Publisher’s Notes: When the “lure of the fiber” takes hold of an artist, as many of us know, mighty forces are set in motion! Before you know it, serious equipment is entering your house, an Etsy shop is set up and a fiber artist emerges. Melissa Bohrtz of the team known as Hello Purl (her partner is Jessie Nordholm) has lived the experience I’ve described and is this week’s Featured Artist. I know you will enjoy getting to know her better as I have.
Spin Artiste (SA): Welcome, Melissa! Let’s start out with hearing about what led you to the fiber arts.
Melissa Bohrtz (MB): I’ve always been interested in the arts but didn’t discover the fiber arts until recently. My husband signed me up for a drop spindle class for my birthday a little over a year and a half ago. I loved it! A few months after the drop spindle class, I borrowed the spinning wheel my mother in law was using for decoration in her home and took it to a local spinning guild and got it working. I knew that I wanted to keep spinning so for Christmas my husband bought me a ladybug spinning wheel.
SA: I read through your blog posts over the last year and see you’ve accumulated a lot of new skills! How do you feel you’ve grown? What would you still like to learn? What direction do you see your artistry headed in?
MB: I really didn’t know much to start just that spinning was so fun. I meet my business partner Jessie Nordholm at my local spinning guild as well and she has taught me a lot about fiber. I think I’ve grown as a fiber artist by trying new techniques, experimenting and leaning from others who know what they are doing in the fiber arts industry. I think if I keep up and practice spinning and experimenting I will just become a better fiber artist and that is what I strive for. I would love to take my fiber arts career full time maybe run a shop when my kids go to school full time in a few years.
SA: You spin a fair amount of textured yarns (aka “art yarns). How do you use it? What do you tell people when they ask you how to use it?
MB: I’ve knit quite a few cowls and scarves with the textured art yarns that I have spun. Which is great considering I live in Wisconsin. I think textured art yarn is beautiful by itself. I have a skein of textured art yarn sitting in a bowl (that I made in a college ceramics class) on my desk.
SA: I see from your FB page you are teaching at DIY studio. How did that come about? What classes are you teaching?
MB: We sell our fiber goods at the D.I.Y. Studio and Gifts. There are also classes there taught by the owners and other consigning artists so it was only natural that we would end up teaching there. We have taught a knitting class already and will be teaching spinning and felting as well. I think it is a wonderful opportunity to show those who don’t know about the fiber arts medium the many things you can do with fiber.
SA: That is great that you have so much passion to spread the fiber love! One thing that all of us like to see is where someone else “makes it all happen” …tell us about your studio/workspace.
MB: have a small bedroom as an office up stairs so I can work when my sons are napping (I’m a stay at home mom). I have my computer and work table, books and spinning wheel there. I converted a section of the basement in my home as a studio where I dye fibers and card fiber art batts.
SA: Tell us about your wheel and your carding equipment.
MB: I love my Schacht ladybug spinning wheel. For my anniversary my husband got me a bulky flyer for it. So now I can spin those textured art yarns with ease. I also have a cup holder for it that I think is so fun.
SA: Agree! I know that you participate in the Phat Fiber program. What’s that experience been like for you?
MB: We contribute to the Phat Fiber box so that we can get our fibers in the hands of fiber lovers. Each month is a different theme so we have fun coming up with different yarns, batts or dyed fibers to go with the theme.
SA: I saw that you planted a dye garden this year. How did that work out for you? Will you do it again next year?
MB: The garden didn’t work out to well last summer and I’m doing some more research into which plants to plant and hope it will work out better this summer. I have my dye plants frozen along with tons of avocado skins and pits. I also have birch tree bark that I have collected from my yard that I plan on using to dye with. In the spring I would love to get another Corriedale fleece from a semi local farm to use for the natural dying.
SA: Which are your favorite fibers to work with and why?
MB: Blue Face Leicester has to be my favorite sheep fiber that I have tried so far as it drafts so beautifully. I would love to try as many different fibers as I can get my hands on. Recently I got the opportunity to spin some faux (vegan) cashmere and it is so dreamy to spin, super soft too I would have to say it is my favorite synthetic fiber to spin. I’m also a sparkle girl when it comes to making art batts. I just can’t stay away from the Angelina.
SA: You have such a wide range of fiber arts skills — which one is nearest and dearest to your heart? Which one creates the most frustration for you, but perhaps also the most growth?
MB: I fell in love with spinning the first time I tried it and it has really brought me into the fiber arts world. I’m still growing as a fiber artist so I haven’t experienced it all but would love to try to learn new skills related to fiber arts. My first time dying fibers didn’t turn out he best I was trying to be structured with the process and the group I was dying worked really quickly. I didn’t get the colors I thought I would get and I ended up felting some of my fiber too. I think I’ve shown great improvement in my dying abilities and did learn a lot through that experience.
SA: Who and or what inspires you?
MB: In business I would have to say my mother because she owns her own business and that is very inspiring. In the fiber arts world it’s those artist who make a living at what they love to do. As far as inspiration for creating yarns and art batts, it would have to be the world around me. I love to take colors and textures from nature and apply them to my work.
SA: If you had a day all to yourself with nothing on your “to do” list, how would you spend it?
SA: Lastly, what kind of little, old fiber lady do you think you will be?
MB: The crazy one with lots of bunnies and Angelina everywhere. I think I will be doing this (playing with fiber) for the rest of my life.
SA: And, you won’t be alone! Thanks so much, Melissa for spending time with us. You have a bright future ahead of you and we look forward to hearing how things progress for you and Hello Purl. Folks, Melissa and Jessie have a fun website and etsy shop — worth checking out!
As for me, I’m blogging on the road right now. I am sitting in the dark in a hotel room near Raleigh, NC as I write this. Tomorrow and Sunday I’m attending Camp Pluckyfluff which is becoming an annual event for me. I am somewhat prepared for the class — preparation included bringing materials to produce a self portrait!
Until the next time, you have my fibery best, Arlene