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Crochet Artist Olek to Teach Yarn Sculpture on Lower East Side

By Patrick Hedlund | January 21, 2011 2:16pm

By Patrick Hedlund

DNAinfo News Editor

LOWER EAST SIDE — "Anything that enters my life is going to be crocheted," proclaimed Olek, the artist who last month covered the Financial District's "Charging Bull" sculpture with one of her creations.

The 32-year-old Polish-born artist, real name Agata Oleksiak, saw her guerilla art earn wide acclaim when an online video of her late-night bull project went viral.

But instead of plotting her next public piece behind closed doors, Olek will begin teaching her unique craft to students starting Monday as part of the Educational Alliance's "Crochet Sculpture" course — a six-week program to instruct would-be artists how to transform everyday items into yarn-covered sculptures.

"I can't teach people really how to crochet [in the traditional sense]," said the artist, whose course runs in conjunction with the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council where she is currently an artist in residence. "But I hope to help people learn how to think using this medium."

With her signature designs, Olek has covered everything from bikes and cars to buildings and people.

But it wasn't until she took on the famous bull — using recycled yarn from some of her other projects to fully wrap the massive sculpture — that the public really started to take notice.

"People started following me and people started recognizing things that they've seen before," Olek said.

"They say, 'Now we know who did this bicycle in Palm Springs, now we know who did this bicycle in L.A.'"

For Walter O'Neill, director of the Educational Alliance's art school and gallery, Olek's willingness to work in a collaborative environment using a medium that goes beyond simple arts-and-crafts speaks to her "wonderful optimism that all artists can work together."

"Basically she's doing guerilla art — in a sense graffiti — but she's not destroying private property," he said. "The whole idea of public art, she's really doing that and bringing it to the people. That she can go enliven the street is incredible."

Olek even hopes to recruit some students from the class to assist her on future projects.

"I need help to make it larger, more bold," she said.

"It's a language, it's a personal thing. I'm not afraid of showing people how to crochet. It's good to have followers that can carry it on."

Olek also continues to work on new projects and display her creations in various galleries, including her current show at SoHo's Christopher Henry Gallery.