We LOVE long-term, large-scale craft projects and so when we found out that Anna Gorovoy – a designer here at St. Martin’s Press – has spent approximately the last two years creating an ever-larger crocheted coral reef for a friend’s apartment in Philadelphia, we were more than impressed. Read on to hear more about her project – and please tell us if you or any of your friends have ever done anything similar!
Interview with Crochet Ninja Anna Gorovoy
SMP Craft: Where did you get the idea for this project? And what made you decide to do it yourself?
Anna: It was kind of random. In February 2011, friend of mine in Philadelphia, Kate Poole, had just moved into a new house and I was planning to go up for the weekend and help her set up her new room. The Friday before, she sent me a link to the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef project by the Institute For Figuring and suggested, as a joke, that I crochet a reef for her room that weekend. And I thought, why not? So I’ve been working on this reef for about two and a half years now. It lives at Kate’s house in Philadelphia. Whenever I see her, I give her the corals that I’ve created since the last time we met up, and she adds them to the reef.
SMPC: Do you have a favorite type of hook or yarn for this project?
A: I want to have many different and diverse corals in my reef, so I end up using a variety of hook sizes and kinds of yarn. Basically, when you use a smaller crochet hook with yarn that is light in weight you end up with very fine, detailed work (think lace) that takes a long time to make. Larger hooks with heavier weight yarn help a project to work up quickly but it’s not so detailed, like a painting with thick brush strokes. If you use a heavier yarn with a smaller hook, the mismatch leads to to a piece that’s really tight and dense. So I play around with different hooks and yarns for different effects.
I tend to use not-as-nice yarn from my stash—I’m not going to use really expensive yarn that you would save for a scarf or sweater that feels really good against your skin. Knitters and crocheters, you know what I’m talking about, that yarn you just need to find a way to use up. . . . So the reef project helps me use up yarn that’s come into my possession that I might not know what to do with otherwise. Sometimes people give me yarn that they don’t want just for me to use for the reef and I work it in. In my brain corals, for example, you can’t even see the first several rounds because they are totally covered up by the last several rounds.
SMPC: How long have you been crocheting & who taught you?
A: Oh, that was random, too! Or maybe serendipitous. When I was an intern in MoMA’s Publications Department back in the fall and winter of 2009, there was an editor, Rebecca Roberts, who was an avid crocheter. A fellow intern in the department got very interested in her work and asked her to teach us, and RR agreed to do so. One day, she brought in hooks and yarn and a little teaching agenda and invited us to sit down and learn over lunchtime. I was only vaguely interested, but I came along for company. Ironically, my friend who really wanted to learn to crochet was just not really getting it, but after I tried the chain stitch and single and double crochet I was off and running. It just felt right in my hands. At that time in my life, I wasn’t making the art I’d been making in the past (painting, drawing, photography) and having kind of an identity crisis over it, but it felt right to have this new and different thing in a medium I’d never worked in before. That night on my way home, I popped into a yarn shop and bought myself a little set of hooks and few skeins of yarn and got going with my first scarf. Over the rest of my internship, I would bring my projects in to show RR and she would give me feedback, lend me crochet books, etc. She said I was a natural and I really took to it, literally from that day onwards. So it’s been four years since then that I’ve been crocheting.
SMPC: Do you do other types of crafts as well or are you a crochet-er through and through?
A: Oh, I do a lot! Sewing at a beginner level, I’m learning to knit, I do pickling and canning and jamming, all of that crafts around the house kinds of stuff. I’m just really a hand-skills person. I’ll craft whatever needs crafting.
SMPC: Is this your favorite project of all time and, if not, what is?
A: Well, this is probably my most epic project to date. Besides the reef, I have made a lot of hats and scarves (some on the weird side—I have a handmade cupcake hat and one time someone commissioned me to crochet him a scarf that was basically a giant/extremely long black and gray tube sock), little blankets, wrist warmers, and the like. The reef is really the only one so far that’s more like an art piece. But I also have a little all-white freeform piece I really like that I’ve been working on on and off. I started it in a freeform crochet class that I took at the Brooklyn Brainery with Barbara Van Elsen (a funny coincidence—she was the organizer of the NY Reef of the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef) and I think that will be a little gem once I finish it.
SMPC: Do you have a favorite crocheting tip or trick?
A: I’m not sure if this is a tip or trick, but I feel like as soon as you understand how to chain stitch and single (and maybe double) crotchet you’ve got it. It’s all based on that, so you can basically figure out how to do anything. And if you’re not sure how to do a certain stitch that you are reading in a pattern, there’s probably a video tutorial up on Youtube.
SMPC: Do you have a favorite place or time to crochet?
A: Not really, I’ll pretty much do it anywhere. On the couch in front of the TV, in the subway, at someone’s house, in the movies while waiting for previews to start, on a plane (crochet hooks are allowed on flights!), wherever I can make use of some dead time.
SMPC: Do you ever crochet with other people?
A: Sure! I’m part of a knit/crochet club that meets Monday after work. And I will also bring out my crochet for a craft session when others are working on whatever their craft is.
SMPC: When you’re not moonlighting as a crafter, what do you do?
A: At work I design books. At home I also like to cook and garden (now I sound like a little housewife), love on my cats (and like a publishing cliché), read, travel, get out and enjoy the city, etc. Eat delicious food. Sometimes I am involved with cat rescue.
SMPC: What’s the one question I didn’t think to ask that you’d like to answer here?
A: I guess that question could be: how much longer will I be working on this reef? People ask me all the time and I’m really not sure—I just love the idea of it continuing to grow (like a living thing!). And I’ve got more yarn I can use up on it. I’m also thinking about whether to add anything more besides the purely hyperbolic corals. I have the St. Martin’s Griffin book 75 Seashells, Fish, Coral & colorful marine life to knit & crochet and have been considering whether to add something from those patterns, or keep it hyperbolic. I don’t want it to end up looking cutesy if I bring in additions from patterns like that. Maybe it would be best to keep it hyperbolic.