Maker Faire: Interview with Jamie Chan of MaryJane’s Attic
Jamie Chan of MaryJane’s Attic will be at this month’s Maker Faire, May 19-20, at the San Mateo County Fairgrounds as an organizer and vendor at Bazaar Bizarre, as well as a teacher of a couple of CRAFT demos on how to spin yarn and needlefelt. I first met Jamie at last year’s Maker Faire where she so graciously taught me how to spin yarn with a drop spindle (pictured above left). Ever since then, I’ve been hanging out with Jamie at all the local craft events from Stitch N’ Pitch to the SF Craft Mafia trunk show. I love this gal’s crafting energy and you will too! Don’t miss her at the Maker Faire!
Until then, here’s a little interview I did with Jamie Chan of MaryJane’s Attic so you can find out more about her craft and the little parrot that helped start it all.
Nat: Tell me more about your crafty business, Maryjane’s Attic. Isn’t Maryjane the name of your parrot? 🙂
Jamie: Yes, my business was named after my yellow fronted Amazon parrot, Maryjane. When I first got my business license I was going to sell vintage apparel and accessories. My husband and I loved going to estate sales, thrift shops and antique stores. The idea was that all these wonderful products we found were treasures from Maryjane’s Attic! But the business quickly took a turn towards art and craft. In the last year of my graduate education I was taken with the idea of consuming less and being able to DIY (Do It Yourself). It was a natural decision to marry my entrepreneurial spirit and love of craft into what we know today as Maryjane’s Attic.
Nat: How did you get interested in spinning yarn?
Jamie: Like many people I was caught up in the knitting craze that seemed to grow with the advent of the DIY culture. During my formal art education I tried many different art forms (film, photography, jewelry making, etc..) and it was not till I encountered the fiber arts about four years ago that I was able to find something I was truly passionate about. It’s not the act of knitting that attracted me, but the diversity of fiber, color, and textures I could work with! My first trip to a local yarn boutique was like a child stepping into Willy Wonka’s candy factory. I literally suffered from sensory overload! I became what the Stitch and Bitch series calls a “yarn snob”. I yearned for exotic fibers and hand dyed colorways but my fiber need could not keep up with my college student’s salary. I began surfing the net, looking at yarn porn to satiate my addiction (stepping into in a physical store meant instant credit card debt!). While online I discovered a whole community of spinners who were spinning in amazing artistic ways. Spinners such as Lexi Boeger of Pluckyfluff and Heidi Kenney of My Paper Crane inspired me to take the next step and create yarn as my form of art. After attending a few classes and buying my first wheel I was hooked! My interests have expanded to making my own fiber products and hand dying as well.
Nat: Do you have any tips to share for crafters who are interested in learning how to spin yarn?
Take it slow and don’t expect to master spinning over night.
I have seen a six year old learn to spin a beautiful well balanced yarn with little instruction and I have seen adults who take over a year to get the ease and skills needed to make yarn on a spindle or wheel. Spinning is not intuitive to all people. I say this from experience. I studied biology in college and initially I was horrible at it! I wanted to give up because I could not master it as quickly as my colleagues. Much in the same way, hand spinning did not come “easily” to me, it took practice and patience before I could spin with confidence.
Handspun means made by hand.
Many traditional spinners have honed their skills to emulate the quality and likeness of commercially spun yarn. It is definitely a talent to be able to spin fine spider-web lace weight yarn. I have seen spinners who have worked for years to be able to spin like this. BUT! I warn beginning spinners that handspun can be lovely and beautiful because it contains the qualities of being made by a person and not a machine. It is the imperfections in handspun yarn that endear me to my creations, that way I know it’s mine. Like each person has her/his own set of DNA in every cell of their body, I believe each spinner has a signature in their yarn.
Have fun with your spinning experience and experiment with every fiber possible, from rabbit fur to shredded blue jeans. Be creative and consider materials that may not look like spinning fibers at first. I have seen people spin with shredded plastic bags and old newspaper!
Nat: You just got your Masters in Science. You also run Maryjane’s Attic, are an active member of the San Francisco Craft Mafia and this year you’re in one of the Bazaar Bizarre organizers at this year’s Maker Faire. How do you have time to do it all? When do you find time for your crafting?
Jamie: LOL. Ok this is the “million dollar question” so to speak. I think it’s hard when people have multiple career interests. I love science (Biology in particular) and all that it has taught me. I studied marine biology as an undergraduate and all the forms and shapes of nature continue to inspire me in my craftwork. I also love being a business owner. The San Francisco Craft Mafia has been a great anchor for me, as a businessperson and artist. In a way it is my “crafty support group”. We are a small circle of crafters who want to help build the independent craft community in San Francisco. We have started doing this by hosting trunk shows and providing promotional support to other craft shows and events. Being part of SFCM has opened up new vending opportunities for many of our members. I believe participating in SFCM strengthens my business in many ways.
I am also very enthusiastic about the recent growth of independent craft shows. I think the venues that we are creating for new generations of crafters are both exciting and positive for the entire art and craft community. I see my work in Bazaar Bizarre Maker Faire as one of my contributions to the art and craft community. I will also be leading a San Francisco Bazaar Bizarre in winter 2007.
One of my life goals is to impact people in inspirational ways, whether it be in a science classroom or demo booth at Maker Faire. By sharing my passions with people I gain the energy and will power to go home and create my own works of art. Sometimes it’s when you watch other people discover your craft that you rediscover your own wonder. And last but not least, Maryjane’s Attic is not only me. My dear husband has been my partner in crime since day one. He has learned to spin and dye and card fiber like the dickens and truly provides a great deal of the workforce behind MJA webstore and the MJA Etsy Store. My mother is a quilter, crafter and small business owner. She designed the pattern for the popular fabric fortune cookie. She has been very supportive in my crafty endeavors.
Nat: What kinds of things are you making now to prepare for your booth Bazaar Bizarre?
Jamie: We have lots of new DIY kits for fiber enthusiasts. From DIY spinning kits to wet felting kits, we will have projects for people of all ages and interest. There will be lots of fiber supplies, including handspun yarn, hand dyed roving for spinning or felting, hand painted yarns and lots of our popular Sparkle Fluff Batts. I will also be teaming up with my good friend Sugene of All This Is Mine to create a series of Tea themed gifts. I can’t say too much but I guarantee all the tea enthusiasts will be pleased!
Nat: Your also teaching some workshops at the Maker Faire. What will you be teaching?
Jamie: I’ll be teaching a spinning demo and a felting demo. I’ll introduce you to the basic tools involved in these crafts and provide resources for participants who want to learn more about it! Please stop by and say “Hello!” to me at Maker Faire, I always look forward to meeting new people who share the love of craft!
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