Name, Location, Occupation
Owner of Camellia Fiber Company, a shop specializing in hand-spun yarns and sewn goods made from locally sourced fibers.
Please describe your workspace:
Well, it's brand new! I just moved into this space at the beginning of January. It's very small, but it has great big windows and a lot of natural light, and it's in a warehouse building with other artists, musicians, woodworkers, etc. My friend James, (whose wood shop is also in the building) custom built my desk/sewing table from reclaimed tobacco barn wood that was leftover from a house renovation project. My husband installed the pipe and flange racks that I hang yarn and tools on. There is just enough room for my spinning wheel, an ironing board and some shelves. But it's quiet, and lovely. And, most importantly, my cats can't get to my yarn here!
What are you working on right now?
Currently, I'm focusing on building a collection of hand-spun yarns using fibers sourced from farms around the southeast. I have been able to establish relationships with some wonderful alpaca farmers in the middle Tennessee area, and I love spinning alpaca. I'm also working on some merino wool and mohair yarn from a farm in Virginia, and I have an order of North Carolina-grown cotton coming in next week. I'm also sewing some indigo-dyed denim cross-back aprons for the shop, and I'd like to do a lot more sewing in the coming months. I'm also working with a local designer to create several knitting patterns that work well with hand-spun yarn, and those will be available in my shop soon too.
What has been your most rewarding project to date?
This past fall, I did a series of natural dye workshops with the Middle Tennessee Alpaca Association. Oh, my word, were they fun! All the farmers brought great piles of fleece and yarn from their animals, and we went crazy with big turkey-fryer dye pots. We did indigo, copper crystals, madder root, log wood chips and more. But the best part was just getting to know all the farmers and learning how they take care of their animals. All of the alpaca yarn in my shop comes from their herds.
Which designers and artists inspire you?
I am so inspired by my local Nashville creative community! Just to name a few…clothing designer Elizabeth Suzann, woodworker Emily Brock, woodworker Matt Alexander, and jewelry designer/fiber artist Lisa Garcia to name a few. Not only are these people talented and hardworking, but all of them are so kind and dear.
Has there been a defining moment or turning point when you realized what you wanted to do for a living?
For the past several years I had been working from home as an illustrator. I loved my work, but sitting at my desk all day became difficult for me due to some painful back issues. I'm an avid knitter, and last summer I started ordering yarn in bulk and getting really into natural dyes. Being able to get up, walk around, you know…just be mobile…was such a welcome break from being hunched over my desk, and soon I was accumulating so much hand-dyed yarn that I couldn't afford not to sell it! I opened up an online shop in August, and was really surprised by the positive feedback I started getting from customers. But there was definitely a corner of my heart that wished I could figure out how to source my fibers locally, even though it's a lot more difficult and a lot more pricey. So I made a commitment starting this year to do just that. It is the proverbial labor of love. But the love part runs deep.
What do you think is the most difficult aspect of working in design?
For me, it's difficult to work alone in a creative pursuit, because you have all these ideas and don't know if they're good or totally off-base, or what. And your work becomes so personal to you…such a part of you…that the fear of it being criticized can be debilitating. But then you have to remember why your doing what it is you're doing, and remember to reach out to your creative community for feedback and support. You really do need each other!
What are you reading at the moment?
I'm a devoted fan of Flannery O'Connor, and am currently reading the recently released "Prayer Journal", which is a collection of meditations on faith and art that O'Conner wrote while she was a young student at the Iowa writer's workshop. Essentially, it was her personal journal. Honestly, it feels a little strange - a little voyeuristic - to read, but it is illuminating and beautiful and incredibly moving. She was one sturdy-hearted lady.
What websites do you visit for inspiration?
As far as websites go, nothing inspires me more than my dear friend Beth's blog, Local Milk. She truly understands the South I know and love and curse and scorn, but mostly love. Sometimes when I'm reading her words I want to scream into the computer "Preach it, SISTER!!!", and sometimes I probably do. I also love Fringe Association, Little Upside Down Cake, Manger (life in France! Un reve!), Posie Gets Cozy, Nothing But Delicious and the Purl Bee.
What are your simplest daily pleasures?
Waking up early, for one. I like to wake up well before the sun rises, and I know that sounds dreadful to most people, but those quiet hours with hot coffee are my most clear-headed ones of the day.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Well, now, I'm not sure. Ten years ago, when I was twenty-two, I couldn't possibly have dreamed that this is what I'd be doing now. Maybe I will have a clothing line by then! Really, all I can hope for is that life will be rich and full and my friends and family will be happy and healthy. And, also, I would really like to own a sailboat. That wouldn't be a disaster :)