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Featured Artist: Mary Egbert of Camaj Fiber Arts…and yes, Giveaway!

by EBlack on November 9, 2014

ME-CF Self at ShowPublisher’s Note:  Mary Egbert of Camaj Fiber Arts is a great mind whose approach to fiber art is dynamic, original, and frankly…inventive, yes, inventive! Mary has created a new silk product called Soffsilk ® that is rocking the fiber art world. With a deep love for color and texture, and a vision for innovation, Mary was a joy to interview and get to know.   

 Spin Artiste (SA): Welcome, Mary!   Tell us, what has been your story in fiber thus far?

Mary Egbert (ME): Back in 2008 me and my husband went to the AOBA national show in Salt Lake City, UT, where we lived. We really went so he could practice his photo taking skills, but we fell head over heels in love with alpacas. We soon bought our first starter herd of five girls in 2009. I bought my first wheel soon after, a Louet S10, and it sat in the corner of my living room for a year because I was so intimidated by spinning yarn. I learned how to wash, process and dye the fiber long before I learned to spin. I scoured the internet and perused books on spinning and finally took the plunge. There was no looking back. I have been a long time crafter growing up with a mother and grandmother who both were tailor quality sewers. They taught me the skill of sewing which I think lends well to spinning in the sense of eye hand coordination.

SA: With a mother and grandmother in the sewing business, I’m not surprised you have become such a fiber master. ME-CF Circle of YarnWhat motivated your move from Utah to Florida? 

ME: What else makes you move across the country…grand kids! And twins at that. I can’t tell you the joy it is to help raise my grand children. And being only about 15 minutes from the ocean isn’t bad either. I have four other grandchildren, two in Franklin, NC and two in Charlotte, NC. Oh how I wish there were three of me.

SA: An ocean close by and grandkids in your arms – who could ask for anything more? I know you have a deep love for silk. What is it about silk that excites you?

ME-CF Self and the BoysME: I love silk for the history and exotic past it represents. The absolute skill it takes to spin yarn from a little cocoon is beyond my comprehension. Silk is exciting because it can come in many shapes and forms: cocoons, carrier rods, bricks, thowster waste, hankies, thrums. And the way silk dyes is beyond compare to any fiber I have dyed before. The saturation is so rich and vibrant what’s not to love.

SA: I totally agree, its unique history and rich textures can really draw a person in. You have mentioned you use many different types of silk. What is your favorite silk and why?

ME: Well my most favorite type of silk is Soffsilk® of course. But a very close second favorite is mawata hankies. ME-CF Rainbow rovingI love the wispy layers of silk that seem so delicate, but in essence they are as strong as the cocoon that held the silk worm during its journey to become a moth. They take dye in such fascinating ways that really appeal to my sense of controlled chaos. I love to spin them using the spider web technique over a multi plyed yarn or draft them into roving to knit. They are just a really fun fiber to work with.

SA: Speaking of beautiful silks, you have created your own custom silk product called Soffsilk ®. Can you describe Soffsilk®, and what was the process like to come up with this fantastic material?

ME-CF collageME: Soffsilk® was developed out of desperation. Particularly because of the pulled silk wastes that were stringy, dirty tangles of mess and came in mostly reds and blues. I loved the idea of the pulled silk, but just could not bear to put bad fiber into my yarns and the color choices put a tight boundary on my work. I worked with my overseas business partner and together we developed a premium machined silk fiber that was both clean, ultra soft and could be dyed any color of the spectrum. Once I got my hands on it I knew it was something special.

SA: What a great idea come to life! I can only image your excitement when it all came together. How have your customers responded to Soffsilk®?

ME: My customers are gaga over Soffsilk®. It gives them the versatility to spin it, blend with other fibers, felt with feltable fibers and even make paper using the silk fusion technique.ME-CF Blue Red batt 1 It creates ultra light weight yarns, even when multi plyed. It also lets them experience silk in a more relaxed way in that they don’t have to learn to spin from the fold like they would with a slick silk brick. It’s a user friendly fiber.

SA: When you are not using silk, what is your alternative fiber of choice in your personal art work?

ME: I love to work with curly fibers like teeswater and Leicester wools. I love highly textured yarns and the curls allow all sorts of random textures and are so fun to spin. And dyeing them is just as much fun

ME-CF Bright Purple Blue YarnSA:  What would you say is a connection between your personal fiber art work and your business work?

ME: The connection is one of passion for fiber, color and texture.  I’ve always been a touchy feely person and if it doesn’t appeal to my sense of touch I don’t want it. That has moved me to work with, and sell, ultrafine fibers, whether it’s silk or wool. I’m also a calculated risk taker . Once I know I won’t lose everything, I take the leap of faith.

SA: The way you express color in your art proves you are a bit of a risk taker. Your colors are excitingly bold.ME-CF Colorful Yarn on Floor When you sit down to plan out your fiber colors, how do you determine what each silk will end up being?

ME: My plan is no plan. Seriously, I just kind of take out my dye box and pull out some colors that I think might look good together and just go for it. I use my color wheel from time to time to check color blends. I might have a broad idea in mind like maybe jewels or earth tones, but other than that it’s totally random. It’s that controlled chaos thing.

ME-CF Art Yarn in Hand 2SA: That is awesome that you are just able to go from your instincts like that!   How would you describe your processing studio?

ME: I dye in the kitchen and I spin in the living room when I am doing my personal fiber work. I have a dedicated bedroom in our little house to store my goodies Like many fiber artists, and I’m sure many can relate with me, our passion, stash, obsession, call it what you will, starts to take over. I try to control it from creeping to the rest of the house so my husband can keep his sanity, bless his heart.

ME- CF Taken by Suzy BrownSA: In your personal fiber work, what wheel have you been spinning on lately?

ME: I have two wheels; a Louet S10 was my first and my favorite wheel. It’s simple and it fits my spinning style really well. Even though I bought the bulky flyer for the S10, it was not big enough for the yarns I wanted to make. I soon added the Ashford Country Spinner to do the bulkier yarns. I find I’m limited with the one speed on the CS1 and am looking at getting a multi whorl CS2 bobbin that would allow for a broader range of spinning on that wheel. I use both wheels equally.

SA: Your Youtube tutorials are great, too.  What new skills have producing Youtube videos taught you?   

ME-CF Yellow Red Blue fiber bunchsME: It has taught me not to talk so much, well at least on camera. Sometimes I cringe when I watch them, but it’s the “listen to what I’m saying not my on camera abilities” thing. I just try to share what little knowledge I have with anyone that is willing to watch. I have so much more to learn and hopefully many more videos to make.

SA: Teaching really does provide more opportunities to learn. I can’t wait to see more videos soon! If you were any of your yarns (Shay, Boheme, Threadlocks, Spirolls), which one would you be and why?  

ME: That question made me laugh! Probably the Boheme because it speaks to my inner bohemian princess, or should I say silk goddess.

EZ TwistSA:  Thank you so much, Mary! Readers, this is really exciting…Mary is making available an ounce of Soffsilk ® and her awesome Eszee Twist Tool to one of you…to enter, simply leave a comment on this blog post and a winner will be selected at random.  Deadline for entries will be 11/16/14, 5:00 PM EST.  Best of luck to all!




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