PROFILE: LONDON KAYE
Street artist London Kaye has found a way to make her crochet super expressive – by using it to create amazing installations.
Vivid, colourful, powerful and often packed with tongue-in-cheek humour, London Kaye’s crocheted street art will stop you in your tracks, inspire you and help you see the world a little differently.
For the Los Angeles-born artist, it all began one afternoon in 2002. “I was 13 years old and learned to crochet from my best friend’s Mom,” she recalls. “She taught me and three of my friends on the same day. I stuck with it, maybe because it enables me to clear my head and be in the present. I also love to make, and crochet is all about that.”
Part of the appeal for London was having the means to make her wild imaginings into real, visual items she could have, hold and often wear. “What initially attracted me was the ability to make something out of nothing,” she says. “My first crochet project was a scarf. I used a really big crochet hook and it was all single crochet.”
Before long, London realised that she could use her new skill to start a commercial business, and at just 13 years old she began selling the scarves she hooked. “At the age of 16 I bought myself a car with the scarf money I’d earned,” she says.
The prompt to take her crochet creations out to adorn the world was an encounter with famed crochet artist Olek (you’ll find an interview with her in issue 57 of Simply Crochet).
“I wrapped a scarf on a tree the day after I met Olek in April 2013,” London says. “She inspired me. I met her while working at the Apple store after I graduated and I saw that she had an amazing crochet bag with her.”
After Olek left the store, London Googled her name. “I was shocked! Before then, I never thought that crocheting could be so creative.”
The next day, London wrapped that lime green and shocking pink scarf around a tree in Brooklyn and realised she’d installed her first piece of street art. “It made me see it could be possible for crochet to be my full-time job. I began to create in a way than I never knew was
possible,” she says. “I could layer shapes together to create pictures.”
London set herself a 30-day challenge. “Every day for 30 days I put a crocheted item outside and left it there for people to enjoy.”
A CROCHET INNOVATOR
Today it continues to be a passion for London. “Crocheted street art is so fun,” she enthuses. “I truly enjoy every step of the process, from crocheting, to hanging it up, to stepping back and observing the reactions from people.”
Unsurprisingly, crochet is now her work-life too. “I’m a full-time crochet artist – I work with brands and companies crocheting for advertising and marketing campaigns,” she says. “One of my favourite projects was a crochet billboard I did in Times Square, New York, for Miller Lite beer. It was 25 by 50 feet and hung there for the Christmas holidays. The whole thing was made of yarn!”
Other clients include Starbucks, snack food producer Chex Mix and The Gap, in addition to creating her own range of cheery crochet kits.
The hardest part for London is, inevitably, everything that’s required when the stitches pause. “I can spend all day crocheting, so the biggest challenge for me is the business side – how to run a successful enterprise while remaining creative and passionate.”
London’s most exciting project to date was a capsule collection she collaborated on with fashion designer Red Valentino. “In addition to a line of clothes, I crocheted 14 window displays for their flagship stores around the world. I got to fly to London and Rome for two openings where I installed the crochet live. This combined my two favourite things – crocheting and travelling the world!” London loves to head out and immerse herself in the energy of her surroundings. “My favourite place to work is a new city or place around the world,” she says. “There’s nothing like that kind of inspiration.”
However, she also relishes retreating to her own space to allow ideas to flow. “I also like to dream big in my art studio.”
Fresh concepts and ideas spring from a wide variety of sources. “The kind of things that inspire a new design for me are current events and pop culture,” she says. “I am also hugely inspired by beautiful colour palettes.”
London finds plenty to fire up her imagination online too. “I enjoy the Gucci Instagram feed. They feature incredible artists, beautiful fashion, and bright colours.”
LOVING EVERY STITCH
Lion Brand Yarn (www.lionbrand.com) is among London’s most devoted clients, and recently she teamed up with them to create her own yarn and hook collections.
“My go-to tools are my London Kaye Yarn and Hook Collection,” she says. “The yarn is made for both indoor and outdoor projects and the 20mm crochet hook is different from any other on the market – I invented it using 3D printing. It combines all of the best features of a big crochet hook into one. You’ve got to try it out!”
With colour such a vital and vibrant part of London’s designs, she keeps the actual stitches simple. “My favourite technique is single crochet (double crochet in the UK). I like to use a big crochet hook and just a few shades of yarn.”
This summer in New York has been a particularly exciting one. “I was at Ozy Fest in New York City alongside journalist and author Malcolm Gladwell, TV personality Martha Stewart, and politician Joe Biden.” See a video of London’s inspirational
Ozy Fest crocheted installation from 2017 here: http://bit.ly/SC75_londonkaye.
“For 2018, I created an interactive installation with the theme ‘See Beyond.’ People pinned where in the world they want to be in five years.” The big question, of course, is where will London be in five years? Her answer is simple. “In five years I hope I am still happy, healthy, travelling the world, and, of course, crocheting!” Written by Judy Darley
Find out more at www.londonkaye.com
“I WAS SHOCKED! I NEVER THOUGHT THAT CROCHETING COULD BE SO CREATIVE”
Yarn bombing on a new level – London Kaye’s street art takes crochet to the masses.