We’re Shaking Things Up a Bit!

Hello, Fiber College Friends,

This year we’ll have a variety of posts (some here, some on Facebook, some on Instagram) to help you to get to know our amazing 2018 instructors. We’ll have some guest posters, video interviews and panels, and autobiographies in addition to some traditional artist profiles. We are very excited about the incredible array of classes this year. There is something for everyone! Have you registered yet? For the best selection, you should register now here.

It’s a terrific year for YOU to attend Fiber College! Bring a friend or two! See you in September on the beautiful Penobscot Bay on the coast of Maine.

Call for Instructors 2018

FC Blog AnnouncementJust in case you didn’t receive your personalized e-mail invitation, we’d still like to hear from you if you’d like to offer a class in the 2018 Fiber College of Maine Line up…

This morning’s e-mail read…

Dear Friend,

Dr. Martin Luther King once said “We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools. We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the way God’s universe is made; this is the way it is structured.” “…a single garment of destiny…”  An appropriate thought for launching Fiber College 2018 don’t you think?

Twelve years of learning, laughing and creating art on the beach and amongst the organic gardens!  Our mission has always been to create community forged by the joy of handwork and making.  We’ll be gathering on the coast September 5-9 and we’re sending you this letter for two reasons: 1) We believe everyone has a passion to share and we’d love hear from you if you’d like to be considered for our teaching roster this year and 2) you may know an artist we should be asking…please pass this letter along where it’s appropriate.

We’re seeking class proposals on anything fiber related…something fun, fresh, very easy or extremely technical. The committee is looking for quality projects and techniques offering new ways to give form to our creative ideas. When you consider proposals, remember many fiber artists are business people too; we welcome class proposals on innovative marketing strategies and other tips for running a successful fiber business…can you or someone you know contribute to this conversation?

We’re searching for project classes on garments & accessories, baskets, quilts, yarn making, surface design, needle arts, woodworking and weaving.  Technique classes won’t be neglected either…especially if they “cross-pollinate” with different interests students are likely to have.  As a gathering focused on the joy of learning, we’ll continue featuring classes that are unique to Fiber College and our community.  This year’s developing theme is: Mindfullness: handwork as a pathway to being connected and present.

The jury will be looking for the majority of class proposals to be 2, 3, 4 or 6 hour classes. Our students have told us that they really enjoy the open enrollment, “Rolling Class” sessions that allow them to follow a different path to creativity.  In these sessions, artists offer a “make and take” project…something fun that can be accomplished in an hour or two without pre-planning.  If this sounds like a good fit for you, let’s talk…contact me directly at director@fibercollege.org.

Fiber College of Maine is devoted to educating creative expression in all forms.  By integrating classes, shopping, demonstrations, evening events and gathering places, we facilitate a community that supports light-hearted and authentic artistic discovery.  All of the classes are taught in tents and casual buildings on Mid-Coast Maine’s picturesque Penobscot Bay.   If you run a fiber related business, consider combining your teaching schedule with a vendor booth to maximize your exposure and sales.

The easiest way to track the FC planning process is to read the Fiber College blog (you’re here already), Facebook or e-mail us with your specific questions create@fibercollege.org. The last day for submission will be March 1st. You will be notified of the jurying committee’s decision by March 9th. You can click here to jump straight to the registration site.

We’re hosted by Searsport Shores Ocean Campground; making the College feel like a summer art camp for devotees of all ages. When you’re not teaching or participating in the events spread over the 40 oceanfront acres, we hope that you’ll find a spot at the beach or nestle into the organic gardens for some quality time of your own.  This is the perfect “working vacation!”

Weaving a better world, one colorful thread at a time,
Astrig and the Fiber College Planning Committee

Artist Profile: Jaida Glessner

What fun to chat with a young person who is so passionate about fiber and fibery animals! The fiber arts will continue to be in capable hands with the next generation of fiber artists. Jaida Glessner started her fiber arts journey while working working at a small yarn store on the Oregon coast while also volunteering with area farms. Since then her experience with various crafting mediums has grown and her dedication for understanding all things wool has shaped her career. Jaida is currently an intern at Nezinscot Farm in Turner and works in their fiber studio. You can also find her in the barns caring for various animals–mainly goats, sheep and rabbits. She plans to establish her own small, diversified farm, focusing on fiber production and offering education opportunities for all ages.

Jaida will teach Tri-Loom Weaving on Friday, Sept 8 from 1:30 – 5:30 PM. In this fun interactive class, students will learn the many versatile uses of pin looms and master the simple technique of continuous strand weaving. Using a tri-loom, each student will produce a small handwoven shawl and take home a new skill that can be adapted and designed to produce an endless variety of handwoven creations. Let’s meet Jaida and then you can sign up for her class here.

Tri Loom Weaving – simple and stunning!

Fiber College chooses a new theme each year. For 2017, it’s Re-Use, Re-Design, Re-Create.  How do you incorporate any part of this theme into an important part of your life?

From a really young age, I became aware that recycling is important. Especially imagining landfills packed with things that don’t need to be there. In every part of my life,  I reuse and recycle — I buy few quality clothes rather than a number of cheaper clothes. Crafting – it’s a great challenge to take what you have and try to make something with it. Not only is it practical, but also can give way to a more creative outcome.

Tell us how you entered into the world of fiber and the fiber arts.

Five years ago, I was looking for a job in a very small town. A retail position at a yarn shop opened up. No craft experience – I had to learn to knit – and two days after, I started my job, and took my first knitting lesson. I worked in two different yarn shops and over the years, became increasingly interested in and aware of the world of fiber arts. My sisters learned to crochet from our grandmother; I never bothered with it—I figured I could ask them to make it, if I wanted something.  And now they ask ME for knitting advice and expertise.

Jaida fell in love with knitting — her gateway to the fiber arts!

I actually had been working on farms for awhile (before my knitting career) and I had definitely become more interested – so now I spin, I weave, and I felt. I really appreciate the process of working with fiber all the way from tending the animals to producing a wearable item.

I knew I wanted to pursue a farming education – I started researching places in parts of the country that I wanted to visit so I could double my travel and farm experiences! I hope to create for myself is a small, diversified style farm that incorporates fiber animals and also a small production of wool goods and other farm-related goodies

What’s the best piece of advice a mentor has ever given to you?

My first knitting instructor told me to not over-stress while I’m working on something fiber related so that if I created a mistake, I should continue, and then either put a bauble over the mistake or consider a thoughtful design element. Don’t stress the mistakes and just enjoy the craft.

Jaida interns at the Nezinscot Fiber Farm.

Tell us about a time that you developed an exciting idea for your fiber art; where did the idea come from?  What inspired you? 

I designed and knit a sweater for my grandfather who is always cold and also has trouble dressing himself. So I searched for the perfect light-weight, warm material which ended up being an alpaca-based yarn that was the perfect color, perfect weight, and softness. The sweater is absolutely perfect for him! The fact that I could search for the materials and put together a sweater for my grandfather was the most exciting and rewarding project I’ve ever done!

If you could re-design your life as a fiber artist, what would that look like?

I would have an old country home on 100 acres and have the perfect fiber farm set up with a giant dye studio and a farm store to provide any of my finished products for people.

Jaida dreams of having her own fiber farm and farm store in the not-too-distant future.

What or who has had the greatest impact on your work as an artist?

My coworkers at a yarn shop I worked at a few years ago. The yarn shop is called The Websters (a webster is someone who creates). There were people who had worked there for 30 years and were just total experts in each of their fields and I learned so much from them on a daily basis!

Jaida cares for animals and loves every minute.

How does your art recreate YOU? What does that feel like?

I’m a naturally creative person but when I can bring function to my creativity, I feel even more of a purpose. So being able to practice the fiber arts has given me another outlet for functional creativity.

Some of Jaida’s friends at the Nezinscot Farm.

If you could go back in time, what might you change about your fiber journey?

I would have started crocheting with my grandma at an earlier age so I could be farther down the road on my fiber journey.

Tri Loom Weaving

What’s the most important thing that you want potential students to know about you?

I don’t think that there is a right way to craft or to learn a craft. I can appreciate everyone’s individual understanding. What is important to me is that everyone gets a chance to become aware of what is possible in fiber arts.

Jaida is so excited to be joining our Fiber College faculty this year. If you’ve ever wanted to try weaving OR try a different kind of weaving, please consider registering for Jaida’s class here; it promises to be a great one! Welcome, Jaida!

Artist Profile: Misses China and Stella Mae Pettway

Oh, my goodness! Two of the unforgettable Gee’s Bend Quilters are returning to Fiber College this year! Ask anyone who had an opportunity to take a class with them, sing with them, chat with them, see their presentation, etc. in 2014 and you’ll learn about what a life-changing experience it is to experience these two incredibly vibrant women. This year, Misses China and Stella Mae Pettway are returning and will be teaching a great number of classes across the five full days of Fiber College.

A Gees Bend work clothes quilt

China and Stella Mae are related by marriage, church, and quilting. They are a lovely duo who brought us joy in 2014 and are returning because of our shared love of sewing, gardening, laughter, and conversation.

China quilts long into the night with bright colors, a bold eye, and a rhythm that bears out her reputation as being one of the leading gospel singers in Gee’s Bend. Her enthusiasm is infectious and you’ll soon be singing along while you work on your quilt. Stella Mae is more introspective. She guides with a smile and a gentle touch to your arm. She reminds you to listen to your heart and follow wherever it leads. Stella Mae tends to blend a strong sense of style with muted denim accented with bold sprinkles of color.

  • Keep Warm, Cover Your Bed will be offered on Wednesday and Thursday from 9 to 4 both days;
  • Hand Quilting Gee’s Bend Style will be on Friday 1:30-5:30;
  • Gee’s Bend Housetop and Brick Layer will be on Saturday 9-1;
  • Work Clothes: Recycle and Recreate will be on Saturday 1:30 to 5:30; and
  • the Flying Geese Runner will be offered on Sunday from 9 to 4.

Miss China and Miss Stella Mae are both SO happy to be returning to Fiber College. It’s time to learn more about them. And then, go sign up for one or more of their classes (before they all fill up!) here.

Stella Mae Pettway

Fiber College chooses a new theme each year. For 2017, it’s Re-Use, Re-Design, Re-Create.  How do you incorporate any part of this theme into an important part of your life?

This is part of all of my life. Re-use, Re-Design, Re-Create. We used to just use old dresses and old shirts [and did everything by hand—tearing and sewing]. But now, I have a chance to design with the new fabrics and now I can design my own work! Now when I sit down at my machine, I can make a block – I can make a long block with greater lengths of fabric – I can cut it apart into lots of blocks!  So then I redesign the blocks and move them in different directions. If I make a house block, I can cut it apart and see new things. Mostly, I love the NEW fabrics – I can see the colors can blend in really beautiful now – lots of bright colors – and mix it with some of the old stuff.

Stella Mae: When I think about what happened when I was growing up…we’re doing the same things in quilting but it’s easier now with the tools. We’re using the same design – old clothes – it brings back a lot of memories for me. I have some skirts and one or two dresses I wore some time ago and included them in a quilt.

Log Cabin (1960s) by Loretta Pettway

Aside from your class, what is your favorite thing about FC? What do you think new attendees just shouldn’t miss?

My favorite thing is when we were in Maine, the people were SO nice and sweet. The atmosphere – the climate was different – we have some really hot, hot weather here in Alabama.  So, one of our favorite things was the weather. And then sitting and singing with the class – how they will think up new ideas – we’re trying to get together – if they’re making THEIR design, I could use part of their design – Art is art! It’s YOUR WAY! In 1972, when we were discovered, and were told we were doing ART, I took a new perspective on that. I didn’t want to do it the way we used to do it back in the old days.  We have so many colors now – and the roller cutter! I got choices now. One of my favorite things was how I was able to see how my students were doing things. I could learn from THEM!

Stella Mae:
They shouldn’t miss enjoying different quilts on display. And living in a cabin (at the campground) was great — The only thing I could relate it to was The Three Bears!

Housetop Quilt with Work Clothes by Rita Mae Pettway

What’s the best piece of advice a mentor has ever given to you?

China: I’ve had a lot of mentors who have given me advice. One of the best pieces of advice – “You all do great art! You all do things in a different way – and you can do things YOUR way – it takes you so long to do your work – and we like the way you do your work and how you create – the way you all cut the fabrics.” [Ed. note—China reflects here on her previous visit to Fiber College – 2015—when she says her students were her mentors.]

I tell them I cut all strips – 1, 1-1/2, 2, 3, and 4 inches. I lay them next to my machine – I get my scissors and roller cutter next to me and come up with my designs – I learned from them – and they told me to Keep up the good work! And to keep doing things OUR way!

Hexagon Mosaic in Rows by China Pettway

I used to take little pieces of scraps and make something – we never complained – you could take a small piece of fabric and make something special. I would be praying, asking God’s leadership – to guide me – as I do my work – we praise our God while we create. I’m never above anybody – I don’t put nobody before God – God should be getting the praise and not man. The students tell us they like how we operate, how content we are, they love how we live.

Stella Mae: Listen before speaking!! There’s lots of talking – they could be frustrated – you should let them say what they want to say and think about how you will respond to them.

Bars Work Clothes Quilt by Annie Mae Young

Tell us about a time that you developed an exciting idea for your fiber art; where did the idea come from?  What inspired you?

Stella Mae: My mother inspired me to quilt. When I was a little girl, all I wanted to do was play outside in my homemade playhouse. We were saving little scraps of fiber. My mom said we needed to quilt – it was something we had to do by 12 years old. We needed to know how to sew, cook, and do some cleaning. When other people got interested in Gee’s Bend, things changed – I get an idea – -I either cut or tear it – I use my machine but when I sit outside or ride in the car, I can quilt (when someone else is driving!). I’ve done four quilts recently – They’re called “anyplace, anytime, anywhere” quilts – you can use them anywhere!

Another housetop variation (1970) by Linda Bennet

If you could re-design your life as a fiber artist, what would that look like?

Stella Mae: It would look like a playhouse – I’d have a room just for quilting – fixed up pretty, my quilting frame, scraps in a box, my batting, my sewing machine, and the walls would be decorated with designs I think up.  I would need to get a little picture of each design up on the wall. Everything would be all organized. My room would be so pretty.

Housetop Variation (2004) by Louisiana Bendolph

Tell us about a time that you developed an exciting idea for your fiber art; where did the idea come from?  What inspired you?

China: My mother inspired me – I made my first quilt when I was 11. My mother told me – she gave me ideas – sitting in the rocking chair out on the porch – Her fingers would be so sore from cutting up the old clothes –the scissors were so dull — and sometimes tearing it by hand – she was sitting there making a star quilt one day – I asked her what she was doing – “I’m making a quilt!” She told me to go back to the closet and bring her old shirts, old pants – a piece of paper bag – cut the pattern that I want – she cut out a star – she laid it on top of the material – she cut it for me – I want to be like my mama! I wanted to be like my mama – she was very smart – that’s why I sing – she used to sing – Every Easter, my sister and my cousins would sing songs for Easter – but my mama would make us dresses – we didn’t even have shoes. We would sing – people would laugh – I didn’t let it stop me – The ladies made the quilt tops – they came to my mama’s house to put the quilt together – people worked together back then – that’s what inspired me – I want to live up to higher heights – I try to share what I got with people – when we went to Houston and I saw my quilt on the wall in the museum – they got the quilt from under my bed and it ended up hanging on a wall in the museum. That’s why I want to share with other people.

Housetop Sampler Variation by Annie Mae Young

How does your art re-create YOU?

Stella Mae: When I quilt and I figure out a yard or two and I look at the stitching, it motivates me – it feels good!

Gee’s Bend Housetop Variation (1930s) by Henrietta Pennway

What’s the most important thing that you want potential students to know about you?

China: I am a child of God and I’m glad I’m a child of God – that I love them all – I’ll do anything I can do to help them – there is no wrong way- there is no right way – art is just art! Get two pieces of material, start putting it together and they can make something beautiful!
I’m there for them 24/7 and I will help them in any way – don’t be afraid – anything you want to ask me or show me or tell me, I’ll be there for them!

Stella Mae: I don’t like to talk about myself. I don’t like to put myself too high – I just like people to see me for who I am!

Now that you’ve met (or re-met) Miss China and Miss Stella Mae, you KNOW you want to take at least one class with them. Hurry! And go sign up here!

Artist Profile: Susan Tobey White

Susan Tobey White has been a potter, weaver, quilter, painter, and art educator. She is best known for her acrylic paintings of faceless dancers. She teaches workshops in water colors and acrylic painting. She has also led color theory classes for quilters. As an artist educator for Golden Artist Colors, she has acquired knowledge of their products which has greatly enhanced her teaching. And we are SO glad to have her back once again at Fiber College!


Sue will teach a two-day intensive class, Surface Design: A Multitude of Ways to Alter the Surface on Wednesday September 6 and Thursday, September 7 from 9 AM to 4 PM both days. Susan tells us this workshop could just as easily be called The Power of Color! and that it would enhance any artist’s understanding of color and design. Let’s meet Susan and then you can sign up for her class here.

Reusing materials can be great fun, exciting, or perhaps frustrating. How/What have you re-used as an artist? 

I went through years of being obsessed with creating 3-dimensional figures often of elderly women and puppets. These were created from papier mâché, polymer clay, and sculpted fabric. I have boxes of buttons, fabric, jewelry, papers, clothing, and items of texture that I would use to embellish the sculptures.  Now that I am one of these older characters I have lost my enthusiasm for creating them! I now use these items as printing tools, attach them to canvases, and use as inspiration.  Re-designing and Re-creating go hand and hand in my world.

Blue mussel by stw
Glowing Colors: Mussel Shells Susan Tobey White Acrylic 24×18

I have no interest in taking another person’s idea and recreating it…I am constantly reassessing my own work, often returning to older pieces and altering them or not.

Tell us how you entered into the world of fiber and the fiber arts.

I was born into the world of fiber arts and creativity.  My grandmother was a weaver, seamstress, and quilter. She taught me those skills along with knitting, crocheting, and gardening.  She was very traditional in her approach whereas what I created on the loom incorporated more texture and “fun.” My mother was a bronze powder stencil artist and tole painter, and created hand painted, pierced, and cut lampshades. She was also a miniaturist and in later years discovered rug hooking. She would dye her own wool. We often created designs together.

Susan Tobey White

As a young person my hands were never idle.  I spent many hours in our attic of our home that was built in 1810. The treasures there fueled my creativity and love of fabric as well…boxes of old clothing providing wonderful imaginative dressing up (dresses with bustles as well as some from the 20s)…I still remember the colors and textures.   One summer I discovered 2 bins of strips of wool. That was the year I learned to braid rugs.


In my 30s when my husband and I did the “back to the land” thing, I had a stencil business where I created quilt kits and sold them at the Common Ground Fair. We also raised sheep. I spun and dyed the wool often using plants I grew or ones that could be found in the fields. I would use the wool either in my weavings or for my knitting projects.  At that time I was an avid gardener.  Later I became obsessed with creating 3-dimensional figures using fabrics and Cernit, a polymer clay.

What’s the best piece of advice a mentor has ever given to you?

A mentor? Hey, I’m a Leo…need I say more? There are artists whom I admire…lots of them. A mentor? Not really.  There is a quote I read (which I have probably rephrased and do not know who said it) which was crucial to my success: “Creativity without self-discipline is just another flight of fancy.” This was such an important concept for me at the time. Being creative I want and enjoy doing it all… plus being trained as an art educator, I understand so many processes that I was jumping from one thing to another. I started limiting my creativity to painting and creating doll sculptures.   Eventually to only painting. This self-discipline was essential to my feeling of success.


What or who has had the greatest impact on your work as an artist?

Simple: My family.   Creativity was encouraged in my family. Growing up, my days were filled with drawing, creating, doing crafts, and learning skills from my mother, dad, and grandmother.  My dad was a furniture maker. I would spend many hours in his workshop building “things.”  Also, as an elementary art teacher for 15 years, I believe my students had impact on the colors and simplicity of design I enjoy.


Tell us about a time that you developed an exciting idea for your fiber art; where did the idea come from?  What inspired you?

Where does inspiration come from? As a teaching artist, I am asked this question most often.  For some of my work it is the overlaying of colors until I see what needs to be developed.  Sometimes it is a combination of colors in nature, or an interesting shape of a shadow. Inspiration can be a piece of fabric attached to a canvas. Most recently I found an old photo my grandmother took and hand painted of me. I felt the need to create a painting of it. That photo has inspired a whole new series of 4×3 ft. paintings that I am finding so exciting.

You can certainly understand how Susan’s class could also be called The Power of Color!

What’s the most important thing that you want potential students to know about you?

Although I am known as a painter, I am coming to this event with the background of a fiber artist. As an educator I begin my workshops asking my students what THEY want to learn from me and I adapt my sharing of information to their needs. This workshop will be about the students learning about color and design through a hands-on experience…which will be beneficial to enhance their own expertise.  I hate to waste my time and try very hard to make sure my students have a good experience.  The end product of what we create in this workshop which could also be called The Power of Color, will be dictated by the interests of the students. For example, a weaver may decide to tear or cut strips from what they created the day before with the intention of incorporating weaving in her/his design.  I encourage students to bring tools of their craft to the class (knitting needles, scissors, needle, thread, rug hooking tools, and more).  Because this workshop is based on individual needs, the end results should be diverse and exciting!

If you are a new artist or an accomplished maker who wants to enrich your understanding of color and design, there’s still time to sign up for Susan’s class Surface Design: A Multitude of Ways to Alter the Surface (aka The Power of Color!) right now, right here.

Artist Profile: James Francis, Sr.

Once again, it’s important to remember that we define fiber rather broadly here at Fiber College. And once you meet James Francis, Sr., you’ll be glad we DO! James works with moose and deer skin to create incredible drums and he joins us this year for not only a two-day intensive class but also an evening of stories and music from the Penobscot Nation on Wednesday. It’s been a privilege to talk with James by telephone; I was intrigued by his eloquence and passion for all that he explores with his art.

James is the Penobscot Nation’s Tribal Historian and studies the relationship between Maine Native Americans and the landscape. Recently James conducted an extensive Oral History Project for the Penobscot Nation. He has served as curator for Penobscot History exhibits at many locations including Bangor, the Abbe Museum, and Harvard University. James is an accomplished historical researcher, photographer, filmmaker, and graphic artist.

James will teach a two-day class, Penobscot Drums: Culture and Craft on Wednesday, September 6 and Thursday, September 7 from 9 AM to 4 PM both days. This is an extraordinary opportunity to work with an accomplished artist and historian to explore your connections to the world around you as you design and apply a personal motif on the drum provided to you (while also learning some music!). Then, each participant will hand sew a deer or moose skin drumbeater. There’s still time to sign up for his class here. Let’s meet James.

Fiber College chooses a new theme each year. For 2017, it’s Re-Use, Re-Design, Re-Create.  How do you incorporate any part of this theme into an important part of your life?

Through my understanding of the landscape, I do all of those. I redesign the landscape by looking at it from an ancient cultural lens, indigenous to this landscape, which more readily harmonizes with the landscape.

James perceives the world around him through an indigenous lens which provides rich material for his beautiful drums.

Tell us how you entered into the world of fiber and the fiber arts.

I studied landscape and history. I’m an artist, historian, geographer, photographer. The drum is the heartbeat of the land, and by playing a drum, you become intertwined with the place. You become a participant in what’s going on in anybody’s sense of that place in that moment that you’re playing. The drum’s a very important conduit between the culture and the landscape on a spiritual level. What can further enhance the connection between the drummer, the song they sing, and the landscape is the design they put on the drum. It’s a spiritual tattoo that gives someone a visual sense of who you are as a singer and drummer of any given song.

What’s the best piece of advice a mentor has ever given to you?

Be yourself and find your voice.

James has created some gorgeous commissioned pieces. Extraordinary!

Tell us about a time that you developed an exciting idea for your art; where did the idea come from?  What inspired you?

The Penobscot new moon drum project!  The idea came from seeing our connection–the Penobscot connection–linguistically beyond just the landscape. I studied place names – it gave me the linguistic link. With this project, each name also gave us the linguistic link to a very narrow time of the year. The Penobscot moon calendar is in the language. Each moon has its own name, like the Moon of Laying Eggs of Owls and Eagles. Each name describes something in the landscape that is very identifiable.  If you understand the landscape, you know about the cues in the landscape.  Others include The Moon when Ice Forms on the Margins of Lakes, the Moon of Rutting Caribou and Moose, the Moon of when the Smelts are Running, and The Moon that Provides a Little Food Grudgingly.  These names let us explore the cycle of nature for the whole year and then capture an image from moon to moon.

If you could re-design your life as an artist, what would that look like?

It would look exactly like the one I have – I wouldn’t have to redesign it!

What or who has had the greatest impact on your work as an artist?

My mother.

How does your art recreate YOU? What does that feel like?

My art embodies the indigenous landscape whether thru music/song, lunar cycles, understanding of ancient place, indigenous spaces, and how Penobscots lived in harmony in that place. All of that informs who I am as
an historian, geographer, artist, photographer, husband, father, son. I am a person of the land. It all connects to my art – my connection to a sense of place beyond what we have here currently, back to an indigenous sense of place. It’s all interlinked. I operate under this idea: space + culture = place. You can supplant cultures – we have the same space “Penobscot River Valley” but it’s a different culture today with a kind of Western thinking; we have a different sense of place there now. If I supplant it with indigenous, Penobscot culture, we get a different sense of place.

What’s the most important thing that you want potential students to know about you?

I want them to understand that my role as a teacher is to get them to understand their place and their connection to places that are important to them.

James’ insights are enlightening and thought-provoking. We are so fortunate to have him join us at Fiber College this year. There’s still time to sign up for his amazing two-day class AND you won’t want to miss his stories and music by the campfire on Wednesday evening after dinner. Be sure to sign up now!


Artist Profile: Betsy Habich

I’ve returned to quilting after more than a decade and I’m having a ball. The available fabrics and patterns are mind-boggling. But then I see the fantastic creations of a quilting artist like Betsy Habich and I have no words. Betsy makes exquisite pictorial quilts and thread paints them so that the back of the quilt is as extraordinary as the front! Betsy has had quilts juried into the American Quilters Society Show (Paducah) and the International Quilt Festival (Houston). Her work has been awarded at MQX, VQF, the Gathering, and other regional shows.Whether you’re a quilter or not, you do not want to miss seeing Betsy’s work at this year’s Fiber College.

And lucky for US, she’s teaching Thread Painting 101 on Friday, September 8 from 9 AM to 4 PM. On Saturday, September 9, Betsy will teach a rolling class on Fabric Dyeing (more info about rolling classes here). Let’s meet Betsy and see some of her incredible work.

Fiber College chooses a new theme each year. For 2017, it’s Re-Use, Re-Design, Re-Create.  How do you incorporate any part of this theme into an important part of your life?

Making quilts is the embodiment of this year’s theme! – ‘cutting up perfectly good fabric and putting it back together again.’   Making pictorial quilts, it’s all about seeing fabric in a different way – finding design elements that can be used to communicate something altogether different than intended, for instance using tree branches for cat fur

Betsy’s Honeysuckle

Aside from your class, what is your favorite thing about FC? What do you think new attendees just shouldn’t miss?

DO NOT MISS   #1. The chowder and pie dinner by the beach.  Those Searsport Historical Society folks sure make good food!  #2. Talking to other FC folks.  It is a GREAT opportunity to learn stuff and meet like-minded people.

A close-up of Ollie

What’s the best piece of advice a mentor has ever given to you?

Mentor and teacher extraordinaire Ruth McDowell once told a class if we didn’t like a source photo (for a quilt design), it was OK TO CHANGE IT!  Wow!  Talk about empowerment!

A rainbow of Betsy’s hand-dyed cottons

Another piece of advice from quilter extraordinaire Nancy Halpern, “Color gets all the credit, value does all the work.”  Such good advice, I made a quilt about it!  (Nancy claims someone else said this first, but I heard it from HER!)

Honeysuckle detail

And one more, from a bookmark at Back Porch Fabrics in Pacific Grove, CA: “It’s never too late to be the person you might have been.” George Eliot, English novelist (1819 – 1880)

An assortment of Betsy’s ice-dyed shibori fabrics

Tell us about a time that you developed an exciting idea for your fiber art; where did the idea come from?  What inspired you?

My most exciting idea, painting a wholecloth quilt-top and adding detail with quilting,  came from realizing the images made by bobbin thread on the back of my quilts were at least as good as the pieced top.  From thread sketching (painted wholecloth top with details sketched in with free-motion machine quilting), the next step was thread painting (the whole surface is thread).

The back of Betsy’s quilts showcase her extraordinary thread painting.

If you could re-design your life as a fiber artist, what would that look like?

I would love to share the joy I find in creating fiber images with more people.  I love seeing that aha moment when a student gets it!    Oh, and I’d like my body to exercise itself without my having to be there 😉

Kitty Sisters

What or who has had the greatest impact on your work as an artist?

The desire to see subtlety and communicate clearly through my work drives me.  This pushes me to try new techniques, particularly in my series of cat and flower portraits.

For example, rendering my gray agouti tiger cat’s stripes and the subtle color variations in agouti fur (each hair has bands of dark-light-dark color on it), forced me to think a lot about what I was seeing and what I could do to let other people see it, leading to a series of four Tigger Cat quilts.


How does your art recreate YOU? What does that feel like? 

Every piece I complete is a journey from confidence to self-doubt and back.  It starts with a vision, and feelings of hopefulness, confidence, and self-challenge.  (That picture would make a good quilt!)  Next comes a ‘burrowing-in’ phase, working at white-hot intensity to design the pattern and start the work.  Then the ‘long slog’ phase of actually doing the work.  The long slog usually includes anxiety and self-doubt, discouragement, some boredom, and physical fatigue.  At some point there’s the magic moment when the parts come together, and I start to fall in love with it.  Every good quilt I’ve made has been a struggle.  Successfully completing is a huge upper and what drives me to do another (and another)!

Betsy at work at her quilting machine

If you could go back in time, what might you change about your fiber journey?

I would trust my instincts.  My very first quilt, made c. 1972, incorporated embroidery, tie-dye, and batik, as well as piecing.  Then I did some reading and realized it was “all wrong.” I wish I’d trusted my instincts then—I do now!

Miss Sweetie Pie

What’s the most important thing that you want potential students to know about you?  

I respect my students as intelligent, talented, creative people.  I want them to come out of my class having had all their questions answered and having learned at least one new thing.   Also, I love cats (and dogs)!

Now that you’ve had the opportunity to learn more about Betsy and her fabulous quilting and thread-painting, go learn more about Thread Painting 101 and sign up here! You can also participate in her Saturday rolling class when you get to Fiber College; be on the lookout for those of us selling the wooden bobbins (1 bobbin for $20 which includes the gate fee and admits you to an hour of instruction).

Artist Profile: Alasdair Post-Quinn

Fiber College is a terrific place to not only try something new but also to hone one’s skill in a special technique or method. Knitting designer Alasdair Post-Quinn will offer three classes in double-knitting this year. Double-knitting is a unique method of making a fabric with no “wrong” side and a built-in reversible colorwork pattern. Significantly different from the standard intarsia and Fair Isle colorwork that are so well known, double-knitting is a labor-intensive but wholly worthwhile technique to have in your repertoire.

We are thrilled to welcome this renowned double-knitting expert to our teacher roster! Alasdair will teach Introduction to Double Knitting on Friday, September 8 from 1:30 to 5:30; Multi-Colored Double Knitting (an intermediate level class) on Saturday, September 9 from 1:30 to 5:30; and Double Knitting Cables (for those with double-knitting experience) on Sunday, September 10 from 9:00 AM to 1 PM. Let’s meet Alasdair and then you can sign up for one or more of his classes here.

The theme for Fiber College 2017 is Re-Use, Re-Design, Re-Create.  How do you incorporate any part of this theme into an important part of your life?

Design, for me, is a fluid process. I’ve put designs aside for years and revisited them later with a fresh mind. I am in the process right now of doing that with an entire book. I have learned and grown so much since my first book “Extreme Double-Knitting” came out, and now that I have the opportunity, I’m revisiting all of these designs, some of which are a decade old or more, and re-designing them. The challenge is to call to mind my creative limitations from the time period when I wrote the book, and re-design them not as I would now, but as I would have back then if I’d had a little more time and a little more knowledge and experience. I still want the new version to be a snapshot of where I was in my repertoire of techniques at that point, but perhaps using them a little more fluently.

Alasdair’s Adenydd shawl design

In the other half of my life, since knitting is not (yet) a full-time job for me, I am a computer technician. One of the things I do on the side of that job is to take computers that are retired in my shop and refurbish them for reuse. I was raised a frugal Yankee and I don’t like to waste things when possible. If I can keep a computer out of the waste stream for a couple more years, and in the hands of someone who doesn’t have a lot of money but needs a basic computer, I consider that a worthwhile service to my planet and my community.

Atyria was designed by Alasdair.

Tell us how you entered into the world of fiber and the fiber arts.

I have had knitting around me most of my life. My mother knitted, my grandmother knitted. I grew up in Vermont, and my mother’s favorite yarn was Bartlett — so there’s a powerful smell memory as well as the presence of yarn and knitting in my early childhood. However, I was never taught to knit. Instead, I did some counted cross-stitch, some basic weaving, eventually some Chinese knotwork. I suppose that was my entrance into the world of fiber arts, but it didn’t become a true part of my identity until later in life when I attended a craft skill-share event in my senior year of college. I was there to teach origami, which I have been doing since I was around 4 years old and teaching since age 12. Nobody came to my origami class so I sat in on a knitting class instead. It’s all been downhill from there.

Alasdair Post-Quinn

Reusing materials can be great fun, exciting, or perhaps frustrating. How/What have you re-used as an artist?

As an artist, I’ve re-used quite a number of things. Most people look at my current work and assume I must have been a mathematician. In fact, in college, I was a studio art major specializing in sculpture. The sculptures I had most affinity for were found-object constructions, but I took them a bit further. I scoured the university (and thrift shops nearby) for interesting machines (old computers, typewriters, anything with lots of little mechanical parts) and took them apart, down to their smallest components. I then rebuilt these components into humanoid creatures which I called my “scrap-metal culture.” Later in my art career, as I was beginning to learn to knit, I integrated traditional crafts into my artwork: I wove a basket out of ribbon cables; a huge double-helix out of ribbon cables, and knitted a scarf out of rubber tubing. My work these days bears little resemblance to my work as a sculptor, but we all have to start somewhere.

Alasdair’s handsome design, Hesperos.

What’s the best piece of advice a mentor has ever given to you?

As a self-taught knitter, I haven’t had a lot of long-term mentors, but a number of people have made an influence on my work. As I was just starting out as a knitter, I was told by more than one person, “You’re knitting wrong.” This confused me because I was making stitches — but the best advice came later, and I think it’s very common advice: there’s no such thing as “knitting wrong” as long as you’re getting the fabric you want.

Sierpinski, a double-knit blanket for baby.

Tell us about a time that you developed an exciting idea for your fiber art; where did the idea come from?  What inspired you?

I think that the idea that has most excited me in recent memory is the idea that gave rise to the Parallax patterns. I developed a type of chart design I call “metapixel” knitting and have been very excited to do more with it. It has potentially endless applications and fascinating repercussions but it will require significant time in order to execute. The inspiration came from my long history of exposure to op-art, from coloring books my parents got me as a child, to picture warping exercises in art class in high school, to a particular class in art school that had us exploring the effect of “the grid” on art in both theoretical and practical applications. I have loved the interplay of shapes and colors for a long time, and the Parallax patterns and metapixel knitting in general have given me so much more food for thought.

A design from Alasdair’s Parallax collection

If you could re-design your life as a fiber artist, what would that look like?

I currently work two jobs: one in IT, and one as a professional knitting designer. If I could re-design my life as a fiber artist, I’d be working full-time as a knitting designer. But I do worry that doing that would change the nature of my work and my relationship with it. Because it’s not my sole income now, I have more freedom to make it what I want, and not be beholden to the deadlines and whims of magazines and other companies interested in contracting my services. If there were a way I could keep doing what I do now, but expand it to fill the empty space left by a former job, with the same control and freedom I have now, I would do that.

Waterford Crossing

What or who has had the greatest impact on your work as an artist?

My father probably had the greatest impact on my work as an artist. He and I followed parallel paths, in a way. We’re both self-taught craftsmen, we’ve both made major advances in our areas that have put us, eventually, in the top tier of our respective crafts. Neither one of us had training in engineering, but both of us are often considered to be engineers now. And both of us operate in a small niche that few outside our circles really understand. My father, however, is one of the two most sought-after makers of the uilleann bagpipes in the world, whereas I’m one of a small handful of people worldwide with master-level skill in double-knitting. I think, perhaps at a subconscious level, his journey affected my attitude toward my own.

Heartbound Again

If you could go back in time, what might you change about your fiber journey?

It’s hard to say what I’d change about my fiber journey; if I changed too much, I might not be where I am today, and I’m pretty happy with it. If I could still be sure I’d end up where I am today, I’d try to start earlier. As I mentioned, I had yarn and knitting all around me when I was growing up, but it didn’t sink in. If I’d had a deeper connection to knitting or more experience when I started writing my first book, it might have been a better, more complete product and I wouldn’t be trying to redesign it now.

Now that you’ve met Alasdair, you can visit his website to learn more about his designs. And if you’d like to expand your knitting repertoire, register for a class here.

Artist Profile: Kristen Weyrick-Scott

One of the BEST things about Fiber College is how it can be very hard to tell the teachers from the students as you wander through the campground. Between classes, during the early morning hours, and late into the evening, there is so much making going on…it’s lovely! I will never forget watching Kris Weyrick-Scott create an AMAZING wet and needle-felted owl onto the back of her felted shawl. Folks gathered around continually to watch her work and see the bird come to life.

This year, Kris will be teaching her “Vegetarian Sheepskin” on Friday, September 8th from 9 AM to 1 PM. This sheep-friendly method is used to make raw fleece look like a sheepskin…without the skin! How cool is that? Let’s check in with Kris and then you can sign up for her class here.

Fiber College chooses a new theme every year.   For 2017 It’s Re-Use, Re-Design, Re-create. How do you incorporate any part of this theme into an important part of your life?

This is so relevant to my fundamental way of living life and the way I was brought up. My parents recycled before it was easy to do (or cool). In fact, my Father spearheaded the movement to incorporate a recycling center in my hometown. Socks were darned, clothes were passed down, dolls were made from clothes pins and rags, and Sunday dinner was “re-designed” into meals all week long. It was a “waste no/want not” mentality that I try to incorporate into my life still.

If you listen carefully, you can almost hear the lion purr (before he roars!).

Aside from your class, what is your favorite thing about Fiber College?

There are so many aspects of Fiber College that I love; I’m not sure I could pick a favorite, but I hope participants take advantage of the free demonstrations going on all weekend. By going to the demos, I have been introduced to aspects of Fiber Art that I would never have tried before. My body of work has grown and expanded past the confines of felting. Largely due to my experiences at Fiber College, I now incorporate dyeing, paper work, spinning, weaving, and wire work in my pieces. Going to the demonstrations doesn’t cost anything, and you never know when something small is going to rock your world!

Kris has been inspired at Fiber College to stretch her felting to incorporate other fiber techniques.

How and what have your re-used as an Artist?

I re-use, re-design, and re-create every day in my studio. I’m lucky because wool is easy to reuse. Inside of my life size Great Blue Heron, I have three discarded projects rolled up and used as a base in his body. Recently, I made samples of vegetarian sheepskin from 8 different breeds of sheep to see the difference between them. I had them hanging around my studio for a couple months before I started using them in ways I had never thought of before. One turned into a wise Winter Spirit, another is sporting a Triqueta, and yet a third is in its second incarnation—I felted the head of a Mongolian man into the surface, but he creeped me out, so over his face I felted a lion (This is now among my favorite works!).

Kris’s great heron is a great example of reusing and recreating!

What is the best piece of advice a Mentor ever gave you?

My Mother is a wonderful Wood Carver and my greatest mentor. She says that sometimes the wood speaks to her and she just has to “bring out” what is already there, that you can’t always force it to be what is doesn’t want to be. I find that there are times when I can give myself over to the wool and let it decide what it is going to become. It doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does…that’s when magic happens!

Kris will teach a class on the vegetarian sheepskin on Friday morning.

Tell us about a time that you developed an exciting idea for your fiber art; where did the idea come from?

I dream a lot of my works into being. I’m not alone in this; I know a lot of Artists that dream about a project. It’s exciting, but can be exhausting too. I have many sleepless nights where I plan out all the steps and stages of a work and just count the hours until I can get back onto my studio to make my dream come to life. Other than lacking sleep, it works quite well for me as an Artist because by the time I get into my studio, I have done it many times in my head and it usually goes quite smoothly. It’s rather an obsessive thing, where I can’t rest until I get it out of my head and into my hands.

Owlet triplets by Kris

If you could re-design your life as a Fiber Artist, what would it look like?

I’m in the process of re-designing my professional life…a slow, but sure, transition into being a full-time Fiber Artist/Instructor. In some ways I regret that I discovered the wonderful world of wool so late in my life (I was 49 when I first felted), but then again, when I had young children at home, they were my priority so I wouldn’t have had as much time available for my artwork and students. These days, my time is much more my own to do with as I like…and I like to stab wool to life!

Kris added this magnificent owl to her felted shawl. Wow!

What is the most important thing that you want potential students to know about you?

When I teach, I try to give my students as much information as they want or can take in, and I enjoy watching where they go with it. I keep in touch with many of the students that I’ve had at Fiber College. I love hearing from them, seeing what they have been working on, and answering questions that they may have. I find it exciting to be part of the process as they move from learning a skill to becoming Artists in their own right. I’m always just an email or phone call away.

Kris’ Winter Spirit

Didn’t meeting Kris get you totally inspired? You definitely don’t want to miss a chance to learn from one of the very best artists in the felting world. Go sign up for Kris’ class here while there’s still room!

Artist Profile: Laurie Sims

In the community of fiber artists (that’s all of US!), there are some very generous people who are always willing to walk the extra mile to cheer you on, teach you something new on the fly (look for her on the porch), and help you with those rough patches when you think there is NO way you can possibly figure out how to do x, y, or z. Laurie Sims is just that kind of person! She’s well-known at Fiber College whether hosting at the demonstration tent, sitting with a new friend on the porch, helping at special evening events, or teaching a class. This year, Laurie will teach a two-hour class, Beaded Bruges Bracelet, on Saturday, September 9 from 2-4 PM. Let’s visit with Laurie and then you can sign up for her class here 

For 2017, the theme for Fiber College is Re-Use, Re-Design, Re-Create.  How do you incorporate any part of this theme into an important part of your life?

I have clearly inherited the Re-Use gene and learned its charms from an early age; walking on my great grandmother’s rug she crocheted of fabric scraps and sleeping under the quilt my grandmother made of some of the same scraps; snuggling in Grandma Elsie’s Afghan of many yarns, some squares ringed in black or many shades of brown, or stitched with multi colored strands of recycled sock yarn; wearing restyled clothes of fabric Mom couldn’t resist as she sorted at the church rummage sales; and using the furniture and toys Dad made with wood shipping pallets and crates. I still haunt the thrift shops (and often my own attic) for most of my clothing and many of my fiber supplies.  I just can’t help it.  It’s in my genes!

For Laurie, re-using is in her genes!

Aside from your class, what is your favorite thing about FC? What do you think new attendees just shouldn’t miss?

Most important to me is something no one can possibly miss — The smiles!  They are infectious.

You’ll sure see Laurie’s big smile throughout Fiber College!

Reusing materials can be great fun, exciting, or perhaps frustrating. How/What have you re-used as an artist? 

Brightly colored rayon skirts and all cotton flannel sheets for crochet rugs.  The skirt from that dress and a free t-shirt for a dancing dress.  Old linens, doilies and embroideries. Stains or rips are not problems, they are challenges.

Laurie loves to wear what she’s made.

What’s the best piece of advice a mentor has ever given to you?

Oh my there are so many.  Here are just a few…

Relax and have fun with it.

If you’re not feeling it, walk away and come back to it later.

A magnificent coat by Laurie Sims!

Tell us about a time that you developed an exciting idea for your fiber art; where did the idea come from?  What inspired you?

One current project is making rainproof sidewalls for my camping shelter.  I’ve been using plastic tarps but they are so noisy and never are the right size.   Then one day in an art magazine there was an article about a Korean scrap piecing method called Bojagi.  Made mostly with blocks and strips, and using French seams so no backing is necessary, they are traditionally used to wrap objects for storage or to keep flies and dust off food.  The clean lines and utilitarianism struck a chord with me.  A torn raincoat that had never really fit anyway was the next spark.  Why not make Bojagi walls using coated nylon raincoats?  I’m challenging myself to have at least one side done by Fiber College so you can all come by and check it out.

Samples of Laurie’s Beaded Bruge Bracelets that she’ll teach this year at Fiber College.

If you could re-design your life as a fiber artist, what would that look like?

Though life right now is pretty darn good, the next step would be to live in an artists’ community in a studio with big windows and lots of space surrounded by creative people exuding creative energy.  I want to share ideas and share chores so we all have more time to create beautiful things.  Hey!  Isn’t that what Fiber college is all about?

Laurie looks for opportunities to collaborate with other fiber artists.

What or who has had the greatest impact on your work as an artist?

I would have to say the “what” is Maine and the “who” are the amazing creative friends here who have accepted and encouraged me.  I came here after escaping from a corporate job that had become dull, stressful, and tedious.  Oh, there were the occasional creative bursts, some interior decorating or scarves made for gifts, but most evenings were TV and bed.  The graphics job I hoped for never materialized, but instead, surrounded by the ocean’s tidal energy and many talented fiber artists, my personal creativity found inspiration and room to grow.

Laurie has great fiber-y fun wherever she goes!

How does your art recreate YOU? What does that feel like?

It truly just feels like me.  The food I eat, the clothes I wear, the entertainment I enjoy, and the company I keep.  My life is lived with creative intention so each moment I am recreating myself with the goal of bringing more beauty and art into myself.

Detail of Laurie’s coat

What’s the most important thing that you want potential students to know about you?

We all learn in different ways so I try to teach to individual styles.  It is also important to me to share with my students not just how something is done, but why.  Why is this tool shaped this way?  Why do we do this before that?

Be sure to look for Laurie around the Fiber College campus this year. She’s even willing to review a few easy crochet stitches with you before you take her class. And please don’t forget to sign up for her class here.