An artist is a person engaged in an activity related to creating art, practicing the arts, or demonstrating an art.
As for Hagar, she is a crochet artist who uses yarn as her medium. The 28-year-old Egyptian artist, Hagar Mahmoud, holds a diploma in Education and a love for wool, textile and colour.
It was the void that Hagar’s sister left when she travelled that led Hagar to distract herself by learning the art of crochet. The person Hagar spent most of her time with shopping, going out, or venting out to before going to bed, now left to another country. Hagar had to find an activity that would not need her sister’s presence, and that would get her mind off the loneliness she now felt. Holding the crochet hook and the colourful yarns was what intrigued her at first.
Crochet is a process of creating fabric by interlocking loops of yarn, thread, or strands of other materials using a crochet hook. The name is derived from the French term crochet, meaning 'small hook'.
The Sahar Al Khan gallery was the first to display Hagar’s work and has proved a big success for the launch of her business network. “It was the first time I publicly displayed my work, my pieces were simple baby socks and hats.” Once her pieces were out there, she received requests for more complicated knitwear like scarves and rugs. With research and persistence, Hagar was able to develop her work and produce bigger, more complex pieces. “It took a lot of time and patience, so many times I’d have to undo the stitches and redo the entire work.”
Beside the simple baby knitwear, the highlight of her display in the first exhibition was the few toys she had knitted. The success that they brought was more than expected. The first few toys she had ever made were all sold out. “The toys were something new, they were different than any crocheted products we would see in the market. Adults were buying them as gifts for their children or grandchildren and for different uses, they would put them as display in their house or office.” Hagar received call after call, with orders of customised toys with the shape and colour of their desire.
Fast forward a few months, Hagar’s network expanded, as well as the demand for not only baby knitwear, but also scarves, socks and hats for adults, and mostly for toys.
The art of crochet requires some research and planning before the crocheting begins. For Hagar, it is a more spontaneous process that starts off with the hook and the colours of her mood. She patiently and attentively sits in her quite bedroom, away from any distraction and leaves her room with an eccentric piece crocheted with good-taste, style and dedication.
In other times, some pieces would not require complete focus; Hagar would enjoy her favourite TV show, listen to music or sit with her family while her hands are crocheting.
Hagar’s wide creativity and passion for fabric and colours is limited due to the availability at the market. “We have a fabrics crisis here in Egypt”, she said, “most threads I work with are imported from Turkey, so are overpriced.” In perfecting her products, Hagar ensures working with quality materials and peculiar colours which the Egyptian market lacks. Yet this does not stop her from achieving quality knitwear and toys that are increasingly requested by family, friends and admirers of her artistic work.
Hagar spends 6-7 hours a day working on her pieces. To her, it is about investing a lot of time and effort in an activity and seeing a beautiful outcome at the end. “I might not be able to sleep because of one piece that I’m very determined to finish,” she said.
On other nights, however, it is what helps her have a good night’s sleep. Hagar told Majalla: “It’s not only the end result or the artwork that I am after; it’s the process itself. We all have our problems and are faced with daily stressors and pressures, crochet is known to relieve stress and even depression. It is what helped me when my sister travelled last year, and it continues to help through my bad days”
Counting is one way proven to relieve anxiety and stress. It is a form of relaxation and distraction away from the real issue. And this is what crochet does to Hagar, it relieves her from the daily pressures. She adds, “crochet has changed a lot in me. I have become more patient and more focused. It feels great to have a place and a form of art in which I can invest my time and effort to take all my energy out.”
Before, Hagar would get frustrated if she gets a wrong knot and would not want to continue her piece. Now she can sit there for hours, without minding to start over if one knot was slightly out of place. “I believe I’m very lucky to have had the enough patience to continue with crocheting,” she says.
Since the beginning of her journey, Hagar has taken part in two exhibitions, and has sold tens of pieces of her artwork to the expanded network of clients she now has. She dreams of having a small shop in Alexandria where she can display her work and have the space to work. She also aspires for her work to be known and spread abroad. “I know there are plenty of talented crochet artists out there, and so I ensure the originality and uniqueness of my work.”