Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Come See... What Art-Is-In {Artisan} Chat

Welcome to The Artisan Chat! Today we are chatting with Brenda from Split Rock Ranch. I stumbled upon her blog through entrecard and discovered a really wonderful lady. She is so friendly and talented and I'm thrilled she was so excited to be featured. I'm fascinated with her fiber work and the process involved - it seems so rewarding. And so...on with the chat!

Where can we find your work?

I sell on Etsy, I have an ArtFire store. We have our own website for the ranch where you can find our llamas and photos of fibers I’ve dyed in the past – basically most of my established colorways. My colorway page. I also have a blog. I am on Ravelry. I also have a Split Rock Ranch group on Ravelry! I have a Flickr account, where I post photos of my latest creations, Twitter and Facebook.

Can you share with us a little history about Split Rock Ranch?

We bought our first llamas in November 1996 – 2 males that we planned to keep as pets and use for packing. We boarded the llamas at the llama ranch where we bought them. We bought our place in May 1997 and brought our llamas home to live with us. There is a very large pine tree here on the ranch that has grown up between the cracks in a rock and it eventually split the rock – hence the name Split Rock Ranch. We bought our first female that summer and added a show quality male, too. We started showing our llamas and winning. We added more females and those females have produced crias (baby llamas) and our herd has grown to 35 llamas. Jim bought me my first spinning wheel in December of 1999 when I decided we needed to start doing something with all the beautiful fiber we were harvesting from our llamas. When Jim was laid off in December 2002 I started selling my fiber art on ebay and at llama shows. I retired from my “real job” as Office Manager for a home builder in June 2008 to work the ranch and my fiber business full time.

How did you get started as a fiber artist?

I learned to knit and crochet as a child but didn’t do much of either while I was working full time and raising my family. My husband bought me my very first gently used spinning wheel for Christmas in 1999. I made the mistake of trying to spin alpaca top for my first fibers, which was a mistake because those fibers are very slick and difficult to draft. Once I switched to easier to spin wool rovings, my spinning took off. Once I got the hang of it I started spinning llama, alpaca, cashmere, angora, and silk. When I started spinning and dyeing fibers I started knitting and crocheting again. Once I started using natural fibers rather than acrylic man-made fibers, I was hooked! It is such a joy to work with such soft natural fibers.

What type of environment do you create in?

I do all my work in our home here on the ranch. Our kitchen is quite large with tons of cabinets and counter space and there is a “breakfast room” in the northeast corner of the house where I have bins of fibers and a table set up with my drum carder on it. It is still a work in progress but I’m trying to get more organized! My views out the windows are of the mountains and the lake across the road behind us, along with the llamas and horses in their pastures, the soaring pine trees and the ultra-blue Colorado skies.

Your fibers have such rich and vivid colors - what inspires you?

I am inspired by Nature and the beauty I am surrounded with daily. Sunsets, sunrises, the intense blue of the Colorado skies, wildflowers, the mountains…

Can you tell us a little bit about the process? What is your favorite part?

There are so many things that I do it would be difficult to pick one thing and describe the process. It all starts with the animals – and the shearing process starts long before the actual shearing takes place! It is all about selecting animals that produce exceptional fiber, feeding them the right diet, preparing the fleece before it is sheared (blowing and brushing the animal out).
I dye fibers (rovings, yarns and fleeces) using either a ceramic crock pot (used exclusively for dyeing) or stainless steel stock pots in the oven. I use light-fast, color-fast professional acid dyes (the acid used to set the dye is white vinegar).
I card my custom fiber blend batts (perfect for spinning, felting or other fiber art) on my hand crank Ashford fine tooth drum carder. I love carding batts using a variety of fibers (wool locks or roving/top, mohair locks or top, alpaca, llama, cashmere, camel, yak, silk, bamboo, glitz, etc.) The colored fibers are my paints and the drum on the carder is my canvas.

Do you have a creative hero? Who is it?

No, I don’t have a creative hero. I pretty much blaze my own trail and let The Creative Muse work through me. So much of what I do has been self taught using books, videos I’ve found on-line and an occasional pointer or tip from someone experienced at whatever it is I’m in the process of learning.

Do you use social networking? How has it worked for you?
Yes, I use Twitter, Facebook, my blog and several ning sites: Creative Café, Café Handmade, Online Shopping Mall, Indiepublic & My Craft Corner
I have my Twitter, Facebook and my blog linked so when I post to Twitter or on my blog it goes to Facebook. I tweet when I list or relist an item in my store. I get a lot of views on my items when I tweet about them.
I blog about new colorways, projects and fiber blend batts. I post things on my personal blog and on the ning networking sites. I post photos of my new work in my Flickr account and on my Ravelry page as well as to my Facebook Fan page.
I have gotten more custom orders this year than I ever have before.

What do you look forward to?

I look forward to each and every day here on the ranch. It is always something new and different and I get to try out new colorways and fiber blends that popped into my head during the night. Yes, I dream in color! I look forward to meeting new customers, friends and other fiber artists who share my passion for all things fiber!
Some day perhaps I’ll have a brick and mortar store and studio where I can really spread out and devote everything to fiber!

If you weren’t a fiber artist what would you be doing instead?

I would probably still be working in the construction industry. I have worked as Office Manager for both commercial and residential construction and loved it. But fiber and the animals that provide that fiber are truly my passion.

What have you always wanted to try?

I have always wanted to try weaving but find warping the loom a daunting task so there my table top loom sits, patiently waiting. I bought a triangle loom, which I find much easier because the same strand of yarn becomes both warp and weft, but I haven’t finished the shawl I currently have on the loom (my first attempt) I am using some of my earliest handspun yarns in purples and greens to make myself a shawl on the triangle loom. One of these days it will become a finished object!
Is there anything else you would like to share?

My Motto: Where fiber is our passion, and it shows!

Thank you so much Brenda for joining us today! Take some time and browse her shop and treat your eyes to her gorgeous sense of color. Thanks for visiting and Happy New Year!!


  1. Kristen,

    What a lovely post! Thank you so much for featuring me here. Wishing you and yours a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous 2010!

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