PROFILE: REDAGAPE

We chat to Mandy O’Sul­li­van of RedAgape, and nd out that a busy home life helps her creativ­ity to thrive!

Simply Crochet - - CONTENTS -

RedAgape’s Mandy O’Sul­li­van was ini­tially at­tracted to cro­chet be­cause she liked that it was ver­sa­tile and por­ta­ble, but then she had a rev­e­la­tion: “When I dis­cov­ered the range of beau­ti­ful yarns that were avail­able to play with, I fell com­pletely head over heels in love with the craft.”

Mandy is en­tirely self-taught, with time, de­ter­mi­na­tion and good re­sources. “Most of what I know I’ve learned through books and on­line, or I’ve made it up my­self! I don’t like to fol­low the rules too closely.”

Her first proper project was a colour block blan­ket. She re­calls, “It was an am­bi­tious be­gin­ner project. It took me six to eight weeks and I re­mem­ber feel­ing so much joy watching the piles of coloured squares grow each day.” It was also a fan­tas­tic learn-as-yougo project. “Look­ing back now, I think this project helped to re­fine my tension and flu­ency, a bit like prac­tis­ing scales on the pi­ano,” Mandy com­ments.

From here it was only a small skip to Mandy de­sign­ing her own ex­u­ber­ant pat­terns. “Once I felt con­fi­dent with the ba­sics of cro­chet, I started to play with dif­fer­ent stitch com­bi­na­tions just for fun – usu­ally in the round, which meant I could use what­ever I made as coast­ers, place­mats or man­dalas,” Mandy says. “I didn’t think of it as de­sign­ing un­til I re­ceived pat­tern re­quests on In­sta­gram. It was ex­tremely flat­ter­ing to know that other cro­cheters wanted my de­signs, which gave me the con­fi­dence to share more of what I was mak­ing.”

LAUNCHING AN EMPIRE

It was around this time that Mandy had the idea of launching her now hugely pop­u­lar blog, www.RedA­gape­blog.com.

“I wanted to change ca­reer to some­thing more cre­ative, so I launched RedAgape as an in­te­rior de­sign, DIY and craft blog,” she says. “Over the last few years it has evolved into a fully-fledged cro­chet blog, which is just fine by me. You don’t need to know ex­actly where you’re go­ing when you start some­thing new, you just have to make a start and of­ten life will pull you in the right di­rec­tion. I love shar­ing ideas and in­tro­duc­ing read­ers to cro­cheters from around the globe.”

Since launching the blog in 2012, it has sprouted a re­tail side, sell­ing pat­terns, kits, yarn and more, which hap­pily makes it the

“I RE­MEM­BER FEEL­ING SO MUCH JOY WATCHING THE PILES OF SQUARES GROW EACH DAY”

foun­da­tion of Mandy’s work life. We love how Mandy came up with the blog’s name… “Well, R, E and D, are the first ini­tials of my chil­dren’s names (Rose, Eil­ish and Daniel), and ‘agape’ is Greek for un­con­di­tional love.” As well as her chil­dren, Mandy has four al­pacas, two dogs, two cats, 10 gold­fish and “too many chick­ens to count”, which begs the ques­tion: how do you fit your cro­chet time in? Mandy re­veals, “I’m a free­lance writer, pho­tog­ra­pher, cro­chet de­signer and blog­ger, as well as be­ing a mum, which means life gets hec­tic. But isn’t ev­ery­one busy these days?”

Hav­ing a ded­i­cated workspace at her home in New South Wales, Aus­tralia def­i­nitely helps. “My Hen’s Den is by far and away my favourite place to work on cro­chet de­signs,” Mandy shares. “It was a shed about 15m from the house which we trans­formed into my work space and craft stu­dio. It’s 100% ded­i­cated to colour and creativ­ity. I’m sur­rounded by yarn, mood boards and books, and I have plenty of cof­fee on hand to keep me fu­elled.”

UNCONDITIONALLY COURAGEOUS

One of the big­gest chal­lenges of run­ning the busi­ness has been learn­ing the skills to man­age the blog and on­line store. “I knew noth­ing about the tech­nol­ogy, but I was de­ter­mined to do it my­self,” says Mandy. “A lot of my time is spent be­hind the com­puter, more than I’d like, but that’s part of run­ning your own on­line busi­ness.”

Reach­ing a broad au­di­ence of cro­cheters never fails to make Mandy smile, how­ever. “One of the big­gest de­lights is see­ing other peo­ple make my de­signs! It never gets old,” she en­thuses. “I espe­cially love see­ing my pat­terns made in dif­fer­ent colour com­bi­na­tions. It com­pletely changes how they look and makes the project re­ally per­sonal to the maker.”

This pas­sion for boost­ing the creativ­ity of oth­ers came to the fore when Mandy started #craftas­ther­apy. “The hash­tag was born dur­ing a par­tic­u­larly rough time in my life,” Mandy ex­plains. “My mum had been di­ag­nosed with ter­mi­nal brain can­cer and my own chronic ill­ness was flar­ing out of con­trol. I turned to craft as a way to dis­tract and calm my rest­less mind, and I started to tag my craft im­ages with #craftas­ther­apy. Other crafters, who re­lated to the ther­a­peu­tic ben­e­fits of craft, started to use the tag too and it grew from there. The won­der­ful Nat from @lit­tle­cosy­things now runs the @craftas­ther­apy ac­count and does an in­cred­i­ble job.” As well as the com­mu­nity sup­port, In­sta­gram is a won­der­ful source of in­spi­ra­tion for Mandy. “It’s not just about the cro­cheters – I fol­low pho­tog­ra­phers, stylists, artists and other crafters. The colours, tex­tures and pat­terns from these var­ied feeds in­spire me, but I find my best de­signs usu­ally come from just sit­ting and play­ing qui­etly with my yarn.”

Mandy is no stranger to the oc­ca­sional cro­chet dis­as­ter. “One of my big­gest mis­takes was not mak­ing a tension square for a granny stripe jumper be­fore I got stuck in,” she re­mem­bers with a wry grin. “I was al­most fin­ished be­fore I re­alised it was WAY too big! How did I fix it? Well, I didn’t. I de­cided that I would stick to mak­ing cush­ions, blankets and home­wares. Maybe I’ll turn it into a cush­ion cover one day soon…”

Mandy’s cur­rently bub­bling with joy about the re­lease of her first book, 12 Months of Cro­chet with RedAgape (www.me­teoor­books. com). “It’s a sea­sonal guide to year-round cro­chet­ing, with lots of step-by-step im­ages, pretty pic­tures and charts,” Mandy says. “I’m my own harsh­est critic, so when I say I love it, I don’t say it lightly!” It’s a land­mark mo­ment for an ar­dent cro­cheter. We can’t wait to see what Mandy of RedAgape tack­les next. Writ­ten by Judy Dar­ley

“ONE OF THE BIG­GEST DE­LIGHTS IS SEE­ING OTHER PEO­PLE MAKE MY DE­SIGNS! IT NEVER GETS OLD”

Where all the magic hap­pens – the colour­ful RedAgape stu­dio, Aus­tralia

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