The Artisans In Our Neighborhood

9 Sep

Spending a few hours at Brooklyn General chatting up the employees and customers is always a stimulating experience. From the hardcore neighborhood knitters and stitchers to the eclectic artists and artisans who keep studios in Red Hook to the many professional designers and stylists who live and work in the area, Brooklyn General is always a melting pot of creative talent. The only thing more satisfying than watching someone deep in their creative process, sitting on the sofa surrounded by bolts of fabric or skeins of yarn, is seeing the final product: the garment or curtains or artwork conceived from that moment. It’s a nice counterpoint to the online lives we increasingly lead to have a physical meeting place filled with colorful, tactilely varied materials in which we can come together and create.

In an attempt to bring a bit of the in-store Brooklyn General experience to our online friends, we’ve decided to profile some of the wonderful folks who frequent the shop. Where better to start than with the people who lend their talents to the shop every day: Heather Love and Marcie Farwell.

Heather Love aka Hello Mello

Heather Love is a self-proclaimed lover of fiber, and she revels in the instant sense of comradery she feels when she meets other knitter, spinners, and stitchers. She teaches our knitting, spinning, and quilting classes and offers expert advice on all things crafty four days a week at Brooklyn General.

Heather learned to sew and knit as a small child, and has been doing both her entire life. As a young adult, Heather’s love of art and craft lead her to the Museum School in Boston, where she studied photography and glass. During and after her student years she created and ran an accessories company, for which she made scarves, hats and mittens. When her boyfriend’s job brought her to New York, she settled in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and landed a job working for artists Mike & Doug Starn. During that time Starn Studios was located on Union Street in Brooklyn, just up the street from Brooklyn General. Heather was so excited when she realized Brooklyn General would be a yarn store. She and a friend began stalking the shop before it was even open, frequently peeking in the windows to chart its progress. Heather became one of Brooklyn General’s most frequent customers and eventually began working in the shop on Sundays and teaching the quilting class. About five years ago she took a spinning class at Brooklyn General, and spinning quickly became her primary fiber-arts passion.

Three years ago Heather moved fully into the world of fiber arts. She left Starn Studios to work and teach full time at Brooklyn General and to create her own hand-spun and hand-dyed yarns and patterns company, Hello Mello. Hello Mello (taken from her middle name and her grandmother’s maiden name, Mello) offers primarily luxury fiber yarns. In her spinning, Heather uses a lot of rare fibers such as pashmina, guanaco, vicuna, and yak, and her favorite fiber, BFL (Blue-Faced Leicester). She loves both undyed fibers and bright colors and enjoys working with a broad color palate. Most of the yarn she creates is small-gauge, such as sock and lace weights, but she also enjoys doing a variety of custom spinning.

For Heather, spinning provides a sense of relaxation that doesn’t come with other things, and she enjoys that the yarn she makes becomes someone else’s (or her own) raw material and has another life as a garment, object, or work of art. Still, for Heather, the fiber arts world always comes back to the wonderful ad hoc community it inspires. She loves the fact that anytime you knit in public, you can almost guarantee you will be approached by other knitters. People from vastly different backgrounds who otherwise have little in common are connected by the creative process, and that connection is half the fun.

Marcie Farwell

Marcie Farwell teaches several of our sewing classes and adds a bit of mid-century flair to the shop three days a week with her gorgeous vintage dresses. She is also an artist who enjoys working with fiber and other mixed media and collaborating with other artists.

Originally from the San Fernando Valley in California, Marcie’s interests in vernacular architecture and photography brought her to New York City where she earned her BA in Architectual History at NYU and studied photography through the work/study program at the International Center of Photography. Later, a job at wedding dress designer Mary Adams’s shop, The Dress (then on Ludlow St), and an ever-growing vintage fabric, clothing & sewing pattern collection reawakened her childhood interest in sewing and the history of women’s costumes.

Eventually Marcie returned to the West Coast, this time to San Francisco, where she managed a knitting store. A friend, Katrina Rodabaugh, asked if she would take part in a show called The Dresses/Objects, in which several artists were asked to make a 1920s-inspired dress from fabric swatches printed with text from Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons. The show was exhibited at Mills College, and again last summer at Z Space in Theatre Artaud in San Francisco. In much the same way that Marcie connected with architecture though the history of the everyday, she has long been fascinated by what certain culturally prescribed items of clothing–such as a wedding dress, a morning dress, or a spinster’s dress–have signified to both the larger culture and the person wearing it. Inspired in part by Mary Adams’s self-taught style, Marcie began making more “art dresses,” elaborate machine and hand-sewn dresses that take several months to make and that are meant to be experienced much like sculpture. Her next art dress, entitled “Wede,” a mourning dress/childrens’ fort based on widow’s weeds, was exhibited as a part of T^nts for Rock Paper Scissors Gallery in Oakland, CA. In 2009 Marcie returned to New York, this time to Ditmas Park, Brooklyn. She collaborated with dancer/choreographer Lindsay Gilmour and created a modern-day spinster dress and costume for a dance piece called “East Wind In a Petticoat,” performed at Ithaca College.

Last year Marcie and her friend Massie Jones, along with five other artists, created a women’s art collective based in Cornwall-on-Hudson called The One Stone (a play on the name of their studio, Two Birds). They had their first show in June 2009, and are now working on the third show, for which the theme is Blue.

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