Phil Ferguson is Chili Philly, the Melbourne-based crochet artist and Instagram star who loops and weaves yarn into brightly coloured food-inspired hats he then models himself. He’s spent the past two or so years weaving a canteen of ridiculous, joyful, delicious bonnets; for example a hamburger, avocado, pretzel, steak, cronut, taco and a Golden Gaytime. Until now the cute concept could only be seen in photos on Ferguson’s 140,000 strong Instagram account. But now he’s hosting his first ever solo exhibition in Sydney this month at the Australian Design Centre. It’s titled Crochet Social.
The 24-year-old self-taught crochet king studied fine art in Western Australia before moving to Melbourne in 2014. While he majored in sculpture, and has always been “someone who makes things”, crochet wasn’t something he was always into.
The foray into food-based creations was sort of accidental too. “There was no real theme in the beginning. I was just making things I wanted, and most of them tended to be food. Once it started getting popular, it was easy to just run with that theme because that’s what really drew attention.”
He did, however, suspect the concept would go viral and was only surprised at the speed at which his community of followers grew. “When I first set up the Instagram account I knew it would be popular because it’s niche, and it’s a little funny,” he says.
The exhibition will feature 25 of Ferguson’s woven creations suspended throughout the gallery. Categorised chronologically, the collection charts the past two years of Ferguson’s trajectory to internet celebrity. But it also underlines the reason he began the project – as a sort of social experiment. “When I first moved to Melbourne I went on lots of Tinder dates, but kept finding I didn’t really have anything in common with people. The idea behind the Instagram and all of my work was to actually meet like-minded people.”
Alongside the exhibition, the Australian Design Centre will host a series of workshops; panel discussions on social media success; artist talks; a local makers market, and a cocktails-and crochet-night.
Crochet Social is on at the Australian Design Centre until March 15.