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Women In Action: Alicia Kirwan On The Art Of Latch Hooking

18 Sep 2021 - By Cheryl Chua

Meet Alicia Kirwan, the founder of Beeyarnd! Not only is she young and beautiful, she is also talented in the art of latch hooking and has years of experience as a food stylist under her belt.

What makes her artworks so unique is the emphasis on how it brings one’s special moments back to life with the use of yarn, tulle, pearls and preserved flowers. Accompanied by their signature dreamlike visuals, Alicia’s artworks add more softness and sentiment into peoples' everyday lives.

 

Hi Alicia, tell us more about yourself!

I am Alicia C. Kirwan, born and raised in Singapore. I am a commercial food stylist and a fibre artist. Having soulful jams and a cuppa of joe gets me started with my day. I love lifting weights in my home gym to quiet my mind whenever I feel I need to pause.

 

I understand that you’re an expert in latch hooking to create your beautiful craftwork at Beeyarnd. Not many are familiar with the term latch hooking, could you explain what exactly is “latch hooking”?

Latch hooking is a traditional textile technique using a latch needle which is part of a knitting machine. It was founded in 1847 where women in villages would use pre-cut fabric scraps, and yarn around the latch hook needle to create knots and loops around a rug hooking canvas to create mats. 

Working off a "roadmap" or sketch,  they would latch on a pile of yarn to build up the design one grid at a time. You can identify the uneven knots from latch hooking which exude an organic and fluid look. That was their traditional method of upcycling and repurposing used fabric to create a functional piece for their home. 

latch hooking

 

How and when did you get into latch hooking?

Before Beeyarnd, I was looking for a hobby to enhance the quality of my lifestyle which does not revolve around my full-time job as a food stylist.

The realization came when someone from my husband's family imparted some words of wisdom to me. "If we remove our profession as part of a self-introduction, what else is left to talk about yourself that defines who you are as a person?"  I vividly remembered that the conversation was Chrismas 2018 in Scotland. Shortly after, I picked up latch hooking in 2019 through a Spanish learning platform by watching their tutorials.

alicia kirwan latch hooking

The process slows me down, a therapeutic exercise to train my mind to focus on one grid at a time, with no distractions around. Over time, I learned to slow down and embraced every opportunity to explore things that inspire me such as intriguing colour combinations from films and nature. 

With these ideas, I took to the needle and created one fibre piece at a time as birthday gifts for friends and family. They told me that they could feel my joy and energy radiating from my art, and some of them shared that the pieces had a calming effect on them. That's when I decided to start Beeyarnd in April 2020, it was also the day when Singapore went into full lockdown. Till today, latch hooking is my escape to experiment and be creative without any boundaries.

 

What led you to make this exciting career switch from a food stylist to starting Beeyarnd?

I am still a full-time food stylist while juggling Beeyarnd at the same time. Both creative outlets inspire me to conceptualise ideas distinctively, they always make me feel that I have two departments in my right brain. It is a healthy balance to work on both things that I am passionate about and witness my self-growth organically.

 

Is there any special meaning behind the name Beeyarnd?

Beeyarnd is a combination of Beyond and Yarn. It represents the possibility of pushing boundaries beyond how we use and see yarn by integrating them with other forms of media.

 

If someone were to come to you to create a bespoke piece, what would that creative process be like?

Before I start creating a bespoke piece, I am a big believer that it is a collaborative process, meaning I love to hear a little bit about your back story or a fond memory which gives me a chance to step into your vision.

The Beeyarnd custom piece will only speak to you, it is a visual analogy to the things someone would have shared with me, that journey makes it personal. 

I would start with a series of questions, like 

  1. What is a memory/holiday you remember vividly? 
  2. Name 4 colours that represent you.
  3. Describe a mood you are looking for to spruce up your safe space. 

 I would then create a mood board with 4-5 photos based on their answers. After confirming the mood board with the clients, I will sketch out the piece before I start creating it.

 

One look at these stunning art pieces and it is easy to tell that so much dedication and hard work has been put into creating them. How long does it usually take to complete one piece?

A fibre art piece takes between 2 weeks to 1 month of work to complete -- more for larger canvas and frames

alicia kirwan latch hooking

 

Creative blocks happen every once in a while to everyone. How do you overcome them and how do you get inspired?

Creative blocks are absolutely inevitable, sometimes I believe that they stem from the quality of life, be it a lack of sleep, excessive use of digital devices and social media. 

The way I deal with creative blocks is to detach myself from a home office and head out to somewhere that does not remind you of your work. Going for walks, cooking a meal, watching comedies, and chatting with friends (who don't like talking about work) are the solutions that worked pretty well for me. Taking a pause gives me a fresh set of ideas and a fresh pair of eyes to get back on to what I have left off earlier. 

To constantly feel inspired and excited, I take references from creative works beyond food styling and fibre art. Some of the categories which I am drawn to are: 3D Digital Imaging, Marine Photography, Fashion, and Precious Stones.

 

As with every artist, there is always a favourite among all the other artworks. What are some of your most meaningful creations that stood out to you?

Athena was my first creation in this collection where I found creative growth in myself to present neutral-coloured yarn and flowers in an understated, elegant way. Athena stands for wisdom, craft and women empowerment, that gave me a deeper meaning to construct a tangible piece emanating grace and courage, a reminder to myself. 

Alicia Kirwan On Latch Hooking

Within mere minutes after the collection went live on my website, it was sold to a loyal customer. While wrapping up the canvas, I was feeling a little emotional to bid goodbye, but deep down I am grateful for this experience and having a dear one to appreciate what I love making.

 

What do you hope to achieve in the future with “Beeyarnd”?

I really do hope that Beeyarnd can find its place in more homes and spaces such as hotels and retail experience stores to enhance their aesthetic game with our ethereal, multi-sensory artworks.

 

Here at ABX, we believe passionately in the freedom to express our individuality and that beauty is all about living our lives with confidence. What does beauty mean to you?

Beauty is a journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance in various stages of my life. At each phase of life, I learn more about my body, my skin, my scars and come in peace to embrace the uniqueness in me.

That peace in me constantly guides me to an elevated version of myself internally and externally while staying true to my core. And I believe that by taking ownership to your own beauty radiates good energy to people around me.

alicia kirwan

 

Lastly, is there a mantra that you live by?

Another day, another slay. Living richly by freeing up time to pursue your passion while progressing professionally is the greatest gift to myself this year.

About the writer
Cheryl Chua

The beautiful half of the successful travel influencer @TodayWeExplore, Cheryl also heads the marketing at Asian Beauty X. When she isn’t trolling the internet for beauty trends, or dreaming up travel vacays, you can find Cheryl sipping ’Gram-worthy cocktails at some trendy bar.

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