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Featured Artist: Heather M. Lightbody aka “Girl With a Hook”

by The SpinArtiste on January 12, 2012

Publisher’s Notes:  I have knitted A LOT of hats in my time because they are fun to knit, but I really never wore them.  Then, I bought a hat made by Heather Lightbody aka Girl with a Hook and now, I look for excuses to wear her hat!  You will see that Heather sent in some great photos, but having and wearing one of her creations is truly a delicious experience.  So, you know how I am, I had to know more about what Heather and why she does what she does — Enjoy!

Spin Artiste (SA) – Hey, Heather!  Start us off with finding out about your fiber journey…

Heather M. Lightbody (HML):  Ah the fiber journey…I believe this journey started while I was attending community college in St. Louis in 1998. I met a girl in one of my design classes, she went by “Mads” back then, and she lived in a very creative household that I spent a lot of time in.  She had this rich, teal blue wool yarn that I loved just for its color.  She then taught me how to knit and it was scarf city for a couple of years. “Maddie” is what she goes by now and is still one of my closest friends.  I mainly loved the feel of the yarns I used and the way knitting was so relaxing.  I then branched out into reading patterns and felting bags.  I soon got bored and retaught myself how to crochet.  My grandma originally taught me how to crochet when I was about eight years old, but I was horrible at making a rectangle, so I quit.  Now that’s why I crochet — So I don’t have to make rectangles! I then moved to Chicago where my hats really took off.  I was using more quality yarns than when I first started, but I needed more. 

So, a fabulous woman from my husband’s family offered to teach me how to spin yarn.  I drove to Marquette, Michigan and had the best weekend of my life! 

I learned how to spin yarn, we did some dyeing of wool and I obtained my very first (and up until recently, my only) wheel!  She’s a Louet S10 named the Newt-Ginnie, after the little dog that sat by my side that weekend and the amazing woman that taught me how to spin. 

From there moved to Oregon and met up with yet another amazing woman who taught me how to dye wool.  Now I can wash, dye and spin my own fibers and I have some amazing women to thank for that!  Next up…raising the animals!

 

 

 

 

SA:  You are right…raising animals is THE logical next step!  But, to back up a bit, in looking at your bio, I read that you went to school for art — painting, specifically — do you still paint?

HML:  I DID major in painting, but I no longer paint with actual paint. Now I paint with fiber! The entire dyeing, spinning and crocheting process is like composing an abstract oil painting with big globs of paint.  Fiber is now my favorite medium! 

 

 

 

 

SA:  And, why did you choose to focus on free form crochet?

HML:  Freeform crochet allows for me to get super organic shapes along with not having to follow any rules. It’s kind of like building a sculpture. 

 

I love how I can change up my ideas with crochet rather quickly without having to undo everything and that “mistakes” actually provide a good deal of character and add to the one-of-a-kindness of each hat.

 

SA:  Your hats are amazing!  I’m so thrilled with the one I have and covet getting another one…how did you get into making hats and what is it about making hats that you love?

HML:  I started knitting hats in 2002 and got bored with patterns and the shapes I was ending up with. I then found Ana Voog online and was blown away by her freeform crochet and decided to attempt crocheting some hats.  So, I re-taught myself how to crochet and fell in love with it!  Crochet allowed me to create more organic shapes and involved less planning than knitting did.  As for the “hat” itself…it’s allows me to make a sculptural crochet piece that can be worn by mostly everyone and is a small enough piece that I can get them done in a reasonable amount of time.

 

SA:  When you are beginning a piece, how do you approach your work?

HML:  When it comes to creating the actual piece, after all the fiber is washed and dyed, I have to go with the feel of the fiber. If it’s a smooth and squishy yarn, I work my hats around that and make it more about the shape of the hat. 

If it’s a textured, raw, grizzly looking yarn, I work around that and make a hat that’s more about the texture.  I want to showcase the fiber while still putting a unique twist on the shape. It’s always a delicate balance!

 

 

SA:  Heather, more specifically, talk about a piece that you’ve created that was really special to you and why?

HML:  I’ve had a lot of hats that I felt were special to me due to becoming attached to the yarn or the fit, but recently (over the summer) I did have a special hat I can discuss.   While at Yarnival in Placerville, I obtained sparkley, curly, crimpy, silky fibers from many of my close fiber friends that I only get to see about once a year.  I took these fibers and spun them all up together and created a hat (Grizzly Sisters) that makes me think of these super creative friends of mine each time I look at it!

SA:  What would you still like to learn, fiberistically, speaking?

HML:  There’s always more things to learn! I would like to try some natural dyeing of wool, some simple weaving, maybe learn how to take care of some sheep and alpacas of my own!

 SA:  Given those goals, what path do you see your fiber career taking?

HML:  That’s a hard one. I like to take things one step at a time. I would love to be able to sustain myself off of my hats, but that’s a long way off. So for now I would just like to keep evolving and learning and someday own my own animals so my mark is on every step of the hat process!

 

SA:  Now for a look back question:  how has your work evolved over the time you’ve been creating in this fashion?

HML:  I have definitely seen an evolution in my work over time! When I first started, I was still in the experimental stages and was making all kinds of shapes and pieces for hats that did or did not get used. Finding the method I’m most comfortable with took years.   

A lot of my early work was mostly based on the shapes and less on showcasing the fibers.  I didn’t know how to spin yarn and I couldn’t afford very nice yarn, so I did a lot of buying goodwill sweaters and unraveling in the beginning. Now I’m definitely more into the fibers I put into each piece. I’ve documented my hats throughout the years and love seeing all the phases my hats have gone through!

 

 

 

SA:  And, what do you find to be inspiring?

HML:  There are SOOO many things that inspire me! Sea creatures, tide pools, moss, bark, anything with rich colors and textures, music, other crafty and artistic people…the list just goes on.

 

 

 

I’ve always had a thing for the vintage hats women used to adorn themselves with in the 20’s to 50’s and I like putting a modern twist on those styles. 

 SA:  That is so cool about using those hat shapes as your inspiration.  I recently bought a whole box of vintage hats at a yard sale.  Now, I’m going to look at them differently.  The hat I have from you, I bought at a show (Yarnival, September 2011) and it was great to be able to experience the hat before I decided which to buy.  I know you do a lot of shows.  Talk a bit about your experience in doing shows — what is gratifying?  How do you pick which ones you do?  How much work is involved in getting ready?

HML:  I love doing shows.  This gives me a chance to actually meet the people that wear my hats. I love seeing people try them on and seeing how different each hat looks on each individual person. What’s great is when a person tries on a hat that was meant for them and you see them light up and fall in love! That’s what makes it so gratifying to do the shows.  I also love being around all of the other crafty people participating in the shows.  It’s always a good feeling to know there are so many people that labour over their creations like I do and love it.  It’s always a positive and happy atmosphere at shows, good for the soul.  As for picking a show, I just moved here from Chicago a year and a half ago and am still feeling out for the best shows for me.  I decided to just do the larger shows so I can build up my stock in between them.  Getting ready for a show can be a bit stressful around the holidays mostly.  I have to make sure I have a good stock and I never seem to have as much as I want. I’ve been doing shows for so long now, that I have my set up pretty much down.  I do seem to change my booth up a bit each show, but basically the booth is the easy part of preparing for the show. As long as I have enough hats made and business cards to hand out, I’m ok!

SA:  Now, for a little personal chit chat:  What’s your favorite non-fiber guilty pleasure?

HML:  My non-fiber guilty pleasure…that’s a hard one since my life pretty much revolves around fiber! I would have to say food.  Not cooking food, eating food.  I think pie is pretty much at the top of my loves that are not fiber. A good strawberry rhubarb pie…..mmmm.

SA:  Ah, yes, pie!  I’m with you on that one.  Anything made into a pie…OK, one more question:  Do you have a motto?  If so, what is it?

HML:  I don’t necessarily have a motto, but I do believe you shouldn’t think too much.  Overthinking causes stress and who needs that?!  Enjoy the moment and go with the flow.

SA:  Perfect advice from a beautiful and talented artist.  Thank you so much, Heather.  I can’t wait to see where you take your career as it evolves and look forward to checking in with you from time to time to see what you are up to. 

Readers, you can see Heather’s beautiful pieces this weekend at the JazzTurtle Creations booth at Vogue Knitting Live — Booth 2603.  After this weekend, check out her Etsy shop! 

 Dear Readers, that’s if for now.   I hope your New Year is getting off to a good start.  I’m headed for Vogue Knitting Live — possibly buying another one of Heather’s hats!  Who knows what kind of fiber-related trouble I’m bound to get in, but you can be sure I will be thinking about my Spin Artiste fiber pals and on the look for cool things to share with you upon my return.  All my best, Arlene

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