Welcome to VFL's young artists and writers series, "Next Gen Fiber." The article below was submitted by Mallory Stack, a high school student in Arkansas who travels around the US with her family’s fiber business.
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Growing up with a Love for Fiber Arts
Since early childhood, I have been surrounded by fiber arts and I have truly developed a passion for everything fiber. Here are ways that I was able to develop my interest and skills, which inspired my own creative growth. The fiber community has consistently supported me, and I want to share ways that everyone can foster the next generation of fiber artists.
Generous spinners offered to share their supplies. Our mother wanted us all to get involved in fiber arts as a family, so she took us to festivals near and far to get us “addicted” to fiber. She gave each of us an allowance to pick out our very own fiber. Over time, I've made lasting friendships with many vendors.
One of these friendships is with Greta Dise of Persimmon Tree Farm, who traveled to festivals to sell her beautiful hand dyed Border Leicester/Mohair blend roving and yarns. She made sure that we left her booth with plenty of fiber, even though we each had a limited budget. By providing us with great starter supplies, this helped us get enthusiastic, we learned to spin, grew to appreciate her fiber blends, and we became long-term customers for her. When our resources improved, so did the size of our purchases, which was a great return on Greta’s investment. I will always be thankful to Greta for teaching me how to love fiber and for showing me to allow my artistic passion run free!
When fellow spinners allowed me to test-drive their equipment, I was able to hone my skills and learn about new materials. When I was eight years old, my sister and I asked for a spinning wheel for our birthdays. After persistent urging, our parents finally consented. They took us to the local spinning shop to test drive wheels. When we arrived, shop workers did not want us to touch the wheels. This was disappointing. We truly did want to learn about our options and had the resources to make a purchase.
Alternatively, at the Black Sheep Gathering of 2010, Hansen Crafts welcomed everyone into their booth to try spinning on their minispinners (electric wheels). Not only was this a wonderful advertisement, but it also allowed people to try something they might never have experienced. Eventually we ended up mail ordering Lendrum wheels from the Woolery. These are just two instances (of many) where people allowed us to touch their equipment and learn from the experience. These experiences have made me and my family loyal to these vendors.
Getting involved in spinning guilds and contests taught me sportsmanship, leadership and unity. Participating in hands on activities certainly builds interest and expands ideas. The Maryland Sheep and Wool Jr. Spinning Contest has been a wonderful opportunity for friendly competition with other kids from across the country. I’ve also had the opportunity to take part in the Lebanon (Pennsylvania) fiber 4-H club, where I polished my skills in spinning, weaving, dying, knitting, and crocheting. Actually, some of my fondest memories came from participating with my 4-H club and teaching others fiber arts.
Being able to attend festivals opened my eyes to the people and cultures involved in this art. Our family had the experience of hosting a farm day in April 2007. Millennial Way Farm’s fiber day offered sheep and alpaca shearing, spinning demos, food, children’s crafts and shopping at our studio. How exciting to see other kids learn weaving, drop spindling and knitting!
Because adults promoted fiber art education to younger fiber enthusiasts, I was able to learn a variety of skills from professional artists. A friend from my spinning group taught classes in her local area. Kids who learn about spinning, weaving, dying and other fiber arts, are given a powerful gift that they can take with them into adulthood.
Another wonderful experience was when we attended The Mannings Annual Spinning Seminar, where they thought anyone who wanted to learn to knit. Since I already knew how to knit, I was able to teach others and improve my skills at the same time!
All of these opportunities and experiences, along with the encouragement of my mentor, Sherry Healey, all resulted in my goal of becoming a master spinner. I’m currently enrolled in the Master Spinner program offered by Olds College in Ontario, Canada. The donations of time and supplies from many fiber artists and businesses helped make my education in this program possible, and I will always be grateful for their unfailing support. Click here to keep up with the ongoing challenges and triumphs of my quest.
I hope that those who read this will make the effort to reach out to the kids around them, and continue to share their passion for this art. –Pass it on!
Learn more about Millennial Way Farm at http://millennialwayfarm.com/ or their etsy shop, Celestial Studio. Click here to keep up with Mallory's quest of becoming a Master Spinner. The fiber arts community is rooting for you, Mallory!