Rickie van Berkum,  Fiber ArtistCatkinRvB edited-1

The cultural and historical role of wool fiber and its creative possibilities fascinate me. As a fiber artist, I am captivated by and immersed in all aspects of wool production: shearing the sheep, preparing the fleeces, and spinning, dying, and knitting the yarn into richly textured and colored garments.

Like most women through the ages, I learned to knit at my mother’s and grandmother’s side. The tools I use daily are modern versions of the ones that have clothed humanity for millennia: the spinning wheel, the hand spindle, knitting needles, combs and carders. Knowing that my hands are skilled at tasks that were vital to my ancestors fills me with immense satisfaction and humility.

In my rural home in Western Montana, I am part of a vibrant fiber community of shepherds, weavers, knitters, spinners and fiber-mill operators who value self-reliance, hard work, mutual support, and love of the outdoors. I honor this connection by purchasing much of my wool directly from Montana based shepherds’ carefully tended flocks. These wool fibers are prepped for spinning and yarn production by family run businesses.

My love of natural processes thrills with the rhythms and textures that emerge from the complex evolutionary and geologic forces that have shaped our natural landscapes. These influences are carried into my studio where I interpret the subtle color palettes and textures of pine forest, soaring rocky cliffs and the expanses of the plains in my yarns, spinning fibers and art garments.

When I work with a shepherd and the flock that supplies the wool that will become a unique garment, I am profoundly aware of being part of a long, important tradition. I revel in taking the slow lane: creating the perfect colors, spinning a special yarn and creating unique garments that will honor and last for the ages.

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