As it goes in our Instagram yarn world, sometimes, you come across a person that stands out and you become so called “Insta Friends”. Aliona Nova (@aliona.nova) stood out for me firstly, because she was the first ever yarn spinner and fiber artist I came across. Her craft opened my “fiber arts Pandora’s box”. She really gives her embroideries and yarns a tru artistic perspective! (She has even created several custom yarns for me – which I could not be less than extatic about!! 🤩) However, we are first and foremost people and not just crafters! Aliona’s super curious “voluntarily poor” lifestyle, refreshingly down to earth opinions and honest approach towards social media really inspire me. So …. enough from me and let’s give a word to Aliona! 🙂⬇️
Interview with Aliona Nova
Aliona, who are you? (What a creative question to open with, huh? 😀 )
My name is Aliona and I had my nick-last name since my previous life as an LGBT advocacy activist here in Lithuania. I have a Master of Law diploma, so naturally I am a fiber artist now. 😀 I moved from a city life and now live in a countryside, where my little family can homestead: keep chickens, grow our own food, build and make things from scratch and enjoy nature. We chose to be, what I call, “intentionally poor” – not me nor my husband have normal jobs. We just try to minimize our expenses tremendously, save and make some money here and there.
Two years ago, I got this itch to start making my own yarn. I was knitting a lot and it just made sense to knit “from scratch”. Even before I knew how to spin or touched a spinning wheel for the first time, I knew, that I would want to turn it into a business as soon as I consider my yarn good enough to sell. And of course, since I have loads of yarn laying around the house (literally), I started creating things from it. I figured – why not embroider from my own hand-spun yarn. That’s how I got into landscape embroidery.
It is quite admirable these days for someone to take the hard road and learn the process of yarn making from scratch. You inspired me to give it a try myself now … so, how were your yarn spinning begininngs? 😊
I spin for almost two years now, but my breaking point was the beginning of 2019. I made my very first well spun consistent, thin single, with just the right amount of twist. Before that, I would comfort myself with a thought that I am in this for the inconsistent yarn that must look all uneven. But I was lying to myself really 😀 I just sucked, lol.
It’s great that you kept your possitive attitude when it was needed and did not let the imperfect tries discourage you! Besides spinning, what other yarn magic do you do?
I don’t like to do the same thing everyday, and honestly, I am not sure what kind of superhuman can just spin all day – my joints start to scream curses at me if I spin more than a couple hours a day. So, I alternate activities and spin, embroider, knit, crochet, instagram (which is also hard on my wrists), work on my website, community build, volunteer, hang out with my kid, do garden chores, hang out with my cats, or do other things – whatever I please really.
When it comes to your lifestyle, it must feel very liberating to be the queen of your own time. What inspired you to choose this lifestyle?
It is very free, yes. Both me and my husband at the time, were seeking freedom for sure. We thought that by reducing our life costs we will find this freedom without having to work from 8 to 5. It might sound very silly right now, but I love sleeping and I am absolutely the most productive at the end of the normal people day up until 3 in the morning. And I am free to work this way if I want to.
And another reason is, that when I got back to work after my maternity leave, my values were drastically changed. I got used to being home and “doing my thing” most of the time. I was dreaming of a garden, I got used to living cheap and avoiding stress. And here I was again in a competitive scene of an NGO employee. The nail in this city life coffin for me was a fundraising event I saw organized in front of my eyes. One canape from a very expensive menu of that event cost more than a meal I cook for my 3-person family.
Very refreshing that someon choses to live outside the usual stereotype! I think many people these days desire to break away from their stereotipical, socially normalized routine. It might be an inspiration to someone who wishes a bit more personal freedom in their life, to hear from someone who walked away from the city lifestyle completely.
But you are also a fiber artist. What would you say is the main theme of your embroideries?
I started to embroider because I have fun and beautiful things in my head and no drawing skills. I can write, but it just doesn’t make sense to describe a sunset for example. Or does it? Some things are better to be shown, not described. So, even though I embroider landscapes, UFOs, abstracts, occasional funny phrases, I can’t say that there is a theme in all of this. It’s usually some emotion, experience or thought I want to visualize and that’ what I do.
Ah I see, I think you certainly chosen the right medium. Also, when there were the big fires in Australia, you created a very touching fire embroidery. In my opinion you do a great job with focus on detail and have a unique approach for your embroideries.
Yeah, Australia was everywhere, on my facebook feed, on the news, friends were talking about it, you would struggle not to think about it even if you wanted. The mbroidery piece with fires helped me to process what is happening. Like many people, I feel guilty and helpless sometimes, even if I know that there is not much I can do.
I feel like I cannot even call your yarn activities “hobbies”. You dedicate a lot of thought and learning to your process.
I get upset when people call it a hobby, mostly because of the meaning it has to other people. It is a passion, way of life, it is multiple puzzle pieces in a whole picture of my way of living, without them my life would be half empty.
An artist then!?😉
It took me years to dare to call myself artist still feels weird. 😀 I don’t use this word in Lithuanian, it sounds like a lie haha.
What do you think stops you from accepting the title?
I read Emma’s Goldman “Anarchism and other Esseys” and there are some thoughts on art there. She says (my loose memory and interpretation of it), like some other anarchists too, that when you live life true to yourself, not oppressed with any political or ideological power, then literally any action you take in your life, be it gardening, doing chore, dancing, painting, writing – becomes art itself. I read it in 2017, if I remember it correctly. It was the first time I thought I could even remotely have a tiny little right to dare to call myself an artist.
I think it is not very common over here to call people who practice vacation (manual job, making, crafting) an artist. Even folk art has its own term, that emphasizes that it is not just art, it’s a folk thing, don’t you confuse it with real art! I don’t partake in the folk part, but at the same time, I had never studied arts in university or art school (which so many still consider mandatory if you want to call yourself an artist). Maybe I’m wrong, but some people might frown upon creating things to be sold and not for the sake of some mysterious “art goals” or something. I don’t necessarily enjoy pilling my embroidery in boxes or taking part in exhibitions.
You sponsor your yarn experiments by selling your yarn creations. What different ways did you discover to earn some income from your yarn activities?
Well, I spin yarns that I want to spin. I do sell some, but also gift it for free a lot. I take custom orders. For example, if someone wants their yarn waste to be recycled and turned into new yarn, I love doing that! Also, I take orders for spinning dog hair or other wool that people want to have turned into custom yarn. But I wouldn’t do anything I wouldn’t want or if they would treat my services as not artistic enough. Sounds silly, but what I mean is, that when people dm me to ask “how much for the spinning of 1 kg of wool” I am very turned off, because I know that machine could do it better, faster, cheaper and machines joints won’t hurt and it won’t get bored.
You have also offered to spin my yarn leftovers into a new yarn, and I ordered from you your hand spun watercolor yarns and now that I received them, I love them so much! 😍🧶🧶 That brings me to your Instagram and your blog! You show a lot of your work process and curious experiments and knowledge from your yarn spinning process. Also, you like to collab with other people on instagram is that right?
I don’t really show much of actual spinning, but I like to show the carding part. The first time I made stories about carding, I had to stop in the middle because I was a bit sick. I kept receiving so many funny messages and reactions from people, saying something like: “I am waiting for it to be continued like it is a new season of a favorite show” or “I don’t know what linen is, but it is the most important thing in my life right now”. (KR: I was one of them! Haha 😂🙋♀️) I then realized that people would enjoy seeing it, wow! It was unexpected, but hey, isn’t it pleasing to see something so pretty created out of nothing? Just some fluff, right in front of your eyes?
I do give some of my skeins for free to people I like. 😀 Instagram is my favorite place to hang out, because most of us are so nice there! So supportive, so giving! I feel like I express my warm feelings towards people whom I am talking for a while, like there is no better way to let them know that I care than to make them yarn. 😀
That is a very positive attitude towards social media! Sometimes people can get carried away by Instagram and social media in general. I am curious. Since you live a bit different lifestyle as most people – voluntarily poor and as you say mostly isolated, what do you think about the role of social media for yarn crafters.
I think it is fantastic. And I mean instagram mostly. For me it is a very positive space, I give and receive support, I feel like there is an actual sense of community. This is something I struggle to see even in real life communities. It is also a great way to market yourself, to get feedback, to receive tips, to give tips, teach someone something. To me, it serves as a massive social outlet. I don’t feel like I am texting or doing something unproductive when I am chatting with people around the world on Instagram. I feel like we are actually bonding, talking, it is just as important to me as meeting face to face would be. Hopefully other people feel the same when they are talking to me online, I am as honest as they come.
I am definitely a fan of yours on Instagram and I learned so much “backstage info” about fibers and yarn creations process form following you!
You are currently working on series of hand spun yarns themed as “dystopian”. Can you tell me more about this project of yours? Why? What is your inspiration?
Dystopian as a genre for books, tv shows, movies, clothes, art and whatever else has been very interesting to me ever since I was a child. I don’t buy a lot of books, but the ones I have stacked in the most honorable location are futuristic dystopias (Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451 and such). I consume a lot of content on everything future and space and sci-fi and alien and all my passions transfer into the way I consume it. In general, I care for non-traditional living and non-traditional relationships (because I identify as bisxual and polyamorous), so I always find that one bisexual between characters and then tell everyone about it, if they didn’t notice.
Fiber arts is just another passion and I tend to pay attention to how production of tv shows and movies visualized and pictured knitwork, clothes and other relevant stuff. Good examples are sweaters from the Matrix (the actual life, not the Matrix) and The Hunger Games.
Now, tell us! what else can we find on your Instagram – @alionanova or on your blog – alionanova.com? (Is it too presumptuous from me to say, that Aliona interviews super interesting yarn enthusiasts on her blog, since I was one of them? 😊😁 Interview with Moi! 😂)
On my blog I sell my embroidery art and take custom yarn and embroidery orders. Even though I don’t make much money at all, I am very happy with what sales come my way. I feel honored that people do like what I make and often trust my vision – don’t have many preferences to their order, they just want me to make something. I feel really special and grateful to everyone who ever bought anything from me. They probably don’t even think about it that way. It is just another thing to buy to a lot of people. But for me – I am around for days bragging to my husband that I sold something today, what country it is going to go to, how nice that person was when we talked and what fibers or other things which I want, I will be able to buy thanks to this.,
Well, Aliona, thank you so much for sharing with us your thought process and craft experiences! And I believe many people will find your fiber art and honest approach inspiring and will like to follow you further on your blog and social media and contact you with creative yarn requests. ⬇️👍🙂
Aliona’s Instagram account: @alionanova
Aliona’s blog: alionanova.com