My Mind Was A Desert
When I first learned dyeing in February, 2006, I had no preconceived notions about anything related to fiber. My mind was like the topography of the high desert where I live; barren. Fiber arts was something I NEEDED to learn because I started raising long wool sheep and Angora goats. I thought the animals were beautiful; the sheep for their incredibly long lustrous fleeces, and the goats for the silky feel of their mohair. I wasn’t at all interested in becoming a fiber artist, it was the love of animals that pushed me towards fiber. To this day, I still am a shepherd first and foremost, and the fiber is simply the bi-product that comes from what I love.
Take it All In
If you want to learn something quickly, learning one on one is best. I wanted to learn about fiber arts so I scoured fiber festivals reading about teachers. I tried to find someone who would come to California to teach me. I was lucky enough to stumble upon Sharon Chestnutt, Cloudspun Farm. She was the first and only person to teach me spinning, dyeing, and raising fiber animals (outside of Cal Poly State Univ). Her approach was a gift to me because she left me with concepts and and unbiased approach. I related to her instantly even though, from a fundamental level, we are such different types of people who live diametrically opposed livestyles. Sharon, while highly intelligent, chooses to live a simple communal lifestyle in Oregon. At the time, she had no running water, no heat or indoor plumbing. While we were so different, the way Sharon taught resonated with me. Her information came with no runaround, minutia, just reality and simplicity. Sharon didn’t try to show me things in a complicated way to make her methods seem valuable. The concept of “puffing up information” is a powerful marketing tool and, you’ll notice, there are a lot of books about _____ (insert any hobby or?) that make simple concepts seem complex. Concepts which could have been explained in paragraphs instead of chapters but, if the author showed “it” with the simplicity deserved, how would they justify the revenue off of little content? Similarly, if a person wants to show they know concepts others don’t, they have to come up with jargon, rules, wordiness, and, of course, a PROCEDURE that you must BUY, FOLLOW, ADMIRE (or?) to be as successful. Right? But you know what? If an individual is really going to be successful at whatever “X” is they would have been successful with the readers digest or free version. The practical aspects Sharon taught me took less than 2 hours, really. You know why? Because everything she told me was communicated in an efficient manner and then, backed up with logic and experience. This information became the foundation of my Fiber Art success and the basis of how I teach my own students.
And I thought Cactus were Prickly
One thing I liked about the fiber arts? It was so easy to take the fiber I raised and make a product, heck, the sheep and goats were doing the product making for me. Another thing I liked? I was ACTUALLY using the knowledge from my B.S. and M.S. in Animal Science to raise my flock. I felt like I’d really come full circle and couldn’t wait to meet like minded people. So where were these “like minded” people? I thought, “Fiber Festivals. If I go to fiber festivals, I can show my animals while simultaneously meeting new friends.” I actually had visualizations of me in the show ring, then, after the show, having riveting conversations on “the Angora Goat louse, scurf, or Barberpole worm etc… with other participants. Sadly, my first show at Black Sheep Gathering (Eugene, Oregon), would be one of many painful reminders that even farming and the fiber arts has “a special club” of cliques and you must be invited. What I wanted was to be part of a community, to share conversations and to have friends who loved what I loved. What I got were mean spirited women who whispered and giggled as I walked by. I was so self conscious that I thought, well, maybe they don’t realize I’m actually “one of them”… I raise sheep, and, I’m a budding fiber artist. So, with that logic, I asked the volunteers and the chairperson if I could help with anything. One person spoke up and said, “You can stand and watch the gate, it’s a very important job” and then they all proceeded to laugh. It was humiliating and I cried.
I would, now, focus on the fiber because it was anonymous. You could sell fiber online, there was no need for “face to face,” and all you needed was a good product. This meant going to shows would be a means to an end. In my mind, I needed to go so I’d have titles and these titles would make my fiber legitimate; like ribbons were a “resume” from my flock. To make myself feel better and not chased out, I would say, “The best form of revenge? Success.” This is advice I tell my friends and followers constantly. Whenever a person complains to me about a competitor etc… I say, “Just be better. Success is the best revenge.” The funny part about that? When you’re more successful, the very person, entity et al… you were trying to extinguish, doesn’t feel threatening anymore; “Poof!” and they’re gone. This is the definition of win/win.
To be continued! Check back Dec 12, 2015 for the second installment!