Craft influencing fashion or is it fashion influencing craft? Perhaps a little bit of both. Allene La Spina creates a line of hand embroidered brooches self-professed to be inspired by her Colombian roots & the fashion and architecture of NYC where she currently lives. I first heard of Allene earlier this year when I saw her name in my inbox as a purchaser of one of our needlepoint coaster kits. Two days later, I ran across her name again in my daily design*sponge read. Her brooches are a delightful collaboration of needlework and fashion. She has also graciously agreed to let me interview her!
Jenny: What is your background / training in?
Allene: I have an Associate Degree in Arts that encompassed lots of drawing, sculpture, color theory, jewelry and even photography classes. After a year of studying Graphic Design, I decided to pursue a degree in Illustration instead. I went on to get a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Illustration. My focus was fashion illustration, which involved taking fashion history and theory classes. This made me really obsessed with what and why people wear certain things. After graduating, I moved to NY and since I work in an Art school, I have taken several drawing and printmaking classes to keep my hand loose.
Jenny: How has this shaped your urbahnika line?
Allene: When I moved to NY, I was working on a line of abstract paintings made out of thread. When I started making jewelry again, I found some brooch bases made out of perforated metal, so I decided to play around with that and the thread. My background encouraged me to use new materials and experiment with shapes and colors. All that, mixed with the increasing amount of visual stimulation that I was exposed to on a day to day basis, was the perfect ground to develop my pins.
Jenny: What does urbahnika mean?
Allene: Urbahnika has to do with urban (inspired by the city) and organic (made by hand) together.
Jenny: What are your thoughts on craft as art? Craft as fashion?
Allene: I know there is much debate about these therms, but my view is that they all three are creative expressions, where many materials can be used. Interpreting something into fashion or art, whether is crafty or not, is a constant dialog between the creator and the viewer. Causing any reaction is the goal, really; and if it inspires you to make more, it really doesn’t matter what you call it.
Jenny: I hear you recently learned to needlepoint, how might this influence your future work?
Allene: I love that I can cover a bigger area with similar materials. It has helped think “outside of the box” or in my case “outside of the circle” and experiment with the direction of my stitching.
Jenny: I saw that in the past you offered DIY brooch kits (so cool!!!), do you or will you be offering those again?
Jenny: What can we be expecting to see from you in the near future?
Allene: I’m in the process of finishing a new line of necklaces and earrings that I’ve been working on the last few months. They incorporate handmade mahogany bases and a good amount of sterling silver components. Also, I’ve been working on an amazing collaboration with Artist Extraordinaire Arthur Buxton from Bristol, UK – It is called BristoltoBrooklyn and is an interpretation of Fashion to Art to Fashion. The first run will be a Missoni and Tommy Hilfiger inspired collection – Really excited about how it is turning out!
Thank you Allene for your interview, your beautiful work and helping me to think of needlework in a different way. I look forward to seeing your new creations!