Hello! The kids are back at school this week so I’ve been turning my thoughts to making a plan for the upcoming Wonderwool show. I can’t wait to visit this highly popular show in Wales, in just a couple of weeks. Going through the list of exhibitors I realised that I hadn’t had an indie dyer profile on the blog in a while and it seemed the perfect opportunity to have a chat with someone whose yarns I’ve long admired: Caerthan Wrack of Triskelion Yarn and Fibre. I’m looking forward to seeing Caerthan again and after our chat about everything he’s been working on I’m sure I’ll acquire some new pretties at his stall once again!
For my readers who perhaps aren’t familiar with Triskelion Yarns, can you give us some background on the business and how you got started as a dyer?
Sure! Triskelion started out seven or eight years ago as a way of adding value to the fibre clip from my small herd of alpacas. I dyed and used the fibre myself as a spinner and weaver, and sold any excess to other local spinners and weavers. That blossomed into a small Etsy shop, and then I took the plunge into mill-spun yarns four or five years ago. I still use the fibre from my alpacas in my own projects, but the yarns have kind of taken over now. The triskelion itself is the three-armed/legged symbol on my logo. It’s often been used (in many variants) as a symbol for the old British sea god – Manawyddan ap Llŷr, Mannanan mac Lir – who’s always been an aspirational/inspirational figure for me, right from when I was a kid. Part of Manawyddan’s myth cycle deals with him learning three crafts from scratch in order to make his way in the world. When I moved to Wales and got the alpacas, I learnt how to spin, and dye, and weave, along with relearning my knitting skills, in order to make my own way in the world after a major life change. Manawyddan once again became a role model to me, and so the triskelion felt kind of appropriate.
You’re based in Wales. How much does your environment influence you as a dyer or as an artist? For instance, I notice that the names of all of your colours seem to be Welsh?
Huge. Huge! I have a very pagan sensibility when it comes to creative pursuits, so nearly every creative endeavour I embark on is anchored in my environment. Not just the land, but my cultural and spiritual heritage too. My colour work is heavily influenced by British Celtic and Anglo-Saxon artwork. I’d say my current “main sequence” palette is a kind of 21st century take on the Anglo-Saxon palette you’d find in the Lindisfarne Gospels, for example. The names are a bit of a mix, drawn again from Celtic and Saxon myth and folklore. Coming from a mixed English/Welsh background, I like to draw on both of those streams for my inspiration. I think my current palette and the older ‘Winternights’ palette both have a very British feel to them, in that they’re both rooted in British myth, land and ancient art. So, yes, my environment is a significant influence on my work, probably the strongest influence.
I think I must have spent SO much time at Unravel in February on your stand drooling over the deeply saturated jewel tones of your colours. The palette is incredibly refined so how do you decide to add or takeaway colours?
Building on an existing palette is a much more straightforward enterprise than building from scratch, so adding colours becomes merely an exercise of identifying underused or weak spots in the palette, and developing from there. Once I get an idea of where I want to go next in terms of a specific, narrow colour range, I’ll start developing a handful of prospective hues which I can then hone down. I might also experiment with presentation of the base hue – what kind of semi-soliding, or glazing technique, or variegation, what level of complexity I want in the final colourway, all those kind of things – all the time making sure it’s in keeping with the overall Triskelion main sequence palette. I also listen to what my customers ask for, particularly at shows. For example, the main sequence in its current form is quite blue-heavy and I’m getting a lot of requests from customers for more greens, so that’s guiding my attention elsewhere – reds and greens have become a big preoccupation of mine!
I saw on social media that for the Edinburgh Yarn Festival you dyed some skeins for Ysolda’s first custom yarn, Blend No. 1. What was that project like and how different was it to be dyeing for someone else and not yourself?
I’ve had three collaborative projects with Ysolda now, the two clubs and the Blend No. 1. The two clubs had a basic inspirational ‘brief’ on the idea Ysolda had in mind, but I could essentially bring whatever I wanted to the table within those briefs. Ysolda’s wonderful to work with – a dyer’s dream, even! She trusts where your interpretation of her inspirational brief will take you, and trusts the dyer’s expertise. That’s pretty awesome, and is actually the way of working I find most rewarding. Collaborative pieces really are my favourites. I love the experience of shared creative process. The Blend No. 1 colours were less of a ‘big deal’ than the two club yarns, as they were more of a ‘what if..?’, speculative kind of project. We were a little time constrained for Edinburgh, so we just went with a small palette of four colours, based on existing colourways of mine but adjusted a little to suit the beautiful cool, bright grey of the yarn. Still a nice project, though, and it was very satisfying seeing them snapped up at the show! I have a couple of other collaborative projects currently in development, one of which promises to be very exciting indeed, and could be a very Big Deal for Triskelion in future.
And now you have your own new base of yarn. Tell me about that and how you decided on this base (weight, fibre composition, how it takes the dye/knits up, etc).
Oh, not my very own base yet, but I certainly have plans! I’m very much in love with the new BFL/Masham base I’ve just started dyeing for the shows, though. I adore BFL, and the blend with the grey-brown Masham gives my base colourways a unique depth. You’ll be seeing some new colourways soon that take advantage of the base blend’s colour too.
I notice that you’ve got some new yarn clubs too. What can knitters/makers expect in terms of the club? New yarns? New colours?
The clubs are a mix of some of my current yarns, plus some not in normal production. The British club features yarns spun in the UK using British fibre, which I’m very pleased and proud to be dyeing and offering to my customers. The colourways are all exclusive to the clubs, and are either new colourways or reworkings of old colourways to take advantage of the unique qualities of the yarns. There are some truly beautiful and unique yarns coming through the clubs. Very exciting!
It seems like with Unravel and EYF that 2016 is off with a bang for you – congratulations! Any more exciting news or big plans for the rest of the year that you can share?
Yes, the first quarter of 2016 has been a blast for Triskelion! Some things in the pipeline for the rest of the year include some new bases, mainly DKs, and some new colourway families – including a small range of greys that I’m very excited about. Also, I have a couple of guest spots in other yarn clubs, and as I said, some very cool collaborative projects with other people in the fibre world. That’s all in addition to the shows I’ll be at throughout the year. Oh, and a revamp of the website and my actual studio is definitely needed! So, 2016 is already shaping up to be an exciting ‘pivot’ year for Triskelion – and who knows what’s around the next corner?
Many thanks to Caerthan for taking the time to answer my questions – especially when in the midst of show prep! Caerthan, I’ll see you and your fabulous yarns at Wonderwool! Can’t wait!