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Pans Garden Yarns, conceptual fibers

What inspired you to go into the craft business & do you still have a day job? I grew up in rural Virginia and was always exposed to many home crafts, plus I was constantly fascinated by the antique spinning wheel that belonged to my aunt. The wheel was for decorative purposes only – no one knew how to use it. One Christmas I found a toy spinning wheel under the tree, but again, it wasn’t really a wheel that could be used for actual yarn spinning. However, my grandmother taught me to knit, crochet, and embroidery so I have had my hand in the fiber arts since I was about nine or ten years old. I did only these crafts until I was about twenty-six. Around that time someone gave me a copy of that fondly remembered publication, Whole Earth Catalog, in which I found an article about a resurgence of the fiber arts of spinning and weaving. Along with this article were suggestions of where to buy books on the subject, and even more importantly, wheels!  It took me awhile to find someone in my area to teach me how to actually spin, but once I learned it became an obsession. I have been hand spinning now for thirty years!

I do still have a day job, but have been able to cut back to a four day work week. Hopefully in the near future I can cut it further to three days a week, but we’ll have to see.

What do you like best, coming up with the idea, creating product, or sales? Well, all three of these things are exciting to me. I am the sort of person who likes to come up with ideas and seem to have many more ideas than time to actually implement them.

Creating the product is a joy for me because it involves many of my senses. Because I’m involved with fiber from raw product to finished yarn (and sometimes garments), I have the very earthy experience of seeing wool as it comes right off of the sheep complete with the sheep smell that I love so much. Dyeing the fiber provides a smorgasbord of visual delight as I pull the fiber and yarn out of the dye pot. The actual spinning is an extreme tactile experience as the fibers slide through my fingers.

Selling is a lot of fun and I love to meet people who love fiber and who will take my yarn and make something unique. I enjoy talking to people about fiber and I have learned so much from my customers over the years!

Do you ever need to recharge yourself to inspire you, and how to you go about it? Absolutely! This is especially true if I have been hunkered down trying to produce as much as possible in a short period of time. I get overloaded and have to step back from production or else I will lose my creative ability.

To recharge I do several things. Going to museums is relaxing and also often a great source of inspiration for new yarns. Sometimes I surf the web looking for new materials to use in yarn construction – doing this gives me a breather and helps to bring back the creativity. Seeing beautiful fibers inspires me and makes me think of ways to use them in a new yarn or project.

Finally, I just put fiber aside for a short while and do things totally unrelated to the craft. Hiking, reading, and watching movies – all are ways to relax and recharge.

Describe you creative process when designing/making your product line. Although I spin many different kinds of yarn, my specialty is Art Yarn. My ideal art yarn is representational – it reflects a concrete object or person, or just as often a concept, such as, say “serenity.” Typically, I try to think of things, ideas, or people that interest me. For instance, I went to Silent Film Festival in San Francisco this past summer and saw the fully restored Metropolis, the magnificent Fritz Lang silent movie. I knew instantly that I wanted to create a yarn in honor of the movie. Now, of course the colors in that movie are black and white, but if you look at movie posters from that time, the robot is always gleaming gold. So, for the base of yarn, those were my colors, black, white, grays, and gold.

Metropolis is a movie about the struggles of the working class and it involves machines and the idea of mechanization. So, I included in this yarn lots of little charms I found, such as gears, pliers, coils, and springs. The finished yarn then reflects the grays of the film itself but also represents the gray space of a factory along with the things found in the factory environment. The only color is the gold of the robot, one of the focal points of the movie. Please see the photo included in this interview.


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