Cindy makes her home in Vermont…and spins yarn at the dog trials…and I’ve just learned, is the published author of books including The Vermont Wildlife Viewing Guide and Adventure Guide to Grenada, St. Vincent & the Grenadines…here’s a woman who knows that a predictable life is too boring for words! She’s made her way over to the Fiber College in year’s past and we’re very pleased that she offered to teach a Friday class in spinning dog fur into luscious, wonderful yarn…here’s a chance to expand your fiber choices while cleaning house…could you ask for more?
Cindy writes to us:
Considering we’re either animal, plant or mineral … there are 4 other animals living in the house (mice and carpenter ants not included). To acknowledge them in order of weight and height, there’s the eccentric British hubby, Alan; the lovely, gentle “Buddha” dog, MacDuff, and his female cohort, the ‘Mischievous Angel’, LucyBelle; and last but not least, our feline companion, Ziggy, who balances the energy in the house.
2. What are you currently reading?
I always have too many books going at one time. But the top four lying on my side of the bed are Jon Katz’s Soul of a Dog: Reflections on the Spirits of the Animals of Bedlam Farm, Michelle Mercer’s Will You Take Me As I Am: Joni Mitchell’s Blue Period, Cathryn Prince’s Burn the Town and Sack the Banks: Confederates in Vermont, and Barbara Swann’s The Complete Border Collie. Beneath those lie an assortment of my favourite magazines, Bark and Wild Fiber.
What is the most surprising response to your art you have ever received?
Hmmm … every time I tell someone my scarf is made from dog hair, I get an interesting response. But the most surprising was actually a negative response when I was at Shelburne Museum Goes to the Dogs in Burlington, Vermont, an ultra-large dog festival. Some people complained to the festival organizers because they thought the dogs had been skinned! I was appalled that anyone who saw me would even think I ate meat let alone skinned animals. I shrugged it off as the folks must have been out in the sun too long that afternoon.
4. What do you listen to while you create?
When I spin I listen to a lot of Irish and Scottish music. Fiddles and pipes. Weaving has gentler tunes with earthy lyrics from singer-songwriters such as Dougie Maclean and early Joni Mitchell. Its really the difference with what your feet can do while you’re sitting down. Spinning is a boogie, weaving a waltz.
5. Why do you spin, weave? What is your purpose?
Ah, good question. Its all about dogs for me. The only way Patty Blumgren of Green Mountain Spinnery would spin my late dog’s fur was if I agreed to take one spinning class. I was hooked and spinning/weaving dog hair scarves was another way for me to help homeless pets. “Rescue’ is a big part of my world. The icing on the cake is it also relaxes the whole family when I spin at night. I have herding dogs so I love to lull them into slumber with the rhythm of the wheel. It’s a zen thing.
6. What do you know that you don’t know?
Hair always tells us about the health of a being and I’ve begun to be able to detect the general health of a dog through his or her undercoat (the dog isn’t attached). Nutrition is really important in our well-being and dogs get some pretty strange things in commercial “food” under the guise of clever packaging. But then again, I know that. The best fur I see is generally dogs that have never had soap on their back but have been fed well and brushed on a regular basis.
7. How does, or should, the word “passion’ relate to an artist? Passion should be what drives everyone to face the world every day. Perhaps that is what is missing in society today – it’s reserved for artists? Passion is the force or energy to create; the business part of “art” tends to squeeze the life out of passion. For me the passion is not only the physical and mental twisting of dog hair into yarn then thinking out how to weave from this fuzzy ball of dog, but also the relationship between the person who sent me the box of fluff and the canine who shed it. I generally like to have an image of the dog I’m spinning and know something about the critter. Probably not in your wildest dream would you relate ‘passion’ to that dust bunny under the table; precious natural resource.
8. A lot of artists want to be famous, and some just want to make a living doing what they love. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Hopefully on the planet. I don’t have the shoes for ‘famous’ nor do I desire the pressure of actually making a living from my art. Instead, my artwork is more like a family member that sleeps late, spreads itself all over the house, can be irritable and delightful all in the same day. I also photograph pets, write about dogs, make scarf pins to help fight epilepsy in dogs, volunteer in my local humane society and several rescue organizations … its a bit well rounded. Five years ago I would have told you I’d be living in Ireland by now, five years from now I hope I’ll still be in my studio in Vermont. I just hope there’s not a flock of sheep out there in the field entertaining my dogs.
9. When it’s time to ‘tap’ your creativity … where do you go to get the juices flowing? Generally the post office. People ship me their dog’s fur and I always get excited when, what appears to be an empty box, is waiting on the counter for me. The post office always know when its a dog. But also other spinners and weavers are my muses – Fiber College and John C. Campbell Folk School in North Carolina gets me razzed. Woolen mills in Ireland flows right down in my roots. But really, spending an afternoon with other fiber people is the real kicker. Fiber folks generally have such a genuine warmth about them that runs deep and honest – doesn’t matter if they’re shearers or knitters, spinners or dyers, they drive that passion. Oh, and of course, an unusual dog entering my field of vision. I’ve stalked many a long-haired dog through a farmer’s market.
10. How many projects do you generally have going at one time? Wow, life is a project-in-progress, isn’t it? Let’s see right now, I’ve got a dog on the loom, 2 dogs waiting to go on the loom, a ‘lost dog’ story on the computer screen, 700 images to sort through from a 2-day shoot at a herding trial, 16-18 dogs from that shoot that need to go on CDs, backed up, and sent to their owners, two dogs on the spinning wheel, 4 waiting for me to spin them, one dog on two hand spindles, four dogs on the niddy noddy, 24 scarf pins that need to be cleaned and attached to individual cards and placed in the mail asap, about 6 boxes of fluff unopened, and two barking dogs on the deck anxiously waiting for me to come throw the frisbee. Sounds a little like the tune to the 12 Days of Christmas, doesn’t it? No wonder I have so many books lying half-read beside the bed!