Last month I shared some of my favorite projects from Stress-Free Seamless Crochet in this blog post. Today I want to introduce you to one of my favorite designers, Denise Lavoie, who created the beautiful Paisley Lace Shawl featured in this newsstand special issue.
I recently asked Denise to share a little bit more about herself and her love of crochet.
Jackie: Denise, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Denise: Well, let me quote my own Ravelry bio – I’ve been into textiles, like, forever, and am especially into color. Otherwise, I’m just a single gal with a liberal heart who’s into wine, art, men and song (and not necessarily in that order). To expand just a little further, I also have a lot of education (most of which I earned in evening classes while working full-time during the day) and am the first person in my immediate family to earn a college degree.
When did you learn to crochet?
I learned to crochet (and knit) when I was a tween, mostly self-taught. My maternal grandmother (a former New England textile worker) could neither knit nor crochet, but she had many friends who did. If I had questions, I would go visit her, and her crafty friends in the building (she lived in a high rise apartment building) would help me out. I loved visiting my grandmother and her friends, and I think they enjoyed seeing the projects I made. I know they always loved helping me with questions.
What other techniques appeal to you? I know you are also a fine artist as one of your paintings inspired your crocheted throw, Le Peinture Blanket which was published in the summer 2013 issue of Crochet! magazine.
Thank you for that compliment, Jackie! I also paint (mostly acrylics) as well as produce many mixed media pieces. I created all of the artwork for my first self-published book, Leather, Lace, Grit & Grace, and since they were portraits of early female pilots, it was quite a challenge for me. Creating faces has always kind of scared me; I enjoy and feel far more comfortable creating more abstract pieces, so the portraits in the book were way outside my comfort zone, but I was pleased with the final results.
How did you become a designer? What was the first design you sold?
Well, I actually picked up a paint brush first, and then designing followed. Prior to 2009, I was teaching design school students non-design subjects (English, history, ethics [really, philosophy], and critical thinking), and one day in an effort to be more creative with color, I picked up some paint brushes and basic acrylic colors and started to put color on canvas. It was just multicolored dashes on a bright orange/red background, but I was hooked.
Once I became a Ravelry member, a friend in a crochet group posted that if anyone was interested in working with a stitch pattern that she had all but abandoned, send her a private message. I did, she sent me the stitch pattern, and I worked up the sample of what has become, since January 2011, one of the most popular crochet shawl patterns on Ravelry, the Festival Shawl – http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/festival-shawl. It currently has over 530 projects and is sitting in another 1,776 queues!
My first sold designs came fairly quickly after that – the La Poetique Beret and Infinity Scarf Set – http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/la-poetique-beret-and-infinity-scarf-set. They were designed for the Vogue Knitting Live Pasadena 2011 fashion show for Premier Yarns. My first designs for Crochet! magazine hit the next year in autumn, 2012, and I haven’t looked back.
What is your favorite part of the design process?
That’s difficult, because I pretty much love it all! I do love the making – watching a design come to life is a real thrill. Choosing yarns and colors is always a lot of fun for me, and since I regularly self-publish designs under my Voie de Vie design name, I also thoroughly enjoy the styling and photography.
Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
Inspiration is everywhere (to paraphrase Ralph Lauren), but I definitely get a lot of it from my liberal arts education. Mythology and literature and history and philosophy inspiration are all generously sprinkled throughout my designs. Color, nature, music and tradition can also inspire designs (such as flowers for the Gradient Flower Cowl that was published in the Annie’s Crochet! newsstand special, From Scraps to Sensational, or paisley for the Paisley Lace Shawl, shown above).
What is your dream project? If you could design anything, pull out all the stops with the perfect yarn ready and waiting, what would you create?
It would be a formal gown, and probably with a combination of Artyarns and Habu Textiles (but it would ultimately depend on final swatches!). It would be something lacy and ethereal that (I hope) would make everyone stop and take notice. Crochet can have a lightness to it that packs an unexpected artistic punch. I would want this piece to underscore that.
What does an absolutely perfect day look like for you?
A perfect day would include lots of art, lots of fiber, lots of creating, good conversation (preferably over a great meal) and probably some travel thrown in for good measure.
If you did not crochet what would you miss the most?
Nope, I am not going there. I will always crochet, so there is nothing to miss. Let the joy continue ad infinitum!
Thanks for letting us have a behind-the-scenes peek into your life, Denise. We look forward to more of your beautiful designs in future issues of Crochet World and Crochet! magazines.