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Featured Artist: Monte McBride and Faith Welsh of Fiber Fusion Taos + Giveaway!

by EBlack on September 21, 2014

FFT - FW - Spinning 025Publisher’s Note:   This week we are going to delve into the world of two very creative ladies:  Monte McBride and Faith Welsh of Fiber Fusion Taos.  And, it’s perfect timing for me because I’m getting ready to have the pleasure of meeting them both at Jane Thornley’s upcoming inspirational cadre, On Higher Ground, in Taos, New Mexico from October 5 to 10th.  I know you are going to truly enjoy getting to know these two artists as much as I have!

 Spin Artist (SA): You both are clearly dedicated fiber artists, through and though. Tell us all about your journey in fiber.

Monte's Art Yarn with Strings

Monte’s Art Yarn with Strings

Monte McBride (Monte): My story begins back to my first memories as a child, living in a rural area of Wyoming.  A running brook..a discarded sewing machine head that had washed up on the bank and me at first light pretending to sew on that old rusty machine.  The story continues (using different tools) to this day many many years later.

Faith Welsh (Faith):  I come from a long line of women doing hand work. My mother taught me to knit when I was around 8 years old. Both my grandmothers did needle work and I learned the art of crewel embroidery at around the same time. As a teenager, I continued to build upon these skills while studying art in school and college. My company, Snow Lion Studios, was born in 1988 in British Columbia where I lived for 34 years and started my enjoyment of being a working artist in a very exciting time.  All the while, I continued to knit and embroider.

I moved to Taos, NM in 2003 and was juried into Las Comadres Women’s Co-operative Gallery where my paintings were represented. My interest in fiber was going strong and I started displaying garments that I had designed, along with the paintings. It was interesting to see the similarities between the two mediums develop. One day, I said to myself “what if, I start using fiber in the same way I use paint?” and a whole new way of working developed.

Faith's Vista Verde Triptych

Faith’s Vista Verde Triptych

Two mile stones in my artistic career happened concurrently in 2006: having my garments displayed at Artemisia Taos and meeting my friend and mentor, Jane Thornley, while she was facilitating a workshop in Santa Fe. A quantum shift happened for me at that time and I started focusing on fiber work exclusively. I have been working with Jane ever since and our collaboration has led to developing the concept of “On Higher Ground”, a week long workshop held in Taos, NM this October featuring 5 fiber artists working in different facets of producing wearable art. Our intent is to carry on with this idea of convergence and host other similar workshops in exotic places.

What really completed turning Snow Lion Studios into fiber production was the creation of Fiber Fusion Taos with friend and fellow fiberista Monte McBride in the summer on 2013. We are having a wonderful time teaching knitting and spinning workshops, plus offering the option of “Build Your Own Classes” in either of our Taos or Santa Fe studios.

SA:  I know both of you have developed “Artist Statements” to best describe your philosophies as artists, but if you had to whittle your statements down to just one word, what would it be and why?

Monte: I guess I am cheating a bit, my word is hyphenated “fiber-fever”.  It best describes my affliction.

Monte's Feathers Art Yarn

Monte’s Feathers Art Yarn

Faith:  Exploration. My work develops and grows out of my insatiable interest in finding out what happens if I try something new and different. I am simply not afraid to experiment with untried ways of working with fiber both in knitting and in spinning with my favored suspended spindles.

FFT - FW - Core spun

SA:  Monte, you once said “I am intrigued and driven by fiber work! I think that is because I am intrigued by history.” What is it about the historical connection with fiber that excites you?

Monte: What continues to excite me is the connection with human kind.  Ever since we dropped the animal skins from our bodies and replaced them with woven/knitted  garments we have become united through fiber.  As our species evolved we have brought fiber art right along with us in a creative and functional way.

MM-FF Red woven wrap

Monte’s Red Woven Wrap

SA: Speaking of fiber history, I know you specialize in Navajo textiles. What drew you to those particular textiles, and how do you incorporate the Navajo inspiration while still making a piece your own?

Monte: I once worked as a Navajo textile restorer.  This period in my life was so meaningful and rewarding as a weaver.  I had the great honor of working on historic pieces made by some of the most accomplished weavers in the world.  Again, I was drawn to the connection between myself and the creative souls that have gone before me.  I am inspired by the colors and the mastery of technique to this day.

SA:  Faith, I know you started off as a painter and you said, “I approach my fiber pieces using the same constructs as painting:  color, value, chroma, shape, texture and how they fit together.”  What has the process been like training yourself to approach fiber this way?

Faith's Penelope's Tunic (rear view)

Faith’s Penelope’s Tunic (review view)

Faith:  Rather than training myself, this process was a natural evolution. Since all along, I have been delving into both disciplines it just fell into place to combine the love of both. I have always said I am a painter who knits and a knitter who paints. My sense of color, texture and movement have always been strong in my visual field and I think that translates into all my work, indeed, into my entire life.

SA:  Another one for Faith – you also mentioned you sometimes like to switch from kitting to crochet, to Tunisian crochet and back again in one piece; a true freeform artist.  How would you say switching fiber techniques back and forth enhanced your style, and what has been your favorite mixed piece so far?

Faith:  It interests me to combine elements in unusual ways. The textures and random patterns that develop because of switching techniques mid stream add deeper dimensions to the resulting pieces.

Faith's Mixed Methods

Faith’s Mixed Methods

Faith's Mixed Methods, detail

Faith’s Mixed Methods, detail

SA: What motivated you to combine forces and how  would you describe the process of developing Fiber Fusion Taos?

Monte's Grasshopper Art Yarn

Monte’s Grasshopper Art Yarn

Monte: I was impressed by Faith’s talent but also the way she lives her life….totally devoted to her art.  I thought to myself this is someone I could actually work with (I tend to be a loner).  I  love teaching and knew that she could offer to students the pieces I might be missing.  Two creative heads are better than one.  Also her expertise in Intuitive Knitting  was such a great complement to my particular handspun yarn, as well as  her own, which she uses extensively in her wonderful pieces.  Our process of developing FiberFusionTaos has been one of the most exciting stages of my fiber life.  We constantly inspire and support each other.  In short we are not only business partners but great friends and between the two of us we have over 100 years of fiber experience in the fiber world.

FFT - FW - spindles creating 72614Faith:  Monte and I have known each other for a long time and last summer we started brainstorming how to put together a teaching format that would include most of the areas of  our individual expertise. Fiber Fusion Taos was born and is still growing and changing as we delve into new directions.  Our format is flexible and in addition to holding workshops, we have the option of “building your own classes”
which allows students to choose the areas they would like to work in.

SA: What a fiber dream team you both are! I would love to hear about your work space. How would you describe your studios?

Monte's Nettie in Multicolor

Monte’s Nettie in Multicolor

Monte: I am fortunate (I think) to have two studios, one in Taos and one in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  My Taos Studio is in my home, one room well lit with the famous New Mexico light that streams in my windows.  It has a very comfortable and  homey atmosphere.  Faith and I teach in this space when our students are in the Taos area.

My Santa Fe studio is Upstairs at the White Swan which is an historic building.  This affords us two spaces in which to teach in the Land of Enchantment.

Faith:  I have the great good fortune to live on a beautiful hacienda in Taos, NM that includes a detached studio built by sculptor, Barry George. It has 12 foot high ceilings and lots of large windows that let in the amazing clear light of New Mexico. There is always lots going on in there at any given point in time… spinning, knitting, beading, garment construction. I am surrounded by fiber, art work, color, texture and infinite inspiration!

SA: Both your studios sound like inspiring spaces. Tell us, what are you spinning at this point in your career?

Monte's Peacock Art Yarn

Monte’s Peacock Art Yarn

Monte:  I primarly spin my signature yarns “Poquitos” (meaning “a little bit” in Spanish) and so called because they are small yardage skeins of colorful and highly textured corespun.  These smaller skeins allow their users to incorporate a great variety of handspun in one piece without having to buy larger put-ups of yarn.  They really support the idea of intuitive knitting.

Faith's Carter Handspun in Holly

Faith’s Carter Handspun in Holly

Faith:  Currently I am spinning hand dyed silk roving singles plied with “stribbons” of Carter Smith shibori. I am also loving working with silk hankies and core spinning recycled sari silk. I use suspended spindles exclusively. As a participant in Arlene and Suzy’s Journey for the Golden Fleece, I am expanding my horizons with spinning and experimenting with techniques unfamiliar to me. This is an extremely exciting time in my fiber life and my creative juices are overflowing!!!


SA: You have been extremely active in teaching local fibers artists new tricks of the trade. How have you seen the fiber art community, and individuals, benefit from your classes?

Monte's Rose Yarn

Monte’s Rose Yarn

Monte: I would say that our unique techniques both in spinning and knitting  have helped our students free up their own unique talents.  No rules, no boundaries and so much fun creatively.  Most students come away from our classes with a sense of wonderment  and self confidence that may have been lacking in their work.

SA:  What is the most rewarding part of teaching?

Faith:  The best time for me is when someone has that “ah ha” moment when the techniques I share become clear and the knitter or spinner can just fly with their new repertoire.

SA: I like your teaching style. Providing an outlet to learn and express artistic freedom is key. As a teachers, what have you seen as the most difficult barrier for fiber artists to fully grasp freeform artistry?

Monte:  Probably the biggest barrier is the possible reluctance to give up old ideas about the need to follow rules and therefore the fear of failure.

Faith:  I think the hardest part for anyone to grasp the concept of form form is letting go of being tied to patterns, instructions and the way they are used to do anything.  Initially letting go of the known can be intimidating for some.  Others intuitively “get it” and are immediately liberated.  It is a matter of being willing and able to take that leap.

SA: Thank you for sharing your thoughts in fiber with us this week. I have just one last question for you. If you got each other’s name in a Secret Santa gift exchange, what would you buy?

Faith's Early Fall Asymmetrical Poncho

Faith’s Early Fall Asymmetrical Poncho

Monte: I would buy Faith a season (maybe 2) pass for a world class ski area.  She is an avid and experienced  skier.  Actually Taos has a world class ski area where she skis every winter.  But she might like a change of scenery.

Faith:  That’s easy!  I would get Fiber Fusion Taos registered in this year’s Stitches, TNNA and HGA convergence and make travel arrangements.  All expenses paid for Monte!

SA:  If Monte does not take you up on that, I will!  Thanks again for a great interview and beautiful images. 

Now, it’s onto giveaway time…first last week’s winner of the beautiful fiber from Luxe Fiber Designs is Nancy…Thanks to all who entered and liked their Facebook page.  Nancy, I will be in touch to coordinate your getting your prize. 

Monte and Faith have an awesome giveaway for you this week!!  One of you lucky ducks is going to get one of Monte’s Poquito yarns and one of Faith’s sari silk corespun yarns.  Sweet, huh?!?  To enter, simply leave a comment below letting us know if you’ve done any experimenting with freeform techniques.  Deadline for entries is next Sunday, September 28th at 5 PM EST.  Best of luck to all!

And…one last thing…I’m going to be leading an online spinning session Tuesday night over at www.fiberygoodness.com.  During the session, we’re going to spin together and I’m going to share some of my approach to yarn design.  There are a couple spots left.  Click here to get to the tickets page.  Hope to see you there!


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