Monday, March 2, 2009

Interview with Artemisia Ink

Describe Artemisia Ink?
I came up with the name way back in 1999 while doing some ink drawings, when I liked the look of a pair of ink drops on my blotter. I had read about the herb Artemisia absinthium being used in ink in ancient times to keep mice and insects from nibbling on the parchments. The connection between artemisia and ink then reminded me of the painter Artemisia Gentileschi, whose intense dedication to her art made her an inspirational figure for me, and the ancient Greek goddess Artemis has been a favorite of mine since childhood. That was more than enough coincidental connections for me. Combining artemisia and all its magic and mystery with those ink drops, I created a logo and a name with meaning for me that would be unique and auspicious. I held onto the idea, the logo and the website for years until I got around to developing it fully when I started my handspun yarn business. Eventually I’d like Artemisia Ink Studio Arts to encompass all my creative work, from yarn to painting, photography, music and writing, but for now, the focus is on the world of fiber.
What led you to a life of fibery pursuits?
A friend put a drop spindle and some wool in my hands and said “Here, check this out.” My hands seemed to know what to do instantaneously, and I was rarely without a drop spindle after that day, spinning constantly and trying as many new fibers as I could get my hands on. I found a wheel, then another, and learned to weave and needle felt, and I’m just buried in fiber art at this point and loving it. I got the opportunity to start my own business as my spinning evolved and began to pile up in heaps, and I’m so glad I went for it. I do a lot of other kinds of projects professionally, but spinning continues to be a source of meditative creativity, and I love passing on the craft to others whenever I get the chance.
What inspires your creative use of colors and textures?
All sorts of things, from my old Rainbow Brite dolls to the natural world around me. Sometimes I let the fiber itself sort of tell me what it wants to become as it moves through my fingers, and other times I get out the drum carder with no preconceived idea of what I’m doing, and experiment with different blends of fibers and colors. Sometimes there’s a theme or a color scheme in mind when I start, and sometimes I just wing it. Each yarn is unique, either because of a special hand-blended batt, or a hand-dyed roving I found, or a limited quantity of a particular fleece or fiber, and I enjoy allowing each yarn to be a piece of art in itself, rather than becoming a producer of consistent colorways. This means that it’s always fresh and new for me, and that keeps the love affair with my work alive and lets my spinning push new boundaries. Color really informs my work, and I think that comes from my family. Both my parents are talented artists in their own right, and taught me to paint early on, and I love using the drum carder like my paintbrush and palette knife, mixing colors and textures to create a yarn that will eventually become someone else’s piece of art. I like how spinning connects me to other artists in this way, as my art becomes a part of theirs.
Do you have any spinning or fiber mentors?
If so, whom?
Hannelore Cole at Custom Handweavers was an incredible resource and a wonderful weaving teacher, she also helped me take my spinning to the next level, and I wish I’d had more time living nearby to keep soaking up her experience. I sort of let my hands teach me how to spin, and my connection to my historical ancestress Priscilla Mullins has deepened considerably for me since I first sat down to spin at my antique saxony flax wheel.
Describe your favorite yarn.
I don’t actually have a favorite yarn, now that I’ve spent a while thinking about it. The one I made most recently is usually my favorite for a brief period of time, but it keeps changing. I’m always happiest when they come out squishy, or fuzzy, or otherwise pettable. Yarns that are conducive to snuggling are my perennial favorite.
Describe the least favorite yarn you've spun.
There was an experiment with hemp and adult alpaca that just needs to be a rug yarn or something that will take a beating. Between the scratch and thickness of the hemp and the guard hairs in the alpaca, it’s not skin-worthy. If I can’t rub it on my face, it’s not a great yarn in my book. Useful, perhaps.. but not great.
Do you listen to music while spinning? If so, what is your spinning soundtrack?
Absolutely. Music is a constant in my life, and when I’m not making it, I’m listening to it. I listen to a wide variety of music while I spin, from Tori Amos to Tool, though most often lately I’m listening to a kirtan artist like Krishna Das or Ma Chetan Jyoti. There’s something about the meditative quality of chanting that works really well with spinning for me. I don’t get to spin as often as I used to, and if I get the chance to spin, I’m probably wanting to relax at the same time. If I’m working on a themed yarn, sometimes there’s an appropriate soundtrack that wants to accompany me, and sometimes I’ve spun along to favorite movies, especially ones I already know by heart, so I can pay attention to my spinning and not the screen.
You have distinctly textural yarns. Describe for us the process for creating them- are you inspired and then spin?
Sometimes, yes. Often times, they’re a happy accident of inspiration, or I’ve got 2 full bobbins I had ideas for, and then I spin another and realize I’m going to do something else with it entirely. I try to not get attached to the yarns I make, even while I’m making them, which lets me mess around constantly. Sometimes it leaves me with odd ends and half-used bobbins, but they just get turned into something unexpected, so it usually works out well.

One of your current works for sale is a "Mardi Gras" yarn. What inspired you to make this piece?
I had a pile of beads hanging out after catching them in New Orleans, and they fairly screamed to become a supercoiled art yarn. I had just the right colors of merino wool on hand, and some sparkly purple and green angelina that blended in perfectly. Figuring out how to spin them in so they would look the way I wanted them to was fun, and I’m really pleased with the finished yarn.

If you were to create a self-portrait in yarn, what would it look like?
I have pretty long red hair right now, so I’d probably want to make a corespun yarn with red mohair curls.. or a really interesting storyline yarn, with long sections of different colors and fibers to represent the different stages of my life and the different hobbies and obsessions I’ve enjoyed all in sequence.
Thank you so much Artemisia Ink, please contribute to future Phat Fiber Boxes!

1 comment:

Turtle said...

very interesting!