An Interview with Brenda K. B. Anderson

We are delighted by your reactions to our new crocheted critters patterns! I thought it would be great to hear more about designer Brenda K. B. Anderson's process, as it is clear how creative she is. Keep reading for our conversation below! Kate Gagnon Osborn: Firstly, I want to thank you for your patience in the process of creating these critters. Things don't usually take such a meandering path, but I am SO excited to finally share the designs with the world! As part of the testing/editing process (and also because they are heckin' cute), I made each critter. Multiple times throughout the making, I mumbled to myself "how did she figure this out?!?" So....now I can ask you directly: how the heck do you do this? Do you make prototypes? Are the critters planned out or do you shape as you go? Does your brain think in multiple dimensions? Brenda K. B. Anderson: I almost never intentionally make prototypes- really the only time I make them is when it’s a really weird shape like the narwhal’s horn or the hermit crab shell. And I know from the get-go that I will have numerous failures before I figure out the perfect formula of stitches. Usually I can just look at my sketch and know where to put the increases/decreases in order to get the shape I want. But this is because when I am sketching something up, I already have the intended shaping in my mind. What I mean is - I only submit sketches (in my proposals) that include shapes that I know how to make.

 Sparkles the Unicorn by Brenda K. B. Anderson

KGO: In your "real" life, you design and construct costumes, mascots, and puppets for a touring company. It seems obvious to me that your work in this realm would influence your designs. Is this true? How much overlap is there between your approach to the amigurumi and how you make the puppets? BKBA: Because of Covid I lost my costume/puppet shop job that I had for many years. Our company made its money from touring shows that played in arenas and large theaters so it was impossible to operate in the midst of Covid. Now they are back up and running but have re-located the costume shop to Las Vegas and I didn’t want to move, so I’ve transitioned to yarn-work full time now. I’m now the managing editor of the Creative Crochet Corner and I do lots of live tutorials like the Oak Grove Earflap Hat where I used my lovely Germantown leftovers from the Critters projects. However, what I did at my former job absolutely affected my crochet process and aesthetic for cuteness! And it has forever changed the way I think about sewing/crocheting/knitting - anything is possible! I learned lots of tricks for getting the facial expressions to look the way I want them to, and I also developed a sense of the kinds of shape-combinations that are just inherently adorable. And making patterns for those kinds of 3-D shapes for so many years, trained my brain to be able to look at a sculptural piece as a series of pattern pieces that form the surface of that shape.

 Oak Grove Earflap Hat by Brenda K. B. Anderson
KGO: I didn't realize you were no longer in the business of puppets! Their loss is our gain, though, and I am so happy to hear you are in yarn full time! My six year old is in the developmental phase where her drawings look like "actual" things, but she is also frustrated often that what she pictures in her mind doesn't translate to the page. I didn't have the heart to tell her that this is usually a life-long problem - from recipes, to home DIY projects, to drawings on paper first pictured in our head. Have there been critters from your imagination that just didn't work out? BKBA: I’ve always been able to create/crochet the things that I draw, but sometimes it does take a couple of tries to get there. But sometimes I have difficulty coming up with the sketch in the first place. (Your daughter is certainly not alone!) This usually happens to me when I cannot fully picture something in my mind- once I can fully picture it, I can draw it, but maybe that’s just because when I can’t fully picture it, I sketch and sketch until it looks like something I like.
Brenda's sketch submissions for the collection
KGO: Your design catalog goes beyond critters - patterns include garments, accessories, and home goods. What do you like designing the most? BKBA: I love designing different things for different reasons. I love the design process much more than the actual stitching of it so I usually stick to quick projects like accessories. But it probably comes as no surprise that I love designing amigurumi the most! There is so much more creative freedom- it doesn’t need to look a certain way or fit anybody so the sky is the limit! Plus there is something so gratifying about making a something out of a ball of yarn that people have such a strong hug-like reaction to!
 Bonita Project Bag by Brenda K. B. Anderson
KGO: Your life seems to have a lot of creativity in it. What else do you do for "fun"? Any hobbies outside of the textile realm? BKBA: I’m obsessed with cross-country road-trips. I love camping in the desert and hiking in canyons. I also love painting and crafting with my kids. KGO: And finally, what is next for you? (Please say a capybara and sloth amigurumi ....pleaaaasssseeeee). BKBA: Ok I had to take a moment to google capybaras and OMG now they have shot up to the near top of the list! I had no idea those big cuties existed before this! Once again the yarn world has opened my eyes to something new! Sloths have been on the list for quite awhile now, just below my favorite animal: the Emperor Tamarin. I mean how can you not want to make a tiny monkey with a mustache? Oh the cuteness! KGO: Sloth and capybara and emperor tamarin?! Yes, PLEASE!
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