Daydreams

I’m daydreaming a bit this morning. As you may know, we have sheep. We don’t have a lot of them right now. Just 7. Currently, I do all the shearing myself and I don’t do anything special to protect their wool coats.

I was daydreaming about how lovely it would be to be able to send off nicely sheared fleeces to a fiber processing place and have it sent back to me as beautiful, spun yarn.

Okay. Don’t get me wrong, I love hand spinning. It’s calming, meditative and relaxing. But it’s not something I can see myself really doing on a regular basis. And definitely not for production weaving. It just isn’t cost effective. Also, my back muscles only have a certain amount of stamina each day. And most of those get used for milking, farm chores and weaving. Can’t really throw something else in there.

However, I still love the idea of using wool from my own sheep to make yarn which then gets woven into different things to sell. I would love for my fleece to be sent back in clean cones of yarn! I could then dye the yarn and turn it into something lovely.

Alas, I don’t have enough sheep yet. I may try to contact someone next year about getting them sheared. It was a bit of a trial this year. None of them would hold still and I have no idea how to hold them so that they relax. I may contact the ag. department at the college in town and see if they know of anyone who would shear for me. And if I could save the wool, even better!

My Tunis sheep really do have lovely wool. My ram, especially. I only saved two small ziplock bags of wool from this year’s shearing. But I’m not good enough at shearing to make the wool worth saving yet.

Like I said, a bit of daydreaming for me this morning. 🙂 I think I have a bit of a hankering to weave with some wool. May have to do something about that. 🙂
~JoAnna

A bit of bragging?

Alright. The fall TACA fair was a few weeks ago and, despite a few strange, drunk, possibly homeless men hitting on me, everything went beautifully!!

Before the show I purchased a display system called grid wall. I’d seen systems like this used in other booths and decided it would really help my booth setup. I wanted a more professional and “cleaner” looking display. Something that took the guesswork out of shopping for the customer.

Post fair: I could not be happier with my decision to buy this display system. It was pretty simple to assemble, brain dead easy to set up all my work on and it displayed the work SO well!! 🙂 very happy.

Okay, a bit of bragging. First let me begin by explaining that the fall fair is a lot harder to get into because it is opened not only to TN residents but all artists in the country. Each booth is juried at the fair and given an “on site” score where the highest possible score is a 7. You must receive at least a 4.8 on your score to be pre-accepted to the next fall fair. Pre-acception means you do not have to go through the jurying process for that fair. No image submission. Last year I got into the fall fair from the waiting list. Someone cancelled and I got in. I was not pre-accepted to this year’s fall fair due to my onsite score being too low. I applied to the fall fair this year and was accepted instead of being wait listed. I was really encouraged that my work was improving!

This year I hoped to improve my onsite score from last year but still didn’t expect to be pre-accepted because I still feel I have a lot of improving to do.

Okay. After all that, I just received notification tonight that I have been pre-accepted to the fall 2013 fair!! My score was 5.2 out of 7. I’m pretty happy with that. It’s an improvement from my spring score! Considering this was the first time I used my new display system, i think I did pretty well!

As far as work in the studio, I am hand dyeing most of my yarn now and currently playing with color and pattern in Bronson lace. 🙂 trying to replenish my inventory from the fall fair and several gallery deliveries.

I need to be making work consistently now, which is a really exciting feeling. I feel like weaving is actually starting to become a small business and I love it! Even the business side of it. Who knew?

I am thankful and happy and encouraged. 🙂
~JoAnna

Fall is here…

Fall…My favorite season. I love the crisp morning air, the sweet smell of leaves, the lovely display of colors and the feeling of time for “gathering in” for winter. 

October is definitely my favorite month, which, coincidentally, has nothing to do with the fact that my birthday falls in October. I always feel like fall truly begins in October. I was reading an article somewhere and the author referred to the sense of “gathering in” that happens in fall. I’ve loved that phrase ever since and have often considered doing a piece or a series based around the idea. For me, it’s almost a sense of urgency…Not necessarily in a bad way. Let me put it this way: I often feel like those little squirrels you see running around with their cheeks packed full of nuts and seeds and their little hands clutching even more nuts to pack away for winter. I suppose this feeling is intensified by living on the farm. I have to prepare things for my animals to have food for winter. Locate a source for hay, sell off animals that I don’t want to carry over another winter, make sure I have a nice, warm place for shelter on cold nights or days, check my medication stock in case of emergencies, etc. You get the idea. 

While “the great preparation” is intimidating, I sort of love the feeling of buckling down for a cold season and getting ready to make it through another winter. Strangely, it’s similar to the feeling I get from and why I love road trips…I love road trips because you pack everything up, get in the car and create your own perfect comfort zone around you. You have music, snacks, blankets and pillows (okay, I have blankets and pillows…maybe everyone doesn’t), everything you need to be comfortable for an extended period. It’s the same with fall. It’s “The Great Packing Season”; making everything ready to be comfortable during winter for an extended period of time. 

I suppose if I have any regular readers left out there, you might be wondering how it’s all going. 

The farm is coming along beautifully. Our raw cow milk share program is steadily growing and we make enough off of it now to live off that alone. (not and be rich, but it’s enough to survive) Ben has also been doing quite a bit of work on the crops and in the gardens this summer. We are currently getting a percentage of that income as well which is also helping. The beef business is also going swimmingly. So well, in fact, that we are currently sold out of our packaged deals. We are taking another cow to the butcher at the end of this month. Although, I think that one may be spoken for all together…

Putting on my other hat, my weaving business has also grown! In May, after the spring TACA fair, I was approached by a gallery owner who was just building a new craft gallery in Leiper’s Fork, TN. It’s a small “village” outside Franklin, TN. He asked if I would be interested in having my work in his gallery. I quickly agreed and the gallery had its grand opening two weeks ago. I’ve already sold 2 or 3 pieces! I am planning on taking more work up there next week when I’m in Nashville for my TACA membership committee meeting. 

The fall TACA fair was this past weekend and it went splendidly! I decided that I really needed a more professional looking display system. Or an actual system to my display. I wanted to make shopping easier for my customers and instead of the focus being on how the work is displayed, I wanted the work to be the focus. I purchased a system called grid wall. It’s very simple to set up and and take down and looks like something you might find in a store. After watching customers shop in my booth for three days, I am quite satisfied with the system. All my work was on hangers and easily seen and reached. This may sound silly, but everyone knows how to use a hanger. It doesn’t confuse the customer or make them feel like they are going to mess something up by trying it on. I also made sure I had a full length mirror so customers could see how the piece truly looked on them. People were free to look around, try on, feel, rummage, etc. and were, in general, much more comfortable than with any of my other booth displays. I saw at least a 40% increase in my sales from last fall. Pretty impressive! 

I do feel like much of this is also due to the fact that my color combinations, craftsmanship and overall body of work has improved tremendously over the past 6 months. I feel like I actually have a body of work. I feel like my own personal style is beginning to emerge and that my work is starting to look cohesive.

I’ve begun to do most of my own dye work since I bought that 50lbs of Tencel at the beginning of the summer. I love the playfulness that the hand-dyed yarn adds to my pieces. I feel like there is a richness in color that wasn’t there before. Plus, I was validated by a 9 year old girl. She came into my booth and watched me weave for a few minutes asking lots of questions about colors. She then looked around my booth and asked if I had made everything in there. When I replied that I had she said, “Well…You have really good color sense.” It was an extremely mature statement for such a little girl! 🙂 She was adorable! 

I’ve had some time to actually start working on my Baby Mac. At first, it was awkward and I didn’t know how to be comfortable while weaving on it. I, of course, freaked out and assumed that this naturally meant that I had made the wrong decision about purchasing the loom. That assumption made me stay away from the loom for a while. (Which makes absolutely no sense…) Once I forced myself to start working on it and realized that the loom wasn’t going to fall apart if I beat on, tugged, pulled, pinched and stomped on it, I began to love it. I will admit I feel a sense of loyalty or dedication to my larger Mac. He will always be first in my heart. My first loom. Everyone loves their first loom dearly. But my Baby Mac is absolutely wonderful too. I am so thankful to have it! There is NOTHING like weaving on a Mac. I’ve woven on several other types of looms and I absolutely like Macs the best. 

I hope to be purchasing another 50lbs of 5/2 Tencel soon. I just ordered a whole mess of new dyes that I can’t wait to get my hands on! I decided to go a little further than just buying the primary colors. Sometimes you just want something that just isn’t easy to mix. I bought a few greens, several blues, a couple of yellows and a few neutrals. I really needed a brown and a gray. Both of those colors are hard to mix. Lightening black doesn’t really give you a good gray. The black dye I have makes an olive green when I lighten it. Nice to know, but still not gray. In anticipation of my dyes coming, I spent the afternoon winding off skeins of yarn to dye. Today, more than other days, I really wished I had an electric skein winder! Or at least a skein winder that wound off multiple skeins at a time. If I had a multi-skein winder, I could have wound off all the skeins in 1/3 the time it took! Well maybe someday. For now, I suppose I ought to go. I have cows that need to be milked. Time to switch hats again. 🙂