This interview was originally published in the October issue of Happily Hooked Magazine.
I recently interviewed Yana, founder of Artfil, after having played with her yarns, Mericana & Grace, beautiful hand-painted fibers. I fell in love.
Turns out, Yana is a complete lover of all things fiber & of life as a whole as you’ll read below.
Q: How did Artfil happen?
A: Artfil was meant to be. All my life I’d dreamed of a job in which to unleash my creativity. Artfil was the answer to the question “what makes me happy”, and I went with it.
Q: What led you to turn your relationship to yarn into a business?
A: Easy: it was the need to put both my personal and professional lives in harmony with each other. Making a living with it was a secondary benefit!
The truth is, I don’t like to use the word “business” when it comes to hand-crafted goods, it sounds so… commercial, and cold. You know what an artisan’s studio looks like… Messy, dirty clothes & dirty hands, empty pockets, but also tons of smiles, a friendly environment, and happiness… oh, and did I mention the mess?
Q: Do you work alone, or do you have a team?
A: Collaboration is at the core of Artfil. While I am the soul of the product, my husband is the head of the company. He is also the clever engineer behind our unique environmentally friendly colouring process. It wouldn’t be possible without my enthusiastic helpers as well, the talented knitters from the group “Knitters among us” and Elise – my paperwork savior.
Q: You hand paint your yarn; what’s the difference between that process and dyeing?
A: The difference is in the technique used. Standard tub or kettle dying processes involve a dye bath, where the yarn soaks for a certain amount of time. The bath water with the excess colour is then thrown down the drain. When hand painting, we treat the yarn as a canvas and apply the diluted dye to it as if we were painting. The total amount of water we use is about 300 ml. per skein. The excess water contaminated with colour is almost none. On top of that, we use a technology that allows us to paint without wetting the yarn base before starting.
Q: How did you learn this technique?
A: I have been painting with oils on canvas for ages, and I am applying the same logic and knowledge when painting on yarn. The process of fixing the colour is my husband’s invention. The rest we learned by the old ‘trial and error’ method.
Q: What inspires your colourways?
A: Literally everything is a muse, a flash of colour in my head.
Q: What are the bases that you use?
A: Currently we use mostly North-American produced merino wool. In general, there are no limits with protein fibers for our method, however we can’t paint plant-based fibers and call it eco-friendly. Despite the popular belief that cotton is ecological, it is not. Plant-based fibers require not only huge amounts of water to produce, but also have to have their colour set in chemical baths.
Q: How do you choose the bases?
A: My first criteria is their earth-friendly origin, followed by their social responsibility – we buy from local producers as much as possible to encourage the local economy.
Q: Do you crochet, knit, or do anything else yarn-related?
A: I do all of it! Tunisian crochet was my favorite for a long time, then freeform crochet took its place, and now it’s mostly knitting… well, I’ll see tomorrow, it may be weaving by then!
I got (happily) hooked (Nicely done, Yana! -ACCROchet) with crochet at a very young age. I come from a country with traditions in knitwear. In Bulgaria almost every woman can knit and crochet.
Q: Any other hobbies outside of the yarn world?
A: Cooking and baking are two other passions I have, and oil painting of course.
Q: Tell us about your family, your pets, where you’re located, and where you’re from.
A: We are a little family of three. I would have loved to have at least 3 cats but I’m allergic (sad). Stan (my husband), Nikola (our son), and I came to Montreal (Canada) 8 years ago with no real intention to stay, as we had pretty good life and careers in Bulgaria. At first I didn’t like the city much, but now I can’t imagine living anywhere else. I realize Artfil wouldn’t have happened otherwise, because starting to dye yarn while holding a law degree would have been equal to social suicide in Bulgaria, and so probably the idea wouldn’t have crossed my mind at all there. You have to break the rope if you want to be free.
Q: What are your favorite yarn colours and fibers, and how do your favorites compare to your bestsellers?
A: Calm and quiet earthy pastel shades in GRACE (our merino-cashmere blend) are my favourites. I’ve put my entire heart in denim, slate, wheat and mushroom, and they are our bestsellers. When you create something with pure love it shows and pays off.
Q: Do you have a lesson you’d like to share with readers; some truth you live by?
A: Happiness is a choice! That is the most important thing I’ve learned in my life. Bad things, mistakes, failures, they all happen… but how we react to them is on us. Giving up doesn’t always mean you’re weak, sometimes it means you are strong enough and smart enough to let go and move on.
Q: Where do you hope Artfil goes next?
A: The only valuable destination for Artfil is the knitters’ and crocheters’ hearts!
Follow Yana on her website: http://artfil.ca/