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Featured Artist: Lisa Renee McKenzie of Oscar & Sophia and Giveaway!

by EBlack on November 25, 2012

Publishers Note: How do I love Lisa Renee McKenzie of Oscar & Sophia? Let me count the ways: She made a yarn to match a pair of my shoes, her style is like no one else’s, she’s got an awesome personality AND she lives in Ontario, Canada — a place near and dear to my heart after thirteen years of living in Western, New York. In this post, you are going to learn a thing or two about this dynamic lady who has beautifully woven fiber art into so many facets of here life. My dear friend, Lisa is a fiber fanatic with a wild style all her own. From humble beginnings, Lisa has transformed fiber from merely a way to give affordable gifts, to an ever-developing, personal, art form. With amazing talent and

Spin Artiste (SA): I love your quote “I spin therefore I am.” Tell us about what that means to you and how you got where you are today with your fiber artistry.
Lisa Mckenzie (LM): Hmmm, well, lets see, I’ve always had a love of colour and texture, and I basically wanted to learn to crochet about 5 years ago because I couldn’t afford to buy christmas presents for anyone! I borrowed a hook and some commercial yarn from a friend and she taught me a basic stitch and away I went. I got obsessed, and once I set foot in my first local yarn shop and discovered the charm of handspun, my world exploded…I NEEDED these yarns, the unique results when this yarn got worked up into something…I COULDN’T GET ENOUGH. I started making stuff for people with said yarns, and people would say “oh, that’s beautiful” and I would think “It’s beautiful, because the yarn is beautiful, and I didn’t make that” I didn’t feel right taking credit for the finished product. It didn’t feel like “mine”. So, I went online, determined to find out how I could do it myself. Etsy+Youtube = Lisa making her own yarn. I found a drop spindling video, went to my local yarn shop, picked up some local alpaca (He was called “Fuzzy White Guy” – I’ll never forget), picked up a toy car wheel and dowel and cup hook and made my own spindle…I was off to the races. I instantly realized I was hooked for life when the twist made that first trip up into the alpaca I was holding, I knew it was all over. It didn’t take long for me to be ordering batts and fiber online, spinning my brains out, and working that stuff up into wearable pieces. Again, people would say “That’s lovely” and again, I would say, “well, all did was put twist into beautiful fiber”. It still didn’t feel like “mine”. The next logical step was to get a wheel (I just wasn’t making yarn fast enough) and start dyeing and blending my own batts. A used carder fell into my lap, by luck, and my boyfriend got me a Babe production wheel for christmas. Ahhhhhhhh, NOW when people complimented my work, it felt right to say…”Thank you”. There’s been no looking back ever since.
SA: Well, there is no use in looking back, because your future certainly looks bright! I read that you discovered that you could spin your own yarn through the internet. How do you think the cyber world has changed the fiber world?
LM: I recently was surfing youtube videos and I CAN’T BELIEVE how many vids there are now for spinners and felters and fiber prepare-ers (it’s a word NOW, lol)!!! I mean, the net is a invaluable resource for those of us in the fiber world, especially for someone like me, who doesn’t really have much of a fiber community around her. Up here in the Great White North, it’s not as big as it is in the States, so to have access to all y’all folks, through Facebook and Skype and Youtube and Etsy…the list goes on. I truly feel connected to all my fiber friends, so much so, that when I met you all at Yarnival this year, I feel like you’re some of my besties! If there was no internet, I wouldn’t spin. Simple as that, and more than that, I wouldn’t have come as far as I have, I wouldn’t know you guys. I wouldn’t learned as much as I have about different fibers, spinning and carding techniques…I wouldn’t be talking to you now! Thank you internet gods, for giving me Fiber Salvation!!!!
SA: How would you describe your spinning style?
LM: Ha, hmmmmm, lets see. Totally Insane? No holds barred? Like a toddler tearing his diaper off and running around free and exposed? The fatter, the crazier, the better. There’s a lot of me that wants a nice, even yarn, but then….I decide to ply that yarn, with big hunks of locks, and granny stacks, and cocoons, with autowrapped sections, NOW PLY IT AGAIN!!!! I’m like Doctor Frankenstein, and I have the same wild, drunken abandon when carding.
SA: I want to share something with you that you don’t know…the first day we arrived at Yarnival and we were getting settled at the Fiber House, you wrote a little something on the blackboard in the kitchen. You did it quickly — just off the cuff — and I remember standing there speechless because that casual scribble was such a beautifully executed little picture. Inside my head I’m thinking, “Wow, this woman is the real deal.”
You seem to love creating super soft fiber pieces. What about soft fibers are personally appealing to you?
LM: I think it’s this desire to dispell the myth: “Wool is Itchy/Scratchy”. THAT’S BALONEY, and we all know it. When it comes to fiber, if it aint next to skin soft, like, bury your face in the yummy, pillowey, softness, it AIN’T Oscar & Sophia. Silk, Angora bunny, Baby alpaca, and squishy, baby soft merino…I LOVE IT!
SA: You were a vendor at this year’s Yarnival, and you said that it was a dream come true. Could you tell us a little about your experience there?
LM: I don’t know how to tell you how much it meant to me to be there. There are so many aspects that were just so perfect. Getting there and putting real live faces to friendships I’d built “virtually”…your voices, your kindness, your humour, YOUR TALENT. Truly changed my life…walking onto the orchard at the winery, sitting on Lexi Boegers beautiful balcony, trying on a vintage suitcase full of Heathers Girl With a Hook hats with Soulfibre and Hobbledehoy (Melissa and Liz), meeting Ashley Martineau, watching Esther Rodgers fly around the vendor space, hearing the soft lilt of Deb Lambert…and so much more. The whole experience of building my booth, coming all the way from Ontario, canada, having no tent and just tying up sheets, and fabric strips…it was tons of work, especially in SWELTERING DRY HOT ASSED CALIFORNIA in July! But so much laughing, meeting my dear friend Nicole Constantin and her beautiful little girl Stella (TOTALLY my yarnival bestie) and spinning with the wonderful Brittany Wilson. Then, the lovely times at the house with everyone, with you and your partner…honestly, the whole experience changed my life. I think my favourite part though, was carding in the orchard with Ruru Mori, language barrier be damned! We spoke the language of colour and texture, and it was wonderful!
SA: Well, I must say the pleasure was all mine! I loved attending Yarnival and connecting and reconnecting with so many amazing artists, like yourself. You use fantastic colors when dyeing, and it is clear that you are obsessed with dyeing! Is dyeing your favorite step in the fiber process and if so, why?
LM: Well, thank you! I do take pride in my dyeing…I’ve gone through many techniques. I love what happens when you just throw colours in and let them do as they may. I’m constantly seeing colour inspiration. I see colour combos I love in the simplest things, peoples outfits, a terrier with a blue leash running through a pile of leaves, a burger and fries…honestly, it comes from everywhere. I try to remember to write down colour combos to use later, but if I don’t have anything, I just flick on the nature channels, and let the inspiration flow. I wouldn’t say it’s my FAVOURITE part, but it’s up there, for reals.
SA: I know you began crocheting; would you now say you are still more of a crocheter or knitter, and why?
LM: I think my heart is still in crocheting. I enjoy the freedom, and the shapes that can be created. I do love the look of knitting, but I’m not very good. I pretty much just keep it to a simple stitch, and let the yarn do the talking. The other thing? I don’t speak knit or crochet…I don’t have the patience to learn patterns. I’m like a six year old who gets frustrated when they’re not instantly good at something new.
SA: I would agree, for good or for ill, fiber art does bring out our inner child. Your art yarns are fabulous. What would you say has inspired your work?
LM: Wow, thanks so much! My inspirations come from around me, same with the colour thing…shapes and curves around me, I see them and I have to recreate them. Also, the bigger, the better: fat fat fat and irregularities are what I truly love. Rustic beauty is how I roll.
9. You are a master of beautiful, big, and bold pieces, for which you should be proud. Tell us about your fiber cave! What’s your studio like?
LM: Well, I’ve recently transitioned to a new living space, which means I’ve moved my fiber studio, it’s now a fiber corner! It’s alarmingly organized right now, but there’s still A LOT of stuff at the old studio. So help me, I will get in there and clean it out one of these days! For now I’ve got everything in these great little open nylon boxes I got at Ikea. They’re all in their own cubbies so that when I’m carding I can just grab and throw in whatever I feel like…alpaca locks, finn locks, silk opener sheets, fabric strips, whatever strikes my fancy.
SA: Even though you are in a studio transition, it should be amazing once it is complete. What can you tell us about the your wheel?
LM: Oh, Mackie – I can’t say enough about my wheel. As I mentioned, I got my start on the Babe production wheel. It wasn’t long before I upgraded to the oversized flyer. I. WAS. RUINED. Henceforth there would be no point in me trying to spin on anything with a smaller orifice or bobbin. I thought I could. I tried: I had a beautiful, locally made wheel that was very much like a Majacraft Suzie. I cannot tell you how much I despised it. Delta orifice be damned, my locky, autowrapping kept getting caught, causing overspin. GAHHHHHH!!!!!!! Many spinning sessions ended in rage. But then….along came Mackie. I got a line on an amazing deal on a fairly new Mach 2 with the oversized art yarn flyer. It wasn’t long before I found a buyer for my hated wheel (it’s my understanding that she’s very happy and loved in her new home) and my new lover was on his way to me. I got him set up immediately, and the first moment I placed my toes on those treadles my spinning world opened WIDE. The cup hook instead of the orifice CHANGED MY LIFE. The treadling is so easy (I have bad knees) and it is such a work horse, and of course that two pound bobbin. Honestly, I love that wheel like I love a member of my freakin family!
SA: You and Mackie are a match made in heaven! You have talked a lot about your adorable son and how much you love being a mom. How has your son influenced your work?
LM: Well, saying that he’s influenced my work, well, he’s changed me as a person, so a very simple answer is he changed the whole of me. I’m a better, different person since that amazing magical moment he was laid on my chest and I looked at his perfect face and realized that I’ve ALWAYS known what he looked like, in my heart, I’ve been waiting for that little person my whole life. Watching him grow up is so much fun…a challenge at times, for sure, but I wouldn’t change a thing. He’s my reason.
SA: Sounds like your bond with your son has given you a deeper outlook on life, which I’m sure influences you work for the better. If you could spin anywhere in the world where would it be?
LM: Wow, THATS an impossible question. I have a strong desire to visit Mongolia, the rolling plains, the mountains, their whole attachment to the fiber arts. By the same token, I VERY much want to visit Italy, always have…this is hard to pinpoint. I honestly can’t answer this!
SA: What would be the one word you would use to describe your yarn work?
LM: Phatass. Nuff said.
SA: Thanks so much, my friend! Readers, Lisa has two yummy fiber presents for you…she’s got a coupon for you for 20% off in her Etsy shop when you use the coupon code SPINARTISTE…and the other present is a custom made batt! Pretty awesome, huh? Just leave a comment here letting us know what you’d like your batt to contain. Extra entries for sharing on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Just leave a comment here letting us know that you did. Winner to be drawn at random next Sunday night after 5 PM EST. Having spun Lisa’s fiber, I can tell you it’s a real treat!!!

Secret Stash Game Update: So, if you caught yesterday’s post, you know that we’re taking reservations for the next round of Secret Stash which will start in early 2013. This round is going to be really special because this is the first time that we are doing a “private label” kit — The incredible Linda Atkinson of Sage Ridge Mill & Critters, a wonderful fiber artist in her own right, designing the kit this time and it will include her awesome fiber!! There are not too many spots left already so if you are thinking of joining the round, go to this page to get to the payment button.

One last thing before I let you guys go — Lisa, as you may know was one of the artists in our Leather and Lace Challenge. The Leather and Lace Challenge is currently on display at Iron Horse Fiber Art near Boston, MA. If you have the chance to see the collection in person, I think you will be amazed. So, check it out if you can!!

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