Friday, September 10, 2010

Kathy Ruiz, "Ewe Just Gotta Spin"!

Hello All,

Heads up to all of you Wool Lovers out there. "GOTTA SPIN, GOTTA SPIN ...GOTTAAAA SPIN! Hey, Gene Kelly hasn't got anything on me, or maybe I should say on, Kathy Ruiz! Kathy is one of the best-kept secrets in Spanish Village Art Center! Well, maybe not anymore. Not if I can help it. "Front and Center", Ms. Ruiz. You're about to be discovered!

Kathy Ruiz, of studio 19, dedicated mother, rancher (sheep, that is) and spinner par excellence! How's that for an intro, Kathy? You have earned it, my friend. Talk about, "You've come a long way, baby"! "No brag ... just facts"! Honored guests and visitors, "I beg to put before you, Kathy Ruiz". Okay, folks, all quips and quotes aside, let me astound you with the story of Kathy Ruiz and Irish Rose Yarns.

"How many skeins would a spinner spin, if a spinner did spin wool"? Who cares how many? It is the amazing process by which she creates the yarn that fascinates and confounds the imagination. Not only does Kathy spin, but she and her four children birth, raise and shear their own sheep and goats to harvest the magnificent wools that she processes, and then spins into these amazing natural and colorful hand dyed yarns.

"Live, from Spanish Village Art Center, it's Ms. Ruiz and Irish Rose Yarns"! I first met Kathy three years ago when she came to Spanish Village Art Center. Her daughter, Rose, had just juried into the Village with her painted feather art. Kathy accompanied Rose on her days at the Village, and immediately took to the atmosphere of our art center. Their enthusiasm for our organization and their pleasure at becoming a part of Spanish Village was apparent from the start. (Not long after, Kathy juried her yarns and spinning crafts into Spanish Village Art Center with strong encouragement from many of our members.) Kathy, Rose and the rest of the family soon became familiar faces as they settled into the pattern of the Spanish Village Art Center "quilt". (Oh, incidentally, Kathy is also an enthusiastic quilter).

On my jaunts about the Village, I noticed Kathy sitting outside the studio "carding" or actually hand sorting and separating wool from a small basket on her lap. Always friendly and open, Kathy looked up from her work when I paused, mesmerized by what she was doing. My curiosity was immediately piqued; I was intrigued and we began to chat. Kathy regaled me with the story of her "love affair" with wool which soon led me to the history of her home aka sheep ranch, the very unusual lifestyle that she and her family live, and to the discovery of Irish Rose Yarns.

Well, I'll tell you, it didn't take long for me to become a devoted buyer of Kathy's magnificent yarns and roving. As I said, I was immediately intrigued..."hooked" is a better way to describe it. I have been collecting her yarns ever since, and have quite an assortment in my yarn bin. I have been felting for over three years, and recognized the potential for Kathy's yarn in my work. The "naturals" are warm and earthy as well as iridescently white and silver. The "hand dyed yarns" are pastel to brilliant with a wonderful spectrum of colors to choose from. Although, I am a "full color" enthusiast, Kathy's natural yarns tug at the "nature" part of my creativity, and I continually gravitate to these yarns (the angora in particular). Oh! Shades of Arlen...and now there is Seamus, too. (Father and son - Angora style). Both goats (yes goats) are mixed with white and silver locks and are absolutely "fabulous"! So, extraordinarily soft and glowing! But, let me contain my enthusiasm for a moment and go back to the beginning: How Irish Rose Yarns came into existence.

The Irish Rose saga started quite simply and practically. Kathy and her family owned a sizable ranch with a lot of wild brush; and it soon became necessary to purchase two Shetland sheep to eat the brush, and, thereby, keep it under control. Simple, right? Maybe. After a period of time, Kathy needed to shear the sheep, and discovered she had a massive amount of wool fleece on her hands. Now, the problem was what to do with it! So, Kathy started to read about wool and spinning, which led to creating yarns, and then to learning to knit. So on, and so forth!

In her own words, Kathy, "was hooked"! She first dedicated herself to creating clothing and accessories for her family...whatever they needed to keep warm. Functionality first. But, then imagination took hold, and it wasn't long before her curiosity and love for the craft took complete control of her consciousness. One idea led to another until Kathy was soon shopping for more sheep.

The sheep community is friendly and supportive, and several ranchers were delighted to help Kathy learn about and acquire more sheep. At one of the ranches, a particularly friendly little "sheep" intrigued her each time she and the family visited. He would always stand at the gate whenever they came, and greet them enthusiastically. When Kathy inquired about him, she was told that he was actually an Angora goat. She was in love! The rest is history, as they say. Now she would add the lustrous soft fleece of the angoras to her repertoire of Shetland wools. Irish Rose Yarns was growing by "leaps and bounds! No pun intended.

By now, Kathy was well on the road to marketing her own yarns. She decided to dub her line, "Irish Rose" because her very Irish father always sang, "My Wild Irish Rose", when she was a girl. (Good thing, too). Starting with the naturals, Kathy soon delved further into coloring the fleece with natural and fiber reactive dyes. She sometimes uses grasses and other intriguing natural substances to achieve remarkable earthy colors. The spun yarns range from standard size and shape to creatively bumpy and twisted blends depending on the type of wool that is used.

This is "Fern" before she is sheared with a "little bit of fodder" to help the shearing "go down".

To me, the most remarkable thing about Kathy is how she processes the wool. It is an intensive labor of love, determination and resiliency. Taking into consideration the amount of work and strength it takes to shear the sheep, harvest the wool, clean and dry it, and then spin it into yarn, I am nothing less than amazed that someone the size of Kathy Ruiz can accomplish this. Of course she has plenty of help from Rose, her daughter, but, neither of them is Charles (or I should say, Charlene) Atlas! This amazing woman deserves an Oscar!! Kathy will just demur and modestly say, "I do it because I love it". "I just love it"!

Kathy and "Fern", during and after the shearing. Fern is a "bountiful harvest". She yields five whole pounds of fleece each time. Not Baaaa-aad!

BAAAA! BAAAAAAAAAAAA! Hold the bus! Arlen, my favorite little angora goat, is stuck in the fence again! Better go and give Kathy a hand! Stay tuned!

Okay, I'm back, and Arlen is none the worst for wear.  He is very inquisitive, though, which keeps Kathy on her feet.  You know how babies are (Don't laugh.  Arlen still thinks he's the baby!).  Can't wait to get my hands on more of his gossamer locks.

 As I was saying, Kathy's diligence is nothing short of miraculous.  She produces an amazing array of hand spun fiber, as well as some intriguing knits for the enthusiasts' delight.  You can see her yarns, hand knit caps and fingerless hand warmers several days a week.  She, Rose and Lily highlight the patio at Spanish Village Art Center, where they set up their display near Gallery 21.  Kathy's creations are earthy and spontaneous, but the intricately patterned knit work is, surprisingly, done by young Lily, whose stitches have the intricacy and perfection of a knitting machine.

Kathy and Rose are partners in Studio 19, and you can see their work daily at the studio.  Rose paints miniatures on the feathers from her exotic chickens, and recently has added oil and acrylic paintings to her repertoire.  Lily can often be seen and heard about the Village playing original and traditional compositions on her dulcimer.  They are a creative family, and add a great deal of color to Spanish Village Art Center. 

Kathy Ruiz' love for her family and her spinning is apparent.  She is completely connected to the earth through the outpouring of her craft, and dedication to this connection.  Her Irish Rose Yarns and her family are a testament to this dedication.  And, one must remember, always, that she does it simply because she, "...Loves it.  She just Loves it".

Written and posted by Cassandra Shepard, Studio 32
text and content copyrighted, 2010, all rights reserved

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...