“Having your art stolen, sucks. Having your art stolen and mass produced, sucks even more.”
When Alexandria Masse discovered that her work had been stolen by the fast fashion brand SHEIN and produced low-quality products, she was indignant. Nevertheless, she was able to use her platform to publicly address the issue.
“Honestly, copyrighting your art is very complicated and expensive. Until I am rich and able to actually do something about it, all I want to do is keep making things and sharing them in the meantime. I am very surprised it was the dragon hat that was copied. It’s a very complicated piece. Overall I’m not upset about it, the part I don’t like is that my design is being used to exploit people.”
The retail price of $23.2 Canadian dollars is not sufficient to cover the costs of original wool, and it also deprives the creators of their craftsmanship and time. Additionally, when the crochet machine was not invented, it could further impact the wages and livelihoods of workers, and even disregard the meaning behind the works.
Ngan Lung was the Chinese restaurant opened by her grandfather and mother who immigrated to Canada from Hong Kong, and also the inspiration for the dragon hat. This disappeared restaurant and its food hold great significance as an important cultural connection for Alexandria.
“When I made this collection I was thinking about my family. My Gong Gong (grandfather) had recently passed away and I was unable to fly home for the funeral because the city I lived in was hit by a hurricane. I felt guilty and kept thinking about the way we connect the most, and that was through food. So for my final ‘thesis’ for art school I wanted to explore those important connections.
I chose crochet as my main creation tool because my PoPo (grandmother) crochets a lot, she is constantly making cute animals for every holiday, and she is so incredibly talented at sewing. I look up to her so much and I think it’s important to continue the matriarchal traditions of craft passed down through generations. When working on these pieces I was dying all of the yarn myself. I had just started dying a few months ago so I was still new to it. The process reminded me of cooking because you’re at a big stove stirring a giant pot and cooking yarn that happens to look a lot like noodles.”
“When I was a kid, I loved noodles, bok choy, fried wontons, red peppers, and egg tarts. I wanted to make each of them wearable but in a different way, they all fit on the head but interact with the body very differently which is my favourite part.”
“I love fashion but I also love sculpture so creating wearable art is what I find myself doing the most. The head is a roundish form and there’s so much potential when thinking of it as a sculpture and that is why I gravitate to it so much.”
“I went to school in Halifax Nova Scotia (it’s a small province on the east coast of Canada) and I was lucky to be in an area with a lot of access to regionally made yarn. Once I started working with it I didn’t want to use anything else. I’ve even visited some of the sheep farms where the wool is from.
I have a lot of people asking me what my scrap pile looks like or what my yarn storage is like. I started dying my own yarn because I wanted to control the colours I make, it also helps me cut down on waste. If I buy only white yarn I tend to only dye exactly what I need. To be honest my scrap pile is a coffee mug because I use exactly the right amount of every yarn with very little scrap. The rest of my yarn is stored in a giant cardboard box and I take the ones out when I need to dye it. For the majority of the time I use Acid Dye, which is great because it absorbs all the dye in the pot and leaves the water looking clear. I also use natural dye but I am more comfortable using acid dye because I know I can colour match something exactly with it.”
“When I was about 13 or 14 I saw the movie Pacific Rim and thought the Kaiju (big monsters) were so cool and I wanted to make a stuffed animal. I saw someone posted a pattern online for crochet so I taught myself to crochet (with the help from my PoPo too) because I wanted to make one so bad, and that 3 foot wide creature was my first crochet piece.”
Perhaps this is why Alexandria often uploads Instructional tutorials and shares them with everyone. Creating each piece requires extensive planning, including time for dyeing and drying the yarn, making and sewing the garment, and washing and drying the finished piece.
“I will usually take a small crochet project with me if I am going to hang out with friends and watch a movie, so I am able to work on something. The more I continue working on things the more I find myself unintentionally spending more and more time on a piece. Yesterday I spent 10 hours hand sewing surface details on a balaclava. It wasn’t my intention to spend that much time on it but I had this cool idea and didn’t realize how much time had passed.”