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Deb Elkes brings her brilliant crochet creations to Toodyay Fibre Festival

If you’re a fan of Perth’s local drag scene, there’s a good chance you’ve seen the work of local artist Deb Elkes before.

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The local creator, mother and vocal LGBTIQ+ ally uses her crochet talents to make dazzling and bizarre creations from beyond the imagination. Deb has created everything from ballgowns to costumes to masks, and event works of art in support of the WA AIDS Council – and they’re not the sort of crochet creations you’d expect to see at a regional craft fair.

This Sunday Deb is bringing some new works to the runway, and a touch of fabulous queer energy to the Toodyay Fibre Festival to celebrate the long weekend.

We caught up with Deb for a chat about her new works, and why the LGBTIQ+ community can often be founding keeping cosy beneath her creations.

When did you first find your passion for crochet?

Crochet has been around me literally my whole life – my Dutch grandma was always crocheting, my mum and my auntie too so it was always something that was just there in front of me.

When I was about 7, my grandma sat me down with my sisters and cousins and decided to teach us all how to crochet. I was left handed which made it quite difficult to learn, but my grandma was very strict and forced me to crochet with my right hand, the same as the other kids.. and it’s stuck!

I have recently taught someone how to crochet left handed and I surprised myself that I could do it left handed too now. I have crocheted ever since I was a kid and it has grown into a wonderful craft as an adult and also, something I use to keep my mental health on keel.

These pieces aren’t what you’d usually expect to be made by crochet – can you tell us a bit about them?

I’ve always been determined that my crochet will not just be seen as something reserved for grannies and as my immersion into the drag scene got deeper, I realised I could use my crochet skills to create some original pieces for the queens that would be unique to them.

When the opportunity to enter some pieces into a fibre festival came along, I couldn’t let it go past! The theme of this festival is ‘magic’ and I cant think of anything closer to magic than mumbling under my breath while wiggling a stick around and having something amazing appear!

With this in mind, I then thought that from a simple crocheted granny square, I could make something original and magical! What I have tried to do is to conjure up something that will confound and confuse the audience with a granny square. I’m hopeful that my designs will do what Banksy suggested – that “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable”.

Who is modelling the pieces?

Following along with the theme of ‘magic’, I have decided that my models will remain anonymous through out the festival to give an air of enchantment and mystery.

I can tell you though, that my models are all members of LGBTIQ+ community and am very proud to have them wear my crochet designs.

Your work is often featured by local drag and queer performers – what does that mean to you?

This question made me tear up – it means the world to me that these gorgeous people honour me regularly by showcasing my work so wonderfully. I have to admit that it’s a selfish thing too – I have the opportunity to dress my own personal Barbie dolls with whatever is in my head and on the end of my hook.

I love collaborating with them and together we come up with some amazing creations!

Where can people find more of your work?

My work might pop up anywhere! Connections Nightclub, Fringe Festival or just jump onto my Instagram page and there is a bit to see there too.

Toodyay Fibre Festival will be held on Sunday 2nd June. Catch Deb’s work on the runway from 1:30pm.

Leigh Andrew Hill


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