Sunday, February 22, 2009

PhatFiber Artist Interview with Velma

Thought it might be fun to reprint the interview I did with Jessie of PhatFiber for her series on fiber artists participating in the inaugural sampler boxes in January. The original can be found here. Thanks, Jessie!


Describe a COLORBOMB?

To be literal, it was a comment left by Linda Scharf/StoneLeafMoon (aka Pinkveneer) on one of the yarns I spun for the (now defunct) Fiber Friday spinning challenge on Livejournal. I'd been struggling to come up with a biz name that a) was specific to what I'm doing, but isn't b) so specific that it limits me (so the original 'LovinKnit' was out). Anyway, when I read Linda's comment - "color bomb. nice!" - despite at that time not knowing her from Adam, or more likely Eve, I immediately knew: there's my business name! Now that I can consider Linda my friend, it means even more to me.In a larger sense, a COLORBOMB is an explosion of color, and of course as with any explosion, there's a lot of bits and pieces thrown about; in this case, the bits and pieces are textural interest. Oh, and a COLORBOMBer is someone who understands that COLOR CAN'T HURT YOU! (Get it? It's a bomb, but it can't hurt you.) We COLORBOMBers are the adventurous type. We like our yarn arty and color-filled and tactile-y delicious!

What led you to a life of fibery pursuits?

Grad school washout? Unemployment ran out? Suicide-before-cubicle-life? Can't afford to keep myself in handspun? Need to dominate the world through color & texture? A smattering of all of these, plus fancying myself an "artiste" at heart. As a Gemini, I have a very inflated sense of self, believing that it is my sacred duty to share my love for art yarn with the beige people and the one dimensional; I am a proselytizer for color, a missionary for texture, an advocate for adventure in fibery activities. Think my head is too big? ;)

What inspires your creative use of colors and textures?

What doesn't? Really, I'm just inspired by color & texture; those 2 things, along with adventure, form the triad that is the foundation of COLORBOMB Creations. I'm that girl who has always walked with one hand outstretched so I can feel the world as it goes by: the tactile pleasure of a fence, or a shrub, or a stucco wall against my fingertips is one of my favorite things. That experience translates directly into my work. As for color, I once had a friend from my years as an undergrad tell me that it was easy to find me anywhere on campus: just scan the crowd, & whomever had the most color on, that was bound to be me! Sartorially-challenged? Maybe. Basis for my fiber color palette? Definitely. Mostly I just let the fiber guide me. I've noticed that when I have a preconceived idea of what the yarn "should" be with a particular fiber, it flops. So I'm frequently less pleased with the yarns that come out of my efforts of spinning along a theme, say or for a spinning challenge issued by others; the yarn just never seems to live up to the idea I have in my head. Instead, I try to follow the lead that a particular fiber suggests; I often spin a little bit, decide I hate what's coming off Harry (my wheel, a Lendrum DT), and just set it aside for another day. More often than not, when I go back to the fiber and try something else, it just clicks. Forcing materials to be something they don't want to be just doesn't work for me. On the other hand, themes and spinning challenges are great for getting my creative juices flowing. I participate in two Ravelry groups for art yarn spinners, Novelty & Art Yarn Spinners and Intertwined Spin Along, which offers a wealth of creative inspiration. The spinning challenges issued periodically by The Yarn Museum are also good for getting myself thinking in new ways. The community of art yarnistas is really growing by leaps & bounds, which I see as a really positive sign.

Do you have any spinning mentors? If so, whom?

Oh-my-dog, YES! I follow in the footsteps of the great art yarn spinners that came before me. First & foremost, I was inspired by Lexi Boeger of Pluckyfluff renown. I own possibly the largest collection of her yarns extant today; I learned to spin specifically to be able to create the kind of art she pioneered. Early on (this was say 2002, 2003 or so), I was a big Jenny Neutron Star customer too, but she seems to have faded away. Jacey Boggs/Insubordiknit, Elizabeth O'Donnell/YarnPunk, & Reenie Hanlin/Material Whirled are also inspirations. Recently, Ravelry has been the nexus of the burgeoning art spinners 'scene', and I've had the pleasure of meeting and being befriended by a score of talented spinners there, too. I've been particularly inspired by Linda Scharf/StoneLeafMoon, Cindy Cole/StudioLoo, Tracy Hudson/Himalaya, and HollyEQQ. This is by no means an exhaustive list; anyone stretching the envelope of what "can" be yarn really floats my boat.

Describe your favorite yarn.

Wow, that's a toughy. It's cliche, I know, but they're like my babies. I remember their names, and their personalities, and want to find good homes for all of them. I do have a few that I was so partial to that I just couldn't part with them though. The two that leap immediately to mind are 'Spring Carnival', one of my LoopyDoopy™ style supercoils yarns in a sheer riot of colors that became one of my favorite hats: the Dread (K)naught, and the Lockalicious™ style 'Easter Bunny on Acid' of pink, yellow, purple, & green Cotswold locks which morphed into Power Beanie, my entry into the contest of the same name at The Yarn Museum. Oh, and 'Bug Balls', my first true art yarn in the throw-in-crazy-shit-and-spin-it-up sense; it has plastic bugs, orange pompons, synthetic wig hair, and polka-dot ribbons in a black wool base; I'm working on a hat called Helloween with it. Then there's 'In the Buff' that became my WedWrap, and, and, and... You can see the yarns and the hats in my Flickr photostream and, if you're a Ravelry member (I should hope!), you can see them in my stash and on my projects page, too.

Describe the least favorite yarn you've made.

Hmm, well, I generally find something I appreciate about all my yarns, even the ones that don't really do it for me personally (like most of the earth-toned and muted skeins), and I always learn something from a spin, even the "failed" attempts (which I either recycle, give away, or work up myself). But if I had pick one, I'd say it's 'Fog', which was an experiment spinning for a Fiber Friday theme: Lost. I wanted to spin yarn that resembled fog (I get lost easily in the fog), so I grabbed the bag of synthetic "super stretch-super scary" spider web fiber that I received in a swap, and set to 'spinning' it up. I wanted it to be as lofty and airy as possible, and realized that it needed absolutely no twist, so I just drafted it straight onto the bobbin. It 'worked' except that it is so sticky, it is unusable; it just gloms together. It came off the bobbin as one big amorphic mess! C'est la vie.

Do you listen to music while spinning? If so, what is your spinning soundtrack?

My aural backdrop of choice lately has been episodes of The West Wing, Law & Order, Scrubs, and pretty much anything not war related on The History Channel playing in the background. It needs to be dialogue-driven TV, not action-based; spinning to TV scripts has taught me that action movies have no substance! Nothing to listen to, they're all visual stimulation. (Duh, I know, I just never thought of it that way before. I ride the short bus, get off me man!) But when I turn off the TV and plug in the iPod, there's no telling what will turn up; I'm as likely to listen to Ween as Wagner, Beastie Boys or Booker T., Reggae or Rockabilly; the only thing I don't listen to is hate-rap and contemporary Country & Western (which, I maintain, is neither country nor western; nor good.). And this year, The Year of Book Gluttony at Casa Velma, I expect there might be some audiobooks on the ol' iPod.

I love the names of your handspuns. Which comes first, the yarn or the name?

The yarn, always. I rarely make more than one skein of any given colorway, and each gets named at some point in the spinning process; sometimes a name suggests itself as I'm spinning, sometimes at the very end when it's getting tagged, and occasionally a name changes between those two points due to the personality and look of the yarn morphing. So I've had 'Slap-and-Tickle' (laden with tassels), 'Clown Pants' (named in honor of Ravelry's Bubbo), 'Weiner Poopie' (the yarn embodiment of a news story featuring feuding neighbors, a concrete Jesus statue, and dachsund poo), and the aforementioned 'Easter Bunny on Acid' (fairly self-explanatory). And once in a blue moon I am completely flummoxed by the whole appellative mess, and I enlist my peeps in choosing a name; that happened recently to the yarn that became 'Forget Me Not' - thanks, Velvetpurrs!Now, the naming of yarn lines, like LoopyDoopy™ and Ménage à Trois™, is somewhat different. Sometimes the yarn comes first, sometimes the name. When I try a new technique, and I'm happy with it, I name it; other times, I have a 'look' in mind, and the name comes first. LoopyDoopy is an example of the former; I learned how to spin supercoils, then cast around in the recesses of my moldering brain 'til I found the appellation 'LoopyDoopy', which I think captures the loops you see in coils yarn. On the other hand, I had the name Ménage à Trois in my back pocket long before I learned to actually spin a 3-ply yarn. There are a couple of yarn styles that I haven't perfected, or in some cases even tried yet, but I've already picked out their names; I collect colorway name ideas the same way, just like an expecting parent choosing baby names.

I read in your profile, you created a year-long freeform fiber project. Tell us more.

Sure! The idea was this: begin a piece of freeform knitting, and update it daily for three hundred and sixty-five consecutive days, either scanning or photographing it's progress each day as well and posting it to the group (on Flickr). Why? That can be summed up by the following: "What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step. It is always the same step, but you have to take it." (Antoine de Saint-Exupery). To be fair, I started a year-long freeform piece; I actually only completed 263 days. What is it they say? "How you do anything is how you do anything"? I've always had a virulent case of startitis; beginning projects is easy for me, but hanging in there to completion, therein lies the rub. I'd been wanting to try freeform, but was hampered by the (erroneous) belief that I shouldn't start 'til I knew how to crochet, the traditional freeform medium (bitten by "should" again). And then, you know how it is: I was ready for it and the universe provided exposure to this new freeform-365 project which had just gotten started, and I just jumped in with both feet, my usual strategy. It was the best possible experience too, the perfect 'grand experiment'; in terms of discipline, creativity, community, resourcefulness, pushing myself, technique - just, everything. I think it can be best expressed by the motto that grew organically out of our group's process discussions in the forum: "It is what it is because I say it is!" That is the real nugget I took away from the project; I'd say that might just be my fiber art motto, even. My work doesn't need or want to be like anyone else's, or what anyone else wants it to be; it just is what it is, because I say it is.

If you were to create a self-portrait in yarn, what would it look like?

Oh, I've really been wanting to do that for awhile now! But I don't have any sense or internal vision of what it might look like, how I'd go about it; maybe that's why I haven't tackled it yet? Generally, I just wait until WHAM - an idea just pops, full-formed into my head. That's how it was for my Babies in a Blender hat, a freeform crochet piece made using handspun art yarn from Insubordiknit and cast-off doll arms. Originally, I was envisioning it as a twisted kind of Medusa, and I will probably do another one with more arms than BiB, which has just 3. Maybe feet too. Hmmmm.....

What's your favorite color?

Ha, I always answer that question the same way: my favorite color is COLOR! There really aren't many colors I'm not enamored with, with the possible exceptions of beige and pastels. I am generally drawn most to warm colors (orange, red, pink), the brighter the better, but I'm a sucker for a good purple, and definitely enjoy a good blue-green combo. I'm a word person, and lately I've been feeling the pull of specific color names: cerise, vermilion, carmine, alizarine - they just feel good in my mouth. Weird, I know. Notice how they're all red, too? Maybe I'm on a red bender because Valentine's Day is right around the corner.

Thank you so much Velma! You're a true bright spot in a stormy world. Please, Please, join us in future boxes.



  1. Anonymous3:27 PM

    Wow, AWESOME interview!! You so rock! <3 (And I so mean that!)

  2. Anonymous4:47 PM

    So much better with correct hot links! *wink*

  3. Nice. I have always wondered about the name of your company. I didn't get a box last Month with your samples buy I did get one this much. More insight into the coloworks.

  4. love the interview!! this should give me some inspiration for my swapyarn for you!!

    tabitha (ravelry tebbis)

  5. Anonymous2:28 AM

    Totally brilliant!!
    I love every word - and I was flabbergasted & almost teary at being mentioned by name (insert smiley-almost-crying mushed up face)

    T in Q


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