Meet the Maker: Kate of Kathryn Fran Fiber Arts
Meet the Maker is an ongoing series in which I introduce you to some of my favorite indie makers -- or rather, let them introduce themselves! Today I'd like you to meet Kate Frank of Kathryn Frank Fiber Arts. Kate was the first indie dyer I worked with, and the experience definitely cemented my love for hand-dyed yarns and working with other small-scale makers. We've collaborated on a handful of patterns (so far!): the Envined Shawl, the Chandelic Shawl, the Frostbright Wrap, and now the Cascadial Wrap. Kate's color sense is right up my alley, and I can honestly say her yarns would be on my "desert island" list.
Without further ado...here's Kate!
Introduce us to your business!
Hi! I’m Kate of Kathryn Frank Fiber Arts. I started knitting a few years ago after I walked into my local yarn shop with a friend and fell in love with a skein of multicolored art yarn. I bought it even though I had no idea what I was going to do with it. First I tried macramé, which was something I did when I was small (remember friendship bracelets?). But what I really wanted to do was make garments. My mom is a knitter and I had been accompanying her to sheep and wool festivals for years, so I knew it was time to learn fiber arts. My friend showed me the basic crochet chain stitch, and I was off and running. I taught myself to knit soon after and I’ve been addicted ever since.
Like many people, I quickly fell in love with hand dyed yarns. I started dyeing for myself because I would see a colorway in my mind’s eye, but I could never find an exact replica of what I wanted. I never intended to start a small business, but I love dyeing and I cannot possibly knit everything that I dye (though I’m going to try!).
I choose bases and dye with the intention of providing heirloom-quality materials for other fiber artists. I find my inspiration mostly in nature: rocks and minerals, precious metals, something growing (or landing) in my garden. I’m currently planning a colorway inspired by the smooth stones you find on the bottom of a small stream.
What's one of your favorite aspects of your business?
Even though customer service is a challenge because I want everyone to be 110% happy, I love hearing from my customers before they place an order. Sometimes people will email me with a project in mind and we will figure out together if particular base or colorway is going to work for them. And while custom dyeing is <strong>hard</strong> -- I like to say that it’s 50% mindreading and 50% shooting in the dark -- I also get a lot of gratification from it. My favorite moments have been when I’ve helped a maker to realize the finished object they’re envisioning.
Erin's note: I know from personal experience that Kate is completely amazing at this. Seriously, go ahead and test her!
What do you find most challenging about dyeing?
Consistently replicating colorways. That’s the one thing that’s currently slowing me down. If you change one small variable in the dye process, you can get an entirely different effect. Which is how new colorways can be born and one of the most fun parts of dyeing, but also my biggest challenge so far in having a business.
When you find yourself in a creative slump, how do you get through it?
I’m actually coming out of one right now (see #3). When normal life stress piles up, the first thing that suffers is my creativity. So I try to make it a priority to address what’s stressing me out, even if that means putting the creative stuff aside for a while. I also give myself permission to take the pressure completely off and just ride the slump out. Sometimes you need to do that to let the creative energy build back up. Switching mediums for a while can help, too.
What advice would you give to someone who also wants to sell their handmade items?
Join groups and talk with others who are also selling their items. It’s been invaluable to me.
How do you unwind from your work?
I have a full-time job and two small children, so my fiber time is how I unwind.
What’s something most people don’t know about you?
I never ever know how to answer this question!
If you were a superhero, what would you want your superpower be?
Lighting round! Share some favorites with us:
Book or show? Outlander.
Podcast (knitting or otherwise)? Skeindeer Knits.
Dish or cuisine? Chocolate, which I believe should be its own food group.
Fellow maker? I want to get my hands on some jewelry by Jutta Green of @greendesignscs
And of course…what’s on your needles right now?
Bubblish! And I’m loving it.