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Featured Artist: Paula Prado Huerta of De Origen Chile with Giveaway!

by The SpinArtiste on January 10, 2015

ODC - Self - paulaportafolioPublisher’s Notes:  I am extremely happy this week to be turning this blog’s focus to an artist, Paula Prado Huerta of De Origen Chile,  who lives and creates in South America — in Chile, to be exact.  That is many miles from where I’m sitting in snowy, cold  Pennsylvania.  And, while we are separated geographically, we are not when it comes to fiber.  As you will soon read, Paula is my type of girl:  she spins, she dyes, she knits, she weaves and she sells beautiful fiber tools.  So, join me in getting to know more about Paula!

Spin Artiste (SA):  Hi Paula, please give us some background information about yourself as it relates to working with fiber.

ODC - Self - paula crochetingPaula Prado Huerta (PPH):  I think in a way I have been learning about fibers my whole life. The front of our house was the knitwear store then there was the house and at the back, the factory.  So there were always yarns , cones,  packages, so many colors, knitters, and people sewing. It was really fun growing up in the middle of all that. When I first started dyeing,  I learned about fabrics and cotton. After many years,  I took this class in which my dad enrolled me.  I thought natural dyes for plant fibers was a lot more complex than animal fibers so I started really connecting with yarns and fibers again, mainly wool yarn.  Then, I took a job dyeing yarn for a cross stitch yarn store.  OH MY did I learn  from that experienced! I had no idea dyeing yarns could be so stressful:  matching colors from a meter long thread of yarn, no formulas, no nothing.   It was so much tension.  I would be all day trying to get this specific grey color with no results and then wake up at 2 A.M. with the color in my mind.  I really think that trained my eye big time.  And then there is my dad, of whom I ask him many questions, he is my textile teacher for life.  He taught a naturals fibers class at a University here in Chile years ago, so I am just constantly asking about fibers, what the process are, and about yarns I want to develop.

 ODC - HSY - Close upSA:  You have mentioned your parents taught you to love handmade textiles. How did your parents instill that value in your life?

PPH:  Both my grandmothers knit, and my mother is a great crocheter.  There were always hand knit sweaters , curtains, tableclothes around the house. My dad was always looking for handcrafted items to take home.  He also took us to a handcrafted event in Santiago where you can find many great artisans:   people showing their work, hand painted pumpkins from Peru or handmade paper kites, jewelry, and alpaca shawls from the north which always caught my eye.  When I was growing up, many of the knitwear finishes were made by hand, by people outside the factory that worked from their homes.   I used to go with my father to deliver and pick up those things.  It was fun, and I was able to know more of the process. So being around all this colors, and seeing every step, made me value things made by hand.

 SA:  I’m sure having a father who is a textile engineer has made a huge impact on the way you look at fiber. What about your father’s style have you seen rub off on your creative process?

PPH:  It did.  I think I have the advantage of really know how to identify fibers because of the daily contact I have had with them. It’s really common here in Chile people talk about wool when they actually want to say yarn. About the process , my father is very organized, a very good note taker of his process, very aware of what he is doing and about lab safety because of his career. Me, I am a complete disaster.  My dyeing notes are dyed all kinds of colors.  ODC - HSY - orange, green blue, spindle I always forget to write down amounts of colorants or yarn.  I pour acetic acid into the pots from the bottle.  I never wear gloves or protect my clothes. But when it comes to colors we have our own language, and can talk about it for hours.  We share results and get excited about new color mixes.

 SA:  I know 2004 was a big year for you. What was going on during this time that caused you to give 100% to your fiber art and open De Origen Chile?

PPH:  I had come back from school and was working with my mom at the knitwear factory.  When I was at the store, I always received the same questions from tourists:  Where can I find wool, or hand knits or anything they could take home and say it was from La Ligua.   They were looking for handmade products that were made in La Ligua 30 years ago.  Now everything was machine made.   Then I went for a few days to the south of Chile, Pucón.  That city is very rich in terms of handcrafts.  There are a lot of pretty wood items and wool yarn, and I thought it was a good idea to change the store back home and sell handmade products. The learning came later.  I was taking the natural dye class by then and learning how to knit.  I remember I used to make these skinny scarves with one skein of yarn and big knitting needles.  I did not know how to cast on, so my grandmother did it for me, and then I would knit. A year or so after that I learned how to spin. By then my boyfriend was working in the store too making knitting needles , hooks and looms.  He specializes in big sizes from 10 to recently 90 mm.

 IMG_5926SA:  How would you describe your artistic style?

PPH:  Instinctive.  It’s so hard for me to plan.  I just follow what comes to my brain with the fibers.  Some of them just talk to you.  Or I see these images when I have the roving in front of me, I spin a lot of my yarns from the roving. But I am trying to learn how to design my yarns from the fiber, the colors and the textures, so I can understand how that works. I will probably keep doing the spinning and dyeing the same messy way, but for custom orders for example, I think is really useful.

SA:  Your colors are so rich and vibrant. What is your go-to dyeing method?

PPH:  I have big pots in the workshop.  They are 60 or 80 liters, and I got them when I dyed cross stitch yarns a while ago. For the handspun yarns I usually use stainless steal bowls and just throw some dyes in there.  I use CIBA dyes and leaves that my dad and Osvaldo ( my boyfriend) collect from my backyard or around the city such as matico , walnut skin. CIBA dyes are really bright colors, and the best I’ve tried of the dyes availables here in Chile, so mixing them gives you a really pretty range of colors with which to spin.

SA:  I know you felt, spin, knit, dye, and weave. What did you learn first, and which have your grow more attached to?

ODC - FO - Blue WeavingPPH:  Of those techniques I learned how to knit first– the skinny scarves.   I also love weaving.  I still weave when I have time.  Nowadays only wall hangers, most of them custom orders from clients that come to the store from a nearby beach.  I also make them with tons of textures, and big bulky yarns.  I enjoy dyeing too, but dyieng for my handspun yarns mostly, because I can do it freestyle, no formulas. Felt is fun! I felt two or three weeks a year though:  shawls and scarves for the store,   Spinning is just my favorite thing ever.  I often find myself smiling when I am spinning, isn’t that great? To wake up and work in something you love!

SA:  You have said you also dabble in shibori and batik what inspired you to get into these art forms, and how has practicing them influenced your other fiber art practices?

ODC - Yarns hangingPPH:  I was in a store with my family and saw this African inspired painting.  I loved the colors and look of it.  My dad told me it was made with a technique called batik and explained to me how it was made. I thought it was so interesting.   I was like 14 years old, and I took a class with a lady that lived like a block away from my house, and also learned shibori with her. In batik , how colors mix when the wax cracks, it is so fun to watch. And with shibori I went nuts.   I just dyed all my t shirts and even my curtains! It trained my eye a bit.  Cotton is so different in the dyeing process and that smell when the pots are full of cotton fabric or yarn , love it!

ODC - FO - Cowl SA:  What can you tell us about your studio?

PPH:  Messy.  I have tons of space though.  The store is in an old house that was made into a restaurant, then a bar, so there is a lot of open space. But the room I like the most is the kitchen.  There is a lot of natural light there, all windows and it’s really big and have a huge wooden table I got from my grandmother, so I mostly take over that space to spin there. The fibers are all over the place.  I have the drum carder where I keep the dyes and the skein and ball winder and I have another room for dying which is outside.   I have a big backyard too where yarns and fiber can dry.

SA:  How many wheels do you own and which one is your favorite?

PPH:   I have one wheel.  It’s an electric one.  My boyfriend made it for me.  I just love it.   I have problems coordinating my feet when it comes to wheels.  Well,  I can’t tie my shoes in the traditional way either.  There is something wrong with me about those kind of things.   I was spinning everything on my drop spindle, but when it comes to production, my hands were not happy, so I decided to use an electric wheel with a big orifice so I can spin almost anything I want.

 ODC - HSY  on table with mugSA:  You seem to use a variety of textures in your yarns and knitted pieces. What attracts you to such a wide range of textures, and could you say you have a favorite?

PPH:  The first yarn I taught myself is thick and thin, with a very short stapled fiber. I love it.  It’s my favorite.  My hands are in love with it. They just move the way I need when I take to the drop spindle.  I think the texture obsession comes from all this knits I saw and from being a beginner knitter and weaver I wanted to make really simple items, stunning pieces just by having this rich texture.  Then by playing,  I just got to a whole new range of textured yarns, and now I am discovering names and techniques I did not know that existed.  There are so many possibilities!

SA:  What is your biggest hope for the next generation of fiber artists?

PPH:  I really like how there are so many students interested in rescuing techniques such as dyeing and spinning. Some of them do it for fashion and some of them from the heart.  I just adore how this is something that is becoming popular and having more platforms to show young people’s works and create hand crafters and designers. ODC - Other - spinning clases U. del pacifico 2 I think the fiber artists from this generation have been of great help spreading the word, so the next ones can continue and the techniques don’t get lost.

SA:  If you were granted three wishes, what would they be?

PPH:  First and this has nothing to do with yarns, I would like to hug my Nela , she was my first pet in adult years.   I miss her every single day.  She was always next to me when I was working.

Then Of course tons of fibers!!!! I just want a never ending bump of roving.

And third more than a wish is a plan , I want to move to the south , to a very rainy green place where I can just spin and ship store products one a week.  I am in need of that calm lately, so I wish it comes true!

SA:  Paula, thank you so much for spending some time with us!  Your story is fascinating and your work is beautiful.  Readers, make sure to check out Paula’s website and etsy store.  If you are headed to Vogue Knitting Live in New York City, Paul will be there — make sure to say hello! 

ODC Needles And, Paula has a fantastic surprise for one of you…she’s giving away a pair of her awesome knitting needles to one lucky Spin Artiste reader!!!  In order to enter, please leave a comment here before next Sunday, January 18, 2015, 5 PM EST.  Best of luck to all.



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