The crafted object : A Plus Designnn {crochet jewellery}

I love these organic little textile accessories from Anda Toma (aka APlusDesignnn). They are curious and intriguing and speak to me of sealife – coral, nudibranchs and strange deep-sea creatures.


aplusdesignnn - anemone brooch

aplusdesignnn – anemone brooch


Tactile and colourful, Anda crochets and beads her brooches, bracelets and necklaces in her spare time away from her interior design practice. And when she’s not crocheting, she’s felting. Or making equally cute little handpainted ceramic bears and owls for her other shop, SeleneMini.  For someone who is so obviously compelled to make, it is ironic that she never enjoyed craft activities when she was a child. But she loves it now, and is constantly amazed at the variety of things you can do with just simple crocheting, weaving, or modelling with clay.


aplusdesignnn - bubbles brooch

aplusdesignnn – bubbles brooch


aplusdesignnn - green spots - 2 x brooches

aplusdesignnn – green spots – 2 x brooches


Working out of Bucharest, Romania, she is inspired by many things, including nature, architecture, interior design, and fashion (you must check out her Pinterest board on knit and crochet fashion that truly stretches the boundaries! It’s here).


aplusdesignnn - necklace from the Cellular Series

aplusdesignnn – necklace from the Cellular Series


aplusdesignnn - reverse flower brooch

aplusdesignnn – reverse flower brooch


“My life has always been full of color, since I was a child and I was playing in the country side. I loved the trees, the woods and the mountains. I always used to draw little house with big mountains in the back and a big smiling sun! This is the image I want to represent, the image of happiness that you can wear day by day!”


selenemini - totem bear brooch

selenemini – totem bear brooch


selenemini - tribal bear brooch

selenemini – tribal bear brooch


Anda also has another shop selling beautiful vintage clothes, and writes a blog about her finds – not only interesting for the clothes, but also for the architecture of Bucharest in the background (yes I’d LOVE to see more, thanks Anda!!)

You can find more of her crocheted jewellery in her Etsy shop, aplusdesignnn. You can also find a cute bear or two in her other Etsy shop, SeleneMini.




The crafted object : Frank Ideas {jewellery}

Frank Ideas
frank ideas - neon pink rubber and felt necklace

frank ideas – neon pink rubber and felt necklace


Rowan Shaw started designing jewellery because both of her kids were keen swimmers.  “With training every morning at 5am it meant I was stuck in a car or by a pool a lot and jewellery was portable. At that stage it was mainly textile necklaces using felt or cuffs made from vintage buttons, scavenged from thrift shops at beach towns when the kids were competing at nippers carnivals.”


frank ideas - neon green and orange earrings

frank ideas – neon green and orange earrings


frank ideas - red and black necklace

frank ideas – red and black necklace


Her current jewellery is more simplistic in style, using modern materials such as plastic and rubber in sleek forms, with bright colours, and utilising the materials themselves for textural interest.

Her world has revolved around design and making ever since she can remember. With an architect father she grew up surrounded by contemporary design books and magazines, carpet and wallpaper samples, and modern furniture. “My mother made most of our clothes and created fabulous costumes for the plays I was always in so there were always buttons, cottons, wool and fabric samples lying around. As a family we were often immersed in handmade projects for the house – curtains made from paper beads that we created from the gloriously colourful pages in glossy architectural magazines, covering walls with wonderfully textural textiles, sorting volcanic stones for landscaping in our unusual garden…My adolescence was spent rehearsing and acting, painting murals on walls, working with polymer clay (eons before it was cool) dipping wire in bright (possibly toxic) substances to make mobiles and…well, simply creating. I remember when I was about 12, making a mobile out of “dippity glass” (does anyone else remember that stuff??)  that I took to school to use as a demonstration for a talk about  processes. No one, including the teacher, believed I had made it myself, assuming it had been bought from a shop.”


 “That was probably the first time it dawned on me that not everyone spent their life making things.”


Frank Ideas originally started as a furniture design business several years ago, run by Rowan and her friend Gillian. “The name originated because we were both very frank in our taste and opinions. Our designs were  quite Scandinavian in feel using light coloured timbers, very utilitarian or modernist in aesthetic. We used to spend a lot of time in architectural hardware companies and timber yards battling with sexist males who were often quite patronising and assumed we had no idea what we were talking about. We had a lot of fun explaining to them that we were “Frank” not his assistants. I kept the name once Gill moved to a more idyllic, rural life deciding that I would still have Frank Ideas even though I was now designing jewellery. I have many clients who buy regularly from me on line and still assume I am a rather flamboyant gay male.”


frank ideas - folded silver origami necklace

frank ideas – folded silver origami necklace


After several bouts of studying and working in theatre and design, she eventually found her way to jewellery. “I now feel like jewellery is what I should have been doing my whole life, but am glad it evolved from other disciplines. I’ve done some very short silversmithing courses but apart from that am totally self taught, using intuition and trial and error to develop my own techniques and style. I am totally materials based – ie I very rarely draw a design first (unlike all those years spent at a drawing board) but instead will dye felt or knot rubber long before I know what I am actually going to do with it. I have boxes of experiments which I hardly ever throw out – even the most disastrous is set aside until (sometimes a few years later) I eventually rediscover it and it will be the solution to a current design problem. This somewhat chaotic approach to design leads to hoarding of materials – I frequently purchase vintage African beads, find pieces of rubber or fabulous bits of fabric that I have no idea what to do with – they will appeal to me because of their colour, texture or history. They will sit on a shelf until inspiration hits – hardly a disciplined or rigorous design approach!!”


frank ideas - red paper flower necklace

frank ideas – red paper flower necklace


“I love the process – probably more than the final result. I love the experimenting and total absorption that comes from working with unusual materials. I really love the solitude and am sooo thankful that the Internet means I don’t have to try to sell my pieces at markets very often. I am often amazed when people get excited by something I’ve made.”

Having such an extensive design background has given Rowan a huge pool of influences from which to draw. She says that architecture is of course an enduring backdrop to everything, but her favourites in other mediums shine through, and include the fabulous paper jewellery of Ana Hagopian, the rich colour of the legendary ceramicist Clarice Cliff, as well as the inspiring array of otherwise discarded materials used by British sculptor Tony Cragg. “I actually still believe that less is more, its just that sometimes I choose to fight against it.”


frank ideas - red and grey felt necklace

frank ideas – red and grey felt necklace


frank ideas - black rubber knotted choker necklace

frank ideas – black rubber knotted choker necklace


Working out of her home studio in Balmain, Sydney gives her easy access to the many things that are important to her – especially water. “We are a five minute ferry ride to the MCA and the Opera house so I’m close to the city which I passionately adore. I’m an urban girl who delights in bridges, buildings, art galleries and shops. We are 20 minutes drive from Bondi where I swim and walk most days in summer. During winter it is only a 5 minute trip to the local pool where I swim most mornings. I need water in my life; swimming laps is the closest thing I get to meditation. I find the repetition calming, and the rhythm of breathing helps me find the centre I need to plan the day in my studio.”

“My life is lived in total chaos, much to the dismay of my family who are all quite orderly in their approach to life and living. My husband is very tidy but has learnt to turn a blind eye to the disruption and mess that seems to follow me. I try to keep my work contained in my studio or my office but I often spill out of both spaces.”

Her favourite piece of advice is one from Ira Glass, and I love it too. It’s about just keeping on doing.


“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” {Ira Glass}


You can find more of Rowan’s jewellery in her Etsy shop, FrankIdeas.


The crafted object : Your Organ Grinder (textiles)

I have long been fascinated by the curious felted viscera of Simmone Spring from Your Organ Grinder. Eyes, kidneys, teeth, brains, hearts, lungs, thyroid… Who buys them? Why?


your organ grinder - brain

your organ grinder – brain


“I get to work with a lot of people who are ill or have had surgeries or have chronic illness. It is pretty special to be invited into a persons life when they are ill. Some of the illnesses people have had are things they are probably cautious about telling anyone about and I want to make sure no one has to feel embarrassed about the things their body does. I also get to learn a lot by talking with them, and learn how the illness makes itself known, what are good signs, things like that. It is wonderful when someone gets really enthusiastic to be able explain to me what is going on with their illness, I am always really interested to know!”


your organ grinder - heart brooch

your organ grinder – heart brooch


Simmone has a diploma of applied science and a degree in literature and sociology. She contemplated working with animals (and would still love to), but also thought about writing. She ended up working in a retail position that required crafting skills, and loves it that she is always learning new things – her job is being the coordinator for – a group dedicated to teaching people new craft skills.


your organ grinder - brain stamp wrapping paper

your organ grinder – brain stamp wrapping paper


Simmone started making organs about 6 years ago after a chat with a friend about her collections of animal skeletons and exoskeletons. “I didn’t think I could manage to make animals in jars but though an eye was possible, and maybe a heart. Once I started making anatomy it was hard to stop.”

After researching the shapes and colours of each body part, she starts each new design by cutting directly into the felt, admitting that drawing is not one of her strong points. “It requires a lot of effort. If I whip out scissors and just go for it I usually get a better result, and a much faster one!  The first kidney I made was entirely free hand, and I then used what I cut to make a template. I also like to read a bit about the body part as knowing how they function can give a lot of insight into how to represent them.

“I’m not a fan of a sewing machine but I do use it every now and then. Using the sewing machine always makes me frustrated so I allocate a very small amount of sewing machine work at a time and probably only use it once a month. Consequently there is screen printed anatomy all over the place that is printed, but has got no further.”

“I know I was making stuff all the time as a child. Cutting up fabric to make barbie clothes, making little gifts for friends. When my Nana taught me to knit I made a pink cape for a barbie, it was pretty terrible, my knitting still is, but to me it was the ultimate in barbie fashion. I made fairly dodgy stuff! My mum taught me crochet when I was quite young, 9 or 10, so I was always interested in making things and entertaining myself with making things.”


your organ grinder - placenta with specimen jar

your organ grinder – placenta with specimen jar


“Usually once at every market I have someone say something very rude to me about what I create. Thankfully I’m fairly used to that kind of thing as I have liked weird stuff my whole life and always been the person that gets told I’m a weirdo, or sick, or has strange looks from people. I’m lucky to have had equally weird friends and everyone in the craft community has some bizarre interest! I still do feel paranoid about certain things I am interested in and not a lot of people know about them, but often I am surprised to learn that there is someone else I know with the same interest.”

“I think my biggest influences are actually horror movies, because they spark my interest in ideas that I go off and research and find something interesting out from them. It is not necessarily anatomy that inspires me but more colours and techniques and idea’s. I have a real interest in how people represent and portray their creativity. Seeing creativity in action inspires me. I love watching RuPaul’s Drag Race as I love how creativity is portrayed in this show.”


your organ grinder - skin hoop

your organ grinder – skin hoop


Her favourite piece at the moment is her “Skin Hoop”, showing the structure and layers of the skin. “It’s a lot of hand sewing and cutting out felt really precisely and actually kinda a pain to make and takes ages but I love it. I put on a terrible movie to watch while I work on things like that. It was originally a custom order. I loved the result and had to make another smaller version. I definitely want to make more in this style.”


Many people think Simmone’s craft is a bit strange. But it’s not as strange as knowing what actually creeps Simmone out. 


“Long fingernails, feet, anything to do with pregnancy and small babies, chicken on the bone, countless other foods. Pregnancy stuff makes me feel faint sometimes, just thinking about it. I also find doing some research can make me quite queasy and hot and clammy and feel faint. It is funny what does it!”


your organ grinder - studio

your organ grinder – studio


You can find more of Simmone’s work in her Etsy shop YourOrganGrinder, and on her own website and blog,

The crafted object : Kelly Darke (textiles)

Kelly Darke works full time as an art therapist. “Creating art has always been a personal source of comfort for me and when I learned about art therapy I actually didn’t believe it was a real thing – art and psychology? That seemed like a perfect combination. I love the idea that I can use art as a means to help others work through emotional, developmental, or psychological issues and to improve cognitive functioning. For my Masters degree thesis I researched how fiber art could be beneficial to improving mental and emotional well-being. I want to create art that literally makes people feel good.”

Kelly uses a variety of painting and stitch to create her works. Working in subdued hues, she investigates different aspects of living things – flowers and cells – in abstract and tactile ways.


kelly darke - stitched sketch of a peony

kelly darke – stitched sketch of a peony


Originally concentrating on painting, she has now moved into the realms of stitch. “I have always worked very intuitively – letting my paintings evolve as I worked on them. However, I have come to realize that it is all the experience I gained through the years learning about art and techniques. All the black and white photography I did in high school taught me about composition – seriously, everyone should try creating some b&w pics as a study in creating uncluttered compositions. Learning to draw from life taught me how subtle changes in color and shade can make a huge difference overall. Even though I am working mostly in fibers right now, I am still applying the techniques I learned over the years – layering stitches (instead of paint) for a richer color and more texture. I think when I’m working that I don’t really have a plan and I just use my intuition to create the piece, but really everything I’ve been learning and practicing for my whole life are all playing a part in the evolution of my art.”

Despite being in a job where she works all day with others she describes herself as an introvert, with an ideal evening being to stay at home, knitting or stitching, watching a good movie.


kelly darke - stitched sketch tincture

kelly darke – stitched sketch tincture


A low point in her early career dealt her a harsh but ultimately very useful lesson.

“In 2008 I was invited to show at a collaborative type gallery for a one night solo show. My kids were 2 and 5 years old at the time and I was trying to get new work completed during my spare time (which wasn’t much). I decided to show a few older pieces and my newest pieces including a fiber piece that was the beginning of my use of fibers. Well, the evening was coming up quickly, I didn’t promote it as much as I would have liked to, my husband was working and my brother who lived near was also busy. My mom was able to help me set up the show, but I didn’t have time to put together a table of wine and appetizers, which I really wanted to do but simply ran out of time. So, I sat in the gallery and a few people trickled in over the first hour, the owner of the space left for dinner, then I sat alone for about an hour – I talked to my sister on the phone, which made the agony of an empty gallery space a little more bearable. Then I needed to get something from my car and figured no one would miss me. What I didn’t know is that the door automatically locked when it closed. I couldn’t get back into the gallery space, no one was inside, and the owner was out to dinner somewhere. While standing at the door trying to call someone to let me back in, someone else showed up to see the show – I was so embarrassed explaining that I locked myself out of my own show and no one was inside to let me back in.

“I left that night knowing that I would never be so unprepared for anything again and since then my openings have gone much more smoothly.”


kelly darke - painted and stitched vintage sheet

kelly darke – painted and stitched vintage sheet


kelly darke - stitched vintage sheet 2 (detail)

kelly darke – stitched vintage sheet 2 (detail)


Recent participation in The Heidelberg Emerging Artist Program has also helped her come out her shell. She says it “gave me the confidence and push I needed at the time to really energize my art career. I have been continuing to show at galleries and reach a larger audience since that first major solo show.”

“My inspiration comes from so many different sources. When I was younger, Joan Miro was always my favorite artist and his work ethic and discipline was serious. He treated his art like any other job, he got up at 5am and went to his studio to work and kept a tight schedule. I also love the work of Mark Rothko, Franz Kline, Joan Mitchell. Contemporary artists that inspire are Sheila Hicks (especially her wrapped fiber pieces), Abigail Doan for her beautiful fiber pieces combining different textures.

“I admire anyone who works hard to be able to do what they love – people who don’t give up and work past the hurdles, including the self-imposed ones. Being a professional artist is not an easy job and I admire those who make it work.”


kelly darke - pink and orange burst embroidery - detail

kelly darke – pink and orange burst embroidery – detail


kelly darke - pink and orange burst embroidery

kelly darke – pink and orange burst embroidery


“The favorite part of my house is my studio, which is in the living room behind the couch – it is a mess of supplies – but it’s mine 🙂



“And the best feature is the table that my husband made for me – he inscribed it with this:


“For my beautiful wife Kelly – This Creation Table – to inspire you and help you to continue to bring your beautiful creations to the world. I love you and all that you do. Love always – your husband, Vincent – 12/26/2008”

“It’s the most beautiful piece of furniture ever :)”
kelly darke studio

kelly darke studio


kelly darke - studio table (detail)

kelly darke – studio table (detail)


You can find more of Kelly’s fibre art on her website,, and in her Etsy shop.

The crafted object : Irregular Expressions (textile jewellery)

When I first saw the freeform crochet of Irregular Expressions, I was hooked, so to speak. It is an intriguing mix of traditional stitch, rich colours and lush, organic form that is folk craft with a large slice of edge.

But when I approached the family team that form Irregular Expressions for an interview, I knew I had found something extraordinarily beautiful.


irregular expressions - black lace scales - bib necklace

irregular expressions – black lace scales – bib necklace


irregular expressions - eucomis vandermerwei - burgundy lace necklace

irregular expressions – eucomis vandermerwei – burgundy lace necklace


Based in the picturesque  town of Bolu in Turkey, Sebahat is the principal maker, and mother of Aysegul who runs the shop online, assisted by Aysegul’s brother. Sebahat is a retired teacher, who worked for many years at various secondary schools teaching art, craft and practical household economics. Travelling around regional Turkey allowed her great opportunities to collect ideas on traditional Turkish techniques and designs.

Improvising on these collected ideas, Sebahat has been using a combination of techniques over the past six and a half years to produce her accessories, incorporating beads, buttons and fabric in her crochet. She is always inspired by nature in its endless variety of forms and colours; flowers especially form a major part of her inspiration, which is why many of her creations are named after particular species.


irregular expressions - calliandra haematocephala - crochet cuff

irregular expressions – calliandra haematocephala – crochet cuff


irregular expressions - convolvulus erubescens - necklace

irregular expressions – convolvulus erubescens – necklace


irregular expressions - mirbelia speciosa - crochet beaded cuff

irregular expressions – mirbelia speciosa – crochet beaded cuff


irregular expressions - potentila nepalensis - scarflette

irregular expressions – potentila nepalensis – scarflette


The most special part of meeting Aysegul and Sebahat though was to view this video of them, made by the people at Etsy. It’s beautiful, and I encourage you to watch it.



Finally, when I asked Aysegul for her and her mother’s best pieces of advice, I got this response.


“Hi Julie,

“When I read your question what immediately came to my mind was something I read ten years ago. I almost always recall this sentence when I am invited to somewhere new, or when someone suggests doing something unusual. I have said yes to many things I would have said no to otherwise just because I have remembered this quote:


“Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.”

-Chapter 31, Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut


irregular expressions - grace - lemon yellow beaded necklace

irregular expressions – grace – lemon yellow beaded necklace


“When I asked your question to my mother, she instantly recalled her father’s words. It was when she was attending secondary school, and she was also helping the family with the housework. Her father saw her shearing a sheep, and perhaps he was also proud that she was attending the school and she also knew how to shear a sheep. He told her, “Learn anything that is good (useful, beneficial), put it in your pocket as if you never knew, you will (can) use it when the time comes.” He was saying that there may come a time when you need the skills you have learned.

“My mother often repeats his words to encourage me and my brother to keep learning new skills. And she is still following his words, she spends a lot of time online trying to learn new crocheting and knitting techniques.”

Perhaps these words are obvious for an ex school teacher, to never stop learning! But it is excellent advice.


I LOVE Aysegul’s quote; it is such a wonderful reminder that life is not straightforward and that it is important to accept and learn from what life throws at you.


You can find more of Sebahat’s wonderful accessories in their  Etsy shop, IrregularExpressions.

Big thanks to Aysegul for all her help in putting this together.