Billy Ray SimsTraditional Appalachian hand-split white oak baskets are the focus of Billy Ray's craft. But he also creates baskets of New...
Mary H. Nichols
Media: Fiber"Knitting and spinning are magical activities for me." I'm a fiber artist who has been knitting since childhood. I learned to spin about twelve years ago and I now spin and dye fine yarns and knit them into lace shawls and scarves. I use various fibers (wool, silk, alpaca, cotton, cashmere, the list goes on) and dyeing techniques to enhance the delicate lace patterns. I often knit with glass beads, incorporating them into my scarves and shawls. I also have a line of knitted toys. Along with being a member of the Southern Highland Craft Guild, I'm also an active member of the Western North Carolina Fibers/Handweavers Guild. I participant in the East of Asheville Studio Tour (E.A.S.T.) and I'm a regular demonstrator on my great wheel and various other spinning wheels.
My Artist Statement....... Knitting and spinning are magical activities for me. My love of knitting began as a child and I still find it to be an irresistible spiritual activity, a lifelong addiction. I am self taught and find my ability to transform yarn into a fabric with only two sticks and my hands to be endlessly fascinating. The art of lace knitting involves making holes in knitted fabric on purpose. I knit lace because I enjoy seeing the intricate patterns develop in my hands. To me these well placed holes make my knitting projects absorbing and intriguing; the more challenging the pattern the better. I knit lace shawls because they are the perfect medium for showing off my lace knitting. I recently began knitting glass beads into my shawls simply because I like the way they sparkle. I’ve always admired things that glitter. About 12 years ago a dear friend offered to teach me how to spin. At first I wasn’t interested and told her so. Then I thought I was being a bit foolish to not take advantage of her offer. What did I have to lose? I thought I would learn to spin, probably not like it, and then go back to knitting with commercial yarns. Wow! Acquiring this skill opened up a whole new world and opened my eyes to endless possibilities. Now I can invent my own yarn to use in my knitting. I can spin my yarn out of any fiber of my choosing; wool, silk, alpaca, cotton, cashmere, the list goes on. I can dye my yarns any color of the rainbow. I can spin my yarns to be thick or thin, smooth or textured. My spinning wheel is a magical tool. Spinning is a mystical process. I love the feel of well prepared fibers flowing through my fingers and being twisted into yarn. I find the whole process of preparing fibers for spinning to be an enjoyable experience. I can take a raw fleece which has just been shorn from a sheep, wash it, card it, dye it, spin it and finally knit it into a shawl. This process, from sheep to shawl, gives new meaning to the phrase, “made from scratch.” A few years ago I applied and was juried into the Southern Highland Craft Guild. I saw this as an opportunity to justify my passion for spinning and knitting. Now my life has been transformed by my membership in this organization and by my exposure to all the fascinating member craftspeople. I am a magician. I am a fiber artist.