steps, to be more efficient. Exquisitely handcrafted, Pearson prices them appropriately, from $34 to $128. She’s not looking to get rich, however.
“I’m proud to be known as a local artisan who cares about the sustainability of our community,” she said.
Pearson, who has named her business Silk Worm Studios, sets up “shop” during the summer at renaissance fairs. She also sells her scarves in local boutiques and online at silkwormstudios.net.