Tucked behind the Beauty Bubble Salon at the Art Queen complex sits a one-a-kind museum dedicated solely to the craft beloved by grandmothers everywhere: crocheting.
Established in 2006 by local artist Shari Elf, the World Famous Crochet Museum is housed in a former drive-through photo kiosk that Elf rescued from the side of Highway 62 in Yucca Valley and painted in shades of vivid green. Inside the space – which can fit 2 people (somewhat) comfortably – the shelves are lined with an eclectic array of crocheted creations.
Elf, who co-founded the Art Queen Gallery next to the museum, began this unique undertaking in her bathroom with an assortment of poodle-shaped bottle and toilet paper covers. Gifted with the first two pieces in her collection from her friend, Los Angeles-based folk artist Amanda Otto, Elf called it her “crochet museum.” As she traveled around the country, she combed thrift stores and yard sales searching for crocheted animals to add to the off-beat arrangement. When it grew too large to keep in her home, Elf purchased the defunct drive-through photo stand and officially launched the museum.
Elf doesn’t crochet the items herself. Instead, she curates the museum with items she finds on eBay and from a steady stream of contributions from other crochet enthusiasts.
“The collection really grew when I put up my website,” Elf says. “Once I was on the internet, I started getting crochet animals in the mail. It was great.”
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY SHARI ELF
Born in Seattle, Elf spent her childhood in Maui with stints in Kansas City and Los Angeles before settling in the High Desert. She is a singer-songwriter, fashion designer, raw food chef, and life coach, but she’s best known as a recycle artist creating treasures from trash. Elf transforms found objects into imaginative works of art, often with poignant messages and deeper meaning.
“When I go to the studio, I like to just look around and see what item, what old bowling pin, chunk of wood, or old paint brush catches my eye,” Elf says. “Sometimes, a vision will come to me, and I’ll get started. Usually, the piece changes and evolves from the original place I thought I was going.”
PHOTOGRAPH BY JIM AUGUSTO
Shari Elf curates the museum with items she finds on eBay and from a steady stream of contributions from other crochet enthusiasts.
PHOTOGRAPHS BY JIM AUGUSTO
It hasn’t always been smooth sailing for the museum. In the summer of 2011, a severe windstorm knocked the building on its side and scattered the inventory across the property. The kiosk, which is made of fiberglass, sustained minor damage. Less than 5 percent of the collection was ruined, and the remaining pieces were washed, dried, and returned to their shelves. The museum is now bolted to its concrete pad.
The World Famous Crochet Museum has been featured online, in magazines, and television shows. Elf even has photos on her website from loyal fans who have spotted pictures of the iconic building in Toronto, Paris, and Hong Kong as part of British bank HSBC’s ad campaign.
There is a steady stream of visitors all year both locally and from all over the world who come to spend some time among the crocheted creatures. In addition to visiting the museum, guests can stroll the grounds and view some of Elf’s other works including found object art installations, as well as visit such galleries and stores as Art Queen (where you can buy Elf’s original art, recycled fashions and screen printed T-shirts including the infamous "What Would Cher Do" T-shirt which the megastar tweeted about seven years ago), La Matadora, and the Joshua Tree Art Gallery.
When not curating the museum, Elf can be found creating fashion out of recycled clothing in her studio next door. “My goal,” she says, “is to be present and of service to people and to offer a safe and comforting place in the midst of all the drama in the world.”
PHOTOGRAPH BY JIM AUGUSTO