Publisher’s Notes: On my wish list for the longest time was to meet Pam Blasko in person. I’d heard so much great stuff about Pam — that she is a fabulous artist, teacher and all around terrific person. Luckily in January, we were both at Vogue Knitting Live in New York City and I had the opportunity to fulfill my wish. Now, comes the second part of my Pam Blasko wish: the featured artist post! So, without further ado, enjoy reading about Pam and when you have a chance, check out her website.
Spin Artiste (SA): It is clear that your farm and trade are a dream come true. Tell us about how your dreams became a reality?
Pam Blasko (PB): My dream did become a reality. I had a very stubborn mare to thank for that. We moved to Oxford, CT to a log cabin in farm country. We decided to get a horse. The horse decided that living alone was not something she liked. I was advised to get a pair of sheep to keep my mare company. It worked out well for the mare but I learned that I needed to shear the sheep. “Ok we can have that done.” Next question, what was I going to do with the wool? The woman I purchased the sheep from showed me how to spin. I loved it! Two sheep did not produce enough wool for me. We added angora rabbits and two more sheep. Now I had wool! But, didn’t I need a llama to guard my sheep? Surely, I did. Dahli arrived. I might as well have another pair of sheep so I could say, “I have a spinners flock.” Dahli need a companion, so Angel arrived. Now there were 6 sheep, 20 angora rabbits, 2 llamas and a log cabin. Oh yes, we added a miniature horse. Why? Because I had a farm and could have one! Right? My Dream Come True? It started 17 years ago and has continued to grow and change ever since. Spinning has become a lifestyle.
SA: So what came first for you, the fiber spinning or the animal husbandry?
PB: Animal husbandry definitely came first, then the spinning. Today my husbandry practice comes before anything else I do. When you are a shepherd, you are a shepherd before anything else in your life. The care of my animals is of utmost importance to me. It’s them, then me.
SA: Tell us about the fiber animals you have on the farm?
PB: We have 6 Olde English Babydoll Southdown Sheep that were all born here. We have 2 llamas, 2 Nigerian goats and 3 Pygora goats that are ordered and will arrive in September from across the country. Recently I had to downsize and find a home for our alpacas because of a severe back problem. The alpacas were a lot for me to handle. They had to move on. This is the heartbreaking part of farming. Sometimes things need to be done that break your heart but are necessary. It was either do away with my beloved farm, or try to downsize first and see what happens. Viola! Back is better, farm is still here, I’m still spinning! Alpacas have landed a wonderful new farm as their home. All is well on Dream Come True Farm!
SA: I know your etsy shop has become very popular. How has that impacted the way you produce your art?
PB: Etsy has proven to be a great outlet for my yarns. But I find I must constantly come up with new ideas for yarns. That is when the creative art yarns took me to an entirely different level of spinning. Inspired by Lexi Boeger, I continue to read and thumb through her books to add my own “twist” to the yarns she teaches. When people buy my yarns on Etsy, it thrills me that my sometime crazy creation is liked! So, I keep going and at times get crazier with my yarns. For an example, my Wine Tasters Yarn which is handspun with wine corks throughout the yarn! I picture this knitted into a hat with the corks bopping around ones head while sipping wine with friends.
SA: Who would you say has been your greatest teacher in your fiber journey?
PB: Lexi Boeger, who I finally met this June at Camp Pluckyfluff. I purchased her first book years ago and realized what the world of spinning had to offer and what I could offer to the world of knitters! I grew with the help of Lexi’s book and self taught artful spinning to myself. Bye bye traditional spinning!
SA: I know you mentioned buying local is also important when buying yarn; why is that?
PB: If I buy another shepherd’s fleece, it’s always USA grown, mostly CT grown. It is important to support the industry that I am part of. Hopefully, the fiber industry will never die out. Recently there has been a surge in our industry. I feel it is because shepherds and farmers have joined together and created a friendly fiber community through online groups. Supporting one another is key.
If we continue to grow and offer exciting products, the knitting and crochet industry will continue to be interested in our work and we will be successful. It’s not uncommon for me to buy another spinners yarn and promote it. If I see a wild handspun yarn with a color arrangement that intrigues and inspires me, I’ll support that spinner and buy it, take it home, and knit something fun.
SA: How would you describe your studio/work space?
PB: I have recently grown in this area. I have a farm shop on the farm that is filled to the brim with handspun yarns and hand knits. It’s adorable, warm and inviting. When the doors open its a burst of color and sweet smells from farm made goats milk soaps and dried farm grown sachets made to ward off any fiber damage that a moth can cause. I’ve invited a fiber friend into the shop who makes the most wonderful pottery yarn bowls, and pottery jewelry. I have been adding the most magical spinning batts and fiber for spinners so I now have a great selection for spinners and knitters!
My passion is making batts for shawls making them all OOAK. Long recycled silk added to these shawl for fringe with an antique “key” to happiness hidden in the fringe. And the shop is a great outlet for my shawls. In addition to the farm shop I have a room in our cabin that has become a “wool” space for strictly doing fiber arts and teaching spinning, fiber prep and beginner knitting. This space is where myself and my fiber friends meet occasionally to share our creative energy. I hate to be redundant but, this is all a Dream Come True.
SA: What is your favorite method of spinning and why?
PB: This is a hard question because my mood dictates how I like to spin on any given day. I’d say these days art yarns with loads of color and fibers, spinning freely as the fiber dictates. Yes, this is how I’m flying at present. That could change tomorrow when I may like to spin a traditional worsted weight, natural, two ply alpaca yarn. When I sit at the wheel I am open to what may come off the spool. Whatever I am drawn to in my salad mix of fiber, I spin.
If a particular fiber wants to poke out of the yarn in a curly crazy manner, then I allow it to run. I love to prepare my fleece myself to allow it to keep its’ integrity which will show in the final product. I am a free spinner, no rules, no ratios. Just spin the fiber as fast or as slow as it needs to be spun. Adjust to the fiber, it knows what it wants to do. I become one with the fiber and together we create something wonderful. At times I become attached to certain skeins and cannot sell or use them right away. I know this sounds a bit quirky, all right very quirky, but I fall in love and just need to admire, pet it and well, true confession time, smell the skein for a while. Eventually, I let it go. Ok I’ll stop here before someone sends the men in white coats for the crazy girl that won’t let go of her skein!
SA: Pam, I can tell you for certain that you are not the only one that spends some time with your yarns before you let them go! I see you are very close with other fiber artists. How has networking with other artists influenced your fiber journey?
PB: Oh my fiber peeps! I adore them all and we make a point to get together and share ideas, teach techniques, laugh a lot, and help one another grow as fiber artists. It’s great to have a steady group. After I am with these gals, I am so inspired, I don’t know where to start! Sharing what you have created with people and listening to their reaction is what it’s all about.
SA: What gave you the idea to hold your own fiber feasts at the farm?
PB: Sharing what I do through farm days is something I have done from the beginning. It is really simple. Share the farm + give free demos + show your work + network + make new friends = customers for my items and new folks for the fiber group = MORE FIBER FUN! Isn’t that why we all do this? Yes, it’s a job. Yes, I do need an income for the farm; but let’s face it, it’s a job with no complaints and lots of benefits. I won’t be quitting any time soon.
SA: If you had the opportunity to try your hand at producing art in another medium, what would it be and why?
Hmm, you may have stumped me here to be honest. I love fiber. I am not sure what else I may want to work with. Photography would be awesome. I love capturing the look of unassuming animals when they are being who they are and doing what they do. My next subjects would be shepherds and farmers. I would try to capture their deep feelings for the work they do. I have seen some wonderful scenes of farmers working a field of hay or a shepherd lambing a lamb, or herding their flock. The love of what they do is written all over their face a look I don’t see on my bankers face or the gal at the checkout in a store or a receptionist behind a desk. Yes, I would have to say photography with farming as my subject.
SA: OK, Pam…one last question to wrap things up – What two colors would you say describe you?
PB: I’m purple! And purple! Maybe different shades of purple. I am obsessed with purple. At one time I had to force myself to offer other yarns besides purple. For a time early on it was all purple handspun or had shades of purple mixed in. I have grown since and love all color, the more the merrier. If you told me I could only have one color dye, it would be purple. I could bring green in as a second choice. Yes, green and purple, a pretty sage green.
SA: Thanks so much Pam! I hope one day to see the farm and I’m sure a lot of others feel the same way.
Readers, check it out!!! Pam has offered to giveaway a copy of her amazing Spinner’s Notebook to one lucky Spin Artiste reader — just leave a comment below as to your favorite sheep breed and why. Extra entries for sharing on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Just leave an extra comment for each letting me know that you did. The winner will be selected by the good ol’ random number generator on Sunday after 5:00 PM. Good luck to all!
Also, on Sunday night, the great reveal of Secret Stash Game, Round 3!! Wait till you see what the artists in this round came up with. It was a hard challenge and there are a lot of surprises in this round. Until then, all my fibery best, Arlene