Crochet lighting designer Ashlee Lloyd is embracing the resurgence of craft by combining contemporary design with a traditional, handmade technique.
5 Minutes With Crochet Lighting Designer Ashlee Lloyd
There was a time when the word 'craft' was uttered with disdain and associated with questionable creations like knitted toilet seat covers and rocks with googly eyes glued on them. It was less about the beautifully handmade and more about the tacky and bizarre.
But today, craft is recognised as being a fundamental part of design, and we're seeing the re-emergence of age-old techniques, which are being used in innovative and contemporary ways.
This is immediately apparent in the work of crochet lighting designer Ashlee Lloyd, a Cape Town-based creative who draws inspiration from nature to create impressive installations using the traditional craft of crochet. Expertly combining hard materials such as steel with soft contours and textures, Lloyd allows each piece to form organically, enabling the individual elements to ultimately dictate the end result.
Lloyd's remarkable lighting designs are on display around the world, with her Amoeba chandelier taking pride of place in the Skotnes Restaurant at Norval Foundation in Cape Town. We sat down with the the creative director and founder of Ashlee Lloyd Design Studio to find out more about her process and her love of design.
5 Minutes With Crochet Lighting Designer Ashlee Lloyd
Did you always want to be a designer? If not, what did you want to be when you were growing up?
I wanted to be a fixer when I was growing up. I was always fascinated with the way things were made and put together. I'm not sure what kind of fixer, but my mother spent some of her life being a restoration artist, a very good one indeed. She would always be fixing broken collectibles or mirror frames to make them look beautiful again. You couldn’t tell where she fixed them sometimes. I was mesmerised. My father was an engineer, always pottering around the house taking things apart and 'hopefully' putting them back together. I knew my line of work was going to be very hands on, creative and demanding, and that it would also involve a lot of patience and passion. When I had design as a subject in high school, I knew I was going to be a designer and maker of things.
What is your earliest visual memory?
My earliest visual memory is of a bunch of film photographs my dad had taken when he was at The Royal Art College in London. He did a series of oil and water under a microscope. I was digging in his collectibles, and found these developed photographs. I remember sticking them into my visual diary and they became some of my favourites. They were a mix of blue, brown and black ink with a hint of yellow.
How would you describe your brand's style?
A tactile experience. Handmade and handcrocheted.
Tell us about your working process and why you turned to crochet for your work.
My mother taught me what she knew about crochet. It's a hobby of hers. She likes to crochet with any material she can get her hands on, like I do. My working process involves tea, a crochet hook, loud music with soul, an open space, and time to let my mind wander and think about the next project/move. I love the repetition of crocheting, and that you can create and manipulate many forms and shapes. It's a beautiful symbiotic relationship between a crochet hook and yarn or rope.
Do you have a special favourite among the pieces you’ve created?
My first piece, the Molecular chandelier, will always be my favourite. It’s the reason I found my passion, and is a very moody and dramatic piece with a lot of emotion. It was designed and made during a manic time for me – I was writing my thesis, deciding my career path and trying to make ends meet. My new favourite piece is a black and beige one I did for a client in Limpopo, and two charcoal chandeliers that are mirroring each other on North Island, in Seychelles.
What does a typical day in your life look like?
A typical day consists of singing extremely loudly in my silver 4x4 on the highway to my studio. I spend most of my day there: crocheting, sewing, listening to music, watering plants, answering emails, taking calls, rearranging furniture, making reference/mood boards and playing with colour combinations for new projects. Then I go to yoga for an hour and a half and afterwards, I quickly drive home to squeeze in a walk with my lovely golden retriever, Ruby. Then I make my friends or mother supper, or a dinner is arranged elsewhere for me to join! What a life! I try not to spend much time behind a screen, so no TV or series for me.
Do you have a secret talent?
I do indeed. I am a pyromaniac/fire dancer. I’ve been dancing with fire for seven years now. I can also tie a knot in a cherry stalk with my tongue – this one is a party trick, not a talent.
Which single place should every serious design-lover visit?
Museu do Design e da Moda (MUDE) – the Museum of Design and Fashion in Lisbon, Portugal. It’s awesome.
If you could own any piece of design, what would it be?
An original Ball chair by Eero Aarnio.
What do you think sets African design apart from the rest?
African design is fresh, innovative and more than often, quirky. It often involves taking risks.
Do you have any projects in the pipeline you'd like to share with us?
I am currently completing two mirroring chandeliers on North Island, Seychelles. Another work that's possibly in the pipeline is to create a piece for Downtown Dubai in October 2019.