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After years of making, Lydia Hansen finally calls herself an artist

The Stewartville native is experimenting with textures and colors to sculpt and paint with yarn.

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Artist Lydia Hansen with her crocheted creations at Kutzky Park in Rochester Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2022.
John Molseed / Post Bulletin
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ROCHESTER — Lydia Hansen has been crocheting for half her life. Now, at age 25, she has given herself permission to call herself an artist.

Even after she began to use color in methods similar to painting and creating textures like a sculptor using different stitches, Hansen was reluctant to use the word.

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“I think I was just intimidated by it,” she said. “It seems like a very big label.”

In 2018, Hansen began making and selling crocheted stuffed animals known as amigurumi. She created most of them using patterns she found online. With all of them, she undervalued them until this year.

Although most of her yarn is found or donated, when Hansen calculated the time it took her to make her amigurumi and the cost of consignment of booth fees, Hansen was losing money.

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After taking a day off from work to meet a holiday order in 2021, Hansen said she decided to calculate the time it took to make each creation and what it was actually worth. By spring of this year, she had an idea of what her pieces were worth and priced them accordingly.

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Lydia Hansen with her crocheted art leading up to the Queer Art Market in 2022.
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“I don’t really regret undervaluing (my work) for a while,” Hansen said. It helped give her confidence in selling her work and gave some children a chance to buy amigurumi that appealed to them, she added.

About the same time Hansen began selling her work at cost, she began to experiment with “painting” with yarn.

“You can make a picture using the attributes of your medium,” she said.

A wide-ranging pallet is one of the benefits of working with found and donated yarn.

“I have so many colors to choose from,” she said. “I’m not stuck with Red Heart’s idea of what’s green and what’s blue.”

She began creating coral scenes using different stitches and materials to simulate aquatic habitats and life.

In those underwater depictions, fuzzy yarn stands in for anemones, painted toothpicks in a yarn ball becomes a sea urchin. For the recent Out Rochester’s Queer Art Market, Hansen had multiple creations on display and for sale including a tryptic of panels framed in reclaimed wood.

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“Evidence seems to show — shocking enough — that this resonates with other people,” she said.

Hansen said she realized that reaction is enough to call what she was making art.

“I can just say, this is interesting,” she said. “I like the combination of colors, I like the textures.”

Hansen began talking to other artists about their techniques. She said her background in journalism, which included an internship at the Post Bulletin before working at the Northwest Iowa Review until 2021, helped her be able to approach artists and ask questions.

One of those artists, Beth Sievers, helped Hansen get a show at the 125 Live gallery in January 2023. Hansen is still developing what to include in the show.

She points to the stitch patterns on a piece depicting coral and the texture of the knotted yarn. It’s an example of how her creations might not fall into the category of some peoples’ definition of art. They look inviting to touch, and Hansen extends that invitation to anyone. Most art is strictly hands off. Hansen said she is considering a full exhibit of sensory touch art.

“The point is you’re supposed to touch these,” she said.

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Crocheted art depicting children's book series characters Frog and Toad by Lydia Hansen.
John Molseed / Post Bulletin
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Crocheted art by Lydia Hansen.
John Molseed / Post Bulletin
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Crocheted art by Lydia Hansen.
John Molseed / Post Bulletin
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Crocheted art depicting coral by Lydia Hansen.
John Molseed / Post Bulletin

John Molseed joined the Post Bulletin in 2018. He covers arts, culture, entertainment, nature and other fun stories he's surprised he gets paid to cover. When he's not writing articles about Southeast Minnesota artists and musicians, he's either picking banjo, brewing beer, biking or looking for other hobbies that begin with the letter "b." Readers can reach John at 507-285-7713 or jmolseed@postbulletin.com.
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