Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall, I love to wear scarves. Let’s face it, they’re an easy way to dress up an outfit, hide something, and an accessory you can have a little fun with. When I saw these really cool scarves made out of wool when out the Summer, I had to discover where they came from.
After a little Facebook and Instagram research, I discovered who was responsible for these scarves, that are unlike any I’ve ever seen before, Barnyard Saints.
Danielle Mulcahy, one of the talented artists of Barnyard Saints invited me her studio, which is actually her in-laws house. I am not very crafty myself, but I have to say that the space that Danielle works in is so inspiring. As she works with her spinning wheel, she overlooks a pond in West Tisbury. The view is so bucolic. You don’t want to leave.
But back to the story. Yes, I said spinning wheel. I immediately thought of Sleeping Beauty. I had no idea that these things were even in existence anymore, but they are, and help Danielle create wearable art.
Before we dive into the invention of the Skein Skarf, the actual name of the scarves I covet, I want to tell you a little bit about Danielle.
Danielle went to Mass Art where she double majored. She is pretty artsy. She paints. She is a photographer and also a film maker. Working with fiber arts is relatively new for her. How did it come about?
Well, she fell in love with a handsome Island man, Walker Roman. It was not love at first sight, but rather an epic battle of who could do better in art class at school. After they realized that they were both incredibly talented, one thing led to another, and here they are four years later.
So, here are two artists living in what has to be one of the most inspiring backdrops in the world, and it happens. That “it” thing is created. A signature piece that people go crazy for. The Skein Scarf.
Danielle always had an interest in fiber arts. When she was in college, she worked at a little zoo that had angora rabbits. She would comb her favorite bunny, Cadbury, and make stuff from his wool.
She learned how to drop spin from an old woman at a sheep and wool festival. Danielle would collect wool from friends, the thrift stores, and the Dumptique. She continued this as a quiet hobby.
You could only do so much with this technique. Danielle really wanted to try using a spinning wheel, and of course, an Islander had one for her to use. After she learned how to use it, she spun wool like crazy for two months.
Working with the wool in this way was so relaxing for her, almost therapeutic. Also, the results are instant. You can immediately enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Not only does Danielle spin the wool, she works with it from beginning to end, getting the burs and poop out of the raw wool, some of which comes from the Island, and some from other small New England farms.
She washes and dries and dyes the wool, which can be alpaca, sheep or angora. Many of her dyes are made with natural ingredients like indigo or marigolds. Loved seeing the marigolds in a jar on her front step where the sun is responsible for helping create the dye.
The wool is then put through a drum carter, and color combinations that happen at this process are completely organic. As she turns the machine and feeds the fiber, the most beautiful colors are made.
Now, Danielle had two months worth of handmade, hand-dyed yarn. What does one do with so much yarn? Sell it at the Chilmark Flea Market! You can see how this hobby is growing.
As I mentioned, Danielle has several different areas of art she works in, and I even forgot to mention that she also makes puppets and masks too. Her work space is full of fun things to look at.
With her art, and now fiber, and Walker’s incredible paintings — he is a very talented artist as well — they would have plenty to sell at the Chilmark Flea.
One day at the Flea, Danielle was there at the Barnyard Saints Art tent, working with her wool, her skeins, which are actually a length yarn, loosely coiled and knotted, and this beautiful, tall African American girl came over.
She proceeded to take a skein and put it on, like a scarf. The lightbulb went on! Birds were chirping. It was a moment. The skein of wool looked stunning on this beautiful woman. The Skein Scarf was born.
Danielle has refined it since. It has a handle that helps you work with it, and there’s also a Barnyard Saints Art tag on it. Each one she creates is unique. It’s truly wearable art, a piece that Danielle works with from beginning to end by hand.
When she sells one, she says goodbye to it. Its journey from matted fiber to a Skein Skarf is one that is marked with love.
Danielle was not prepared for the success of the Skein Skarf, but she is working with it. Things are falling into place.
She now has a second spinning wheel, a modern one to use in addition to her vintage one. And her fiancé, Walker has the fiber bug too. It’s now something they do together. They create beautiful art.
What’s next for Barnyard Saints Art? They will soon have an Etsy site where you can get all the different art that Barnyard Saints offers. There will be a Pop-Up Shop at MV Tatoo in December, and they might be at a couple of the Artisan Festivals.
Also, Danielle is thinking about doing custom “story scarves” which will have personal items sewn into them. You can wear your own personal treasures.
Danielle actually made a Skein Skarf with Phoenix Russell’s wampum (Island Wampum). It’s such a beautiful piece, two Island artists’ work coming together. She also won a ribbon for this scarf at the Ag Fair along with an honorable mention for how the wool was made.
The hand process that Danielle uses is centuries old but certainly not commonplace these days. It’s good her efforts were recognized. Her scarves really are beautiful. I should have bought the blue one I tried on (that’s me and a Skein Skarf in the first pic in the blog).
I love this story — one of young love, art and the magic of Martha’s Vineyard.
Thanks for reading the On Point Blog. Thanks for some of the great photos Danielle! You can learn more about Barnyard Saints Art on Facebook. And speaking of social media, don’t forget to “Like” us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter, Linked In, Google+, Pinterest and Youtube.
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