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My Favorite Things: A collector of yarn and patterns, Lisa Turpin turns them into art

by Becca Martin-Brown | June 26, 2022 at 1:00 a.m.
Turpin also creates more traditional crochet projects like baby dresses and afghans. (Courtesy photo)

Lisa Turpin approaches everything she does with passion. She is the passionate director of operations for Arkansas Public Theatre in Rogers, a job that started with her volunteering for the community theater troupe eight years ago. She is a passionate "drama mama" to the young people who come through APT, proud to offer "a safe refuge for everyone, all walks of life, status, gender, lifestyle and anything else. Makes me proud that when they travel home from college, careers and adventures, they make time to come see me." She is passionate about what theater gives back to the community. And she is a passionate supporter of the culture of APT -- "a thriving theater full of people passionate about the same things as me. We have such privilege to work and abide here. How could anyone not love this job?"

But anyone who knows Turpin personally also knows she is passionate about the artform she practices. She crochets, and her DNA sculpture in all the tones of human skin is hanging in the APT's Zephyr Blevins Gallery right now as part of an exhibit prompted by the current on-stage production, Yasmina Reza's comedy "Art." It's her first gallery showing -- and it's no surprise she is passionately happy about it!

Turpin took time to answer a few questions for this edition of "My Favorite Things."

What do you collect?

My favorite crochet form is Amigurumi, although I can crochet pretty much anything. Everyone loves cute, chubby animals, bright colored foods that you can play with. Amigurumi is the Japanese art of knitting or crocheting small, stuffed yarn creatures. The word is a compound of the Japanese words 編み ami, meaning "crocheted or knitted", and 包み kurumi, literally "wrapping," as in 縫い包み nuigurumi " stuffed doll." Amigurumi vary in size, and there are no restrictions about size or look.

How/when/why the collection began:

My Grammy (Earline Hergert) taught me to crochet and more importantly, to read patterns, when I was 7. Learning to read patterns and the basics of crochet have enabled me to read patterns in almost any language now, because the basics are all the same. She was always sending me little kits, loom, yarn, books. I started out making Barbie clothes and accessories because we were too poor to buy the real thing. In turn, I had the coolest Barbie clothes and furniture of anyone.

What appeals to you about these items?

On a real primal level, we all love baby animals and cute fuzzy things. It's stuffed animals for older kids and adults. That thing that you like to look at during the day just because it's cute. Feel good stuff.

What's the most expensive item in the collection?

Should I be ashamed or embarrassed by how much yarn I have? I'm not. As long as people want my little critters and order from me, that is all the validation I need to expand and experiment with new colors and textures. As far as what I charge for my items, I try to be very reasonable. There is no way to truly pay for the time spent on any of my creations. Last month I made a small dinosaur for my great-nephew's first birthday, and I had 17 hours invested. If I were to sell that I'd be making maybe $2, if I am lucky.

Where do you find most of the items in your collection? Flea markets? Thrift stores? Estate sales?

Most of my ideas come from current trends I see on social media. Anime is huge, and there are so many fun inspirations. There are some free patterns out there, and Etsy is great for that because you can check for reviews, updates and see what other people have noted about a pattern's ease to follow and the diagrams.

Is there "one that got away" – i.e., one you passed up and regretted not buying?

No regrets, other than I wish my hands were as nimble as they were 20 years ago and that I had done more with my passion/skill earlier. I love to teach my skill and would like to do more of that.

Is your collection finished, or ongoing? If ongoing, will it ever be finished?

My collection will never be finished, unless I can't use my hands any longer. Even then, I would buy speech software and write patterns and teach.

Is there a white whale you're after?

This will sound crazy, but I would LOVE to make socks. Crochet is not the best for sock making; that prize will always belong to knitting. I can knit, and I am just so-so at it. There would be the coolest and craziest socks for everyone if I could make them.

What do people say about your collection?

Truly, I am so humbled and surprised when people love my creations. Yeah, they're cute and funny or beautiful, but when people really are blown away by something I have made, it shakes me to my core. The love I put into each piece is counted in the stitches it takes. That's a lot. One of my proudest moments is when Brenda Nemec, friend and director at Arkansas Public Theatre, asked me to make "an ethnically correct crocheted Nativity scene" for a show to sit on the mantel of a fireplace on the set. My heart burst! Then when she and others saw it and loved it, I had that moment of 'If I die right now, I am completely happy.' It gets better ... someone purchased it from me! And I got three more orders for sets exactly the same.

Will you ever run out of room for your collection and, if so, do you have a plan in that event?

Hahahaha!!! I need an apartment or studio for all my yarn and supplies. No joke. That is 100% true. Most of my yarn is in totes in a storage unit currently. My dream would be to one day have a big studio with tons of cubbies to sort and organize. It would look like any decent craft store yarn department, too. Two weeks ago I needed three colors because I had run out. I came home with a shopping cart half full of yarn. Not ashamed.

What else do you collect? Besides yarn and cats? I have a nice little collection of fancy hinged Limoges-style boxes. I can't afford Limoges though! Also, I love Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls.

Editor's Note: We all have something -- or somewhere -- that fires up the serotonin just by holding it or seeing it: the woods where you grew up playing hide and seek, a Barbie doll collection that dates back to the 1950s, a cabinet full of your mother's old copper cookie cutters, the room in your house that makes you feel the most peaceful. "My Favorite Things" invites Northwest Arkansans to share those special things or places that brings them joy. Send your suggestions for collectors to feature to

  photo  “One of my proudest moments is when Brenda Nemec, friend and director at Arkansas Public Theatre, asked me to make ‘an ethnically correct crocheted Nativity scene’ for a show to sit on the mantel of a fireplace on the set,” Turpin says. (Courtesy photo)
  photo  Turpin’s favorite kind of crocheting is the Japanese form Amigurumi. (Courtesy photo)
  photo  Lisa Turpin (left) pauses during opening night festivities for “Art” at Arkansas Public Theatre with staff member Karen Maxwell (center) and costumer Ilia Rivera. The blue-and-white outfits reflected the theme of the comedy onstage. (Courtesy photo)

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