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Featured Artist: Kim Perkins of Batts in the Bellfry!

by The SpinArtiste on August 11, 2013

 

KPBIB - SelfPublisher’s Notes:  Last weekend I had the very good fortune to attend Michelle Snowdon’s (aka Wooldancer) Spin to Wear workshop with the SWAY guild in Sarasota, Florida.  Being with the SWAY guild spinners is like being with family and one of the best parts of all is spending time with Kim Perkins, the lovely fiberista who is behind all the wooly goodness that is Batts in the Bellfry.  I have had the pleasure of working with Kim’s fibers batts and rovings many times and have always been delighted!  Let’s find out about this talented artist.

Spin Artiste (SA):  Hey Kim!  Long time no see!!  Let’s start with finding out about your fiber history. 

Kim Perkins (KP):  When I was a small child, my grandmother taught me to crochet and for a few years I made every hat and covered every hanger in sight. But by the time I was in my teens, the love of fiber in my fingers was a distant memory. Then, in early 2005, a dear friend came into my retail store with a blanket she had made. It was exquisite and I wanted one for Mom’s upcoming birthday. She directed me to Debra Lambert at Picasso’s Moon Yarn Shop and promised me that Debra would teach me to knit in an hour and fix me up with beautiful yarns. And fix me up, she did! I became a knitting fool and later that spring, I attended a women’s knitting retreat sponsored by Picasso’s Moon on Anna Maria Island.

 KPBIB - Batt - Blue Pink YellowAt that retreat, one of the women brought her spinning wheel and a drum carder that she graciously shared with anyone who wanted to try it. I watched for a day or two, but when I finally got up the courage to give it a whirl (is that where that phrase comes from?) I was instantly hooked.

 From the moment I began drafting the merino wool to spin, I was aware of an ancient connection to others who had collected, drafted, dyed and spun fiber over the centuries. And although my first skein (which I treasure) will never win a prize, the wonderful meditative process of spinning fiber, and the lack of rules of spinning art yarn, was both familiar and exhilarating. It felt like I had been doing this forever! When the art of drum carding was added to the mix, I knew I had made it to heaven!

 KPBIB - Batt - Yellow WhiteIt was a short journey from there to having two wheels (an Ashford single treadle and a Lendrum) and eventually four drum carders (one Strauch Finest, one Strauch Mad Batter, and two Louet Juniors). Recently, I have pared down to one wheel and three carders and am immensely proud of my ability to let go…even just a little.

I started creating art yarn batts for myself and others to spin, mostly, in the beginning, to rationalize my growing fiber stash. There are so many fine fibers on the planet, and so many colors……and I could only justify having some of all of it if I turned my love of fiber into a business. Today, the journey continues to be enjoyable and exciting, as new layers of fiber, knowledge and experience get added all the time.

SA:   What does your family think about your artistic endeavors?

KPBIB - Batt - Wild Woman 2KP:  They are supportive and my sister, who is also my roommate, now creates many of the batts for Batts in the Bellfry, so it is truly a family affair. In the beginning my grandkids were some of my favorite carding buddies because they suggested color combinations that really made me get outside of my “proper color” box!

Because my sister makes such exquisite batts, I am left with more time to experiment and to wash and dye more fleece and play in my favorite addiction – locks! The longer the better! I would bathe in them if I could.

SA:  Who has been your greatest supporter and biggest fan?  

Debra

Photo courtesy of Michelle Snowdon aka Wooldancer

SA:  Your color combinations are so majestic and fantastic; what look or feel are you hoping to communicate through your color choices?

 

KP:  I think the bottom line is Joy. When someone spins with a Batts in the Bellfry batt, I want them to be able to luxuriate in the softness and be inspired by the colors so that whatever they create, it brings them joy – in the process as well as the final result. KPBIB - Batt - Pink White 2Most spinners I know do a lot for others in their lives and I hope that when they sit down to spin, they allow themselves to be transported to a space of satisfaction and enjoyment.

 

SA:  I noticed that you use many different fiber mixes in your batts; how do you decide what you will use when creating each batt?  

KP:  Usually I am inspired by nature and often create batts with color blends I have seen in my travels. Anything from a flower bush to a babbling brook to trees covered with velvety moss can motivate me to create a batt. I am also an incredibly tactile person, so the batt needs to feel as good as it looks. KPBIB - Batt - yellow black pinkTo accomplish this, I often use some of the pricier fibers, like camel and cashmere and silk, (I love the finest I can find!) to make my batts.

The mix is usually a combination of wools with added fibers like silk, tencel, soy silk and bamboo thrown in for softness and added strength. And, of course, sparkle – I love sparkle! The combination is really a more intuitive process rather than a decision made in advance.

SA:  Is there anything in particular you like to create from your yarns, and what, if anything, are you working on presently?

KP:  The part I love is dying the fiber and creating the batts and add-ins.  KPBIB - Batt - Orange White Green 3My happiest moments come when I see what other fiber artists have made with my batts. I especially love the felted fabric and wild clothing creations that others produce. It is a great day when someone sends me a photo and shares their newest creation!

SA: What wheel are you spinning on?

KP:  I still use and love my Lendrum wheel. I have toyed with getting a Country Spinner or a Majacraft Aura, but I mostly spin to test my batts, and the Lendrum works perfectly for that, so I will probably just stick with it for now. However, another drum carder is probably in my near future.

SA:  What can you tell us about your studio?

KPBIB - Locks - PurplesKP:  In all honesty, my house is my studio. Those that have visited my home know that my living room long ago became fiber central. The walls are lined with clear plastic tubs with large labels indicating the fiber or color stored within. There is a shelf that holds different kinds of embellishments and add-ins for the art batts, and a large cabinet stuffed with fiber, material, silk scraps, and ribbons. There is another shelf that holds the batts listed on Etsy, so I don’t get confused and spin or sell them. The kitchen table is often the place for all kinds of work in progress, but it does get cleaned off occasionally.       

My garage and extra craft room have been taken over by fiber and fleece too. A long table on one side of my garage holds dyes and supplies and tons of glass jars. The opposite side of the room has two multi-level sweater driers for the finished fiber and a microwave and hot plate for dying. There are also multiple pans for separating long locks right next to the laundry room. So everything I need for a day of dying fiber is right at my fingertips.

SA:  Has selling your wares changed you perspective on your art?

KPBIB - Batt - Blue Pink Green WhiteKP:  Not really. When I am making batts, or dying locks,  I don’t think about the final sale. Whether I spin them or someone else does, it is the process of dying the fleece and assembling the batts that floats my boat. One thing I do now, that I didn’t before, is try to create at least 4 batts with the same recipe in case someone wants to make a larger piece. My sister is much better at creating 4 or even 6 batts at the same time – I have never excelled at consistency!

KPBIB - Batt - Wild Woman 1My absolute favorite batts at the ones I call my Wild Woman batts. They are art yarn batts, each one-of-a-kind, where I can put in whatever comes to mind in the moment. I adore making these!

SA:  What is your “next step” in fiber?

KPBIB - Batt - Coral2KP:   I want to learn the art of dying silk in deep, rich colors. I have tried a few times but have not yet been able to achieve the amazing colors that I see in my head. For the time being, I buy silk (at full retail prices!) from Gayle’s Art because her colors are so rich and vibrant. Maybe one day…….

SA:  If you were a fly on the wall of your studio, how would you describe yourself when spinning?

KP:  Whatever I do with fiber, there is that “Calgon, take me away!” aspect like those old commercials that tout escape in the bathtub. As a fly in my studio, I would see myself start early in the morning, washing, soaking, and hand-painting a variety of fibers getting ready for the dye pot. I sometimes listen to soothing music as I work, or just enjoy the silence.KPBIB - Blue White It is not unusual for me to lose all track of time and still be rinsing fiber and laying it out to dry at midnight.

SA:  If you had an opportunity to take an expert spinning lesson from someone, who would it be and why? 

KP:  I have had the pleasure of taking classes from some of the best – Lexy Boeger, Jacey Boggs, and Debra Lambert and last weekend,  Michelle Snowdon (Wooldancer) from Australia taught a workshop in Sarasota which I was incredibly excited to attend!

 SA:  Where is your favorite getaway destination?

KPBIB - Batt - Black Green (2)KP:  I love a cabin in the woods, any woods. Preferably with no TV or phones, but of course a spinning wheel on the porch. But my favorite spots are the Pisqah National  Forest in North Carolina, Olympia National Forest in Washington state and Myakka State Park here in Florida.

SA:  Thanks so much, Kim!  Readers, aren’t Kim’s batts and locks beautiful?  They are just as nice to spin as they are to look at.  One of the things I like the best about Kim’s products are the level of scouring she does — Not too much, not too little…just right!  Kim has a promotion going on for Spin Artiste readers right now:  25% off with the coupon code SPINARTISTE through 10/31/13.  Great deal!  Here’s the link to her shop.  Happy Hunting!!!

There have been so many wonderful events over the past couple of weeks with Wooldancer giving workshops, Yarnival a couple of weeks ago, Jacey Boggs is down in Sarasota this weekend, Stitches Midwest and we have Spin Quest coming up in a just two short weeks on Saturday, August 24, in Front Royal, Virginia.  Melissa Yoder Ricks (Wild Hare Fiber Studio), Christiane Knight (Three Ravens), Pam Blasko (Dream Come True Farm) are teaching.  I will be there too with a fun fiber challenge for attendees and we have an amazing vendor line up including all the teachers plus:

Kate Blaney/Gourmet Stash
Lisa Check/Flying Goat Farm
Elysa Darling/No. 222 Handspun Yarn
Dawn Richardson/Grindstone Ridge Farm
Karen Schlossberg/Avalon Springs Farm
Kathy Withers/Unique Designs by Kathy

There are still a few spots left if you’d like to join. Click here to learn more. Hope to see you there!

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