At the Spring 2019 Knitting & Stitching Show, the Crea team chatted to Luisa De Santi, the creator of fantastical art pieces and zany jewellery, accessories and dolls, and co-ordinator of ‘art bombing’ – colourful installations that clothe cars, sailboats, statues, tree trunks and piazzas in swathes of kaleidoscopic crochet work. We just had to find out…
When did your passion for creating with craft begin?
I started my ‘textile journey’ as a little child and I’ve never stopped. My mother and sister were into knitting and crocheting and my grandmother was an expert knitter too! As a child it was what I did to look like an adult. In my teens it was a way of making something unique to wear. The fact that it seemed possible to make practically anything starting from a thread felt absolutely magical to me – a fairy godmother spell. So experimenting with threads became a sort of obsession and allowed me to learn the different techniques needed to use yarns like a language. So techniques and personal research go hand in hand.
Where do the ideas and inspiration for your art pieces come from?
From my everyday life. I was born and still live in an amazing place in Italy, right in the heart of beautiful nature. Just going for a walk in the woods is such an inspiring experience. There is a kind of shrub (sumac, a spice), whose leaves turn burgundy, red, orange and fuchsia in autumn. The undergrowth teems with insects and little birds. Then there’s an area of karst terrain with creeks in the sharp white rocks, caves and waters full of tiny creatures such as crayfish. Nearby there’s also an amazing pebble beach where you’ll find strangely shaped seaweed and fish. I love flowers and fruit, too, so I enjoy places like greenhouses, flower markets and gardens – as well as candy shops, button shops, flea markets…
Tell us about how you make your pieces
My artworks mostly have a modular structure: each unit is made as a single item and comes to life when attached to others. I make lots of small, detailed units and experiment with joining them together. For my soft sculptures and wall hangings, I don’t make preliminary sketches. I find that not having a plan is like setting off without a destination: you just enjoy your journey. This process gives me a feeling of freedom and emotion. Never mind that it takes a long time.
I use bright colours, mostly in thin cotton and acrylic yarn. I like my creations to be compact as they have to be stuffed and sometimes worked with overlapping. I sometimes add little plastic or metal objects and I love embroidery to create details.
Which is your favourite piece and why?
I don’t really have a favourite piece. But I always love the one I’ve just made. I do remember with pleasure the first human-shaped soft object I made, about 20 years ago. I used a very thin white cotton and added a small red element. These dolls showed me how to begin exploring the infinite 3D possibilities of crochet and knitting for expressing feelings.I’ve been working as a fibre artist since 2000, and teaching my techniques alongside this.
Where else has your artistry taken you?
I make garments and accessories, and design knitting and crochet patterns for the Italian publishing industry and yarn companies. I’ve shown my collections of textile jewellery and accessories at Pitti Filati in Florence [the main event for the kitting yarn industry] during Milan Fashion Week. The home decor industry and private customers also commission me for projects. I find inspiration in my own artworks and soft sculpture for my fashion and home decor patterns. For these I always make sketches and lots of stitch and design samples.
What are your plans for the future?
Professionally, I am trying to find new ways of displaying and selling my artworks and patterns. In terms of my art, I’d like to experiment with 3D wearable art, mixing crochet and knitting techniques with digital print, as that is my passion.
I’d also love to create a set of simple toy patterns using 3D crochet techniques (something like amigurumi). Some years ago I made a set of little alien creatures for Centauria Creativa [publishing company]. I really enjoyed this and I’d like to develop the idea for a range of soft mini creatures!
For more on Luisa’s work, see