Picture yourself walking through nature… except rather than being surrounded by trees, animals, plants, and rivers you’re actually surrounded by colorful balloons and crocheted creatures. This is how it feels to experience one of the imaginative installations by Agata Oleksiak.
Agata Oleksiak, professionally known as Olek or Crocheted Olek, works primarily as a crochet artist, but also as a sculptor, performance, and street artist. Born in Poland in 1978, they taught themselves to crochet on their own from a young age.
In 2000, they moved from Poland to New York and studied at LaGuardia Community College as a Fine Arts Major. From there, they were inspired by some of their Professors who encouraged them to work with the sculpture medium. They decided to attempt to make a sculpture piece using rope or twine and wound up with their first sculpture piece.
This led them to begin to create sculptures by wrapping small objects with a patterned crochet piece. For example, they made a crocheted step ladder in 2003 that ended up being the ladder they used to install their first gallery art show in 2004. The ladder ended up becoming part of the show as well after being discovered in a storage room by a collector.
They’ve also worked as a street artist, wrapping various public spaces in crochet work like trains, statues, chairs, cars, walls, people, and more. Rather than work with any object, however, Olek will only work with objects with which they have a personal connection. For example, the first car they crocheted in 2005 was their father’s car in Poland.
According to Olek, one of the most difficult parts of the process is measuring out all of the pieces. When crocheting to fit a certain object, they need to measure the dimensions and then pre-crochet specific pieces that will then be crocheted together around an object. In instances where there is too little or too much fabric, it can potentially change the intended vision of the piece.
Olek has also been inspired by the women’s march, starting an art program called Love Across the USA, which brings people together to create large crochet installments that amplify women’s voices across the world. Their art has also been displayed in museums, galleries, and public spaces around the world including The Textile Museum (Washington D.C.), The New Museum (New York), Smithsonian American Art Museum (Washington D.C.), Museum Bellerive (Switzerland), and Kordegarda Gallery (Warsaw, Poland), etc.
Regarding the influence of their artwork, Olek stated to Craftsy, “My art is never finished. The people’s response is the work… They don’t have to take anything from my art. I can’t expect them to take anything… If you react, there’s many different ways. There’s a smile, there’s a photograph, I’ve had pieces stolen, [and] I’ve had pieces burned down. So there’s always a reaction and it’s beautiful to see the reaction because this is really what the art is about.”