We’re so excited to introduce ScrantonMade eco-artist Annie Cadden of Fisher Cat Fiber Company. Annie’s work is innovative and unique yet environmentally sound and sustainable. We can’t wait to feature her work in ScrantonMade shop!
Tell us a little bit about yourself, your background and occupation.
My educational background is in music and recreational therapies. I have worked in the healthcare field since the 80’s, incorporating music and art whenever possible. When working at Community Medical Center in Scranton I taught a patient how to weave on an Inkle loom to help with pain management and her anxiety. She actually purchased her own loom for home before discharge. Currently I work in the day habilitation department at The Center for Discovery, a non-profit organization located on two beautiful organic farms in the Catskill Mountains. The Center uses a nature, art and music based curriculum to assist individuals with various disabilities including Autism Spectrum Disorders.
Describe the different types of products that you make.
Currently my focus has been on upcycled rugs. The rugs are woven on a vintage Union loom from the 1940s, traditionally used for rag rugs. They are woven from plastic bags,
T-shirts, factory seconds, various wool, cotton or other materials left over from previous projects. The warp threads are also from a weaver’s collection of colors he no longer wanted. The challenge is making the fibers and threads compatible enough to pull 15 or more rugs off the loom at a time.
In addition to the rugs and seasonal scarves, I truly enjoy making felted market bags. I only make a handful a year. They are made from scrap pieces of wool from various projects, both hand spun and commercial yarn in many different colors. I never follow a pattern and the materials are limited so no two are ever alike. What they are actually going to look like is a mystery until they go through the felting process.
What is hand spinning and what led you to it?
Hand Spinning is the art of creating yarn or thread from various fibers (wool, cotton, silk, etc.) on a drop spindle or traditionally a spinning wheel. It is making a huge resurgence right now. I was introduced to spinning through the Woodlawn Weavers & Spinners Guild which meets in Damascus PA, I have been a member for over 15 years. Initially I joined because I always wanted to learn to weave but ended up spinning instead, weaving came later. Spinning wool on a spinning wheel is very meditative and truly is the most relaxing thing I do in my busy life.
What is your favorite piece you have created?
My favorite piece is a messenger bag made from Icelandic wool I purchased from a local farmer. I knitted it in the roving (un-spun) and felted it. It was a deep chocolate brown, the natural color of the sheep. Unfortunately I do not have a photo to share, it sold at my first gallery show three years ago.
We love the idea of the T-shirt rug. Can you describe how that works?
Most of us have T-shirts that we just get tired of, are stretched or worn out, don’t fit, etc. Sometimes they’re not good enough to give away or we’re too attached to part with. I will take your T’s and weave you a rug. The shirts are cut into strips and woven like a traditional rag rug on the loom. More recently I have been crocheting them into oval or round area rugs.
What do you enjoy most about owning a small handmade business?
Having complete freedom to create! From a business perspective it has been a tremendous learning experience. I enjoy networking with others and challenging myself.
All of your products seem to be inherently eco-friendly. What are some of the challenges in running such an environmentally conscious business?
Colors and sizes, it has been difficult to promote the same color rug for online markets when creating from an inconsistent source. Therefore you will only see 2 or 3 color varieties of rugs offered online. However at events I am able to bring along a larger variety with more color options. Having warp threads in many colors but limited amounts adds to the color challenge of the rugs. I also have had many requests for larger rugs; however the loom I use can only go to a certain width. I can go to a yarn store, buy a pattern and some gorgeous yarn to make an amazing product, but with FCFC the challenge is to take the materials available to you and create from there.
How do you source your materials?
I get most of my materials from family, friends, guild members and people who know about Fisher Cat Fiber Co. Some materials are purchased from yard sales, fiber shows or by fiber friends who are looking to clean out their closets. Recently I was approached at a show by a former weaver who asked if I needed warp thread. I am looking forward to seeing her selection of colors. There has been no shortage of plastic available for the rugs. When I started out I knew that 90% or more were being tossed into the landfill. It is great to hear about states developing legislation to stop using plastic bags. There are so many beautiful and unique market bags out there and you see more people using them everyday. I recently did an Eco Crochet class at ArtWorks in Scranton and taught how to make yarn using resources around your home and neighborhood.
What is your dream for your business?
To upgrade my equipment and expand beyond the bags and rugs, begin to create larger pieces such as tapestries, coverlets and wall art. Continue to challenge myself to make original pieces from the materials that are presented to me.
Do you have any upcoming events?
Spinning demo with the Woodlawn Weavers & Spinners Guild
Oct 7 Callicoon Farmers Market, Callicoon, NY
Made By Hand
Nov 17 Nyack Center, Nyack, NY
Bethel Woods Holiday Market
Dec 2 Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, Bethel, NY
Annie’s favorites publications:
Fisher Cat Fiber Co Short Bio
I have always been drawn to the fiber arts, textiles, colors and textures. Wanting to create original pieces and having limited resources available other than the local department store brands for yarn; I purchased a spinning wheel and began making my own yarn. I later started weaving. My father composted and recycled, I was taught young the individual effect we each have on the environment. Fisher Cat Fiber Co is a combination of my desire to create and to be resourceful at the same time. FCFC uses salvaged and natural materials to create unique functional items.