By Anne Podlesak.
Owner/Dyer: Kimber Baldwin
Shop: FiberOptic Yarns
Q: How did you decide to start an indie fiber business?
A: I became an indie dyer 3 years ago after leaving my job as a PhD scientist at University of Cincinnati medical school, where I was working on protein structure. I had two children (and another on the way) who were having issues at day care, so my husband and I made the decision that I would become a stay at home Mom. The extra time with my children has been priceless, however during nap times and in the evenings, I would become ‘edgy’ and bored from a lack of projects to think about and work on. I’ve always loved the fiber arts and have been knitting for 27 years. My husband, a chemistry professor at the University of Cincinnati, brought home a couple of older chemistry textbooks on commercial dyeing and we set up a dye ‘lab’ in the basement so that I could mix colors and run control experiments for dye set quality and that sort of thing. I spent the next year working through my dye techniques to minimize bleeding and to obtain various dye effects.
Q: What are your sources of inspiration? What things do you see cropping up over and over in your colorways and/or designs?
A: My color inspiration comes from everything around me, from crayon drawings of my children to tapestries, from from walks in the woods to cream swirled into coffee – really once you start looking critically at color, the difficult thing is limiting your possibilities since there simply isn’t time to dye the hundreds (thousands?) of colorways you see on a daily basis!
For me, the most rewarding aspect of being an indie dyer is seeing how fiber artists take the items we’ve dyed up and add their own influence to create entirely new pieces. The collaboration between a dyer’s vision and that of a fiber artist, keeps me continuously excited to try new things in the dye studio.
Q: What’s on the horizon for FiberOptic?
A: From the Etsy store of two years ago, we’ve continued to grow and I’ve been blessed to have three additional friends (Ellie, Denise, and Kathy) who now work at Fiber Optic with me. With all of us working, we can dye up more for spinners, knitters, and other fiber artists as we continue to explore the technique aspect of the process! We currently have a dedicated online store and sell at festivals throughout the summer months. What’s perhaps the most exciting thing on the horizon for Fiber Optic is a professional dye works and fiber studio that we are planning to open something this winter. It will have an area where fiber artists can meet and be inspired, take classes in the dye studio, spinning classes on everything from antique walking wheels to drop spindles. A knitting and spinning store, with lots of hand dyed Fiber Optic yarns and spinning fibers, but also a place to gather for a cup of tea or coffee and talk with other fiber artists.
Read more about Anne on our Contributor’s Page.