This is the fourth year that I have attended the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, New York. I used to scour fiber festivals for that perfect fleece for felting, or those new knitting yarns- but now I go to see what colors are trending, what people are knitting and creating, and also what finished goods are selling.
This year I took note of a couple of things:
- I met Syne Mitchell. For those who don't know, she is the woman who created WeaveCast- the best weaving podcast that I have heard in a long time (possibly the only one). I wish it wasn't so insanely busy- because I wanted to spend more time talking to her. She was gearing up to give a talk and I was going with the flow of the day. So I briefly found her, told her how much I appreciated her work, and then disappeared into the ebb and flow of the crowd. I was kicking myself for not going back and finding her. My husband however, went back to the publisher's row (which is what I call the book aisle that has new books for sale) to get me a book for my birthday. As he was waiting in line, he looked down at a table and saw some beautiful weavings- Syne was there to greet him. He recognized her vibrant pink hair (which I had noted when I found him again) and they got to chatting. He told her about the kind of work that I do and how I am trying to grow my business. She was excited about me- and Eric ended up also buying her new book, Inventive Weaving on a Little Loom. The book is about working within the physical constraints of a rigid heddle loom to explore many avenues of weaving. I can't wait to sit and read this and get ideas! Someday, our paths will cross again, and I will make a point to reintroduce myself and have a conversation about her work and how she has influenced me.
- The original book that Eric got me is the 4th Edition of The Art of Weaving by Else Regensteiner. This book covers more of the history and the break-down of patterns and structures. I like the old weaving book feeling that you can still see through the original fonts and the classic photographs. Once I am done reading both of these books, look forward to the upcoming reviews I have!
- The hand weavers were few and far between. I would seek out handwoven products, so I gauge the pricing and the demand. What I was coming across were two very different aspects of selling a handwoven article. Many woven items were being resold. They were either outsourced to a weaving mill, or they were a byproduct of a community project to give a livelihood to women and families. These items were priced remarkably less than the handwoven counterparts elsewhere at the festival. I was annoyed at the lower costs, but I can understand. If these people can produce as much product as they can, they have the ability to lower their prices. The hand weavers who were selling their own products, were pricing their products more appropriately to the amount of time they put into each piece, however... the work seemed to be disjointed. Many of the booths that had knitted products had a voice, had a brand which spoke out to the audience. The weavers seemed to be weaving a lot- but it all seemed like it didn't go together, or it wasn't made by the same person. The work that was being presented was beautiful! From a potential buyers point of view though, I felt like I had too many options that didn't go together.
I am critical of this festival because it has such a high standard for fiber being represented in New England, and my expectations are not always met when I attend. This was also the first time attending this event that the amount of people really got to me. It was a combination of a lot of different elements, but I was burnt out by the end of the day. I was definitely more impressed at the amount of weavers that I saw this year. Someday I would like to be a vendor at this festival- but until then I will keep observing and keep tabs on what is happening in the fiber community.