Angela, the dyer behind Celestial Strings, talks fiber, color, inspiration, gaming, space, and dyeing in the desert. See twelve of her fabulous colorways, including The Knitting Tree, L.A. exclusive, on two different yarns — Supersquish Bulky and Galaxy Tweed DK — in store and online.
How did you learn to dye/crochet/knit and why did you keep it up?
My mother taught me to crochet when I was a kid, probably eight or nine years old. I didn’t really do much with it back then, just fiddled with making chains. As I got older, mid teens, I asked her to teach me again and picked it back up. I’ve been crocheting ever since.
My mother taught me to dye textiles when I was young. I have always been super creative and was always drawn to fabric and dyes. I started with tie-dyeing and trying to paint designs on fabric, and it sort of just blossomed from there. Dyeing fiber was just a natural transition once I learned there was more yarn out there than just the “big box” places.
After some unsuccessful attempts, I taught myself to knit about two months ago.
Why “Celestial Strings?”
My husband works for NASA, and I grew up, like most kids, wanting to be an astronaut. I love space and science and it just seemed fitting. We’re also a family of geeks, we (including my 15-year-old son) all game. We attend video game conventions, and I’m a host on a weekly video game podcast, EverCast Show.
What inspires your creative work, especially your dye designs?
Everything, really. I spend a lot of time flipping through space and NASA photography, and when one jumps out at me I dye my own interpretation of it. More and more often I’m finding that video games serve as inspiration as well. My UV-reactive colorway “Warlock” was inspired by World of Warcraft, a video game that I play very regularly. There are warlocks in the game with a color palette of black/purple/toxic green that seems to be prevalent in a lot of their armor. I really liked the way that it looked and decided it would make neat yarn.
What challenges do you face as an independent dyer outside of a metropolitan area? What advantages do you have?
One of the challenges that I face is the distance between me and the community as a whole. There are no LYSes in my area, and as far as I know L.A. shops are the closest for me. It’s 110 miles from where I live to The Knitting Tree, L.A. each way, and with traffic often takes three hours. That’s a major challenge. It makes it harder for me to be involved both on a personal level and a business level; I’m limited to the weekends for travel. That makes it harder for me to make meaningful business contacts as well as friendships within the fiber community that is so close to my heart.
I find the isolation is an advantage, in terms of production and inspiration. I live in the middle of the Mojave Desert, in the third-largest city (by square miles) with only 14,000 people. There’s very little light pollution (so seeing the stars at night is so easy), and there aren’t any distractions here.
What are your goals for your future creative work? Anything besides fiber arts in the offing?
My goals for the future is to continue to refine, improve, and grow my business. I started with a single skein of yarn and three colors of dye and grew it to what it is today. I’m not huge, but I’m buying a lot more than a single skein at a time now. That first skein is now in a sweater, and the customer who purchased it is now a regular customer and close friend, thanks to my business.
I’m working on expanding my products to include silk scarves in existing colorways (which I’m currently already doing in very small quantities). Beyond that I haven’t given much thought to what else I may do. I want to see my business grow, but I want to keep it small enough that I’m the only person dyeing. It feels a lot less “indie” to me when it’s gotten big enough that you’ve gotten several people dyeing. I don’t have anything against it, but I promised myself I’d stay just small enough that I’d be the only one who ever dyes. I’m okay with sharing the other, non-dyeing work with people. I can’t do everything, as my husband recently pointed out to me.
What keeps you a part of the fiber arts community?
I can’t imagine my life any other way, honestly. I love what I do so I don’t really consider it work. It makes me happy, and it lets me make others happy. It’s impossible to imagine what it would be like without it in my life. I mean, I think it would be drab if I didn’t have all these colors around me. Have you seen the Mojave Desert?
Images courtesy Angela of Celestial Strings.