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Featured Artist: Janice Rosema

by The SpinArtiste on May 11, 2011

Publisher’s Note: Spin Artiste would not exist were it not for Janice Rosema. Janice was the first person in the fiber community with whom I discussed the idea of Spin Artiste…Luckily, Janice told me to go for it.  With Janice’s encouragement, I took the plunge!  It is truly a pleasure to feature Janice as this week’s Featured Artist because she’s just one of the most talented people around — I hope you will enjoy learning more about Janice!

Spin Artiste (SA): Janice, let’s start with a description of your creative journey as an artist so far…

Janice Rosema (JR): Even as a child I loved to make things. I started out making doll clothes, crocheting and embroidering. My grandmother believed that young girls needed to know the “womanly arts” such as needlework. Early on, my work was more traditional but once I discovered spinning, things began to evolve in a very different direction. I reached a point where I made a living as a hand spinner and dyer in the 1970s. Additionally, I taught classes in quilting, needlework and spinning/dyeing for adults and children. I also made and sold handmade garments to a number of upscale boutiques in the Westwood and Beverly Hills area.

I then explored the world of hat making. My millinery business became very successful with sales through Fred Segal, Henry Bendel and other high-end stores throughout the United States and overseas. I made hats using crochet and knitting as well as traditional millinery techniques. Eventually, I reached a point where I had to make a decision to become “really big” or make the things I loved. Making the things I love won out and I changed directions and have never regretted it.

Stained glass caught my attention for a while and I did sell my work wholesale and also at the Renaissance Pleasure Faire. I loved it but fiber continued to exert its siren call and I once again answered. At that point, I participated in many arts and crafts festivals selling my fiber creations including handmade garments and hats.

Throughout the years, my work has been featured in fashion industry magazines for women and children. Additionally, there have been features in Belle Armoire, Knit ‘n Style, Vogue Knitting, Belle Armoire Jewelry and Haute Handbags. My creations have won numerous blue ribbons at the Los Angeles County Fair. I also designed garments using handspun yarns for Ozark Handspun.

SA: And, I think I mentioned to you that I saw one of your designs, the fabulous dreadlocks hat, made up and on display at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. One of the vendors specializing in locks was using it to show what can be done with their products! I love that hat…Your sense of design is so strong — How do you approach your work?

JA: Usually, I gather materials together and just look at them for a while. I like to create things which have a touch of whimsy but with some sophistication. As I observe the materials, they sort of speak to me and tell me what they want to become. This can led me in unexpected directions as creations unfold organically. At some point, I “know” what conclusion is in sight and then things are done.

My grandmother always said that when you create something it should “look like it was blown together by the wind…” which I have come to understand more as I get older. She did not like to see things that were filled with artifice or “forced” and I always noted that she had a restrained sensibility in what she created. My work is much more exuberant but I still feel that her words apply.

As for some of my “freeform” work a lot of it is of my own doing over the years. However, I also came across the creativity of Jennie Dowde, Valentina Devine and Prudence Mapstone. These women added to a new perspective on my fiber interpretations and choices of materials. It really added a new dimension to my own freeform approach to creating.

SA:  That is such a great quote from your grandmother!  You’ve worked with several mediums, what is it about the fiber arts that captures your imagination?

JR: The possibilities of what can be done with all these glorious materials. My imagination is fueled by the fibers and the ability to create something that can be functional and artistic at the same time. Sometimes, I do love making something just for the fun of it!

SA: Which specific materials do you like to work with?

JR: I love wool especially and all the variations in texture, softness and color that occur in the different breeds. Natural fibers have always appealed to me, the smell of silk, the shine of gorgeous mohair, the way that fibers drape and mix together in infinite ways modifying each in ways that make the end result magical. Upcycling materials also appeals to me and being able to take something that would be thrown away and create something of beauty with it is immensely satisfying.

SA: I agree…other fibers are beautiful but it’s hard to beat wool! How about equipment?

JR: Many of the tools I use are pretty mundane – knitting needles, crochet hooks, felting needles and such. I also have two drum carders (a Pat Green and Louet Classic) both of which I love for making batts for spinning and/or felting. Recently, I also acquired a picker and now wonder how I ever did without it. Additionally, I have a collection of 9 spinning wheels, three of which are bulk wheels from the 1970s (a California Bulk Spinner, Pirtle Wheel and another wheel that I haven’t been able to identify the maker.) I must admit that my SpinOlution wheels are my favorites, in particular the Mach III with oversize flyer setup and the Hopper which is a travel wheel which uses the same oversize flyer as the Mach. They are solidly built right here in Hemet where I live. In fact, I love them so much that I am the Southern California distributor for them and also have been doing quality control for the last few months. At this point, I feel so fortunate to have all the things I need with which to create.

SA: Having said that, what’s on the horizon for your work?

JR: It seems as I get older, my designs become more daring and fashion forward. I was definitely more tame in my younger years. I am exploring many new combinations of mediums in my work such as freeform, knitting and crochet, wet felting and embroidery. Additionally, there seems to be more people asking for a book from me on creating some of my more unusual garments.

SA: A book! Yes, please…Can we convince you? In the meantime, folks can buy some of your terrific patterns online at your Etsy store.

Janice, what makes you happy?

JR: These days, I am perfectly content to spend my time spinning yarns and then designing hat and garment patterns for publication, particularly using handspun yarns. Being able to have awesome fleeces and fibers to work with is such a delight. At this point, I have the materials, equipment and space to work that make the process so wonderful. I consider myself very fortunate. The only thing that would make it even more wonderful would be a cabin in the redwood forest of my childhood where I hunted for fairies and elves with shining eyes and a listening heart to hear the spirit of the woods.

Who has inspired you in your life?

JR: Ernest Tamminga is a name few know but he was my friend for many years and guided me through many challenging times with his wisdom, spiritual insight and incredible humor. He just “graduated” as he called it this year. He was 99 years old, just a few weeks shy of his 100th birthday. He was always encouraging and an inspiration to me and I am missing talking with him every day.

My grandfather, Harry Otis Deal, introduced a world of books and a curiosity for learning that has served me well throughout my life. I literally traveled the world in the closet where he kept his books. He made learning fun and he always encouraged me to spin, quilt and other things he remembered as a child. My grandmother, Irma Mae Deal, taught me the skills but grandpa definitely did his part to set me firmly on this fiber path.

In the fiber world, I would have to include:

Natalie Redding of Namaste Farms – Natalie is a very modern shepherdess who breeds and cares for sheep and goats resulting in the most amazing fibers for spinning that I have come across in all my spinning life. She is a beautiful person, inside and out, and has become a very talented spinner as well. Working with her fleeces has definitely kicked up the quality of what I can achieve with my designs.

Lexi Boeger (Pluckyfluff) – She who has boldly gone where no one had gone before! The thing I love most about Lexi is the relaxed way that she fosters creativity in other people. With her, you may learn a technique but you also discover how to tap into your own creative muse. She is a true fiber artist.

SA: Well said, Janice! Lastly, what inspires you creatively, spiritually, or emotionally?

JR: Color can start the creative process going. Just seeing a vast field of orange marigolds or California poppies thrills me. The play of light in a redwood forest with the sights and aromas of the woods or the glory of oak trees start my imagination working. For me, my work is definitely a spiritual expression of my inner child.

There is an anonymous Irish poem that speaks to my spirit from 200 years ago.

“Upon an airy upland, within me and faraway,
A child that is ageless dances all delicately gay,
A dance that is like sunshine while I am old and gray.”

SA: Thank you so much, Janice…we certainly look forward to hearing more from you on Spin Artiste about your awesome approach to design. Janice has a blog, an Etsy store for her yarn line Excavations ,and an Etsy store for her patterns. Please check them out!

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