project ten: take seven

October 29, 2011

it’s been a while since i’ve interviewed someone for the blog;
the momentum just seemed to stall beneath me.
so i’m more than thrilled to have an interview for you all,
and i think this person is the perfect choice
to breathe new life into project ten.

i still firmly believe i am a newbie in the knitterverse,
having only been in it now for three years.
but from day one, certain names begin to enter your consciousness,
names spilling from the lips of knitters in yarn stores and coffee shops.

spunky eclectic was one of those names for me.
i’d heard it before several time, not knowing who or what she really was.

until one fateful day,
when a certain clockwork arrived on her doorstep.
from then on, spunky eclectic was on my knitting internet radar.
and she’s been added to my list of inspirations.
she’s here with us today,
mistress of several fiber arts,
ms. spunky eclectic herself.
welcome, amy.
can i call you amy?

Heh. Absolutely. I answer to many names and all work just as well.

thanks so much for being here.
are you ready to get started?

Let’s go!

alrighty then.

come on bitches!

here’s ten questions for spunky eclectic.

1. thus far, i’ve only interviewed knitwear designers, but it’s the fact that you are a fiber dyer that drew me to interview you. nonetheless, i’ve begun every interview this way (and you are a knitter), so i guess i can’t stop now: english or continental?

I am a knitwear designer as well though I don’t do it as much these days. Continental all the way baby. Though I learned English and can do both.

2. what i love about your (now former) blog is that you refuse to limit yourself to any one passion. “cook. crochet. craft. knit. sew. spin. weave.” that’s a lot of territory to cover, and certainly seems to fit with the name spunky eclectic. can you talk a little about the beginnings of spunky eclectic? and what it’s relationship is to boogie knits?

That is the million dollar question. How much do you want to hear me blather on? Which is why I named the new blog Blather…. Boogie is just a nickname and that’s what I did for my knitting blog. I always tried to keep the business and personal separate but I don’t know if that’s really possible anymore.

Spunky Eclectic began many years ago about the time when my pottery business was taking a turn and I decided to let it take that turn without me. I was a knitter since I was a tot and that eventually led into all the fiber pursuits including spinning. Once upon a time there were very few hand dyers out there. And almost no one painted on fiber. I spun and I wanted funky fibers so I made my own. Eventually as people asked me to dye for them….well, it’s all history now.

3. i feel like every knitter dabbles with the idea of making the fiber arts their life, but few of us have the courage and talent to make that happen. what made you decide to take the plunge and begin working in the fiber arts? and what was it specifically that drew you to dying fiber?

Art was always my life and my job. From the pottery business it wasn’t a smooth transition into fiber artist by any means but it was the right decision.

As for the dyeing, I seem to have a natural aversion to white. When I did pottery, they were colorful and painted very brightly. I dyed clothing and cloth to make clothes. Which moved into yarns when I couldn’t find what I wanted commercially and into the fibers. If I can dye it, I will.

4. i’m not the most artistic person; i feel like if i wanted to paint something, i wouldn’t know where to begin. it took me weeks to decide what color to paint my bathroom, and i settled on a gray so light, it’s almost white. so people who effectively work with color fascinate me. how does the dying process begin for you? by which i mean, how do you begin to think about what colors you want, and how to put them together?

In college I remember taking a Color Theory class. I hated every minute of it. As a cocky 19 year old, of course I knew it all. Still, I felt I knew what colors go together. I didn’t want to have to paint 4 pages with ¼ inch squares in varying gradients of…. This could go on, I won’t bore you with all the details of that class. Very analytical and I am sure it helped some greatly and in some way it’s still stuck in my brain. By and large, though, for me I it’s mostly just a feeling.

5. do you think about how your fiber will look spun up? does that affect how you dye? or is it all about the color and fiber in the moment?

How a fiber looks spun up is all due to the spinner. I do a class that works with handpaints. We make several types of yarns from cables, to plied yarns and singles yarns to novelties and with all different methods of predrafting. How a spinner chooses to predraft a fiber (or not) and ultimately decides to ply (or not) and finish it will determine how it looks. From the same handpainted top, you can get heathers to self striping yarn and a whole host in between.

That’s the great thing about fibers like this. Everyone has the freedom to decide for themselves how they want it to looks. I’m not in charge once the color is on the fiber, the spinner is.

6. (how) does the fiber content affect how you think about dying a given batch?

It changes it greatly. It changes the methods I may use, the color concentrations, the temperatures I start out with. I believe some colorways are better on certain types of fibers than others. Everything needs to be adjusted if you want to get the same or similar color if you’re changing fiber content.

7. how and when did you get your brick and mortar location? what was that like, going from a solely online presence to a physical one?

I was working out of my basement. So cramped. I had no room for inventory and was always running out and working out of boxes. When the opportunity came up to rent a space from my parents who were altering their business that was in that space, I jumped at it. Sure I pay rent now but I have more room. Essentially we’re still mostly an online store as we are located in the sticks, but it’s so much easier to have stock and figure out how to fill orders. Plus we’re able to have more equipment. I love equipment.

8. what have you found to be the most difficult aspect of working in the fiber arts industry?

This is a tough question. The sense of community is awesome. The people are great. There is always the same issues as an retailer has. The same issues as any manufacturer has….I don’t think the fiber arts industry holds anything special as a downfall. We have some clear positives and strength.

I don’t want you to think I’m shirking the question so the only problem I have with the industry is that many don’t seem to value their work enough. When I say that a hand knit sweater is worth upwards from $200 (not including any work that goes into yarn creation, that’s a separate thing) people think I’m nuts. Everyone that knits/spins/crochets/etc is doing something of VALUE. It is a trade that since industrialization and machines have taken over commercial spinning and knitting that is now seriously under valued.

i feel exactly the same! and some of the rates knitting teachers charge . . . if you did the math it’s almost slave labor! reinstilling a sense of value beyond the aesthetic is something all fiber artists should invest in. but i digress.

9. since i’m a crazy twitter stalker, it’s obvious you are very close with adrian aka helloyarn, and david of southern cross fibres. how does your relationship with these (and perhaps other) fellow fiber dyers affect your own work?

It’s good to have colleagues. We don’t have a water cooler to chat around but we do have Twitter and chat. It’s nice to have someone to tell you that what you’re doing is way cool or definitely wrong. I value my friendships in the industry and in particular with Adrian and David. They will honestly set me straight or give me ataboys as necessary. As for affecting the work, we do sometimes share ideas and bounce things off of one another. It’s good to have other experienced folks to talk to.

10. i end each interview with what i think is the most important question: if you could interview anyone for project ten, who would it be, and what would you ask them?

Hmmm. Anyone? Dead people? I’m not talking zombies but really if Elizabeth Zimmerman came back as a zombie, I’d let her eat my brain. I’m not sure I could ask her just one question. I find her infinitely inspiring and her knitting astounds me. I love it when people look at something and challenge conventional construction.

If you want a strictly live person, lets go with Mercedes Tarasovich Clark (man, I hope I spelled that correctly). She’s a designer and the lady behind Kitchen Sink Dyeworks. I love the idea of the Badass woman’s club. What is the inspiration and tell us more!

awesome interview.
look for me near that water cooler, biatch!

Thanks for the warning. I think the water cooler just got naughtier!

*born in a little inland town in maine, now fondly referred to as “the dirty lew”, boogie lives in the small town next to the lew with a similar reputation. she grew up on a working farm where arts and crafts were always important. her ‘gram’ taught her to sew, knit, and crochet when she was wee, mostly to keep idle hands busy and butts in seats. it worked for her.

“I never really stopped knitting but would take long hiatuses. Then I found myself back in Maine after moving around a bit and settling down. Knitting kept me sane when I moved back to the country. Spinning soon followed. And then my children. And the business. It’s all history after that.”

you should read blog, buy her things, stalk her on ravelry, and visit her at her shop!