Enter the Yarniverse with Ladies Fancywork Society

Q+A with the artists behind “Midge the Swamp MOMster”, an installation at Meow Wolf Denver’s Convergence Station.

knitted cylinders coming down from the ceiling with eyeballs on them
“Midge the MOMster.” Photo by Nathan Hindman

As they tell it, Ladies Fancywork Society was created accidentally by a mad scientist dipping cosmic yarn into a petri dish. From birth, they have been used to coordinate diplomatic efforts between this universe and the Yarniverse. Meow Wolf was blessed with such a collaboration for the latest corner of our multiverse, Denver’s Convergence Station. We were able to catch Tymla Welch, Jesse Dawson, and Lauren Seip — when they weren’t crocheting cars to send to space — to ask a few questions about their Convergence Station installation (“Midge the Swamp MOMster”), as well as the Yarniverse itself and the “Fast & Furious” franchise. Their astro-engineer, Jess Eaton, was unable to make it.

How did y’all find each other?

Jesse: 15, 16 years ago, a mad scientist created us in a petri dish, accidentally. The art comes through us. We have a tie to the Yarniverse, which is where all of the reality of our work comes from.

Lauren: We're ushers at the portal.

When did the crocheting start?

Tymla: 15 to 20 years ago, when we started. We all would get together, and we just went through a phase where we were crocheting lots of things.

Jesse: We'd eat cupcakes and cereal and watch Project Runway.

Lauren: But we make lots of stuff. We'd make lots of hats and gloves, and then we had to put it somewhere else, eventually.

Has the crocheting always been sculptural? What inspired the shift?

Tymla: No, we were just wrapping other things for a long time. And then I think the first big thing we wrapped was the dancers. We were like, "What if we started building things to wrap?" We just were trying to top ourselves. So I think it got bigger—

Jesse: It got bigger.

Tymla: And then it got structural and ...

Lauren: Stronger.

Jesse: Stronger.

Tymla: Faster.

Lauren: Harder.

Jesse: Faster.

Tymla: Yes. More furious, if you will.

Jesse: You know how the Fast & Furious movies just eventually want to go to space, which they did?

Tymla: That's us.

Jesse: That's what we want to do.

looking up at white sculptures of legs with knitted socks
“Legwarmers” at the Denver Performing Arts Center, 2009. Photo courtesy of Ladies Fancywork Society

What inspires your practice? What is necessary to create art?

Jesse: What inspires our art? Rainbows, sprinkles, unicorns …

Tymla: Friendship.

Jesse: Friendship, love.

Tymla: Alcohol.

Jesse: Yeah, definitely alcohol and late nights and our hands.

Tymla: Pillow fights.

Lauren: But getting to just make crazy shit with your batshit crazy friends is … it's a pretty good game.

Jesse: Jess does it for science.

Tymla: And dinosaurs. I don't know.

Jesse: Butts.

Tymla: Butts, yeah. She likes butts.

Jesse: She loves butts.

Yarn bombing is really silly and really fun. How do we become bombers? What advice do you have for artists?

Tymla: Well, I think people do ask us, "How could I start my own thing?" And we're like, "You just do it." And don't force … I don't know.

Jesse: You just have to start. Just start wherever.

Tymla: And they're like, "How do I find partners?" We're like, we actually were friends, obviously, and if we weren't, we probably wouldn't have been doing this as long. So hang out with your friends and do weird things.

Jesse: Do weird things with your friends. Push some boundaries with your friends. Sometimes we’re just in our own little bubble and we forget the real world exists.

Lauren: Do weird shit with your friends.

What is your dream art project?

Jesse: Car in space. A crochet car in space.

Tymla: Well, I was just going to babble “space monsters.”

Jesse: Please.

Tymla: Every time we get better at a certain aspect of our work, we are like, "Oh, we could do this big thing." And it gets a little bigger and bigger. And we've started working with fabricators and we're like, "Well, if there's a real fabricator involved …" We start teaming up with people with different skills, it just makes more things possible, I guess. So a car in space, we're gathering those … collaborators.

Jesse: We just needed to make one call to Elon Musk and we are there.

Tymla: I think we could find people locally.

Lauren: Stay local, shop local.

Jesse: It’s a yarn-to-table practice. But wait, we used to have big dreams to cover the scary horse at the DIA, and then that got weird because it's, like, in a flight zone … we could get killed by the FBI. That was one of our big goals. For a while we just wanted to cover bigger stuff, but now we just want to make crazier stuff from our own lines.

Lauren: Yeah. All these creatures keep ...

Jesse: Hopping through the Yarniverse ...

Lauren: ... hopping through, push them out.

Jesse: Push them through.

What are some of the tenets of the Yarniverse? Are there physical limitations?

Jesse: There are none.

What are structural demands? What comes through the Yarniverse and what does it look like? What does it cohesively have?

Tymla: Yeah. I think as far as what comes through, it's different every time. All of our work is pretty much site specific, so a lot of times we'll start with a location or a structure, and then we start thinking, “What lives there?” And eventually something shows itself to us.

Jesse: And we don't always know the story of the thing — I feel like — when we start it. We have an inkling, but as we work on it, we're like, "Oh this is this shape because of this thing that happened. Maybe this ties in with this piece we did years ago and they are cousins." Yeah.

Tymla: I'm playing with toys. But even I think about Midge and Meow Wolf as “We're putting her up on the roof or ceiling.” I mean, and then even talking to people about it, we're like, “Oh wait, those are her babies and they're various levels of maturity.” Yeah, so they're constantly revealing themselves to us, and everybody really … they just can't help it.

long shaped knitted creatures with eyes looking down onto the floor from the ceiling like a cave
“Midge the MOMster.” Photo by Nathan Hindman

What’s your favorite color?

Lauren: Blue.

Jesse: Rainbow.

Tymla: All of them, sparkle.

Lauren: The void.

What is your favorite monster that you have created, and what is your favorite monster that exists independently?

Tymla: Oh, well like, Godzilla's always pretty cool. He always comes back around and you're like, "He's not always a bad guy or monster Titan." Well, obviously, Midge is great. I also really like our “Hatchery” that we did up in Vail that went up last summer and this summer. It's just big bubbly eyeballs and weird little fly-creature things.

large round multicolored knit creatures on top of a roof
“The Hatchery” at Vail Public Library, 2020. Photo courtesy of Ladies Fancywork Society

Jesse: I think besides our Meow Wolf Midge monster, it might be “Smuggly.” Because he had a good soul. He had a nice spirit to him.

Tymla: Yeah. And he is … he was a portal himself.

Jesse: Exactly. So we related.

knot creatures with big eyes in flowers on a large green heart shape with four women waving on top of a roof
Photo of Jesse, Tymla, Lauren, and Jess with “Smuggly.” Photo courtesy of Ladies Fancywork Society

Jesse: Cookie Monster is my favorite. My favorite “us monster” was maybe ... It's hard. I really like “Geoge” a lot, but I actually really love “Tina” too. So I don't know. “Geoge” and “Tina” are tied for me.

large knit fish with scales on a roof with four women hugging on top
“Tina.” Photo courtesy of Ladies Fancywork Society

Lauren: My favorite monster is Stitch. For us, I'm going to say “Geoge.” That feels right today.

Tymla: I like “Geoge.” I mean, our monster and alien crossover, is that … ?

large knit angled shapes with eyeball on a building
“Geoge.” Photo courtesy of Ladies Fancywork Society

Lauren: What is a monster? It's just a creature we haven't categorized yet.

What do you guys consume for inspiration?

Jesse: Disney.

Tymla: Pizza.

Lauren: Pizza.

Lauren: Yes. Disney. I think we've started ... We've gotten good at timing things with Disney movies. Like, if we start Moana right now, we should be finished by the time she gets to ...

Tymla: By the time her grandmother returns. Sorry for the spoilers.

Lauren: Fast & the [sic] Furious movies.

Jesse: No, Tymla fell asleep in the movie theater during a Fast & Furious.

Tymla: Just saying, and I was tired.

Jesse: You fell asleep, and when she woke up the movie was over and we convinced her that Vin Diesel died, and she thought that for maybe a day.

Lauren: Boy, did we get her good. She's never recovered from that burn. She's never recovered from that burn.

What do you do passionately aside from crochet?

Lauren: Hug.

Tymla: Karaoke. I think just making stuff.

Jesse: On the side, I'm a photographer.

Lauren: But wait, Tymla, I was just going to talk about your macrame. Wait, what is it called when you make the things of the planters that they sit in?

Tymla: Yeah. I think I do a lot of knots lately. I can make something special for you. I'm going to tie so many knots. We're makers, makers and doers.

Any final comments?

Jesse: May the Yarniverse be with you.

Check out more from Ladies Fancywork Society on Instagram @ladiesfancyworksociety and at ladiesfancyworksociety.com