This is my interview with Amélie Blanchard, Twist Fiber Festival founder & owner of La Chèvre d’Oeuvre goat farm. If you haven’t met Amélie, you are missing out. She is one of the nicest, most generous, engaging people you will meet. She is totally devoted to the festival she founded & to her life with goats (and a husband!). This year, with everything else she had to do, she even took the time to help my daughter and her schoolmates with an agriculture-themed fair for school, sending samples & taking time out of her busy schedule to do a phone interview.
You can’t help but love this lady. Read on!
We’ve spoken about this before, but please explain to readers how Twist came to be — and the sort of reception you got to it before the 1st edition.
When I started spinning in 2010 and started being really obsessed with anything fiber, there was no major fiber event in Quebec. I wanted to create my dream fiber festival right here in my little town, St-Andre-Avellin… why not? A completely naive undertaking that took a year and a half to prepare. Orchestrating an event from the ground up was a true challenge. I wanted to take my own concept of fiber festivals to a whole new level, making it a space for creativity and inspiration. Showing off what the new generation of contemporary artists was creating. I also wanted to make “TWIST”, a bilingual event, a language barrier-free space for sharing. So I founded a non-profit organization to produce the event, and built an amazing team to surround it. Without the programming committee and an amazing team of volunteers Twist would have never seen the light of day.
I remember the first day of the first edition. I was a nervous wreck! I, and the twistees crew, had put so much time and energy, for such a long time, and then, the day of the event, seeing it all come together, a lineup at the door, knitters and spinners from all over, and finally meeting all the people I had been in contact with during the preparation. Attendance was beyond my expectation. It was a pretty awesome feeling.
2014 is Twist’s 3rd year. How has Twist improved since its 1st edition? What did you learn or change or make better?
The first year, was a complete unknown. And you do your best to plan for every little thing. The second year was easier, because we knew a bit what to expect.
There hasn’t been any major changes, a lot of work is put in the content of the show, and that changes yearly. More vendors, more diversity, more workshops, A creative programming, the festival’s branding, the promotion and the organization to me, is key. And it will always be a work in progress.
When do you start planning the next edition of the festival and how much time, people are involved behind the scenes?
I tend to plan and start booking teachers more than a year in advance. And this year I’m working the 2014 and 2015 edition at the same time. The twistees crew (the programming committee) meets once every month, and when we are two months to the event, we meet weekly (or at least e-mail a lot). There are more than 10 twistees behind the scenes. During the event around 60 wonderful volunteers come and give us a hand.
Tell us the kind of vendors we can expect to discover over the weekend, and the type of people who visit?
This year we’ve created a high end textile artists section. I’m really happy with what you will see. From contemporary machine knit kid’s toys, rug hooked flowers, hand-woven baby alpaca blankets, incredible lacework, metal woven jewelry, eco-print wearables, felt designer wear to beautiful wool inspired ceramic house ware … In the main section, we will have a huge space for Ashford Wheels and Looms, coming all the way from New Zealand, Purlin J’s Yarn Co in her big red truck, knitting machines, our very popular Lacemakers Guild, vintage buttons, yarn bowls, local fibre, funky handspun yarns, even agricultural supplies… and the list goes on. I’m already saving because I am going to splurge!
The visitors, which a lot are fibre peeps, some are just plain curious, come from all over Quebec, Ontario, the Maritimes and the USA. Some even come all the way from British Columbia. It’s pretty amazing!
Why is it important to you that the festival take place in St-André Avellin?
St-Andre-Avellin is the perfect place. We’re about an hour from the National Capital (Ottawa) and an hour and a half from Montreal. The setting is beautiful.
Do the people living there appreciate the boost?
Surprisingly, the first year, very few locals came to the festival. Some came in looking for the dance floor! Then later, some decorated their houses with yarn and the community is getting more and more into it. I believe that now, pretty much everyone in town knows what Twist is.
Do visitors fall in love with the place?
They do. And they come back.
What else is there to do there?
There is so so much to do. There are a few National Parks in the area, you can visit a lot of organic farms, there’s Parc Omega (a huge outdoor park, filled with Canadian animals that you drive through and feed carrots to Muskox! – do buy your carrots at the grocery store though), I also have some friends that run Camp Explora, an electric ATV adventure guided by an iPad. There’s also the best organic chocolate place in the world called Chocomotive, where if you book in advance, you can make your own chocolate.
And why isn’t there a Tim Hortons?? (;P)
If you want really good coffee. You go to the P’tit Café de l’auberge:)
You also operate a goat farm, which requires quite a bit of work, I’m sure. What happens with your schedule as the festival grows nearer?
The farm is pretty busy all year, we have around 100 goats. More than a third are cashmere goats. The last couple of weeks before the festival, are a bit crazy, but my husband Sven, is pretty cool, and keeps an eye on everything.
Twist Fibre Festival, August 23rd & 24th
Single Admission is $ 7 per day for teens and adults, and is free for children under 12.
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