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Jan Massie of Just 4 Ewe with awesome giveaway!

by The SpinArtiste on February 1, 2015

JM - Self - Prof shotPublishers Note: The day I ordered my first spinning wheel, I also bought a video entitled, “Spinning Art Yarn — a creative process” by Jan Massie of Just 4 Ewe. I remember very well as I watched her hands on the video competently move from technique to technique with confidence and skill. I wondered whether I would be able to do what I was watching. Years went by and, Jan became a part of our Fibery Goodness community. I admit, at first, I was a little star struck. I do get that way. I have many stories about meeting someone “famous” and not being able to speak or hardly move (ask me about meeting Sylvester Stallone — back when he was good looking). So, there I was kind of experiencing that same type of awkwardness behind my keyboard with Jan. That didn’t last too long as Jan’s hilarious sense of humor helped me get over myself. But, there is so much more to Jan as you will read this week. And, while I admire a great sense of fun in a person and technical competence, what I admire most in anyone is warmth, humanity and kindness which my friend, Jan, has in abundant supply.

Spin Artiste (SA): So, Jan, after 30 years as a steamfitter, you took the plunge and completely changed careers by opening your own studio – I have a several questions about this:
First, I don’t know anything about steamfitting, but it seems like a job that is a little out of the ordinary for a woman. Was that the case?  And if so, tell us a story about fitting into what has more regularly been a man’s profession.

JM - HSY - Coils over coilsJan Massie (JM): It isn’t like I grew up wanting to be a Steamfitter, but I was divorced, had a small baby, wanted a job where I could use my hands and learn a skilled trade that no one could take away from me. I wanted a job that would allow me to live a life like I grew up knowing – my dad was also a construction worker. I was also told that art is “not” a means to make a living… of course I thought differently. I had a friend that encouraged me to go into the skilled trades – between us, I thought they ironed fabric things. Growing up around tools and not a book learning type made this a  great job for me; hands on.

Steamfitters install and service heating A/C and refrigeration and process piping in Power Plants and many other industrial facilities. It had a 5 year apprenticeship that allowed me to work, go to school, be home with my son, all the while getting paid.

 I am not going to say it was an easy job, or that I didn’t get some jerks. I worked with only men and they treated me great!  We established early on that I was not a ‘Woman’s Liber’, I just wanted to earn a living like they did to support my child.  If they had problems with that, they could support me and my son, and I will go home and bake bread and mend their clothes. I think that made them understand my position a little better – I just wanted to work and earn a living.

JM - HSY - Blue with silk cocoonsI got so filthy that all you could see were my eyes. I burned up my long hair and have scars from welding slag.  I have hung by a harness on the side of a building and been in holes underground. When I left work the men treated me like a lady. I never wanted my day job to run over into my home life – No spitting and chewing tobacco – I do swear a lot though.  I was by no means ashamed of what I did, I just didn’t want that to define who I was.  I had a goal to do what I loved.  My hard work has enabled me to live a comfortable life in retirement and do what I love most “Playing with Fiber.”

SA: Wow, it seems like it was a long road, but totally worth the journey. So, now on to the second half our my question: a big career change like that is something most people dream about but rarely accomplish. How long did you think about making the change?

JM: I have always done some sort of art my whole life.  My job allowed me to make the money to support my habits.  Being exposed to toxic fumes and chemicals from welding many years took a toll on my lungs.  I had this plan that I would retire at 55 anyway. I did not want to be working in below zero weather, dragging welding cables on freezing iron.  For me, breathing is important, and a scare from the doctor about being on oxygen led me to quit at 53.  I really had two years to “wing it”; I figured it is only me and I will be Ok.  My only plan was to do different art shows and become rich and famous doing what I love. You know, “do what you love and the money will follow”? JM - Studio For many years I have wanted to live in this little village called the Market Place. It has shops below and you live above, They are fashioned after 1800’s European shops of Artisans. When I found one for sale (they are condos) and it made perfect sense – sold my home, and now I live above and have my Studio/Shoppe below. A part of my dream that for 30 years seemed, just that a dream.  

SA: I can only image how fulfilling it must have been to see your dreams come to life after so many years. What would you say finally gave you the courage to make the change?

JM: Leaving a good paying job, a stable environment, insurance and all those golden opportunities would have been really hard, but, I love my life and my health means more to me than all that could give me.  You can’t buy good health.  I also wanted the chance to try to make a go of this. I had been doing various art shows with wearable art for years… I could do this.

SA: I believe the “golden opportunity” was really found in your now joy-filled life. And, since you have always had your art, it was just a matter of time before that truth was revealed. How did you learn to spin yarn and how quickly did you hone in on your style?

JM - FO - ChangesI have been spinning well over 35 years.  I love the idea of the process.  When I found a wheel at a rummage sale (and it worked) the next task was to figure out how to use it.  There was no internet, but I was able to find a local guild. Shortly after, a monster was created.  I am an instant gratification person and sometime I will tell you about my first handspun/knit sweater called Wooly. It is everything you shouldn’t do in one huge sweater, but I love it for all it’s flaws and saggy thin spots.  And I wore it!!  Proudly (face reddens)!! I am intuitive and love all aspects of spinning.  I do not like making pretty perfect yarns, I can buy them.  I want “stuff” in my yarn and character.  When someone looks at my yarn they can take time and to investigate it, like a treasure hunt.   I love funky things and color. I love color. My spinning guru is Judith McKenzie McCuin.  She is easy to listen to and a wealth of knowledge. I love a challenge and learning. The new spinning generation is not afraid to try new things and that is awesome. The internet has made the world a smaller place. If I can say anything, try something new every day… Keep trying something new. It enhances you in many ways, or pisses you off – one or the other – but it is good for you to grow.

SA: I must say, I also love your instructional DVD.  Tell us, what made you decide to put it together.

dvdThank you. People asked me to share spinning techniques, and my son, Mike, who is a techy, my rock and pusher, told me to. I have sold over 100 DVD’s to Germany. Maybe I’m kind of like the David Hasslehoff of spinning, there.  Mike is the drive and push behind me and my business.  Either he is afraid I will live with him so my success is imperative, or he is looking at an inheritance?  He seriously is my ‘rock’.  He filmed my first DVD, Felting a Purse on a Ball, and wouldn’t let me have notes, I had to wing it,and we still laugh at the out takes.  My spinning DVD was my own baby and it came before all the YouTube videos that can help you now. It’s not fancy just instructional… with lots of nose sniffing in it.

SA: Well, since I’m telling you everything I love, OMG…your blog…I love reading it!  You have such an incredible sense of humor.  Have you ever thought of writing something more extensive?

JM: Disclaimer: I have a Steamfitter Journeyman’s card, not an English degree.  My writing skills are right from my mind to my mouth/computer, no filters; so read with caution. I took one writing class and these people were serious, really serious and in their defense working through life problems. Me, I wanted to write a biography of my life stories, a funny compilation of my stuff.JM - Other - Sheep in bike The teacher had us write down quickly what we did today. I was quick to put pen to paper and like a little kid was raising my hand all excited, to read mine:  “I was taking a load of garbage to the dump today and met the Major…blah blah blah”. All the other writers were deep and intense, I wish you could have seen their faces, as their jaws hung open. I felt like Jethro Bodine, and then I realized, I am not a deep person. Maybe I don’t want to dig that far. I am open book and enjoy little silly things, love to laugh and have fun.  I like to find humor in life. Needless to say I didn’t stay long in that class, and I’m all right with that. I am this person, all the rest are already taken. I write my blog for my entertainment, so Edit Police, beware. I am not organized enough to do more than that and besides there are… Hey, squirrels!

 SA: Jan, please don’t ever stop writing! It brings a smile to my face every time I read your blog. Tell us (and show us) about the studio.

JM: I am messy, messy Massie as a matter of fact. I see these photos of studios and I’m envious for about 5 minutes;  Honey, that is too neat for me. I make messes and like sitting in the middle of them. I reach to the right and grab this and to the left and find that and under the table…oh look, what is there? I try to clean but get distracted by all my cool stuff, so I am going to show you my naked uncensored mess. I think neatness skips generations. I can justify anything I do.JM - Other - Supplies

 SA: What a beautiful mess! One of the best studios I have ever seen. And…what about your equipment?

JM - HSY - Blue flowerJM: I’ve been downsizing my wheel collection. I now have an Aura, and am saving for the Overdrive head. I have the Anniversary Lendrum and my friend’s who passed away – Happy Hands (dyer) – Lendrum, I really felt honored that her husband gave it to me. I originally didn’t feel any real attachment to it, and then I started spinning on it and it hit me, I cried.  A very old, Ashford Joy that has been all over the country in the back of my truck, and a very old electric spinner, no name. I am pretty proud of my ability to keep only wheels I use and love, and sometimes I lie a little. It wasn’t always that way; like a few months ago actually.

SA: You do a lot more artistically besides make handspun yarn. Tell us about your other creative endeavors.

JM - FO - Birds' nestJM: Being a tad ADD, I love to try new things.  I weave, felt,  paint, and love to take photos! I am NOT doing any new art, repeat after me..no new art/hobbies.

SA: I hope you can continue to fight the temptation to start a new art, good luck! So, Spiderlady? I see this crop up as your screen name here and there…what is the meaning behind the name?

JM: I was dubbed Spiderlady many years ago as a handle so people remember me – “She spins, she weaves”. A way to remember me because the brightly dyed hair isn’t enough.

SA: Oh, now I get it! Well, Don’t stop spinning Spiderlady. What direction are you going in artistically at this time?

JM: I love teaching. I am not a technical person so if you want to learn the name for “that thingy”, use a book.  I am more, “this is how to do it and why it works”. I learned all of that information, but really, it is not going to make me spin any better. My favorite class is Wheel Magic, it’s a workshop on making your wheel/ratios work for you! Sometimes we get nervous about turning knobs. Right now I am doing Breed Boxes from Namaste Farm. I feel like a born again Spinner! Natalie Reddin’gs Blogtalk taught me so much more about fleeces and breeds and also about tweezers and cleansing (I will leave the last one for Kimberly). I am intensely banking this fiber information because it is important when spinning the yarn you want. It is also a harness to keep me reigned in – spinning neat yarn. To cut loose, give me stuff, stuff to spin….I love the challenge.JM - HSY - Multi colored cocoons

SA: You’ve written about painting at the care facility where your mother lives.  What has surprised you about interacting with the elderly as you are involved in creative work?

JM: OMG, I have learned so much from doing this. My mom is in Memory Care Alzheimers and Dementia. I did some research and they said painting helps them and soothes them. First off never on a full Moon and it is kind of like herding cats. I go with all donated supplies from Facebook friends and we get the people to paint. The first session I brought three (3) Tiger Lilies and that session went great.  The second one I brought a bouquet of Sun Flowers with butterflies on wires. I learned it was too much for them to grasp, less is better. I even had one woman paint my easel. I will remember her fondly! The best painter was named Ellen, I did not know she had stage 4 Alzheimers but she painted beautifully. The nurse walked by and got all teared up and told me she was, “in the end stages”.  A few days after the session she had a seizure and died. I took the painting to her family only to find out so many interesting stories of her life. We just never know who we are meeting, and what lives, they have lived. It is very rewarding, we even had an art show to display their works.

SA:What an amazing opportunity you are giving these beautiful people, and I’m sure you receive as much love and attention as you give to them. Okay, lets wrap this up with one last question: what is your favorite guilty pleasure?

JM - Self - FaceJM: I am a great vegetable, I love laying on the couch and watching a good movie.  I can do some serious binge Netflixing, a little coffee, a nap and life is good.  I am pretty spoiled. I have the ability to do what I want when I want.  Not everyone in the midst of raising families and life, are that lucky! I have great friends that know me and still like me.

SA: Thank you so much, Jan!!! Readers, we have a little housecleaning to do before we launch into Jan’s giveaway and that is to announce the winner of Paula Prado Heurta’s givewaway…it is Lynn Ross! Lynn, I will be in touch to coordinate you getting your awesome prize.

Now, onto this week’s giveaway — and it’s a good one! — Jan is giving away 5, yes 5! copies of her awesome DVD on Spinning Art Yarn.  In order to enter, please send an email to thespinartiste@gmail.com with the subject line “Jan Massie” (am having a little problem with comments on the blog at the moment)…extra entries for “Liking” Jan’s Just 4 Ewe Facebook page. Entries are due by Sunday, February 8, 2015 at 5 PM EST.  Best of luck to all!


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