We’re on my homestead at Sheep Mountain Alaska. Sheep Mountain is about 111 miles from Anchorage. Our biggest responsibility is our homestead. And it’s amazing how much work that takes. Clearing driveways, keeping trails open, repairing cabins, digging holes, cutting alder, pulling trees out, mowing, chopping, and I clean the toilets, I make the beds, I hoover, and wash up, and wash windows, and so on. And then after that, I get to do the art. I came to the dyes first, and then the silk. You can dye any fiber, polyester, nylon, cotton,.
Linen, silk, wool. But silk is a particularly different fiber. It’s translucent, it’s extremely easy to dye. Easier than cotton, even. And so, it was the way that these amazing rich colors transfixed the silk and the translucence and the nature of silk. Being a natural fiber coming from an animal. It has properties that other, other fibers don’t have. Once you start working with silk, you can’t go back. Cotton seems dull and dead in comparison. This is called Arashi Shibori. Arashi means poll. Shibori means tension, or resistance. It means pressure.
Something like that. And so, the winding tie dye comes from shibori. I started out by making textured silk by shibori using Japanese techniques. And I bought books, and I copied what was written in the book. And then I saw in magazines very fine work by other Shibori artists, Americans and Japanese, and I very, very determinedly tried to make my work as fine as theirs. And that was maybe the first 4 or 5 years of work. Was just trying to be as good as the best I saw.
I Am An Off The Grid Artist INDIE ALASKA
And then I started to get people telling me I was as good, or better than the things they saw in magazines and so on. Now, I’m not copying anymore. Now, I’m imagining things with the skills I’ve gained. I’m imagining the things that maybe I can do that no one else does. So I have this great imaginative process. And no holds barred. And it’s very exciting looking forward to work that that I know no one else is doing. That I can do, and some things that maybe only I can do.
And that’s really exciting. As far as I know, I don’t know anyone else who is putting shibori in glacial mud, and glacial mud only has this particular kind of brown, grey color. The work I’m doing now more and more, I want these subtle differences in the cloth. Wooh, look at the color of that. How did I get to silk from my previous life I’ve been an artist for about 8 years. I was a mountain guide, and I was travelling the world as a mountain guide. I had previously been in the British Army.
I was a graduate of Sandhurst Military Academy, which is a very old military college. And I was in one of the first platoons of women to go in. It was extremely difficult to graduate as a woman then from Sandhurst. And I was in the British Army, well I was diagnosed at 27 years old with cancer, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. And I was in the hospital for a couple of years. Because I was an athlete I let.the diagnosis was very late. Because the symptoms weren’t showing. And so, I was really, really ill. We thought I wouldn’t make it.
So when I recovered, I was going to do my bucket list first. So at the age of 28, I decided on bucket list first, life next. So, my first thing on the list was to recreate one of Lawrence’s journeys, which was crossing the Nefud in Jordan, and Iraq, on foot, with a Bedouin, in Ramadan. I then went to the Himalayas, and climbed a mountain in the Himalayas. And my third thing on my list was to mush dogs in Alaska. And I got to Alaska and I totally fell in love.
I wanted to stay in Alaska. Of course as you get older and out of shape, it’s pretty scary getting on the back of an Iditarod team. And so I started this little hobby and now, I’m a textile artist. It would be a lot easier if I was living on the grid. When we first moved out here, I actually commuted to Anchorage 2 days a week to dye in a studio shared with other artists. I loved the other artists that were around, and the way we could discuss what we were doing and get feedback.
This is the thing, you dream of having your own studio, but then you end up with that dilemma of being all alone in your studio But, I think as an artist, you need to be seen and get around. You need to get out and see what other artists are doing. And you want to keep those fires burning, you need to keep feeding your artistic fires. And being in the city is a really good way of doing that. So I miss that, there’s no doubt about it. However, we don’t whine about the challenges of being out here.