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Featured Artist: Kate White of Babester Fiber Arts

by The SpinArtiste on December 16, 2011

Publisher’s Notes:  This week’s featured artist is the fresh-faced Kate White who newly minted her Etsy shop, Babester Fiber Arts,  this past summer.  I believe you will find Kate’s work and perspective to be joyful and refreshing!

 

Spin Artiste (SA):  How long have you been a fiber artist?  What’s your journey been like getting to where you are now?

Kate White (KW):  I am still a total newb!  I started knitting when my daughter was born three years ago because I wanted to knit longies to cover her cloth diapers.  I taught myself from a book and a bunch of YouTube videos.  I only started spinning about a year ago.  A neighbor had left some handspun drying outside and I left a little note on it telling her how gorgeous it was.  She offered to teach me on a drop spindle, and even loaned me a wheel once I really got into it, and I was hooked.  From there, I got into making my own fiber preps to spin.  I got a drum carder and started learning batt making over the summer.  More recently, I’ve moved into dyework, which I love.

SA:  What made you fall in love with making “art yarn”?

 

KW:  I love making one-of-a-kind yarns with fun textures and art elements that you just can’t find in commercial yarn.  There’s something magical about handspun to begin with, but being able to push a yarn beyond standard forms and leave evidence of the artistry of doing so is really intriguing to me.  To me, it’s not only the end result, but the way you can see the process come through that makes a yarn “art yarn”.  Yarn that makes people ask “how did you do that?” is art in my book because it asks people to engage beyond merely “Ooh, how pretty!”.  I also like the challenge of choosing the fibers for each yarn.  In short, I like how much control I can have over the process!

SA:  How do you go from just spinning for yourself to deciding to set yourself up with a shop?  Where you nervous about taking that step?

KW:  I would never have become a shopowner if it hadn’t been for my friends.  They were constantly asking to buy my yarn, buy batts, etc., so I decided an Etsy shop would be a good way to share what I do with others.  I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so I was a bit nervous about getting all the details in place, but excitement won out by a long shot.

SA:  I know there are readers who haven’t taken the plunge yet to set up a shop — What has been easier than you thought?  What has been more challenging?

 

KW:  Taking care of the detail work, like bookkeeping, the shipping and purchasing of materials, etc., has been much easier than I thought it would’ve been.  What has proven challenging is keeping sufficient stock in the shop!  I consider that a pretty great problem to have.

SA:  I agree!  That is a great problem to have.  One thing everyone is always curious about is how other people have their work spaces set up — tell us about yours.

KW:  I still use my neighbor’s Louet S10 spinning wheel, and I own a Fancy Kitty medium cloth Kitten carder that I use for making my batts.  Everything here has to be compact; my home and my studio space are one and the same.  Because I have a young child in the house, all the fiber toys have to be put away at the end of the day.  I have a hall closet that is dedicated to fiber stash, and the Louet hangs out in my bedroom when not in use.  It is my hope to grow to a point where I just can’t keep juggling space like this, and can afford to find space exclusively for fiber work.  For now, I keep everything organized as best I can so it’s easy to find what I need quickly.  I’m grateful my family doesn’t mind sharing the dining room table with my work!

SA:  Ha!  I’m sitting right next to our dining room table where a loom has taken up residence at the moment — I think a lot of us can relate to what you are saying.

You have learned a lot in a short span of time.  What is your first love out of all the aspects of practicing fiber artistry?

KW:  I love carding.  I think batts are art in their own right.  I’ve often wished I knew how to felt so that I could preserve the batts in sheets just as they are.  Maybe that’ll be my next trick!  I love blending lots of different fibers together for texture, and it’s great to see locks I’ve dyed make their way onto the drum.  The art starts in the fiber prep, and I think that’s why carding won my heart.  Spinning is a close second, though.  And the more I dye, the more I love that, as well.  This is a hard question!

 

 

 

SA:  Since you’ve fallen in love with dyeing, where do you get your inspiration(s) for your color choices?

KW:  I draw inspiration from nature a lot.  I did a set of Autumn Leaves batts that I really enjoyed.  I’ve also asked my 3-year old daughter for inspiration, which is how I ended up making a batt set inspired by the new My Little Pony series!  I tend to be drawn toward blues, so I have to remember to ask others to pull me back into the rest of the color spectrum sometimes.

SA:  Tell us about “Spinspiration”.

KW:  Spinspiration was the result of a creative block I had.  I couldn’t think of what sort of batt I wanted to make next, so I asked my Ravelry group members to submit a photograph of anything they liked and offered to make a batt/yarn to match it.  The first submission was one of NASA’s pics of the day.  It was such a challenge to match the colors, and come up with a way to represent the textures in fiber!  It really made me think about what I had to use, how to prepare it, how to blend it, etc.  It was both an artistic and technical endeavor.  I think Spinspiration is one of my favorite games now.  Some of my favorite batts and yarns have been the result of this little game.  Plus, it’s fun to communicate with other fiber lovers and get them involved and connected to the artsy side of the work.

 

 

 

SA:  I understand that you also offer spinner services, true?

KW:  Right now, I have listings in my shop for an add-on spinning service than can be purchased along with any fiber.  Honestly, it was a slightly selfish move on my part.  It’s hard to part with some of these batts!  This way, I get to play with them a little more, and I can make them a bit more accessible to people who aren’t spinners.  For now, the service is limited to fiber purchased from my shop, but I have done custom work spinning other fiber, so I’m not closing that door.   I just haven’t figured out how to make a listing for that yet.

SA:  I read quite a bit of your blog and saw something you’d written I am hoping you would be willing to expand upon:  “Buying hand made is a subversive act.”

KW:  Oh, absolutely!  We live in a culture that encourages us to buy mass-produced goods and to have for the sake of having.  Everything is fast, and quick, and now.   Frequently, things are also cheap, both as in price and as in cheaply made (which means you’ll need to buy another one to replace this one…)  When people choose to purchase a handmade good from a small seller, or a locally grown food, or the services of a local artist, there’s a shift in that culture.  Buying something handmade shows respect for the time and talent required to make it, and puts value back with the artist.  It slows everything down again.  It’s subversive in that it moves against the “buy more now” current.  Buying less, and caring more about what you buy and how it gets to you, is a subversive act in today’s society.  Buying handmade is an easy step to take because the “how it gets to you” part is written into the description already.

SA:  What do you hope your children will take away from the choice you’ve made to live as an artist?

KW:  I would hope the kiddos I craft with would internalize that art isn’t just something you do as an optional program.  For me, art is a daily requirement.  The creativity required to function as an artist is a skill that translates very well into business, education, etc.  I fear it’s something children are losing in favor of more homework and more formal, structured education and that worries me.

I hope that my decision to live as an artist shows a commitment to keeping art and creativity sustainable.  I am both a successful businesswoman and an artist, and I think that’s a powerful statement in its own right.  I believe my creativity is at the core of that success, and I hope that comes through to inspire the children, and adults, around me.

SA:  Thanks so much, Kate!  I envy that you have been able to teach yourself so much and have such an upbeat, can do attitude.  It’s been a pleasure getting to know you better.  Here are the links to Kate’s blog and Etsy shop — check ’em out!

Readers, I hope you are enjoying getting ready for the holidays and each one of you is getting the fiber-related item of your dreams this year.  I’ve been doing a little baking here and there and for once did not put a lot on myself to knit up a ton of things as gifts.  So far I’ve got several kinds of cookie dough chilling in the fridge. 

Kate is very kindly offering a yummy giveaway to one lucky Spin Artiste reader:  a gorgeous mini batt of 1.7 oz of grey merino, black alpaca and white silk, color way “Pepper”.  To get this beautiful fiber, just leave a comment on this post letting us know what your favorite holiday cookie is and a winner will be drawn at random by 9:00 PM Wednesday night, December 21st. Additional entries for linking the post to Facebook and or Twitter — just leave a comment letting me know you did.  Best of luck to all!


All my fibery best, Arlene

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