Friday, July 31, 2015

emPHAsis on the art

I hate making up words to describe myself and what I do. For the longest time I didn't consider myself an artist, maybe a writer, but not an artist. There was no future in that. So I've gotten good at circling around, coating it with practical applications and poetic license. It feels sticky and gimicky at worst, far too prescious at best. When I started all this fiber business for fun and profit I told myself success would be being able to call myself a fiber artisan without feeling like I was lying. But even when i got to that point on this journey it felt untrue. Yes, the end result of what I sell often looks like a hat or a scarf or the materials for others to make the same, but the making part never felt utilitarian. It's always been my kind of art. The deeply process-based sort.

That's been my number since day one. I'm a notorious medium jumper. I've dipped a toe in oils, clay, photography before this and it's always been that flow state, like a trance, that feels like I'm doing the right thing. It has almost nothing to do with the finished object, if that turns out nice too its a plus but it's not where the joy comes from. I find that embedded in the doing.

Applied to fiber I've found materials that fit my meandering nature. I can go from wildcrafting to weaving in the space of a day. I can explore scientific journals for information on dyes or play with color and texture to mix a sukoshi batch or get me to a craft show and infect other folks with this notion of learning to do things from scratch. There is so much to explore here and I'm glad to have peers out there. I discover more and more every day. Artists and crafters and all the inbetweeners, too. I'm going to pick a side now, though, imagined yet unnamed consequences be damned. I'm an artist, a fiber artist. A process-based fiber artist specializing in eco-ethical methodology - if you want to get fancy. But artist works just as well.

Friday, July 24, 2015

I am rainbow-freaking-brite

 I think of what I do as art, even if the outcome looks like a bit of craftwork. I think it okay to be both, but in my heart I call my self an artist before I correct my inner monolog with 'artisan'.
Whatever I am, my work seems to be moving toward accepting how much I love the minutia of the process of building a finished piece.

To that end I'm building up the studio's supply of naturally dyed fiber, because the process gets stretched out more going that route. And because I like it when my actions reflect my values. The past couple of weeks have been focused on working through what dyestuffs I have on hand, stashed away in bottles and jars. Aspen liquor and black walnut tea from last year. Madder root and cherry bark. A dormant indigo vat brought back to life with yeast and sugar.

Last week I spotted lupins on a walk with friends up to the cemetery and went back the next day to gather enough to experiment with those, too. It's given more of a yellow than that gorgeous inbetweeny green I've seen other dyers get, but I'm glad to add them to my list of wildcraftables up here. I'm headed to the western slope this weekend and plan to bring back some big basin sage for a dye workshop I'm leading on the August 1st. Sages give off a yellow, too. but it's a brighter, acid sort of yellow that shifts to greens with copper or iron. It's one of my favorites.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Things are turning green, even up here at 9000'. I've been poking around looking for potential wildcrafting spots. So far I've found pokeberry thickets and plenty of sages. I'd love to ferret out some elderberry and some weld or wild woad. Despite how much I love it when I get there, getting my butt out the door is something I've spent a lifetime unperfecting. Having a dog who lives for hikes has paired nicely with counteracting that.

Oh! the rain. It does not stop, and sometimes it turns to snow. The rain kept messing with the kids plans to camp in the tent, which has now come to live permanently on the back porch. When their first break in the weather came they lasted about an hour before they tapped out and came back inside. They'd spooked themselves reading scary stories.

Now that I'm warping a full-sized loom I have waste yarn, which generally makes me sad.  But, as it happens, they are the perfect length for weaving bracelets. I plan to have several woven cuffs at this Saturday's farmer's market. They'll be crafted from either a colorway called Viola or Emma the Pink, the batch I was demo spinning at the first market. If you miss the market I also have a few at The Corner Studios in Lyons.

Friday, April 24, 2015

market preview

I have a ginormous Etsy update this week. Lots of hats and cowls and some yarn, too. I fell off the schedule wagon the past few weeks and had some catching up to do. All of these things will be at the Longmont farmer's market this Saturday from 8am to 1pm.

I've created about four colorways of natural dyed reclaimed, unsweatered yarn to take to market as well. These will be exclusive to that venue for a while until I figure out if it's worth it to add them to the line permanently. I'll also have a few short / seconds skeins in indigo if anybody wants to try them. If they turn out to be a winner I might go in for buying actual base yarn to dye up.

Monday, April 20, 2015

 I think I'm getting the hang of blue. I've read that tropical indigo is easier to work with than woad or japanese indigo and I don't know if that is true or if I was just less anxious about it this time around. It did seem to turn the fibers a more dramatic shade on the first dip, though. And it smells less rotty.
My sister sent along her Lendrum wheel and some other fun stuff with my parents when they came up to see the kids' play. I've been using it to spin up a few more batches for the farmer's market this weekend (eek). The bobbins are so much smaller, but it's also sturdier and faster than my wobbly Louet.
Anais already claimed one of these pots of salve. Scrawled her name on the lid with a sharpie and ran off with it. I wanted to add something small and not made of fluff to my line. A nice, melty all salve seemed like a good fit. The base is olive and sunflower oil solar infused with calendula, rosehips, comfrey and cardamom. Then I added st. john's wort oil, honey, vetiver, orange oil and just enough raw beeswax to firm it up. With this formula it's good for everything from dry skin and lips to small scrapes and bruises.

Friday, April 10, 2015

catkins, cat eggs, averting catastrophe

I can see signs of things waking up, even up here at 9000'. The aspens are spreading out their catkins, robins are starting to give the jays hell. We experimented with plant dyes on easter eggs this year. The kids especially loved how bright pink cabbage juice makes for blue and green. I wondered how much better they'd absorb dye if you hollowed them out and soaked them in vinegar or alum first.

Sometimes I take the scenic route when working with dyestuff. A while back my aunt and uncle
obliged my request for a few boxes of pruning leavings from the fruit trees in their orchard. After soaking this pot-full of the fruit wood twigs for a week I set them on the stove to steam one day and added yarn to the pot the next.  After a cold soak over another day or two I put it back on the stove and repeated the steaming. What had been a decent pale yellow deepened into an almost rusty ochre.

 And then I thought about adding iron water. So I did. Looking back now I wish I had left this first batch alone. But the resulting cool medium gray that developed on those middle skeins of silk is a color I've never gotten before. I keep thinking of things I'd like to knit them up as. With the weather warming I keep thinking of camping, fishing in the early morning hours and the perfect hiking hat. Maybe this one, or this?

Friday, March 27, 2015


The only thing I have to show for myself this week is a new Sukoshi. In my defense, it is spring break and there is a new addition to the menagerie. This batch is called Thessalonica. I have a habit of reading sci-fi and fantasy before bed and I couldn't get the catchy title out of my brain.

As for the growing number of fauna around here...this is Jasmine. While the kids were at their grandma's down in Denver, Gerry and I decided to go "window shopping" at the animal shelter. We got one of our cats there a few years ago and ever since moving into the house we've been flirting with the idea of finally getting a dog. So much for window shopping. She's either a Catahoula or a Plott Hound mix. Either way the consensus around here is she's a keeper.

I got to do some swapping this week, too. One of the other moms at school makes awesome outdoors-inspired jewelry. I picked out these two pieces, she wanted a woven cowl I had just finished. Remember when Etsy was a place for trading, too? When I first set up my shop I'd swap yarn for tote bags and schmancy lip gloss. I do trades at craft shows, too, but it's not something everybody incorporates into their business model. In case its not obvious by now, I emphatically do. I love it.