Publisher’s Notes: Through Spin Artiste, I’ve met quite a few fiber folks, but mostly only know them online and hope that one day we will have the chance to spend some time in person. So, this week’s Featured Artist post is bit different for me because Christiane Knight of Three Ravens is one of my local peeps who I get so see once in awhile although not nearly as often as we would like. To know Christiane is to like her — she’s irrisistbly talented, passionate, and generous. Read on to learn more about Christiane…
Spin Artiste (SA): Why the fiber name “Three Ravens”?
Christiane Knight (CK): The name/concept Three Ravens has been with me for SUCH a long time! I used to have a small press publishing company that I called Three Ravens Productions, inspired by the English folk ballad “The Three Ravens.”* The song is about the loyalty of a knight’s hound, hawks, and love for him, even after his death – told from the viewpoint of some ravens who were just looking for an easy meal. Some people might wonder how that has anything to do with yarn or fiber – and it totally doesn’t! But it has everything to do with me and my love of music and old ballads, strangely romantic tales, and rascally ravens.
Ravens are also smart, witty, rebellious creatures – which I admire – and three is a magical number, a number of balance and wishes granted and birth/life/death… It might be obvious that I like symbolism a little bit.* [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
SA: Smart, witty, and rebellious…mmm…sounds like someone I know…:-)How long have you been spinning and how did you learn?
I had been knitting for about a year before I realized that, more than anything, I loved touching the yarn. I decided that what I really needed to be doing is making my own yarn! I picked up a beginner’s drop spindle and some fiber, went online and looked up some instructional videos and webpages, and that day I made a passable, knitable yarn. Not only was I hooked, I was driven to make more and more and more…
I spin every day that I can, and I have since I learned. Some might call me obsessed.
SA: You are a self-described “career crafter, former DJ, herbalist..staunch defender of the DIY lifestyle”. Tell us about your approach to the DIY lifestyle. You are living in the Baltimore area which I find to be very pro-DIY — agree? If so/not, why?
CK: I not only promote Buy Handmade, I firmly believe that making as many things as you can on your own is the way to save this planet – because by making things ourselves, we can cut out a ton of carbon emissions from finished products being shipped halfway around the world, we can reuse or repurpose items from around us, and we can learn how making things together brings people closer together.
DIY teaches me to respect the hard work that goes into the work of other artisans’ pieces. DIY allows me to know exactly what is in my food, where the material for my clothes came from, and that no one else on the planet has my necklace. Heh! I love the feeling that I get from finishing a project that I made with my own two hands, and I love meeting an artist and knowing the person who made my new treasure purchased from her.
Baltimore is an amazing city for DIY’ers and artisans! There is a growing culture of thriftiness, environmental awareness, and creativity that has always been evident, but is now being nurtured by folks who live in an economy that requires them to think outside of the box in order to truly thrive. Places & organizations like the Baltimore Free Store*, The Book Thing, Charm City Craft Mafia, and BaltimoreDIY are inspirational and tireless in the realm of promoting DIY culture.
SA: Tell us about your studio/workspace.
CK: As you mentioned previously, I recently moved back to Baltimore from North Carolina. This move was into my Mom’s house – and she had NO idea what she was getting herself into when she let a fiber artist move in! I have half the basement as my studio space for fiber dyeing/prep/carding and storage; however, I usually spin in my room or in the Sunroom, because they are much less chilly than the basement space.
I have two large tables set up in the studio nook for workspace, and all my fleeces and fibers are stored in big bins against the wall. Under the work tables I have moveable drawers that keep all my plying yarns, add-ins, sparkly bits, and very fine fibers that I use in my art batts.
CK: So much equipment! To start, I have several different types of spindles; I started out on a basic drop spindle, and now teach spinning on the drop spindle so that I can pass along the love. My collection includes a gorgeous top whorl from The Spinner’s Lair, a Turnip bowl-spindle, and an Akha. I have two wheels – my first wheel is an Ashford Kiwi, which is a great, sturdy wheel, and I love it. However, I started developing a knee issue a couple of years ago, and it was threatening to put an end to my spinning, so my partner added a SpinOlution Mach II to my stable, and not only do I adore working with it, but my knee pain has gone away!
I also have a Fancy Kitty Kitten drum carder, and a dangerous-looking Lil’ Dynamo box picker. Those are my everyday tools, and I recommend all of them highly!
SA: You specialize in what a lot of folks call “art yarn”? Do you use that term? If not, how do you refer to your style? What attracted you to this style of spinning?
CK: I’m weaning myself from the term “art yarn” – but not the techniques associated with it – for a couple of reasons. There is a lot of misunderstanding about the term; I’ve seen it used as a catch-all for any funky yarn, especially one that is made by an inexperienced spinner, or one who didn’t exercise discipline when creating a yarn. There are many people who use the term derisively, and that really gets under my skin, because the yarns that I and other purveyors of “art yarn” create are formed using highly specialized techniques and skills, and we strive to make a well-balanced and well-formed fiber creation. A yarn that is not uniformly spun, lumpy, overspun, or randomly thick and thin without a plan is still a viable yarn that may be used in a project, but it is NOT art yarn. So to distance myself from this attitude, I am slowly eliminating that term in favor of other descriptive wording, such as: creative, artistic, sculptural, non-traditional, conceptual, designer. It leaves more to the imagination this way!
As far as what attracted me to this style… I’ve always been artistic, and I love love love working with strong color and texture. To me, making creatively-inspired yarns allows me to explore all the properties of the materials I am working with, and combine them in inspired and exciting fashion with color and texture. In other words, this style of spinning makes me squee with joy! And I get even more happy when I see other people getting excited by the crazy things that I come up with!
SA: You are also a fiber arts teacher — what do you teach? What are your teaching plans for 2012? Is this a part of your business you are looking to expand?
CK: Oh man do I love teaching. I have been offering Introduction to Drop Spindle Spinning classes for two years now, which has allowed me to pass on the excitement of my first love, the wonderfully simple yet diverse spindle. I’ve recently added one-on-one classes for the Spinning Wheel, which include things like Troubleshooting Your Wheel and Exploring Fiber Preparations and Spinning. I have been inspired by my friends and customers, who ask me about different topics and tell me that I need to teach about them after I answer. It’s a nice vote of confidence!
In 2012, I definitely want to teach more, and add some new subjects to my classes, including covering artistic techniques and styles, and embracing color and texture challenges. I love teaching with all my heart and absolutely will be continuing for as long as people will have me!
SA: What would you like to learn in 2012?
CK: New artistic techniques, hopefully from the hands of some of the pioneers of the field, the Big Names – like Jacey Boggs [Insubordiknit] and Lexi Boeger [Pluckyfluff]. How to work with fiber from a variety of rare, ancient, or unusual breeds, which is something I started last year but haven’t concentrated on lately. Weaving, because clearly I don’t have nearly enough fiber-related interests already, ha!
CK: I like to tell people that I’m a pretty good spinner, and a pretty crappy knitter. It’s not actually accurate; I can knit just fine, but I have the worst track record ever in finishing a project. I did make a sweater from my handspun… and then I frogged it, because it was too colorful even for me! I stick to smaller knitted projects now, and I recently picked crochet back up and find that I have a much better time of finishing my projects in that realm. I’m working to regain my childhood skill of freeform crocheting so that I can make more yarnbombs and other fun, decorative pieces.
CK: Education! So many people come to me and tell me how much they love my yarn, or hand spun in general, but they often have no idea how to use it, or don’t understand why the cost can be so much more than a commercial yarn. It is up to the fiber artists to offer the information that folks need in order to truly appreciate and understand our art. That means that we also have to be informed – I spend a huge amount of time researching patterns for smaller yardage, for example, because people often express that they don’t know what to do with a smaller skein of textured yarn. I see fiber artists starting to offer other suggestions on how to use hand spun, from weaving to fiber jewelry to even home decoration, and it thrills me. We are only limited by what we can imagine, and that’s something that everyone can pass along.
SA: You sell your yarns online as well as through craft shows and a LYS — what selling vehicle seems to work best for you, why? I know the margins for selling in a store are not as good as selling directly, but what advantages have you found selling through a store? Is it helping you to build a following faster?
CK: This is a good question! For fast payoff, craft shows have the best outcome – plus, I get to meet my customers and fiber fans face-to-face, which is a huge bonus. However, shows only happen a few times a year for me, so I turn to my website, which is a slow but steady income-earner, and selling at my LYS, which has the benefit of boosting my ego every time I go in and see my yarns there — or better yet, when I go in and see that my yarns are selling!
One thing I’ve found from selling via the LYS? My name recognition is through the roof, locally. At the last local craft show that I vended, at least half of the folks who talked to me said that they knew me from seeing my yarns at the LYS. And a good chunk of those had purchased a yarn of mine from there! So yes, I’d definitely say that it has helped me grow a following. It also helps me to feel like I am a part of the fiber community here, which is a great feeling for me.
CK: One day, I will have a little farm. And on that farm, I will have some goats, and some alpaca, and some llama, and some sheep, and some bunnies. I will have a shop space where I will create and sell my work as well as offer classes and host workshops on various fiber arts. My business will be booming, because we will have built a huge demand for the handcrafted arts, especially fiber arts. And everyone will be welcome to come spin, knit, crochet, weave, felt, or whatever they like, in a community of fiber artists, who are the best people I know.
SA: Thanks so much, Christiane!
Readers, if you haven’t already done so, check out Christiane’s website. She’s got her shop, blog, patterns and more there.
Your publisher is getting ready to go on a little vacation — not just any ordinary vacation. In a few days, I’m heading south to Sarasota…and you know what that means…PICASSO’S MOON!!! Yes, I’m headed to the yarn shop that started me on my fiber journey. I will be there in attendance at the SWAY Guild’s Art Yarn Fiber Fest featuring the amazing Lexi Boeger. I haven’t planned a post for next week because I will be beaching it up, but I promise to bring back some surprises for Spin Artiste upon my return. Until then, all my fibery best, Arlene