A couple weeks ago, I was surfing the Web and found this amazing magazine that reports on fiber animals. We're not just talking sheep and goats here. No, they travel the world visiting with people who raise animals that produce all sorts of fiber -- from alpaca to qiviut to yaks! As soon as I found the magazine, I thought of all of you. I know a lot of my readers love fiber, fiber animals, and fiber art. So, today we're visiting with Wild Fibers editor and publisher Linda Cortright, pictured above with a qiviut. I've asked her a few questions, and she's agreed to pop in a few times today to answer any questions that you have! Also, Linda is offering a 20% subscription discount to Antiquity Oaks readers who call in their subscription today!
Deborah: Which came first, your interest in fibers or fiber animals, and how did that happen?
Linda: I am one of those people who grew up knitting Fisherman’s sweaters from scratchy Irish wool. This was back in the days when the wool actually came from Ireland, and not Australia or New Zealand as most of it does now. Although I loved to knit, that particular experience didn’t get me terribly juiced about fibers. When I was in my late thirties, I made one of those “don’t look back” career changes and moved from suburban Philadelphia to rural Maine. I bought four cashmere goats, which simultaneously launched my ridiculous passion for fibers.
Deborah: Why did you decide to start a magazine devoted to fiber animals?
Linda: Wild Fibers is truly the byproduct of my own nosiness. Every time I would take my goats to a show, I would jump around the animal pens talking with other fiber folk. Hasn’t everyone done a little “tire-kicking” down the alpaca aisle at least once? I was fascinated by the histories of the different animals from around the world, and yet all of the publications only focused on a specific breed. “The Camelid Quarterly,” for example, is wonderful; but as a casual enthusiast, I don’t need to know how to trim llama hooves or build a holding pen. Wild Fibers has always been focused on different cultural traditions surrounding the fiber industry and less about the “how to” aspect of the industry.
Deborah: Do you have a background in publishing or journalism?
Linda: Obviously not, can’t you tell from all the typos? To this day I don’t really consider myself a writer. Even if I slept with Strunk and White under my pillow every night for a year, I would still do things with punctuation that would make a fifth grader howl. My professional background includes everything from being a dog groomer in Manhattan to working for CBS. Before I started Wild Fibers I was working for a non-profit on the coast of Maine helping to sustain island communities. My experience at the Island Institute is what gave me a deep appreciation for working with small, indigenous cultures – it is an art unto itself and critical for doing my job.
Deborah: Is there any particular article that will stick with you forever -- you know, the one you'll never forget?
Linda: There are a few articles that I confess every time I read them, they still make me laugh, and I even know the punch line is coming. But there is one article that to this day still puts a lump in my throat, “Surviving the Massacre” is about what happened to the farmers and their animals during the collectivization under Stalin. I had visited with a shepherd in northern Kazakhstan and after four hours it was all I could do not to keep from weeping on the floor. Often times there are parts of my job that are heart wrenching, and frequently, I don’t write about them unless the information can serve some greater good. But so very little has been written about this period in history because it has been buried with so many other Soviet secrets. It was one of the most remarkable interviews and will undoubtedly stay with me forever.
Deborah: Do you have a favorite fiber animal?
Linda: No, of course not… well, maybe one. I adore my cashmere goats, and even if they gave me bags of rug wool I would still feel the same way. I love the character of the goat; mischievous, playful, and equal parts devoted and yet distant. I have never met a goat that didn’t give me the giggles within the first thirty seconds. And on a purely superficial level, I have seen some seriously handsome bucks that would give my tail a twitch, or two!
Deborah: Do you have a favorite fiber art?
Linda: One of the great things about the fiber arts is that they adapt so well to different moods. There are some days when row after row of a complicated lace pattern really satisfies my OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) tendencies. And then, there are days when whacking about a hunk of wet wooly felt feels more satisfying than an extra large dish of ice cream. Unfortunately, sometimes projects get put on hold until I’m back in the right mood. I suppose as long as I stay moody, I won’t ever have a single favorite. Who knows, maybe my knitting is really about hormones.
Deborah: What about a favorite fiber?
Linda: If you looked in my closet you would probably say cashmere, but I think qiviut is the most divine fiber. You can throw it in the washing machine and it doesn’t felt or shrink. Why would anyone ever wear polar fleece when they can toss a qiviut sweater in the dryer? I understand that there’s a wee price difference, but qiviut is exquisitely soft, warm, and it goes to supporting native communities in the Arctic. I try to make informed choices about everything I buy, and though I am a huge proponent of buying local, I truly support efforts that help remote communities whose cultural heritage is in jeopardy. The wonderful thing about the natural fiber industry is that it affords us all the opportunity to help each other in so many wonderful and meaningful ways. How wild is that?
So, now it's your turn! If you have any questions about fiber, fiber animals, or fiber arts, just give Linda a holler in the comment section. And remember, she's only here today (Wednesday) -- and if you call in a subscription today, (207) 594-9455, just tell them you're an Antiquity Oaks reader, and you'll get a 20% discount off the regular subscription price of Wild Fibers.