As a collector of threads and patterns, Lisa Turpin turns them into art

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Lisa Turpin is passionate about everything she does. She is the passionate operations manager of the Arkansas Public Theater in Rogers, a job that began eight years ago when she volunteered for the community theater company. She is a passionate “drama mom” for the young people who come through APT, proud to “provide a safe haven for everyone, all walks of life, status, gender, lifestyle and everything else. That makes me proud when they travel home college, career and adventure, they make time to visit me.” She is passionate about what theater gives back to the community. And she is a passionate supporter of APT culture – ” a thriving theater full of people who have the same passions as me. We are so privileged to work and live here. How could anyone not love this job?”

But anyone who knows Turpin personally also knows that she has a passion for the art form she practices. She crochet, and her DNA sculpture in all tones of human skin currently hangs at APT’s Zephyr Blevins Gallery as part of an exhibition inspired by the current stage production, Yasmina Reza’s comedy Art. It’s her first exhibition in a gallery – and it’s no surprise that she’s passionate about it!

Turpin took the time to answer a few questions for this edition of My Favorite Things.

What are you collecting?

My favorite crochet shape is amigurumi, although I can crochet pretty much anything. Everyone loves cute chubby animals, colorful foods to play with. Amigurumi is the Japanese art of knitting or crocheting small stuffed yarn creatures. The word is a composite of the Japanese words 編み ami, meaning “crocheted or knitted,” and 包み kurumi, literally “to wrap,” as in 縫い包み nuigurumi, “stuffed doll.” Amigurumi vary in size and there are no restrictions on size or appearance.

How/when/why the collection started:

My Grammy (Earline Hergert) taught me to crochet and more importantly how to read patterns when I was 7 years old. Reading patterns and the basics of crocheting has enabled me to read patterns in almost any language now because the basics are all the same. She always sent me little kits, looms, yarn, books. I started making Barbie clothes and accessories because we were too poor to buy the original. In return, I had the coolest Barbie clothes and furniture of all.

What excites you about these articles?

On a real primal level, we all love baby animals and cute fuzzy things. There are stuffed animals for older children and adults. That thing you love to look at during the day just because it’s cute. Do you feel good.

What is the most expensive piece in the collection?

Should I be ashamed or ashamed of how much yarn I have? I’m not. As long as people want my little critters and order from me, that’s the only validation I need to expand and experiment with new colors and textures. What I charge for my items I try to be very reasonable. There is no way to really pay for the time spent on my creations. Last month I made a little dinosaur for my grandnephew’s first birthday and it took me 17 hours to make it. If I sold this I might make $2 if I’m lucky.

Where do you find the most items in your collection? flea markets? thrift store? real estate sale?

Most of my ideas come from current trends I see on social media. Anime is huge and there are so many fun inspirations. There are some free patterns out there, and Etsy is a great place for that because you can look for reviews, updates, and see what other people have noticed about a pattern’s simplicity and the charts.

Is there “one that got away”—that is, one that you renounced and didn’t buy?

I have no regrets other than wishing my hands were as nimble as they were 20 years ago and I would have done more with my passion/skill earlier. I love teaching my skills and would love to do more of the same.

Is your collection complete or not yet complete? If it’s still going, will it ever be finished?

My collection will never be finished unless I can’t use my hands anymore. Even then I was buying language software and writing samples and teaching.

Is there a white whale you’re after?

This is going to sound crazy, but I’d love to make socks. Crochet is not the best for sock making; this prize will always belong to knitting. I can knit and I’m only so-so at it. There would be the coolest and craziest socks for everyone if I could make them.

What are people saying about your collection?

Really, I’m so humbled and surprised when people love my creations. Yes, they’re cute and funny or beautiful, but when people are really blown away by something I’ve done, it shakes me to the core. The love I put into each piece is counted in the stitches it takes. That is a lot. One of my proudest moments was when Brenda Nemec, friend and director at the Arkansas Public Theater, asked me to make “an ethnically correct crocheted crib” for a show to be on the mantel on the set. My heart burst! Then when they and others saw it and loved it, I had that moment of ‘If I die now, I’ll be perfectly happy.’ It gets better… someone bought it! And I got three more orders for the exact same sets.

Will you ever run out of space for your collection and if so, do you have a plan for the event?

Hahaha!!! I need an apartment or studio for all my yarns and materials. No joke. That’s 100% true. Most of my yarns are currently in containers in a storage unit. My dream would be to someday have a big studio with tons of cubbies to sort through and organize. It would also look like a decent yarn section of a craft store. Two weeks ago I needed three colors because I ran out of colors. I came home with a half-full shopping cart. Don’t be ashamed of it.

What else are you collecting? Besides yarn and cats? I have a nice little collection of fancy Limoges style clamshell boxes. But I can’t afford Limoges! I also love Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls.

Editor’s Note: We all have something—or somewhere—that stokes serotonin just by holding it or seeing it: the woods you grew up playing hide and seek in, a Barbie doll collection that dates back to the 1950s, a closet full of your mother’s old copper-colored cookie cutters, the room in your house where you feel most peaceful. My Favorite Things invites Northwest Arkanan residents to share those special things or places that bring them joy. Send your collectors suggestions to [email protected]

“One of my proudest moments was when Brenda Nemec, friend and director at the Arkansas Public Theater, asked me to do an ‘ethnically correct crocheted crib’ for a show to sit on the mantel on the set,” says Turpin. (Photo courtesy)
photo Turpin’s favorite crochet style is the Japanese shape Amigurumi. (Photo courtesy)
photo Lisa Turpin (left) pauses during the opening ceremonies for “Art” at the Arkansas Public Theater with collaborator Karen Maxwell (center) and costume designer Ilia Rivera. The blue and white outfits reflected the theme of the comedy on stage. (Photo courtesy)
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