We’re pleased to present our first Meet our Makers feature for 2020! When we attend shows and fiber festivals, we almost always connect with a new maker who uses our products to create their wares. Last fall, we met Q from The Foldout Cat while we were browsing the marketplace at the Fall Fiber Festival in Montpelier, Virginia. Not only does Q make beautiful batts using our double wide carder, she also weaves, spins, and teaches freestyle weaving on SAORI floor looms at her fiber-arts studio. We hope you enjoy getting to know Q in today’s interview.
Tell us a little bit about yourself (I see you’re also an estate planning attorney, so I’m sure there’s a good back story there!)
I am indeed also an estate-planning attorney! I was a professional singer (and copyeditor, because music alone does not always pay the bills) for a number of years. When my voice broke down unexpectedly (it’s since come back), I had to decide on a new direction. I’d been raised by my lawyer-filled family (father, both grandfathers, a great-grandfather) to believe that lawyers were the good guys, and I knew that the law could be a powerful force for good (as well as for, well, NOT good), so I decided to go to law school and see what I could do to help the world for a while :-). I graduated in 2006 and then practiced law in Virginia for almost eight years as a legal-aid attorney, providing civil legal services for very low-income US residents – amazing work I wouldn’t trade for anything.
In 2011 I met my partners, and in 2014 I moved to Alabama to live with them. This gave me the chance to decide what I wanted to do next, including whether I wanted to keep practicing law. While I was thinking about this, I started selling my handmade items at an amazing place in Huntsville called Lowe Mill, a reclaimed textile factory that currently has more than 250 artists of all sorts creating in 150+ studio spaces. That experience got me interested in taking my own creative work more seriously, while still keeping my hand in as an attorney – combining left-brain and right-brain work in the same life, treating them as complements rather than adversaries.
In 2015 I became licensed to practice law in Alabama and chose to start an estate-planning practice, another way of working for good in the world: estate planning helps give the people doing the planning peace during their lifetimes and brings some peace to their loved ones after their death, and the world can always use more peace! In 2016 I applied for and got a studio at Lowe Mill as a fiber artist. In that space and elsewhere, I weave in the SAORI tradition, spin, and card; I teach freespirited weaving and spinning; I sell equipment, supplies, and finished items; and I practice law!
What drew you to the fiber arts industry?
Fiber! Fiber in all of its forms and flexibility, from farmyard or factory to finished work. The idea of being able to start with wool (or cotton or silk or angelina or any one of so many other fibers) and use remarkably straightforward tools to create items that combine beauty and utility, in ways that resemble and echo those humans have been using for hundreds, if not thousands, of years … how could I resist? The only thing better: getting to teach other people to use those tools to make their own beautiful, useful works of art. What great ways to make one’s living!
Which Strauch product(s) do you use in your business?
At the moment, the Strauch products we use the most often are our family of Strauch drum carders. We have a Mad Batt’r Double Wide (well, I *say* “we”, but in actual fact that one belongs to my spouse :-)), a Finest Single Wide, and a Petite currently in the studio, and a Mad Batt’r Single Wide will be joining our carder family very soon.
I have all of the carders clamped to rolling butcher-block carts; that lets us store each carder’s batt pick and doffer brush on board, as well as batt packaging, scales, and other needed tools. It also allows us to move the carders around easily, which makes it a breeze to pack them up and take them on the road to fiber festivals and gatherings as an integral part of our Custom Batt Buffet and our art-batt class, Gettin’ Batty With It.
I also use my Strauch Jumbo Ball Winder (my favorite 50th-birthday present!) all the time in my studio, winding our handspun for customers and creating yarn cakes I hang on my walls for my weaving students’ use, and we take it with us to festivals as well whenever we can.
What is your favorite fiber (or fibers) to work with, and why?
Oh, man. That’s like asking me to pick between pizza, chocolate, and red wine: it’s very nearly impossible to do, because each one is so different – and they can all be enjoyed in the same meal :-). My favorite combination of fibers to card is a mix of Merino wool roving or top, bamboo, and angelina; all three go onto my carders smoothly (thanks in part to Strauch’s Slicker-Licker drum, which might be my favorite aspect of Strauch’s carders), and the combination creates a beautifully workable batt that can become anything from embroidery floss to delicious art yarn in the hands of a spinner.
For our readers who aren’t familiar with SAORI weaving, can you tell us more about this style and philosophy?
Certainly! SAORI is a philosophy of freestyle handweaving invented by a woman named Misao Jo nearly fifty years ago. In learning to weave herself, Misao Jo discovered that weaving could be a form of self-expression, a way to unleash one’s creativity and individuality – to be free from rules and from expectations.
She began teaching the basic mechanics of weaving on a floor loom to her students and then setting them free to weave as they wanted to, without correction or intervention. As a student of SAORI weaving (with Handmade SAORI in Belton, TX and Han-Den Studios in Peachtree City, GA), I think of this as “weaving one’s beauty”: creating a unique piece of cloth that reflects and expresses, not an external set of standards, but the spirit of the weaver themselves.
Although I am not myself a registered SAORI studio at this time, I weave in that tradition, and I teach what I call freespirited weaving on SAORI floor looms, encouraging my students to relax into the process of weaving and to explore color and texture without regard for outside expectations. My students often reach the end of a lesson or group class simultaneously relaxed and energized, having found the experience of weaving in this way to be both meditative and renewing – more qualities our world needs!
I encourage readers who are interested in more information about SAORI weaving or who’d like to learn to weave SAORI to read the information made available by SAORI parent studio SAORInoMori here and here and to look into what studios may be close to them; a list of registered studios can be found here.
What is the best advice you’ve ever gotten about fiber preparation in general (or, if you want to be specific, making batts)?
Both generally and with regard to batt-making: relax! Relax into the process; relax your expectations of yourself and what you’re making; relax as much of your Judgment Mind as you can. Have an idea of what you’re aiming for; choose fibers and colors and textures that fit that general idea; and then create with those components and see what happens. My philosophy as both artist and teacher is to practice imperfection – to embrace the idea that there are no rules and no mistakes, just free expression of what the person creating finds beautiful. In my experience, if I can relax into that spirit, what I make and what I do will reflect it.
You can visit The Foldout Cat website to learn more, follow them on Facebook and Instagram, or be on the lookout for The Foldout Cat at these upcoming events:
13-14 March: Carolina Fiber Fest, Raleigh, NC
First year at this festival, and we’re quite excited :-). They already have a wonderful SAORI weaver teaching there, so we’ll be focused on carding and spinning: our class on creating art batts is already sold out, and per the organizers’ request we’re offering a second session!
22-23 May: Middle Tennessee Fiber Festival, Dickson, TN
25-27 September: Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival, Berryville, VA
7 November: Fiber in the ‘Boro, Murfreesboro, TN
Late November: freespirited weaving classes at the Richmond Public Library, North Chesterfield Branch, in Richmond, VA
10-12 July: vending and teaching at the Alpaca Owners’ Association Natural Fiber Extravaganza
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