Publisher’s Notes: Stacey Budge Kamison of UrbanGypZ is one of the savviest, coolest fiber artists around. Her fiber work is beautiful, her newsletters are fun and interesting and she’s a terrific cheerleader for others through her various online creativity inspiring offerings. And, if all that is not enough to draw you into reading more about her, personally, as I was fortunate enough to meet her in person a few months ago, I can add, she’s very sweet kind person too. Enjoy reading more about Stacey, our lovely Featured Artist this week!
Spin Artiste (SA): Tell us how you made your way to the fiber world.
Stacey Budge Kamison (SBK): On a whim, I took a community college knitting class in 1998 in Birmingham Alabama. But with no real yarn stores available at that time, I lost interest. But when I moved to Asheville in December of 2001, I needed warm clothes. So I began to knit a very wide (too wide) garter stitch scarf out of some crazy novelty yarn I found on sale.
I was moving to Asheville to take a job as an art director for Lark Books (now known as Lark Crafts (http://www.larkcrafts.com
) and is now based in NYC). At that time, Lark was also the publisher of Fiber Arts Magazine (http://www.fiberarts.com
). Being in the midst of a craft community as part of my job, and with every imaginable fiber art book at my disposal, I became obsessed with all things knitting, and then all things spinning.
Lark encouraged my obsession big time. They even sent me to some classes and TKGA in Atlanta. I tech edited a couple of books. I started to advise on all their knitting and crocheting books. I found community online with the knitting blog rings and eventually Ravelry. Just living in Asheville helped, too… So many great yarn stores, SAFF, and fiber guilds.
SA: Who has been your greatest supporter in your development as an artist?
SBK: My Dad. He is an engineer who wanted to be a professional musician.
My grandfather was a pianist for several big bands in New Orleans, but his day job was at the shipyard. So, when my dad was deciding on a career, my grandfather took him around to a bunch of professional musicians who advised him to forget being a musician full time, and get a real job to support the family he wanted. He now plays with his community concert band, while embracing being an awesome engineer.
My Dad, in turn, NEVER discouraged me from following my dream of making a living as an artist. And has done so very much to support ever step of that journey, no matter how scary it might have seemed to him as a father. I could probably name many influences on my art style wise. But honestly, the biggest influence has been knowing that my dad had complete blind faith in me, made it safe for me to take many leaps of faith and I never felt I had to rethink my career path as an artist.
SA: How would you describe your approach to art overall, and then more specifically your approach to fiber art?
SBK: Observe everything. And by everything, I mean grocery store packaging, the carpet at my account’s office, tv shows, gardens, architecture, tourist watching. I pay attention to what is awesome and what disagrees with me on an emotional level. But not in a way that is like taking notes, more in a way that fills my mind and heart with experience.
Take time to play with creating…not just fiber,
I keep my art journals I also love to cook without a recipe, up-cycle clothing, garden, mess around with home dec projects, and most recently am in Alena Hennessey’s Year of Painting Class (http://www.alenahennessy.com/shop/online-courses/a-year-of-painting/
). All of this is part of the creative mojo fueled by being observant and trying to recreate certain feeling.
Sit down to work on new ideas, just play. I put my art journal and all other references away and trust that all I need to remember is in my heart.
Be okay with making mistakes. I will often take a beautiful idea and ruin it by going too far (that helps me see where the ceiling is on particular direction) regularly critiquing my own work. Asking my friends to critique my work(and call them on their bullshit when they just say “wow that’s great”).
With my fiber art specifically… all of the above plus:
Keep doing what works. When I hit on a good idea, I will keep making that thing, to master it. Then I will make the same but with little variations, noting in my art journal if new ideas bubble up for later.
Trying to keep a handle on the noise. Networking is awesome for helping mastermind ideas. But I find networking works best when balanced with turning down the hive mind so I can find my own direction based on all of my own creative mojo. I could never be an innovator of ideas if I am stuck following the latest trends.
SA: Those are fantastic perspectives, especially the last one. Speaking of challenges, you once said: “Be a better knitter by making spectacular mistakes.” I have to say, this is great advice! Where did this personal perspective come from, and how have you seen this advice help other knitters?
SBK: Oh Yes!! That was an article I recently wrote (http://urbangypz.com/be-a-better-knitter-by-making-spectacular-mistakes/
) after reflecting on how uncomfortable I was picking up painting this year, with all the mistakes and unknowns. It reminded me of all the stumbling and “learning experiences” I made when I first started knitting, spinning, dyeing…etc. Like I said above, taking a good idea too far helps you see where the ceiling is on a great idea. I would like to think they are all happy mistakes, and eventually they are. But they completely suck while realizing something is horribly wrong. The bigger more painful mistake the more valuable the lesson became.
For example, my first major cabled sweater I made with a unmercerized cotton yarn and it took me a solid month to knit. Holy smokes that thing was super heavy and would “grow “ as I wore it throughout the day. I ended up hating that sweater. I will definitely never make that mistake again.
When I wrote the article, I wanted to assure other fiberistas that the path to their art is never a straight line. Expect some project shame in the beginning. It is okay, it is like creative training wheels. Expect to have big mistakes, that will lead to big a-ha moments. Some of those a-ha moments might even shake out new innovations for the way you create altogether. But I also want them to know it is all a part of being an artist from start to finish. Just because you are in a project shame stage does not mean you can not claim the title of artist. Artists will always be critical of their own work as they grow.
It is so refreshing to hear a knitter (usually a right brained knitter) tell me they always thought they were bad knitters, but now understand it is part of the process and can cut themselves some slack.
SA: What has been the most challenging fiber art form for you to master?
SBK: Honestly… I would have to say dyeing. As an graphic designer, my approach to color was very different. But you would think since I worked with color trends and styles every day that I would be a natural at yarn dyeing.
Choosing color for graphic art, and color for yarn dyeing are two completely different approaches being used in two very different ways by two totally different audiences. I learned the hard way that my old rules for working with color in graphic design did not translate into dyeing yarn in a way that I liked. Having to unlearn 20 years of color theory and start over was pretty tough.
SA: That is very interesting and surprising. I give you a lot of credit for being willing to work so hard to break those former approaches. I have seen a few of your colorful knitted spiral pieces. What are those lovely spirals, and where did the idea come from?
SBK: Yes! OMG that is freeform crochet inspired by the awesome Hannah Martin and her beautiful work, OfMars(who you featured Dec 2013! she is so cute!!) She has some terrific tutorials. What I loved about Hannah’s work is she varied the size of the pieces and added composition and flow to the fabric she created from those pieces. As a garment, her work flows with the contours of the body. Just stunning. So inspiring. And looks awesome with hand dyed yarn. It was so easy to get hooked (no pun intended…)
SA: You have gorgeous sari silk yarn available. Please tell us more about this yarn; what you have found to be the best use for it?
SBK: I carry sari silk because I love love love the look of it. It is hand spun by a fair trade collective of women in India. The story of how they support their community with their beautiful work is something I am proud to stand behind.
But as many people know sari silk yarn can be tough to work with (ever notice there are a lot of sari silk hand bag patterns?) I have found that it works up best when you use a WAY bigger needle than what you would think (like a 10-13), letting the openness of the stitch give room for the fibers to bloom. Very much in the same way you would work with a thin mohair yarn. And while sari silk yarn can feel like you are knitting with rope, once you steam block your project, the fabric just melts into a beautiful silky drape. Steam blocking is key, it breaks down the sizing in the yarn. Use lots of bursts of steam. I created a wonderful crescent shawl that uses the sari silk yarn. Here is the link (http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/sari-silk-crescent-shawl
), it is a free download…
SA: That looks awesome…makes me want to go into my stash and dig out some of that sari silk I’ve been saving! What is your studio like?
SBK: I love my studio. It is in the basement of an office building in a completely unsexy part of town (South Asheville…for those who know). You would only notice my building if your dentist or financial planner was my neighbor. But it is 650sq ft, with a wall of huge windows, cheap rent (oy! studios in Asheville can run higher than my mortgage!), and a terrific landlord.
A separate studio was necessary because I live in a tiny bungalow and the yarn was taking over so much of my house. The studio is a great working space for me. I have lots of room for every part of what I do…a dyeing area, a carding area, a big table project area, a photo area, my desk..etc. I am a messy artist, but always tidy up if visitors come by.
SA: What wheel are you using to spin your lovely yarns?
SBK: I mainly use a Louet S51(DT) with an art yarn flyer. It is the wheel I learned to spin on years ago and still my favorite. I also have a Butterfly espinner that I love to death—so much so, I recently had to refurbish it! And a Spinolution Mach II that I don’t use too often.
SA: I really love your business name, “Urban Gypz.” What inspired you to come up with this name?
SBK: Thank you! Actually it predates my knitting altogether. I used to study middle eastern dance and UrbanGypZ was part of my personal email address and in the title of the blog I started when I moved to Asheville(and was hoping to continue studying with a new troupe…) That blog ended up documenting my knitting journey including learning how to spin and dye yarn. I was part of a very active knitting blog ring. After a few years and as I began to build a yarn business, I realized that name was very tied to my work because of my blog. So I kept it. My current blog, UrbanGypZ Chronicles (http://www.urbangypzchronicles.com) still holds the all my entries from that original blog (back to March 2002).
SA: I’m so curious about your “art journaling.” At what point in your artistic journey did the idea of art journaling develop?
SBK: Art journaling is something that morphed out of sketchbooks we learned to keep on day one of college freshman art class. Sketching ideas (thumbnails through prototype) is how I have always begun any graphic design work. I also use those same sketching methods for all of my fiber art ideas as well.
I noticed when I was a graphic designer, the most successful artist did not just sketch their ideas, they carried their books with them everywhere. It was always available to them when inspirations hit. So, I began keeping my journal with me. Instead of a filofax, I kept everything in my art journal. I then made it a point to add little bits of creative stuff to my everyday to-do lists and notes.
I started to see a style emerge in just those tiny bits. I also keep my fiber art notes and project ideas there as well. Everything is in one place, where I can easily find what I need. I know traditional mixed media art journals can be intimidating. But adding just little bits of art to your everyday notes gets the creative juices flowing in the same way, but without all the blank page or big painting pressure.
SA: Tell us about the 30 day art journal challenge.
SBK: Like I mentioned, the common practice I saw with the successful designers I knew was they had a very deep connection to their art journals , carrying it everywhere, using it as their filofax, sketchbook, journal, to-do list. So, in an attempt to get in the habit of carrying my art journal with me and using it for everything, I challenged myself to do it for 2 weeks. I posted pix to FB and Instagram for accountability. Many of my fellow fiberistas were interested in those pages.
I set up a 30 day challenge that includes info on how to set it up, why use it for a catch all for all your daily info, creative ideas and play time. I send out daily emails with tips on creativity, mixed media techniques to try, and encouragement to nurture your right brain creativity and go easy on yourself, keep it fun. There is a FB group to share a-ha moments, victories, questions. Etc. It is like a journal-a-long.
Many of the challengers art not even fiberistas. I get my share of fine artists as well. I think because the idea is like a working version of what they learned about keeping sketch books in school. Most are thrilled to have all their ideas and sketches finally in one place. I run it every 2-3 months or so. The next round opens for registration this month. Sign up is here http://urbangypz.com/30dayajc/
Next round begins April 1.
Don’t let Stacey fool you…she may prefer dark chocolate, but weaving has become her current obsession
SA: And, finally, what is your favorite kind of chocolate: are you a milk, semi sweet, or dark kind of gal?
SBK: Dark Chocolate all the way, baby. Especially if raspberry is involved.
SA: Yummo! I would have to agree on that choice. Stacey, thank you so much for sharing with us this week. I know you’ve given me a lot of food for thought as well as some beautiful images to savor.
Readers, we have giveaway business to attend to! For starters, the winner of the lovely piece from Laura Spinner is Joelle McCarthy — Congratulations to Joelle…I will be in touch to coordinate you getting your prize. And, now, for Stacey’s giveaway — it is very exciting…Stacey is giving a scholarship to her upcoming 30 Day Art Journal Challenge! This is a $72 value…To enter, please leave a comment below. The winner will have access to the challenge info and private FB group for life, plus able to opt in for each round as they see fit. The next one is in April, but the winner can wait for the next round if they’d like. Because the challenge is starting soon, the deadline is tight…entries are due by Tuesday, March 31st, 12 PM, EST. Best of luck to all!!!