Hooray for long holiday weekends, huh? Alright everyone, my next feature is with a lovely woman from Colorado who makes fabulous yarns, ornaments & lots of other great finds :) Here she is!!
Hello! I'm Rhonda K. Hageman (call me RK), and I'm the handspinner/knitter/occasional weaver behind Aspen Tree Yarns. I'm in Englewood, Colorado where I was born and raised. I've been doing some kind of fiber arts since childhood when my mother taught me to knit and my grandmother taught me to do crochet and embroidery. Along the way I've also picked up at various times patchwork, tatting, spinning and weaving. At times I also make cold-process soaps as well.
I originally started my handspun-yarn business in 2003 as "The Joyful Knitter" (meaning the knitters who used my yarn would be joyful...). That didn't quite work like I thought it would; most people thought that meant I did custom knitting. So I reincorporated as Aspen Tree Yarns a few years ago, indicating my Colorado roots. How I got into it in the first place is that I kept designing and creating more yarns than I can use.
One of the things that I love about handspinning is the total freedom. I can create the yarns that I want, that I dream of, without being bound by whatever happens to be the fashion that year, or limited to whatever colors are the "in" thing in the yarn stores at the moment. If a customer wants to knit in purple squiggly mohair, greatI I've got purple squiggly mohair yarn coming right up, or undyed natural baby camel hair, or lime green Merino, or whatever takes my fancy or someone else's. I CAN follow the fashion--if you love hot fuchsia pink, I have the perfect dye for that--but I don't HAVE to. The other thing I love about handspinning is the wild range of fibers that it is possible to work with. I don't have a lot of experience with cotton or flax (still learning), but I work with wool, alpaca, silk, mohair, dog down, and more. The possibilities are just endless. What our foremothers in spinning and weaving would have given to have the access to the variety of fibers that we have to choose from!
I'm inspired a lot by nature and landscapes when I'm designing yarn. Most of my yarn colors are named for flowers or natural themes: Pink Peony, Cherry Blossom, Mountain Moss, Lapis, Gemstone, Victorian Rose, Clematis, Painted Desert, and Forest Walk have been some that I've done recently or in the past. I've got one yarn colorway that I've designed in my head, but haven't made yet, called "October In the Park". It will have a lot of sky blue in it, but also pale leaf green, autumn leaf gold, with some white and light brown to represent the trees and their branches against the blue sky.
What I wish I had known when I started the handspun-yarn venture several years ago was how hard it would be to make a go of it. I wear three hats -- my college-English-instructor hat, the homemaker hat, and the fiber-artist hat, and trying to be all three of these things is very tough. And my job as an ESL teacher, and keeping the household going (my DH helps A LOT!) take up most of my time, so I have to squeeze out time to do fiber art and work on the business. Therefore I haven't had the success that I might have had if I could have made the yarn biz a full-time gig.
What I wish I'd known last fall is that although Etsy is a FABULOUS venue for selling and marketing one's craftwork--it's a godsend in that way--it's not an artisan's Shangri-La or Fantasy Island where buyers are falling over each other to acquire your products. I had gotten the impression that it was much easier to succeed on Etsy than it actually is, if you get what I mean. Buyers don't just fall out of the sky once you open your shop; there's still a ton of off-Etsy promoting and marketing to do beyond just creating and stocking the shop. I'm still learning about different ways to market and promote my shop that I can do given the limited time I have to devote to the business. I've started a blog, but I haven't done much with it yet--I discovered for me, anyway, I'd rather spin than write about spinning.
Other random thoughts: One of the best blogs, I think, for artists and crafters is Luann Udell's at http://luannudell.wordpress.com/. Luann is a respected and experienced fiber and clay artist in New Hampshire who's been making amazing work for years and years and I read everything she writes. She really tells it like it is, discussing what the artist's and craftmaker's life is all about. I would heartily recommend her to every single artist/crafter/artisan in the entire world. One of my favorite authors in the textile field is Elizabeth Wayland Barber. Her works include not only Prehistoric Textiles, but Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years. The chapter on the beginning of spinning, called "The String Revolution", will blow your mind with stuff that never occurs to most people to even think about. She's a fabulous and fascinating writer, and I reread her all the time.
Aren't her yarns just beautiful??? Now make sure you go check out her shop and give her lots of love!! Beautiful work Rhonda!