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The Artist Meets the Farmer…

This is Zara Franks, creator of Venn Apparel, in her impromptu outdoor studio in Berkeley, California.

Zara is one of the talented fiber artists contributing to Rebecca’s fibershed wardrobe.

And these are two pieces Zara created for Rebecca, with wool that Rebecca acquired from Kenny, a farmer in Mill Valley, who raises his sheep just 21.7 miles away from Zara’s home.

Zara was kind enough to meet with us and show us how she creates her magic…

She makes it look easy, but I am not fooled. It takes more than a machine to make the lovely pieces that Zara creates.

After our visit with Zara, we scooped her up and took her to meet Kenny and his sheep at The Woolly Egg Ranch.

Kenny’s family has been farming this property for multiple generations and Kenny is doing his best to keep that tradition going, even though the land around him isn’t so rural anymore.

Kenny raises his sheep for meat, not wool. Meat sheep typically do not have the quality of wool that knitters want to use. So until Kenny met Rebecca, he threw away the wool after the sheep were sheared because he didn’t know what else to do with it.

Rebecca was not scared off by the meat sheep’s wool, so she made a deal with Kenny to pay for the cost of the shearing in exchange for the wool.

Next Rebecca had the wool spun with a softer wool at Jane’s Mill, and she is giving the wool blend to fiber artists, like Zara, to create clothing for her fibershed challenge.

And now Kenny, excited about the new potential market for his sheep, is looking into breeding his meat sheep with wool sheep, so ultimately he will have two products to sell.

The fiber artists, who Rebecca is working with, were very excited to meet the sheep responsible for the wool they are using.

And they were excited to meet Kenny, the biodiesel making, chicken farming, sheep herding, stage building man of many hats.

As an extra bonus to Rebecca’s fibershed challenge, to keep her wardrobe entirely locally grown and produced for one year, Kenny makes his own biodiesel fuel out of leftover grease from a local Chinese restaurant.

So the lifecycle of these these two pieces of clothing goes… from sheep on a biodiesel fueled farm in Mill Valley, to a mill in Yolo County, to Rebecca in Fairfax (where part of the wool is dyed with indigo that was grown in Fairfax), to Zara in Berkeley.

By my googlemap calculations, that equals about 198 miles from start to finish. It is hard to get clothes with a smaller carbon footprint than that.

And it is especially hard to find sustainable clothes that are as stylishly fantastic as these.

For more information on Fibershed hats.. email Zara, at orders@vennapparel.com

About the author paige green

Paige Green is a documentary and portrait photographer, whose storytelling approach to photography frequently addresses issues involving agriculture, land use, and food. Her work is featured in nine books and has been published in Glamour, National Geographic Traveler, New York Times Magazine, Conde Nast Traveler, GQ, Country Living, House Beautiful, and Culture. Paige lives in Petaluma, CA with a house full of boys.

All posts by paige green →

3 Comments

  1. Outstanding Paige!

    Reply

  2. love this! that knitting machine is crazy. and how do you keep finding such beautiful people to photograph?

    Reply

  3. oh what a beautiful post, p!
    it just makes me warm all over to watch this project grow.

    Reply

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