Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Living the Dream - Katy of Urban Eagle

It's not every day that one gets to meet a woman who is truly a treasure. Today we all get to look into the wonder that is Katy of Urban Eagle Designs. Her shop has been open a little over a month now, so she is still “undiscovered”, but she should be right up there on everyone's go-to list for something extra-special. After I read her questions I just wanted to get on a plane and fly out to New Mexico to meet her in person...she's just that awesome.

First off, she's a wife, a mother and a grandmother. In a former life she was graphic designer for almost thirty years. She even had her own business in San Diego for twenty years. After doing her time in the corporate world, she went after her dream and moved out of the city on to 56 acres in northern New Mexico with her husband and two dogs. They live completely “off grid” which means all their electricity comes from photovoltaics. For all you novices like me photovoltanics is the application of solar cells for energy by converting sunlight directly into electricity. This spring they hope to build their own straw bale and adobe home. They have a lovely patch of land to work with.

Katy is currently a student working on her certification in herbs. Not only does she grow herbs, but also natural dye plants and most of the food her family eats. That's right, she buys her fibers from local growers and then dyes them using plants she herself grew and then spins her own yarn. She's all about being organic and non harmful to the environment. I told you she was awesome didn't I? Somehow she finds time to knit all her efforts up into wonderful offerings for her shop. Oh and she keeps if she wasn't busy enough.

She has been working with fiber since she learned to knit at the age of 14 back in nineteen mumble mumble. She started designing her own patterns in 1992 and was even a featured artist in "Knitting in America". Soon after that she learned how to spin and then to dye with natural dyes. She is most certainly in love with her craft because she has such wonderful attention to detail. Most of the inspiration for her designs comes from Native American Art. “I have a library of over 70 books of all sorts of Native American art from rock art to bead work to weaving to pottery. You name it, I've probably got a book about it! I also get inspiration from the spiritual world. Each of my garments have "totems" attached to them in some way.”

In Urban Eagle you can find high quality, labor intensive craftsmanship. Her favorite things to make are her vests, which are gorgeous. “I make my pieces for "real" people to be worn frequently.” she says and wear them they do.

“Most of my day-time hours (except for the dead of winter) are spent outside in my gardens and greenhouse. I like to do my dyeing, spinning and fiber prep in the afternoon and early evening. I knit at night after dinner. If the weather is bad I will knit during the day.” She is living a fiber dream come true. Even though the thought of Katy sitting and peacefully knitting is a tempting one, we now know that a lot of work goes on before she can ever sit down and rest.

Besides selling on Etsy and running her family place, she keeps herself busy with several other pursuits. She belongs to the Espanola Valley Fiber Arts Center and just recently signed up on Ravelry, although she admits she doesn't quite know what to do with it yet. I'm sure a few of us wouldn't mind reaching out to her as I have a feeling most of us are already floating around somewhere on Ravelry.
“I do at least two art tours here in northern NM - the Abiquiu Studio Tour and the Pedernal Arts Tour. I have had VERY bad luck with consignment so I don't do that anymore. Most of my sales, outside of the tours, are by word of mouth. I am also a stop on the New Mexico Fiber Trails.

Her hopes are that someday the revenue from her fiber (and herbs) will grow to be a good “supplement for my Social Security...when I'm eligible for it,” she giggles. You're only as old as you act, and as far as I can tell, Katy is one young spring chicken.


essiewb said...

This is an interesting portrait of a real artist. Thanks! from another knitter.

Dana said...

Oh my! After reading this and seeing these gorgeous pictures I want to jump right on a plane to run out and meet her too. Great feature of a great fiber artist!

Caroline said...

My Aunt Katy is as strong and colorful and supple as the fibers she spins, dyes and knits.

Split Rock Ranch said...

Wonderful article on a fabulous fiber artist! It is so nice to hear of people following their dreams. Congrats Katy!

Chris said...

nice article but the link to her shop doesn't work or she's shut down her shop.

Handmade Sunshine said...

Katy's shop link has been fixed. Not sure how that happened. Sorry for the inconvenience.