Publishers Note: This week, I’m excited to talk with Alicia Lee of Lea Fibers. Alicia’s fiber art is nothing less then refreshing and blissful. As a second generation fiber artist, Alicia’s knowledge for
Spin Artiste (SA): Alicia, thank you for chatting with us today. Can you tell us about how you got into fiber art? What is your fiber tale?
Alicia Lee (AL): In a way, I like to think I was born into it. I have vivid memories of my mom hand carding raw wool and weaving blankets on her floor loom when I was very young. Even smelling dirty fleece to this day brings me back to moments in my childhood. She disassembled her loom shortly after and it has since been a ghost in the closet. Last year on Christmas morning, I walked down our stairs to find a gigantic antique spinning wheel in the middle of the living room, straight from a fairy tale. It was the most random, unexplainable, unprovoked gift I have even been given; and was from my brother in-law! Weird, right?! I had no idea what the heck I was going to do with it. With some dedication, and a lot of frustration, I learned how to use it, and very quickly became obsessed. I spent every second of my free time watching videos, flipping through books, and chatting with Suzy Brown (Woolwench), who answered every little beginner question I had; bless her heart. It completely consumed my thoughts and I was overcome with an insatiable desire to learn and create, everything I could. Just a year later I’ve acquired two more wheels, 2 drum carders, and 2 looms. As I refine skills, and learn new ones, endless possibilities open up, and I am constantly having fun with it. I’ve also received an unbelievable amount of encouragement and motivation, physical and financial, from my husband, and I am ever so grateful for him.
SA: Sounds like your family background and their encouragement has really brought you where you are today. You once said “Spinning yarn is my zen.” How has spinning provided you with a sense of peace and serenity?
AL: I had a hard time after giving birth to our first baby. I felt like I had lost my identity and creative voice. I had just finished my professional training to become an interior designer and had landed a distinguished position with a contracting company, only to leave 6 months later to relocate and start a family. There is nothing in the world I’m more grateful for than being able to stay home with my kids, but I definitely felt a personal void. The second I clicked with my spinning wheel I knew I had something that was mine. I felt invigorated, and my creative mind was stimulated again. Every night when my kids fall asleep I go down to my studio and lose myself in a project. Spinning in particular is very therapeutic for me, as I find it has the ability to dissolve any tension I’ve held on to throughout the day. I just adore it.
SA: It is wonderful that you have found spinning to be a relaxing pastime and that it has helped to provide an outlet for your artistic voice. In particular, I adore your dream catchers! What inspired you to create such unique pieces?
AL: Thank you! I’ve always had a nostalgic association to dream catchers. As a little girl I remember having vivid fears going to sleep, and my dad hanging a dream catcher over my bed and explaining the legends associated with it. It seemed magical at the time, and I guess I’ve always held on to that. I bought a beautiful one by Rachel Rice (CosmicAmerican on etsy) for our bedroom years ago made out of recycled materials and as soon as I started spinning I dreamed of making one with my handspun.
SA: Well, your “dream” has really taken off into quite a spectacular reality. The dream catcher you created for our Secret Stash Challenge really caught my eye! Did you know when you got the materials that it was going to be a dream catcher? How did you come up with the design?
AL: As I mentioned, the idea was always in the back of my mind, and as soon as I opened my stash, I knew it would be a perfect chance to execute my vision. I really let the fibers design the piece. Being fairly new to spinning, I used it as an opportunity to attempt or practice new spinning techniques. It was a challenge for me, and a lot of fun! I really appreciated the opportunity to participate, and all of the positive feedback from people.
SA: Well, it was a huge hit with the readers! Thank you for sharing such a unique piece with us. You seem to love your home environment of coastal British Columbia. How did you capture its atmosphere in your last Fall/Winter collection?
AL: It’s pretty impossible not to be inspired by the beauty of nature living here. Old growth forests, running streams, crystal clear lakes, crashing waves and snow capped mountains in the distance. It really is breathtaking. I’m a HUGE daydreamer, and so far I’ve noticed my creative motivation has stemmed from a feeling, or a moment that I’ve wandered into and become captivated with. I remember the moment down at the beach, imagining being swept away by the sea on a raft and it giving me the impulse to create. I used a soft, natural color palate and pearls to create a cohesive collection, which was a huge experiment and learning experience for me. I recently took a trip to Sayulita, Mexico, and was completely enthralled by the funky bohemian coastal culture of the town. I fell in love with the attitude, colors, style, and overall feeling. After a period of “creative ebb”, I came home with a ton of inspiration and some fiber life!
SA: Wow, amazing how an inspiration filled trip to Mexico brought such an accurate and aligned vision to your Northern, coastal, feel. That was so beautifully depicted in your collection. It is always surprising to hear where artist draw their genius from. Speaking of inspiration, your children are very precious. What great muses to have at your fingertips! How have your children inspired your work?
AL: Thank you. They are pretty incredible! To be honest, my boys and fiber are pretty separate at this point because they are still so little. I am busy with them all day, and save my fiber play for nights as a way to decompress. With that being said, I absolutely love making them things more than anything else. Projects for my kids are always fun and lighthearted, as they aren’t being assessed by anyone. It always feels good to make things for those you love, and I certainly love them the most!
SA: Love truly is a powerful motivator. How would you describe your artistic style?
AL: I would say I’m half intuitive free-spirit, and half calculated perfectionist. I am equally as left brained as I am right, so while I am able to act and create instinctually, I also love structural, geometrical, and modern simplistic elements. I set boundaries and soar within them. Growing up on a small island has also greatly influenced my style. Nature has always been my playground, and so I constantly gravitate toward organic materials. I think that’s also why I’ve fallen in love with fiber as a medium to work with in general.
SA: As a photographer, would you say there is a creative connection between your photography and your fiber art?
AL: I’ve noticed lately that my creative life is very cyclical. I have limited time in which I’m able to dedicate to myself, and I’ve developed quite a few interests over the last couple of years! I’ve learned to embrace my natural creative flow between fiber, photography, cooking/nutrition, and interior design. I do what inspires me, and more often than not they all intermingle, overlap, or collaborate with one another. I love to document and tell stories with images, so yes; I feel my interest in photography (albeit amateur!) connects beautifully with all facets of my life.
SA: Through the combination of your amazing fiber pieces and your stunning photography, you are certainly telling a intriguing story. I’m sure your studio is as creative as your artwork; can you tell us about your work-space?
AL: My studio is absolutely my favorite part of our house! I had the utmost fun dreaming up a space I could call my own. We moved into a magnificent home 2 years ago, complete with a renovated bachelor space in the basement that didn’t have a use (yet). I’m still organizing boxes and putting together the finishing touches, but it is a beautiful space filled with light, creative homemade industrial furniture, warm natural textures and of course lots of woolies!
AL: The antique wheel I mentioned before has become a showpiece in my studio. It is an ancient double drive cotton wheel, which is fairly finicky to use, as some parts have been rebuilt, and the alignment is quite off. After persevering and learning to spin with it, every wheel since then has felt like a dream! I started out with an Ashford Traditional, which I immediately felt would become limiting in a short amount of time. Soon after, my amazing husband had my beloved Aura shipped to our house on our anniversary, as he wasn’t able to spend it with me. I cannot say enough great things about it, and him!
SA: On your blog, you talk about having many different “fiber crushes.” Who are your latest crushes and why do you love them so much?
AL: Oh this question isn’t fair! There are just way too many artists I admire. My crush on Wooldancer has turned into a lifelong love affair, I just adore everything that girl creates. Hobbledehoy makes me feel like an addict; I must buy her batts in my sleep, because they just keep showing up at my house! I love the whimsy and wear ability of the designs from Rose Nectar and the fun folklore from Pumpkinhaus. Girl with a Hook and Soulfibre have skill that is beyond my comprehension, and I also really love the saori weaving coming from Woolwench and Jazzturtle. I’ve also most recently been admiring the designs from Amy Stambaugh. In my local fiber scene, I have become obsessed with Bamboletta dolls (magical!!), and always have a Jane Richmond pattern on my needles, ideally with beautifully hand dyed luxury yarn from SweetGeorgia. Phew!
SA: Wow, you really do have quite the long list of worthy “crushes”, but I’m such you are included on a fiber crush list out there! I know you ascribe to the notion of it is much better to give than to receive. You have said, “I find gift knitting the most rewarding and the most motivational.” What have been some of your favorite knitted gifts you have given?
AL: I’m not sure why, but I love making gifts for kids. I’m very sentimental and appreciate heirloom quality items. It gives me immense pleasure to create fun things for the little darlings in my life. I’m working on a surprise dream catcher for a special babe who’s meeting the world soon, and I’m pretty excited about it.
SA: Many thanks to you Alicia for spending time with us today; it has been a delight. To wrap things up, just one more question. What is your family’s favorite pastime?
AL: We’re a pretty typical outdoorsy west coast family. Before having children, my husband and I were avid boaters, campers, and road trippers. We are very much looking forward to experiencing that again now that our children are getting old enough to enjoy it as well. We also love traveling, and in that last 4 years as a family have been to Japan, Hawaii, France, Spain, Las Vegas, California, Mexico, Hong Kong, and as far as Mauritius. We also love our downtime at home gardening, doing projects around the house, spinning, crafting, BBQ’ing, and entertaining friends and family. We are very lucky… and busy!
SA: Thank you so much, Alicia for visiting with us. We look forward to seeing more amazing things from you in the future.
Readers, I am sure you enjoyed learning more about Alicia and you will be delighted to know that she’s offered to make one of her fabulous dream catchers for a Spin Artiste reader. In order to enter, please leave a comment on this post and tell us how you’ve used your dreams as inspiration for your own work. Additional entries for sharing on FB, Twitter, etc. Just leave another comment letting us know that you did. Deadline to enter is Thursday, March 7th at 5 PM EST when a winner will be drawn at random.
The Leather and Lace Challenge Yarn Collection has made it to Downtown Knits in Apex, North Carolina and will be there for about another week. There is a special reception on Sunday afternoon with Esther Rodgers of JazzTurtle Creations on hand.
Last but not least, I have some wonderful content coming up soon — we have a Secret Stash Game reveal coming and February Love is teed up. Can’t wait to share with you! All my best, Arlene