Weaving the Fabric of Community
Knitting Tree L.A. threads its creative needle in a unique new gallery space
By Tiffany Walton
A budding community for knitters is quietly growing on Manchester Avenue. Having sprouted in Culver City, the Knitting Tree L.A. reopened on Oct. 1 with a new and larger location just over the Inglewood border — this time adding a new space to showcase the fabric arts, aptly named Branch Gallery.
Through Sunday, Branch Gallery is hosting “Alt-Fibres,” an exhibit of three-dimensional sculptures made from knitting and crochet techniques.
Yarn and other fibers will virtually come to life in the form of body parts, foods and environmental scenes during the show, featuring the work of three avant-garde fiber artists.
Local Ben Cuevas has created an anatomically correct human body dissection, including internal organs, digestive system and a full-sized skeleton.
Bay Area artist Twinkie Chan is showcasing some of her whimsical wearable art, such as a burger scarf and functional pieces like a giant pink-glazed and sprinkled donut ottoman —both of them crocheted pieces.
Chicago-based Anna Hrachovec of Mochimochi Land exhibits her small hand-knit figures, including miniature ninjas and other characters placed in intricate scenescapes.
“They’re doing non-traditional work with traditional methods, knitting and crochet, and making unusual things — people who are taking these grandma techniques but applying them in ways that you wouldn’t normally see,” says The Knitting Tree L.A. co-owner Bruce Blair.
He and wife Annette Corsino-Blair have owned The Knitting Tree L.A. for three years. Before they met, she had owned A Mano Yarn Center, which closed in 2009 but had been known for fostering a sense of community. When Yarns Unlimited went up for sale, she decided to get back into the business.
Things went so well that they needed more space to feed their burgeoning online yarn orders, thus relocating to their warehouse and retail space near LAX. With so much more room — 3,000 square feet of it — the space started looking like an art gallery to the couple, hence the idea for Branch Gallery.
“We are very excited to have both the yarn store and gallery space under one roof. Not only are we able to supply materials for projects, we also offer inspiration by exhibiting work from fiber artists. This way, we can encourage our customers to expand their understanding of ‘making’ — exploring creatively in ways they hadn’t thought to do before.” says Branch Gallery manager Aneesa Shami.
Corsino-Blair’s excitement for her business and knitting is tangibly evident, reflected in her colorful tattoos and lovely retro-modern attire — all seeming to represent a seminal past of simplicity, community and feminine beauty aesthetic that’s fused with today’s boundless possibilities.
“Our opening is a gift back to all of our customers. … I really want to have a ‘Wow!’ space where people can come find community and knit, have a good time and find amazing, beautiful yarn,” she says. “We’re creating this neighborhood in the store, and we’re creating all these beautiful things and soothing each other’s hearts while we’re doing it.”
The Blairs say that customers will recognize the retail space as the Knitting Tree L.A., but there will soon be a larger social table and lounge area with chairs and couches for relaxation. Sunday brunch and Wednesday salad night knitting sessions will soon resume at the new location.
“This is a place you can come and find a beautiful woven jacket or a shawl, a table runner, jewelry pieces, all manner of handmade things that are one-of-a-kind,” Blair says.
The “Alt-Fibres” grand-opening exhibit remains on view from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday (Oct. 6 through 9) at The Knitting Tree L.A.’s Branch Gallery, 1031 W. Manchester Ave., Inglewood. Call (310) 395-3880 or visit theknittingtreela.com for more information.