To start this Creative Country blog of mine I couldn't go past the creative powerhouse Mandy from RedAgape. She first came to my attention a few years ago when I was looking for accomodation in beautiful Millthorpe. Mandy runs a gorgeous 1890's bluestone foundation guesthouse RedAgape. The house is decorated with secondhand finds to create a unique and atmospheric abode for her guests. Today her creative efforts are put into another business of hers; crochet! Her blog and social media accounts are a-buzz with attention from around the world. All of this from her country NSW home with 3 kids, 4 alpacas, 2 dogs, 2 cats, 10 goldfish and lots of chickens!
Where did you grow up? I grew up in Dubbo, but moved away for a decade in my 20s to study and work. My husband and I lived in Wollongong, Adelaide and Perth. During that time I had two of my three children. We moved home to Dubbo when our eldest started school. It’s been a wonderful place to raise our children.
Were you creative when you were young? Yes, I have loved craft and being creative since I was a little girl. I have tried just about every kind of craft, but didn’t find my one true love until I learned to crochet a few years ago.
What job were you doing when you started RedAgape? I was a primary school teacher for just over 10 years, then I worked with my husband in an office. Neither job really fulfilled my need to design and create. I was yearning for something creative. Something that would make my heart sing!
What is your creative thing now? I joined a local craft group about five ago and there were a lot of crocheters amongst the crafters. It was something I just assumed I couldn’t do because I was left handed. After admiring them for a while, I decided I was going to learn the right-handed way (you can crochet left handed but reading patterns is little trickier). It took a while for me to rewire my brain, but I think most left handers are a little ambidextrous, which definitely helped.
Is it for fun or is it work? It’s fun and it’s work! I’ve only really been giving the Cro Pro (professional crocheter) thing a try for about 6 months. I’m not making much money at the moment, but I have some big plans for my blog this year to help turn that around. I also have a book coming out in August which is SUPER exciting. You’ll be able to find it on amazon and good book shops! Shameless plug!;) Combining crochet and my blog means that a lot of my work involves photography, pattern writing, content creation, marketing and more. There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes….it’s not just me crocheting on a lounge while watching movies! I wish!
Tell me about your creative process. I think the creative process is different for everyone. I don’t work with a lot of sketches or preplan a lot of my designs. I prefer to sit with my yarn and hook and play. Usually an idea is born during play time.
What are you working on at the moment? I’m working on a big chunky hexagon blanket with related colour combinations. Each motif has two colours that sit close to each other on the colour wheel. For e.g., blue and blue green. I’m using lots of colours and the motif will be joined with a lovely soft neutral cream.
Has your style changed over time? I think it was more traditional when I first started, but I’ve evolved into a good mix of traditional and contemporary. I like to hang onto some of the more traditional crochet ideas, but move them into the now! I’ve also noticed that people like smart, simple design, so I try and design patterns that look impressive but are achievable for beginners.
What did you know about being creative before you started? I knew creativity wasn’t something that can be switched on when you need it, but something that is fostered and grows the more you use it. I believe that we all have varying degrees of natural creativity and sometimes we need to take the time to develop it.
You use social media a lot to showcase your work, how did this begin for you? It began when I opened a Guesthouse in Millthorpe (closing down soon) and I began the blog as a way to document my decoration and styling. I included a lot of DIYs and easy craft projects, so I would share them on instagram in an effort to get more visitors to my blog. My growth on instagram was slow and steady during that year, but I wasn’t until I started to post styled images of crochet that it really boomed! I recently hit 200K followers which is astounding to me!!
Has the community you have found through social media influenced how you create? It hasn’t really influenced what or how I create, but it has confirmed that clever, simple design is what people love. We all love admiring intricate art or craft projects and be gobsmacked at the skill and/or hours involved, but for my business people want projects they can create themselves. Projects that are realistically achievable in our busy lives.
What inspires you? Colour and pattern inspire me the most. I love instagram for inspiration, but I’m always careful to be inspired and not be a copy cat. I’ve been copied a number times and it hurts. Design integrity is very important to me, but not important to everyone.
Who inspires you? I am inspired by designers who do their own thing! They aren’t moved or motivated by what everyone else is doing. They inspire me to be myself!
What do you do when you're not being creative? I just love hanging out with my family. I’m lucky to have married my best buddy and we have three totally dorky kids that don’t think their parents are embarrassing! ;) This is rare I know, so I cherish the time where we get to hang out together. And if that hanging out time involves watching movies, I can crochet too! The best of both worlds.