Today we’d like to introduce you to Alyssa Arney and Liz Flynn.
Alyssa and Liz, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Alyssa: Liz and I met one another after I’d just moved to California in May 2013. By June or July, we had both started interning at the Orange County Museum of Art in Newport Beach for their education program. We did a lot of event planning and realized that we were able to work together really well and accomplish everything we’d set our minds to. It’s so hard to find the right person and the right chemistry to create with, so we kept each other close and stayed in touch after the year-long program ended.
During the internship and a little after the program ended, I had started playing around with needlework, like knitting and embroidery, because my mother had tried to teach me as a child, to no avail. I was dead set on learning this medium and to not be intimidated by the format any longer. I had just started getting the knack for knitting when Liz recommended that I should try crochet. I also found it to be intimidating, initially, but YouTube and Ravelry are the best resources for learning, and honestly, I’ve not really knit since I picked up crochet.
Once the program ended, I was doing a lot more curatorial work with our friend Natalie Mik and we had just finished an exhibition in Indiana called ‘Apartment Art’, something Liz and I both submitted work to. When Natalie and I came back to California, we designed to have a show containing fiber art and sculptures about food and our relationship with it called ‘Pleasure Objects’. I quickly realized that it was such an enormous undertaking that I needed an assistant to help me crochet everything I was envisioning for the project. That’s when I reached out to Liz. Initially, she was just submitting a few things here and there, but it got to the point where Natalie and I were no longer comfortable calling her an assistant, as she was a partner and fellow artist. That show was the inception of Threadwinners, and since then, we’ve done over two dozen exhibitions or pop-ups together.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Alyssa: Liz and I are best friends and we have really great communication with one another. Generally, we are both open to trying new things and getting experimental with the work that we do. Again, we have wonderful working chemistry together and where one might get busy with our outside job, the other one will help pick up where the former left off. As of last year, I’ve been working and traveling a bit more, so we haven’t been making a ton of new work. However, we have our solo show at WorkWell in Irvine coming up in the fall, and all of the pieces in that exhibition will be brand new, never before seen works.
Liz: Like Alyssa said, we communicate really well with each other, and thankfully, that makes situations and projects less stressful because we know we can depend on each other. I would say one of the biggest challenges for both of us has been working full time while trying to maintain enough creative energy to produce new works. Of course, we acknowledge that it is a privilege to be able to work full time and have access to resources, materials, and our own support systems that help us create our work. However, it can be a personal struggle at times to carve out time to meet up, brainstorm new ideas, and create new works, which can be frustrating because Threadwinners and fiber art is what we WISH we were doing full time. I recently stepped down from a particularly demanding job and will be taking a sabbatical this summer to focus on Threadwinners and our artistic production, so I’m excited to see where that will lead us both professionally and creatively.
Threadwinners – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Liz: Threadwinners is a crochet collaborative that aims to infiltrate the fine art world with a medium that has historically been labeled a “craft.” We have absolutely no problem being labeled as crafters, but the bifurcation between fine art and craft is rooted in elitism, racism, and sexism and is therefore ridiculous and needs to be dismantled. We’re trying to do our small little part by creating soft sculpture pieces that make people reevaluate the practice of crochet and perhaps see it used in a different or new way. Threadwinners stands out because of our medium and what we choose to do with it. We explore serious themes through a tactile medium that is often perceived as soft, nostalgic, and accessible, which allows us to create work that can lure the viewer in and then delve into a deeper exploration of what is initially seen on the surface.
We’re probably most well known for our crochet wall panels (or blankies as we professionally call them) that are filled to the max with crochet objects centered around a theme. The first one we ever made, ‘Comfort Food Blanket,’ is jam-packed with food objects people often turn to (or turn away from) in times of vulnerability. We’ve continued in the vein of overwhelmingly decorated panels because it’s the format that has best showcased what we’ve wanted to convey with our work so far, but our new body of work is a bit different which is exciting!
What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
Liz: I’m personally most proud of the amount of work Alyssa and I have been able to produce in such a short amount of time. We started working together in 2016 and we haven’t slowed down since! We’ve been very lucky to have met so many other amazing artists, curators, and makers who have welcomed us into their worlds and included us in so many shows and projects over the last three years.
- Comfort Food Blanket $10,000
- Succulent $10,000
- Verdant Quietus $10,000
- Florid Flora $10,000
- Tech-stile $10,000
- Website: https://threadwinnersart.wordpress.com/
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/thread.winners/
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/threadwinners.socal/
All photos by Threadwinners