By ROBERT RIGGS
CORYDON, Ind. — Fiber eXchange Guild is a dynamic, mutually beneficial community of fiber producers, artists and patrons brought together to further fiber arts and fiber education; so explains the guild’s president, Victoria Smith, who finds that spinning fiber into yarn and using it to make various colorful crafts brings out the artist in her.
On Oct. 16-17, Smith’s organization hosted its fifth Southern Indiana Fiber Arts Festival at the county fairgrounds in Corydon.
Fiber festivals have become a mixed gathering of animal producers, vendors and others such as knitters, spinners, felters, crocheters, wool dyers and admirers of fiber art. At these events, attendees may view and learn about the use of different materials, tools, techniques and patterns to create art and everyday items.
One of the largest and longest-running fiber fests in the nation is the annual Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival near Baltimore. It is in its 35th year.
Fiber art is a style or category of art that uses cloth, yarn, natural and synthetic fibers as the medium. As an art form, fiber art focuses on the material and the handcrafting process as the biggest part of its significance.
Fiber itself is a fine hair-or-threadlike structure found with animals, vegetables, minerals or synthetic processes. The fibers are collected and woven into cloth or spun into yarn by a process of knitting or crocheting.
Animal fiber comes from a wide assortment of furry creatures. Among them are camels, yaks, llamas, alpacas, sheep, goats, rabbits and even buffalo. Historically, though, animal fiber has been taken mainly from sheep, goats and camels. It was used to make clothes, blankets and carpets as far back as 2000 B.C. in Egypt and China.
David and Pam Hoover own Rooster’s Run Farm in Salem, Ind. They raise Angora goats and Shetland and Finn sheep. Since 2001, their herd has grown to about 40 head of Angora goats and 60 sheep, all fiber animals. They also have some llamas which act as “guard dogs” on the farm.
Pam said they meet plenty of nice people each year who come out to the festival to restock their yarn stash. And, they talk with people who might be interested in getting into the fiber business and are looking for new animals.
In addition to yarn and animals, the Hoovers also sell spinning wheels. This year they began carrying Kromski spinning wheels made of birch and walnut.
Willie Ems of Alpacas at Flatwood Farms was also a vendor at the festival. At his New Salisbury, Ind., farm he and his wife, Kristin, also started in the animal fiber business in the spring of 2001. He said the key to his business has been constantly increasing the quality of the herd by purchasing and breeding high quality herd sires.
Flatwood Farms’ website brochure tells the story of their successful breeding efforts. They now have alpacas from white to true black and most colors in between. Flatwood Farms also makes and sells a variety of products made from alpaca fleece. Their product list includes socks, scarves, hats, sweaters, shawls, gloves, blankets, throws and finger puppets.
Other Festival exhibitors included breeders and craftspeople/artists who prefer various breeds of sheep and Angora rabbits. Some of the fibers seen at this year’s event included silk, soysilk, cotton, hemp and recycled yarns.
Smith said visitors represented a diverse crowd. She estimated there were approximately 200 visitors on Friday and on Saturday, she counted 800.
“People from all walks of life, ages and races enjoy seeing everything at the fairgrounds and make their purchases according to their personal interest,” said Smith.
To learn more, visit www.southernindianafiberarts.com and click on the Fiber eXchange Guild link.