Today I wanted to share the story of a talented weaver from New England, US - Kristin Kelley-Munoz, the owner of the Store skiingweaver
I hope you enjoy our interview with Kristin as much as we did!
Kristin threading her little Harrisville loom at home
(picture taken by her daughter)
I live in Chelmsford, MA (about 30 NW of Boston) and my studio is at Western Avenue Studios in Lowell, MA (http://www.westernavenuestudios.com/) - the building used to be a textile mill and it's on a canal!).
Random Facts about You?
I'm a former lawyer (IP litigation, but please don't ask me about copyright issues). I'm much happier now. :) I found out *after* I learned to weave that my Quebequois maternal grandmother was a mill-girl weaver here in Massachusetts in the early 1900s! I really am a fanatic skier - Stowe, VT and Alta, UT are two of my favorite places to ski (hubby and I downhill, cross-country, snowboard and telemark - and the kids are following in our tracks...). I envy my daughter's gorgeous red hair. And my hubby, Carlos, is my best friend in the world.
Kristin and her daughter on the last ski day in 2010
How long ago did you start weaving?
I taught myself to weave in 2001 - I bought a little 4-harness loom form Harrisville Designs and built it over a weekend with much swearing and banged thumbs. (Harrisville, BTW, is a really pretty town in NH, and their intensive workshops are supposed to be huge amounts of fun.)
What got you started weaving?
I just knew I'd like it... A college friend taught me to knit and I enjoyed that, but I picked up a book about weaving one day and knew I had to get my hands on a loom. I bought that first Harrisville loom when I was still working as an attorney and I'd never woven before then - I'd never even seen a loom in person at that point!
Any particular technique(s) that you enjoy the most?
Hard to choose... When I was learning to weave, I was a structure person. Now I think I'm more interested in how color affects structure and vice versa. But true to my structure roots, I love designing new patterns. Fiberworks PCW is such fun to play with! Most of my designs never get woven at all, and the ones that do are usually just one-offs that I weave for fun and that never make it into my Etsy shop or a show booth. I'm also getting back into dyeing now the my kids are getting beyond the toddler stage (finally!).
What part the process makes you the most passionate?
Oh, all of it. I love it when a design surprises me - when something looks very different after wet-finishing than I expected, e.g. I actually love warping, I really enjoy the feel of the fibers running through my fingers and threading heddles. Selling is probably my least favorite part, though I do enjoy talking with people that come to Open Studios at my studio building and explaining how looms work (everyone is interested when they see my two big looms at my studio - a 60" 12-shaft LeClerc Colonial and a 48" 16-shaft Weavebird/compudobby).
What is your source of inspiration?
I just keep my eyes open. Kids put colors together in amazing ways, they're fearless. I also think it's really important that the finished fabric be appropriate for its intended function (scarves should drape, rugs shouldn't). I also tend to group cones of yarn together in interesting colorways and let them sit there for a couple days, to see if I still like them, or maybe swap out a color or two... Design ideas seem to strike when I'm throwing the shuttle - I keep a little notebook in my loom bench to jot ideas down. Too many ideas, far too little time at this point.
Where do you sell?
I started selling only online but that's by far the smallest piece of my business now. I sell at a couple of large local shows every year, through Open Studios in my studio building on the first Saturday of every month, through a couple of galleries in New England and through the deCordova Museum store (by invitation). I participated in my Guild sale for a couple of years, too, which is a great way to get your feet wet!
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
I'm a board member of the Weavers' Guild of Boston, and I teach classes and lead seminars for area weaving guilds (I'll be leading three seminars at NEWS - the New England Weavers' Seminar - at Smith College this July, in case anyone is in the area!).
Outside of the weaving world, I'm a stay-at-home mom of two (our daughter is 7 and our son is 4 - so, in other words, I'm done with diaper duty and starting to feel like a chauffeur instead), an avid newbie gardener (I'm over-run with arugula and spinach at the moment! tomatoes, peppers, zucchini and broccoli are getting planted soon) and I love to bake bread. We ski in the winter and surf, kayak and bike in the summer. We love to travel and are planning to spend a year abroad about 5 years down the road, if things go according to plan (Spain or France - hubby Carlos' first language was Spanish, and I speak very poor French... Though we love the UK and Italy, too, and I would love to take a jacquard class at Fondazione Lisio in Florence... Hmm. Maybe a couple months in each!)
Kristin and her kids from two years ago
What first made you want to become an artist?
Weaving sort of found me... In high school and then at MIT and later in law school I didn't have time to take art classes and since I can't draw my way out of a paper bag, art school was never really a consideration for me. I've always loved working with my hands though - probably a legacy from my father, who was a baker (and made the best doughnuts ever!). I got my independent streak from my dad, too, I was never particularly happy in an office environment. I enjoyed the intellectual challenge of my legal practice, but the billable hours grind was awful (I worked for two very large firms). Making the leap into being a weaver was a pretty huge decision for me. Thank goodness for my very supportive husband!
Please describe your creative process: how, when, materials, etc.
One nice thing about weaving is that you can stop and start - which is pretty necessary when you've got two little ones to take care of! I try to spend two mornings a week in my studio, while my son is in preschool. And I often spend one weekend day over there as well, if I can manage it, though I do miss my hubby terribly when I do that.
As for materials, I lean towards luxury fibers, and fibers that don't make me itch. (Although the fact that cashmere makes me itch like the devil makes me want to cry. It's such lovely stuff.) Tencel and silk both take dye just gorgeously, and I like working with bamboo, too. Zephyr is another favorite of mine (50/50 wool/silk blend, made by Jaggerspun). Stainless steel/wool, paper, glow-in-the dark yarn, silk ribbons - all intrigue me and are on my (long) list of fibers to experiment with.
older shot of part of Kristin' studio in Lowell
Process-wise, I like playing around on Fiberworks PCW. I *love* browsing through the huge library at my weavers' guild meetings. And I like looking beyond the weaving world for ideas, too - the artists in my building are amazing (there are about 200 of us at this point). On the weaving-process front, I warp at most three scarves at a time - only about 9 yards. I've found I lose interest when warps are longer than that (short attention span, I guess). I play around a lot with things that never make it into my shop - just because I enjoy making a project once doesn't mean I'll want to weave a bunch of them for my shop or a show, or that it would fit with my current shop aesthetic.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
A linen cut-work tablecloth that my grandmother not only embroidered herself, but also grew the flax, spun the linen and wove it herself. That's pretty intense (processing flax is difficult work!). I've also got a quilt that she made from remnants of fabric from the textile mill she worked in that I really love.
What advice would you give to artists who are new to Etsy?
Don't get caught up in the numbers game! I see so many people get caught up in how many sales they have... I'd much rather have one $75 sale (and one trip to the post office) than five $15 sales... Besides, as weavers, it's hard for us to keep up with the sheer volume that other types of sellers can put out. Apart from that - Etsy is a very different place now than it was when I joined back in the dark ages. It's a lot harder to get seen now. I think that local shows and marketing are even more important now to start to build a customer base... Otherwise, great photography, excellent workmanship and a unique product are all important! Learn to develop a critical eye for your work - you don't have to put *everything* you weave in your shop, and I've found that having a coherent look really helps - both for your shop and for show booths. On the photography front - do a search for items similar to what you make, then really take notice of which thumbnails attract your attention (in a good way!) and why. Take all advice with a big heap of salt (including this advice! lol!). What works for one person doesn't necessarily work for anyone else. Figure out what works for you and be happy doing your own thing. And also know that you can step back from it whenever you want - if things get too crazy, it's ok to take some time off.
What do you like about Etsy?
It's so easy! You post things, people buy them. Neato. I also love that my work lives all over the world thanks to Etsy. And I've met some really interesting, kind, generous people through Etsy - and I found my studio thanks to an Etsy-friend who has a studio a couple doors down from me.
trio of bamboo scarves
How do you promote your work?
I don't. I sell at local shows, which helps a lot, and always hand out tons of cards and postcards. Having the monthly Open Studios helps, too. I seem to get a lot of first-time buyers on Etsy, and a steady trickle of custom work through Etsy as well (people find things they like in my sold items quite a bit, so I'm happy I keep good notes on past designs). Sooner or later I'll get coordinated and start a mailing list and follow all the advice in books like "I'd Rather Be In The Studio" and "Craft, Inc." but for now I sell basically everything that I can manage to weave (and then some, it feels like sometimes) so I haven't focused on promoting much at all. I am really picky about what shows I apply to, though, which helps.
What weaving activities or guilds to you participate in?
I'm a board member of the Weavers' Guild of Boston. I'd love to join a smaller guild or two, but I just don't have the time right now (having a high tech startup-founder hubby means I'm focused on the kids for the most part!). This past January I took an advanced weaving class at the John C Campbell Folk School in NC - what fun! An entire week thinking only of weaving, what a treat. (We worked on dyeing and creating crimp cloth using polyester yarn and woven shibori techniques, which I had played with for dying but not for crimping - sooo much fun!)
Do you have a website, blog, Facebook page, or other online endeavors?
My website is: http://www.skiingweaver.com (I don't update it as much as I should and have yet to put a shopping cart on it...)
I've got a shop on Cargoh and get lots of views but no sales yet. My blog is pretty much defunct now. I spend too much time on Facebook (trying to cut back)! You can find me as myself and I have a Facebook page for my weaving, too: http://www.facebook.com/handwovenbykristinkelley
picture of a shawl that the Store @ the deCordova Museum featured on its website