Allegra Dougherty Ties For Fifth Place In Create® Craft Challenge 2020

image0 (4) (2)Los Alamos High School Class of 2020 alumnus Allegra Dougherty tied for fifth place in the national Create® Craft Challenge 2020. Courtesy photo
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A pipe cleaner creature made by Allegra Dougherty. Photo by Allegra Dougherty

A6_big frill 6 eyes (1)A pipe cleaner creature made by Allegra Dougherty. Photo by Allegra Dougherty

A5_bush creatureA pipe cleaner creature made by Allegra Dougherty. Photo by Allegra Dougherty

A1_CREATE Winner Allegra Dougherty from Los Alamos_Winnng creation on tongue.7.2020Allegra Dougherty with examples of pipe cleaner creatures she has made. Courtesy photo


When Allegra Dougherty entered the Create® Craft Challenge 2020 last March, it seemed like the odds were against her. First of all, she only found out about the national competition two days before her entry had to be submitted and second, the entrants had to be 18 years old or older. Dougherty, 19, a 2020 graduate of Los Alamos High School, tied for fifth place in the competition. Scores were so close that fellow winners were within three-quarters of a point of each other. The grand prize winner is a professional interior designer so the standard of the 16 prize-winning entries was pretty high, with many much older and more experienced entrants.

For 15 years, Create® has been the premier lifestyle channel featuring public television’s most popular how-to series, focused on food, travel, home and garden, arts and crafts, fitness, and lifestyle.

Sponsored by American Public Television, the competition asked for an original video lasting three minutes less featuring a craft project, idea or tip. The entries were to be judged by Create staff and a panel of television hosts who are all skilled in their own craft, including  Julie Fei-Fan Balzer (Make It Artsy), Eric Gorges (A Craftsman’s Legacy), Scott Phillips (American Woodshop), Peggy Sagers (Fit2Stitch) and Lena Skvagerson (Knit and Crochet Now!). Judges were looking for demonstrated knowledge, skills and familiarity with the chosen craft, ability to present ideas succinctly, overall telegenic appeal and uniqueness.

Dougherty knew her craft – creating pipe cleaner creatures – was unique, so when she saw the announcement of the competition on New Mexico PBS and found out there was a possibility of winning $4,000, she thought about how nice it would be to have the money to help pay for college.

“It was a big rush. I didn’t want to do it at all at first but when I described it to my mom, she said it sounded like it was right up my alley,” she said. “I knew immediately I would do a pipe cleaner figure because it was something I had been doing for a long time. I thoroughly enjoy doing it and it is unique. I’ve yet to meet another person that does this kind of thing.”

Dougherty has been making pipe cleaner figures since she first learned making objects with them as a young child at the YMCA in Los Alamos.

“The first one I made was an ugly green alligator that was mostly just a ball of fluff but I called it an alligator. It eventually got to the point where I started to make my own imaginary creatures and that was where it kind of took off and it got better and better throughout the years,” she said.

She speculated that she has made hundreds overall and about 30 of the fancy three-dimensional ones that she has designed.

To prepare for the competition, Dougherty and her brother made a video of her working on her craft project. The initial video took almost two hours and the tape for submission had to be only three minutes or less.

“Cutting it to 20 minutes was easy but then it got tough trying to figure out what I wanted to keep,” she said.

Dougherty said one thing she learned during the process is that if the artwork you do is really bizarre and not something people would think of very often, that’s an advantage.

“Someone somewhere will appreciate it and like it. People think my pipe cleaner creatures are adorable and it’s nice to know that. If I was just sitting there making them and not sharing them I would have no idea how other people would think of them,” she said.

Dougherty has been using her pipe cleaner creatures for her stop motion animation videos. Stop motion is an animated film-making technique in which objects are physically manipulated in small increments between individually photographed frames so that they will appear to exhibit independent motion or change when the series of frames is played back. Dougherty has taught the process for through the PAC 8 television station in Los Alamos.

She said her skill is still evolving and changing and that she is still learning how to make different creatures.

“I recently made a red dragon and learned how to do some stop motion armatures,” Dougherty said. An armature is a framework around which a figure can be built.

“It’s pretty heavy but it can stand, so it’s a lot better than my other creatures. I encourage people to experiment with their art and just see where it will go,” she said.

Dougherty has always enjoyed computer art, digital art and crafts classes. She also likes costume-making and computer modeling in her spare time. She studied in Mexico for a year during high school, living with a host family.

“I wanted to experience how life would be in another country. All I had were the stories other people would tell and I wanted my own stories,” she said.

Now Dougherty is getting ready to head to college in Florida on a large scholarship. Her goal is to earn a bachelor’s degree in animation and ultimately to work on movies, TV shows or video games. As much as she likes stop motion animation, she is looking forward to learning about other types of animation at college.

She said her family is ecstatic about her big win.

“It’s been really nice seeing them so proud. Obviously I didn’t think I’d win but I thought that even if I didn’t win it would be a great experience,” she said.

She is the daughter of Eugene and Lisa Dougherty of Los Alamos.

A4_Red DragonA dragon made of pipe cleaners by Allegra Dougherty. Photo by Allegra Dougherty