What does one gain from raising one’s own alpacas? Bonnie Samuel aka bonniesamueldesign.etsy.com knows the value of homegrown fiber, the material she works with to create unique knit and woven pieces. “My knowledge of the nature and structure of natural fibers — from the impact of animal husbandry on quality production to the end product — gives me a unique understanding of certain fibers in design.” But it’s not just the intimate knowledge of raising animals — she has also trained in how to sort and grade her annual clip. “Working with natural fibers brings the beauty of nature’s palette and textures to your work.”
Bonnie approached Etsy’s blog, the Storque, with her story and with those of other high-end fiber artists on Etsy. These artisans steep their fibers in their deep skill and knowledge, and their high-end items’ price points reflect that. We invited them to explain what’s behind the drape of a sumptuously woven shawl or the details of a painstakingly crocheted art necklace.
[Jesse James & John Brown, two of Bonnie's alpacas]
Etsy offers a grand opportunity to both emerging and established fiber artisans. Since its inception, Etsy has evolved through layers of quality each in turn attracting buyers at the emerging level.
Truly talented fiber artists – weavers, dyers, textile designers, skilled knitters, art quilters and those reviving traditional fiber crafts in new dimensions – are now establishing shops on Etsy. The traditional “art” market is out of reach for many artists because of costs to enter the market of galleries, agents and promotion, while Etsy, however, offers wide internet exposure for little cost. Indeed, this trend may be changing the way art is marketed and sold as Etsy increasingly becomes the place to find and purchase unique and finely crafted, high quality art pieces in many mediums.
We’ve chosen just a few fiber artisans of the many talented on Etsy to showcase here…
Hedda Vatter aka HeddaVatter, who lives in Rapina, Estonia, creates wearable beauty in crochet.
As a romantic, I love crocheting and lace. I learned to crochet in school when I was eight years old. My favorite materials are high quality cotton crochet thread, linen and worsted for the woolen lace.
I am inspired by Irish lace in all of its richness and beauty. I try to bring the elements of the old lace into modern day using the lace for accessories and jewelry. I also add beads to Irish lace which makes it even more gorgeous. I have added felt, Irish lace and mond stones to my jewelry – the result is an interesting contrast. Red mélange crocheted necklace (pictured above) is inspired by Irish lace. The cotton thread is hand dyed, making the necklace unique.
As I was studying in art school, textile was my favourite subject. After graduating, I studied three years of calligraphy and two years of decorating. I acquired my higher education in library science. Most of my life I have worked as an artist. The last three years I have worked as a self-employed entrepreneur/artist. I have sold my work in Finland, Sweden, Italy, Germany and in France. And of course, I have made handcrafts for myself, my three children and for my home.
Scarfguy on Etsy is Fred Ullom, who is an accomplished weaver from Ohio.
As a career mathematician and computer scientist, my initial interest in weaving was as a science. It is, after all, an exercise in applied binary mathematics. When you look closely, all cloth is “pixelated”. Beginning as a diversion from the stress of a high-tech career, I soon discovered that creating something tangible with my hands was much more rewarding than the abstraction of creating lines of programming code. There is no greater enjoyment than to take an idea and turn it into something real: a piece of cloth, a scarf, a garment that stands on its own, and provides warmth, softness, and pleasure for its owner. Unlike most fiber “artists”, who are artists first, my greatest struggle has been to allow my creativity to flourish. I retired early from the high-tech world and now weave full-time (although at a leisurely pace). I don’t often take inspiration from my surrounding as many do.
[Scarfguy at the loom]
My structures are usually just mathematical “play” with twill progressions. My color combinations are usually spontaneously sparked by fondling through my yarn inventory. I have a passion for exotic natural fibers. I’m always searching for the finest Merino wools, cashmere, silk, yak, and the elusive arctic muskox (qiviut).
Artmixter is Marion Barnett’s shop on Etsy, which features imaginative fabric art.
I am Marion Barnett, a Scottish artist living and working in Norfolk, England. In creating my art quilts and other fiber works, I work predominantly with lutradur, a non woven polyester fabric that is versatile and easy to use. I even wrote a book about it, ‘Lovely Lutradur’, with Dijanne Cevaal. I have a passion for layers and texture; as lutradur is semi transparent, it is an ideal medium for such work. Most of my work has pattern and texture combined over several layers of cloth, with some areas of cloth cut back to show clearly what is lying underneath. Colour, too, is an essential part of my art; I dye or paint much of my own cloth, cottons, silks and lutradur, and use a wide range of paints to get the effects I want. It’s very rewarding when people are drawn to touch the work; textiles are a very tactile medium, and I encourages people to pat and stroke the cloth and the finished works.
Rebecca Burgess’ fiber art and skills fulfill a mission. Her Etsy shop is ecologicalartist.
My work, my passion, lives within the relationship between restoration ecology and sustainable art materials. I seek to create art whose strength lies within its process: a process that is restorative for the native plants that I harvest for dyes, for the women ranchers I buy my wool from, and is, most importantly, restorative for me as the composer and creator. I use local natural resources in a manner that supports the thriving and regenerative cycles of those resources. The end product is equally important for me, in its quality, attention to detail, and how well it functions.
[ecologicalartist at work with some natural dying]
I envision a growing world of artisans and interested folks, making beautiful art from naturally dyed yarns and batts, and wearing naturally dyed organic clothes. As this happens, our culture will become both aesthetically and ecologically richer. While I enjoy the larger vision, I personally am restored by the feel of soft angora moving through my hands and onto the spinning wheel, or counting my warp threads in preparation for my loom. The value of having one more happy and restored person on the planet is an immeasurable gift in itself.
designbynihan is the Etsy shop of Nihan Altuntas, a very creative designer and handknitter from Istanbul, Turkey.
I’m Nihan Altuntas, a 27 year old Turkish woman, whose passion is creating and designing. I’ve been crafting since I was old enough to pick up a crayon. My favorite childhood toys were boxes, yarns, pieces of cloth and all kinds of paints… I should add that I’m thankful for the support of my family. When I converted my jeans into bags or painted my canvas shoes, they never said a word!
I majored in cinema studies with a minor in marketing. During college, I got back to knitting to relax and to express myself. I never liked pattern books or reproducing brand sweaters. I would design authentic knitwear by improvising with needles, sometimes not even knowing what the result would be. The appreciation and approval for all of that hard work is the basis of my motivation to improve myself in this field.
I’m inspired by almost everything, even a simple button. I can suddenly decide to knit a sweater suitable for that button. My favorite material is cashmere, but the most important thing is to be able to discover the perfect match of the yarn and the pattern.
“Design by Nihan’s” success on Etsy is a combination of my talent, marketing and business knowledge and my personality too. I try to bring customer preferences and original patterns together. All “Design by Nihan” customers have an opportunity to choose the color and material, since all of the products are always knitted according to the customers’ measurements. Each item is totally unique to its owner.
Dottie Scher, aka ccdzs, whose excellent crochet skill reflects her heritage.
My mother was an old fashioned Southern Lady who taught me the age old art of handcrafts as we were growing up. I started knitting when I was five and needlepoint, embroidery, tatting, pottery, sewing soon followed. When I was 15 I found a book of crochet motifs and I was hooked, literally. I love the way the work flows and how quickly something can come together in my hands. This is an art that has been passed down through the generations of my family.
I work “during the day” as a Child Protective Services In Home Services/Foster Care Supervisor. My days are long and quite hectic. When I get home, after homework, supper, baths and smaller people’s bedtime, I can sit down with a hook and thread and just shut out everything else. Crochet is my refuge, my special place where everything is simply the hook, the yarn or thread, the colors, the texture.
When I’m designing my own patterns, it’s all about texture and counting stitches. The doilies are designed with their appearance from a distance in mind. So much of the design is not apparent unless you look at it from across a room or down a hallway. I love the symmetry and the geometrical design. I have been heavily influenced by Patricia Kristoffersen, a renowned crochet artist. Many of my framed pieces are based on her designs. But I also feel I learn from anyone’s designs and thus can bring my own ideas to bear, such as my two nautical sunbursts.
Constance Rose aka constancerosedesigns
I have been a textile artist since the early 1970s. Prior to becoming a weaver, I was a custom clothing designer, silk painter, papermaker, beaded jewelry designer, knitter, crocheter and handspinner. I’ve had a lifelong interest in fabric and thread/yarn, so I’ve explored any number of ways to create them and work with them. I started college as an art major, then veered into and graduated in psychology. Making art, although my first love, was always something “else” to do; that is, until I retired, recently, from the work world as we know it to focus on my art. Although I’ve taken an art class here and there over the years, essentially I am self taught, propelling myself toward whatever felt like the next technique for me to learn.
I’ve always been inspired by nature, as well as art of other times and places — including the florescence of Art Nouveau and Victoriana, the stylized and repetitive geometrics of Art Deco and ancient Egyptian designs, Native American and ethnic tribal patterns, and the Arts & Crafts and Craftsman styles in functional and decorative arts and architecture. My recent work creating woven shibori has been a way for me to pull together all of these design genre.
My work today is about TEXTURE — the tactility of cloth and fiber surfaces, what textiles feel like in your hands, as well as visual texture, the orchestration of patterns and colors that your eyes see. My work is also about PATTERN — line, shape, form, and directionality inherent in the woven cloth or imprinted or dyed onto the fabric. And it is about COLOR — how color lays on or becomes part of the cloth, how colors interact together, the patterns that areas of color create on a piece. My textiles explore the fusion of these components on handwoven fiber structures. Most recently I have begun creating Art Cloth — non-wearable fabric, wall and space hangings — combining loom-controlled and handstitched shibori, and surface design techniques on handwoven fabrics.
Thanks to bonniesamueldesign for putting this post together! If you want to find more great fiber work, check out items tagged EtsyFAST team. You might also want to read more Storque posts tagged “Fiber”.