Tell us about your business.I have been a knitter all my life and have always enjoyed working on larger needles and mixing fibers. Inspired by UK artist Rachel John who made huge tools and worked with many fibers, we started making Big Stitch tools here in the US. When the tools took off, we branched out to create our own yarn specifically for these big needles and hooks. Our Big Stitch Alpaca Yarn, created in 2009, is a collaboration with Morning Star Fiber, a mill in Ohio about an hour south of us. All the fiber we use is sourced domestically. Since it is so thick and big, we sell it in a tightly-wound form we call a “Bump.” It’s a beautiful, super thick yarn that comes in the natural colors of the alpaca animals. Just recently we introduced a similarly thick yarn produced by Morning Star in Merino wool – and the dyed jewel tones are rich and gorgeous. We continue to collaborate with Morning Star to bring new products to the marketplace, including hand made felts and other yarns.
Tell us about your workspace, shop, or studio.I have a studio at home with lots of natural light and its filled with interesting fibers and yarns I have collected over the years along with products that we make. There are also lots of needles, crochet hooks, Tunisian crochet hooks and felting tools. My I-Pad is never far away and serves as a camera for documenting my work and playing music. We also have an office and warehouse where we process orders for products that are shipped to consumers as well as fine yarn shops in North America, Europe and Australia. Works in process abound at the office where pieces are born, executed, finished, photographed and patterns are finalized.
What inspires you?I am passionate about the process of improvisation. To me that is the great fun and struggle in the creative process. I'm inspired by colors in nature, the properties of various raw materials, and by texture and the interaction of texture with color. I love examining the work of artists and craftspeople from all generations. A flourish from an Art Deco piece can influence an embellishment I am trying. The color work of embroidery or the texture in a painting can lead me to a solution for surface design. I'm not afraid of creating something new with my hands and failing or scrapping ideas as I go.
What makes your business stand out?We are so proud of our collaboration with Morning Star Fiber Mill. We work closely together, two companies with an eye for quality, beauty and innovation. Product development is a team effort, and we meet and speak regularly to review raw material acquisition, production standards and new ideas. Our work with American knitwear designers compliments our own creative initiatives. The result enables BagSmith to bring unusual, hand made products to the marketplace and our ever growing audience.
What advice would you give an aspiring creative entrepreneur?Life is full of opportunities that are like a series of doors that open. Walking through those doors may take you in directions that you never imagined and can lead you into exciting places where you will meet wonderful people and learn new techniques and approaches. Don't be fearful of "mistakes" as they are really opportunities to try something new and hone your skills and thoughts. Dedicate yourself to superb craftsmanship and continue to reach for the highest standard you can. Be known for quality and inventiveness in your work.
What does American Made mean to you?Our country is so rich in talent and creativity. When an American crafts person or artist is supported by the community, there is a sense of investment and ownership. There is such a fine tradition of "hand made" from early furniture and quilting to today's specialty foods made with local ingredients. We recently exhibited at a show in Europe and found a tremendous interest and response to our yarns and tools. It is satisfying to know that American made products have a home here in the US and beyond. It's a spirit of originality and quality that is recognized and celebrated.
Mark Your Calendar
NOMINATIONS ENDAug. 31, 2015
Final day for entering the Audience Choice Award competition.
VOTING ENDSOct. 19, 2015
Final day to cast your vote for your favorite makers.
WINNERS ANNOUNCEDOct. 23, 2015
2015 Editors' Award Winners and Audience Choice Winner announced.See past Award Winners
AMERICAN MADE SUMMITNov. 7, 2015
Don’t miss our networking event and maker lecture series in New York City. Tickets are available now.Discover the American Made Summit