• /wp-content/uploads/2012/11/slide1.jpg
  • /wp-content/uploads/2012/11/slide2.jpg
  • /wp-content/uploads/2012/11/slide3.jpg

Featured Artist: Laura Spinner of Rainbow Twist Handspun

by The SpinArtiste on March 16, 2015

LS - SelfPublishers Note:  I’m so happy this week to be featuring Laura Spinner of Rainbow Twist Handspun!  Laura is an extremely talented dyer and spinner and knitter and, all the while, she’s very low key about her talent.  Laura has been a fiber artist from adolescence, with a tremendous gift for producing fine fibers, and a unique eye for color. Laura has turned her skill into a vibrant business, without denying simple artistry; she gives everyone the opportunity to share in her love for the art.  Enjoy getting to know more about Laura!

Spin Artiste (SA): How did you get involved in fiber art?

Laura Spinner (LS): My involvement in the fiber arts has evolved over many decades. My mom taught me how to knit in my teens, and I designed and knit colorful Lopi-style sweaters all through my school years. After a 15 year break during which I was very busy with career and children, I resumed knitting with crazy passion- complex cable pullovers, and Fair Isle sweaters- with steeks!LS - Self - Fair Isle– until one day I picked up a skein of Spun Monkey handspun in my LYS. My universe shifted. I had never felt such texture, nor seen such delightful color play. I was hooked. A few months later while shyly watching a spinner at our state fiber festival I decided to take spinning lessons. As my spinning techniques evolved I started washing and dyeing raw fiber in order to better control the quality and color of my finished work. Now I love to start with raw wool and create a piece, whether woven or knitted, made completely from my own hands.

SA: It is so great that your love for fiber never left you, even after your 15 year hiatus. What role would you say fiber plays in your life? And where do you see your art going in the years to come?

LS - Dyed Fiber - DayGloAlpacaLS: Fiber is both my passion and my small business, so it is pretty much a huge part of my life. If I feel like spinning a crazy yarn I’ll do it! If I wake up imagining a vivid color scheme I’ll paint some extra long Teeswater locks. When my eye falls upon a particularly squooshy skein in my pile I’ll weave or knit with it.  I’m always snapping photos of color I encounter in daily life.  The inspiration for my art is unplanned and spontaneous, though the execution of it is meticulous. In the future I would like to incorporate felting in my work, do more weaving, maybe do some teaching.

SA: It sounds like fiber and color go hand-in-hand in your life. You once described your yarns as “unique, lively, and colorful.” What inspires you to produce such radiant fiber creations?

LS - HSY - clown yarnLS: The best advice I ever gave myself (ha ha) was “don’t worry about how you’re going to use this yarn when it’s finished”. I find it tends impose limits on a spinner if one must spin with a utilitarian goal. I obviously love bright color and crazy texture combinations, and choose materials I want to see entwined in a yarn, rather than working from a theme. I see the yarn as the end, and like to have the yarn choose a project, rather than the traditional order of pattern first, yarn second.

SA: Sometime the best advice comes from within ourselves. There is no denying you create a variety of exquisite yarns. From traditional yarns to the whimsical, your yarns are fantastic. What style of yarn spinning is your favorite and why?

LS: Thank you, I really enjoy ALL of them! The versatility is what I love, and I’d honestly hate to choose one over the other. But if I HAD to, I’d say lockspinning. I love digging into the basket of soft, lustrous locks and watching those curls spin by!LS - HSY - Purple Tail spun

SA: I know you enjoy seeing how your customers use your yarns and locks. Tell us, what have been some of your favorite fiber creations from your customers?

LS - Dyed Fiber - CaramelLS: Oh, I get such a kick out of seeing what so many amazing artists make from my yarn and fiber! My dyed locks and crazy yarn as hair on whimsical Waldorf-style dolls, funky hats knitted from art yarn, and felted toys from my dyed fiber top the list.

SA: I’m sure your customers are just as pleased with your fibers as you are with their pieces. Your yarn seems to exude personality. What would you say is the personality of your yarn? Is it a reflection of your character, or does it have a personality all its own?

LS: It is happy yarn, definitely a reflection on my character. I so love spinning, and often imagine myself a fairy tale spinner infusing charms and good vibes into my work. I only spin when I desire, so it’s always a work of joy, optimism, and inspiration. I listen to audiobooks while I spin, so many of the yarns are inspired by what I’m reading.LS - Dyed Fiber - Cupcake

SA: Wow, that is amazing. I love how even a good book can produce deep and meaningful inspiration. We would love to hear all about your studio.

LS - SpinningStudioLS: I sure wish I had a studio! I have a room with a wall of shelves and cubbies which are overflowing with fiber- bins of top, fleece, locks, spilling out and taking over the space. My wheel is in a cozy corner with windows and good lighting. There are usually cats nearby keeping me company. I do my dyeing and fiber washing in the kitchen, to my husband’s amused consternation.

SA:  I know a lot of folks can relate to your set up.  Now, since you mentioned your wheel, I must ask; what wheels are you using these days?

LS - Self - Camp PluckyfluffI have only one wheel, my trusty Majacraft Rose. She can spin ANYTHING, with style. I also have the Overdrive head
attachment, which I enjoy tremendously.

SA: Can you tell us what motivated you to start your Etsy shop, and how has selling your wares now influenced your approach to fiber?

LS: I started spinning so much yarn and I could not use it all. I was in a spinning group which met at our (now closed) LYS, “Purl Jam”. The owner, Helen, generously offered to sell my yarns there with no commission- she told me they brought people into the store and could be combined with yarns she sold for projects. She was instrumental giving me the confidence boost I needed to open Rainbow Twist Shop on Etsy. I had never run a business so it was all new, but Etsy made it easy.

LS - HSY - Farmer's MarketSelling to customers has affected my approach to fiber in that I try to produce wares which will really work for the group likely to use them. For example, yarn for doll hair needs to hold up to child’s play, and long locks need to be able to be wetted. Knitters may want softer yarn with a nice drape. Spinners want lustrous fiber with a good handle. I will often note these details in my descriptions to guide customers to what they really want and make a decision they are happy with in the long term. Though, I almost cried the first time a dollmaker bought my yarn and I realized it was going to be cut up unto little pieces! I also try to get out of my color comfort zone so customers won’t become bored. I never want my passion for fiber art burned out by repetition.

LS - Misc - PicMonkey Collage1228I’d like to add that the completely unexpected reward from having my online business is all the wonderful friends I’ve made through working with talented artists and crafters. I have learned so much from how these artists use fiber and yarn. It has really opened up my world.

SA: I hear you are still expanding your market. You recently mentioned that the Great Pacific Frame Shoppe invited you to display and sell your yarns at their location. How would you describe the transition from your personal business to a brick and mortar selling your yarns? And why did you decided to continue selling through your Etsy shop?

LS: Selling in a physical shop can be a difficult transition, especially if the shop is a long distance away. You don’t have the daily oversight of how the yarn is displayed and handled. I kept my Etsy shop open because I have a lot of online customers, and Great Pacific was 1.5 hours away, so I couldn’t go there often to deliver new yarns. I would love to be able to sell my yarns in more yarn shops, and for people to be able to easily see and feel them.  Unfortunately most of those in my local area have closed. I do have the opportunity to sell at some local art shows and fiber festivals, and would like to expand there as well.LS - FO - Woven Scarf RainbowSprinkles

SA: You sell such beautiful locks! When did you decide to start selling dyed locks, and what about selling them in this less processed form appeals to you?

LS - Dyed Fiber - ModernArtLS: Thanks again! Stepping into fiber processing and dyeing was difficult at first. Initially when dollmakers requested curly lockspun yarn for doll hair they had me purchase other dyers’ locks. Unfortunately so many of these were dirty, matted, and felted, and I was unable to spin a yarn of the quality I wanted. I had already been buying some of Natalie Redding’s excellent fleece, and tentatively started dyeing that for custom orders. Natalie and my close friend Ginny of FatCatKnits have taught me so much about dyeing. My favorite fleece to work with are the extreme long Teeswater locks. They are literally a blank canvas on which I paint. I love the look and handle of them, and enjoy the ways my customers use them- doll hair, fringe, tailspinning, weaving. I am so much more aware of color now that I dye. Whenever I spot appealing color combinations- whether online, in nature, or on someone’s clothing- I snap a photo and use it later as inspiration.

SA:  I know that you have a full time profession in addition to your fiber business.  How do you balance a “day job” with your fiber business?

LS - ToddLS:  I work full time as a pediatrician so I need to fit in my dyeing, spinning, knitting, shipping, and correspondence, as well as family, in the little remaining time.  I am a very efficient person, but there is truth in the caution about one’s passion becoming one’s business.  A busy day in the office may make me too tired for creativity, but I feel obligated to complete orders and ship them out anyway.  It’s difficult to keep boundaries when you have your own business!  Any time a message pops up I feel I should answer it right away, or I feel obligated to finish a project even though I want to rest.  Previously fiber arts were relaxing, but not as much anymore.   Recently I have been exploring ways to restore balance in order to maintain my creative energy.  Some are simple things, like limiting time on Facebook, and giving myself more time to complete orders, or even declining orders which aren’t interesting or pleasant to me.   But mostly it’s a matter of cultivating a state of mind, being aware of potential burnout, and disciplining myself to slow down and take stock.  Breathe.  Smile.  Spin.

SA: I know you have a lot of wisdom to share with those just starting off in fiber art. If you could give one word of encouragement to a frustrated and unseasoned fiber newbie, what would it be?

LS - HSY - NerdsLS:  “Love what you just made. It’s probably really good, you just don’t know it yet.”

SA: I would say that is great advice for all of us. So, to close out our conversation, tell us what book you are currently enjoying.

LS: I enjoy listening to epic novels when I spin, and I’m currently listening to is the World War 2 epic, “The Winds of War”, by Herman Wouk.

SA:  One of my favorite authors!  Thank you so much, Laura.  I have really enjoyed getting to know more about you as I’m sure folks reading this have as well.  Readers, Laura has a fun giveaway to share with us!  She’s offering one of her art yarn/neck pieces to one lucky reader…LS - FO - CollarTo enter, just leave a comment here before 5 PM EST, next Sunday, March 22nd.  Best of luck to all!

Previous post:

Next post: