My apologies for a lull in our interviews (computer problems that I’ll not get into), but we are back with a very special guest in this Thursday’s Sundry Spotlight! Today, we have Beth, who takes artistry to a whole new level.
Hi Beth! Thanks for joining us here on Sundry Spotlight! Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m 64 years old, a little goofy, and I have had many, many jobs in my past. I’ve done everything from child abuse investigation to being an IT consultant in hospitals all over the USA and England.
When I was laid off about 10 years ago, we purchased a farm, and I went from being an IT consultant traveling 48 weeks out of the year to a fiber artist/goatherder.
You have a bit of a unique interest. What is it and what can you tell us about it?
I raise colored angora goats for their mohair. I sell their mohair to crafters and fiber artists who use it in everything from doll-making to felting, weaving, knitting, crocheting and other fiber arts.
I shear the goats myself, clean their fleeces and then either sell it or process it further for my own use. That means picking, carding or combing the mohair, dyeing it, then spinning it on one of my 7 spinning wheels.
How long have you been doing it?
Almost 10 years, since we purchased our farm.
What led you to start it in the first place?
Many years ago, I took a fiber arts class at the KC Art Institute, and learned to spin with a drop spindle, dye wool, and weave. I have always had the idea of spinning in the back of my mind, so I finally bought a spinning wheel when we moved to our farm.
I had a hard time learning to spin by myself, so I took a week-long class from Carol Leigh in Columbia, Missouri. I learned about spinning, felting, dyeing and weaving in that class, it was well-worth the time and money! If anyone is interested in learning about natural fibers, they should check out http://www.hillcreekfiberstudio.com/ .
After a few months, I realized that I should get some kind of fiber animal so I would not have to purchase rather expensive fibers for spinning. I thought about sheep, angora rabbits, alpacas and angora goats.
I did some research, and decided on angora goats rather than sheep. Mostly because goats have great personalities, and can even be taught to do tricks like dogs can. I decided on Colored Angora Goats so I could have more naturally colored mohair to work with.
I started out with five goats, now I have 60.
What’s your favorite thing about it?
I love being able to create something beautiful from the animals I have raised, cared for, and sheared. Then taking the process all the way through to a final product.
Currently, I’m doing a lot of wetfelting – I felt wool, mohair, alpaca wool and silk together to make very unique items. I also enjoy spinning yarn and needlefelting.
But actually, I think what I love the most are my goats.
What sorts of challenges do you face in pursuing this interest?
Naturally, the hardest part is finding customers for my fiber art, and learning how much to charge for what.
The other big challenge is learning all about goat health care. How to keep them as healthy as possible and how to deal with goats who get sick. We have had sick goats living in our house before while they recovered. Thankfully, I have a very understanding husband!
It is very hard to find a veterinarian with much knowledge about goats – they are not very common in the USA compared to cows, sheep, horses, etc., so I find that I learn a ton from other people with goat herds.
If you could have your ideal setup for doing this, what would that look like?
I love our property, it’s great for the goats, but I would love to have more pastures properly fenced for them, with a shelter in each one.
I’d also love to have a properly lit indoor area where I could shear my goats instead of having to shear them outside – where the wind steals a lot of mohair as I’m shearing!
If someone wanted to start doing the same thing, what advice would you give them?
Believe it or not, I have learned a ton from social media. There are groups devoted to fiber artists and goat raising there.
If you are interested in learning to spin, dye, knit and weave, I would join a local fiber guild or see if anyone will teach you. I’ve taught a lot of people to spin yarn.
Do you see yourself doing this for the foreseeable future?
Definitely. It’s hard work, but it’s also quite rewarding.
Where can people find you/your work?
On Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Argghhh/. Please look through all the photos, and you can see what I make.
I am also building a website at www.castleargghhh.com It should go active next week.
I also sell colored angora goats to other fiber artists.
Thanks so much for joining us. It’s been a pleasure.
Thank you for your interest, James!