With generations of creative family to inspire her, contemporary craft designer Vanessa Mooncie has been making with her hands since childhood. Her crochet projects can be as large as a whimsical animal-inspired rug or as small as a realistic ladybug. How does she do it? Vanessa shares her techniques, tips and patterns in a series of inspiring books that have something for everyone.
How did you find yourself on an artist’s path? Always there? Lightbulb moment? Dragged kicking and screaming? Evolving?
I have always loved creating. As a child, I loved to draw and sew and learned to crochet when I was young. I studied fashion and textile design at college, but it was only when I was browsing through my collection of vintage needlework patterns a few years ago that I was inspired to crochet for the first time since I was a little girl.
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Why textiles and crochet? How do they best express what you want to communicate through your art?
I love working with textiles, particularly crochet. Creating a three-dimensional object that begins as an idea in my head, using just a hook and some yarn or thread, and then seeing how it develops into the finished piece is magical. I enjoy experimenting with colour and different materials, the challenges of shaping and detail, as well as working out how to form the initial idea into a piece of art, a wearable object or a cuddly toy.
Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
I find inspiration everywhere! Nature inspires me, looking out of my window and going on walks. I get ideas from leaves, flowers, birds and beetles, and the beautiful colours in nature. An idea can form from the textures in a wall or pebbles and shells on the beach, and from patterns in tiles, wallpaper and fabric. My collection of vintage craft and fashion books are also a wonderful source of inspiration.
What is the most important takeaway you want readers to gain from your books, especially your new title, Crocheted Bees, Bugs & Butterflies?
I hope that readers enjoy making the projects from my books as much as I enjoyed creating them. I absolutely loved working on Crocheted Bees, Bugs & Butterflies. Seeing how readers interpret my patterns, such as simply changing the colours or adapting the instructions to create their own versions of the projects, is a joy.
How do you make the leap from the idea in your head to the varied art you create? When you are working on books such as Crocheted Dogs and Crocheted Animal Rugs, do you focus on one subject exclusively, or is there some overlap?
Right from the beginning of an idea, I visualise the way I will make the piece. The pattern often changes during the process of creating it. If the project isn’t going well, I often put it to one side and begin the next one, rather than spending too much time and getting nowhere with it. Sometimes the solution will suddenly come to mind while I’m working on another piece.
How has your creative work evolved over the years?
Over the years I have been working with finer threads and smaller hooks, and then developing patterns with more shaping. I have been challenging myself with more detailed work but trying to keep the designs less complicated to make.
What kinds of projects do you recommend for someone just starting out with crochet?
I learned to crochet making simple granny squares. They can be stitched or crocheted together to make blankets, cushion covers and clothing, among other things. There are some easy patterns for the beginner in my book of Simple Crocheted Hats.
Do you have a dedicated space for creating? If so, what does it look like?
I work in a cabin at the end of my garden. My desk is at a window looking onto our vegetable patch and an old apple tree that is full of activity with birds and butterflies. I have shelves brimming with books and vintage sewing patterns, and small drawers, pigeonholes and vessels crammed with crochet hooks, knitting needles, pencils, scissors and other tools.
What are the indispensable tools and materials in your studio? How do they improve your work?
I like to have everything I need close to hand, so I keep my hooks, sewing notions and various threads and yarns nearby, so I can get to work on an idea straight away. All my tools are in my dedicated workspace, so I don’t have to clear everything away at the end of each day.
Do you use a sketchbook or journal? How does that help your work develop?
I used to make my own sketchbooks to work out crochet designs and I would hand-write the patterns. But now I write my patterns on my laptop and use paper from old schoolbooks or the backs of envelopes to work out my designs. I still use sketchbooks for my artwork.
What plays in the background while you work? Silence? Music, audiobooks, podcasts, movies? If so, what kind?
I always listen to music while I work. I have BBC radio 6 music playing on the radio, or I listen to a playlist. My daughter, Honey Mooncie, is a singer-songwriter and I listen to her music a lot!
Who is the most creative person that you have ever known?
I grew up surrounded by creative people. My grandmother made foundation garments. She and my mum taught me to knit and crochet. My mum made our clothes when we were little and knitted for my children and grandchildren. I have some of my mother’s and my aunt’s beautiful paintings. My dad, who was a sailor, builds amazing scale models of ships. My great uncle was a wonderful artist, painting in oils and watercolours, and my great aunt was a court dressmaker. I met my husband at college where he studied sculpture, and one of my daughters is a tattoo artist. She gave me my first tattoo!
Tell us about your website. What do you hope people will gain by visiting?
My website is https://www.vanessamooncie.com/ Here visitors can browse through a selection of my craft and artwork that shows a variety of my past and present work. I also have details of the books I have written with links to purchase them.
Interview posted October 2022.
Browse through more crochet projects and inspiration on Create Whimsy.