Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Artist of the Week - Ingleside Farm

Nancy Chase - Ingleside Farm

I run a small, historic farm in Buckingham, VA, raising Icelandic sheep.  My sheep provide me with the materials I need to produce and sell:  breeding stock and meat lambs; wool for spinners and felters; pelts; horns; skulls; sheep's milk soap, hand-carved sheep's bone jewelry; needle felted jewelry, sculptures, and other fiber arts; plus photo cards, calendars, and gifts featuring photos of the farm and sheep.
1. Why did you decide to open a shop?

It was the next logical step towards helping my farm become a little more profitable.  I love to experiment with lots of different ways of being creative.  And my sheep provide me with so many wonderful, all-natural materials, I'm constantly inspired with new ideas of ways to use them.

2. How did you get into your art?

I've been doing art and various kinds of crafts my entire life.  But it was my years of involvement with the Society for Creative Anachronism (a medieval recreation group) that originally got me interested in fiber arts, which led to me eventually starting to raise sheep.  So I guess you could say that at first my interest in art inspired my desire to farm, and now the farm inspires my art!

3. What do you love about what you are doing?

To me, there's the most amazing sense of connection and accomplishment when I create a finished item from raw materials that I've raised myself.  Each piece I create represents whole cycles of life and seasons on my farm. 

For example, for even one small piece of my needle felted wool jewelry, I have not only created the piece itself, I've also helped that lamb be born, raised it and cared for it every day of its life, sheared the wool myself, and washed and carded it by hand, before ever beginning the needle felting process.  So by the time I make the finished item, I literally have YEARS of love and labor invested in the materials. 

It's such an honor to be able to work with materials that have been grown with joy and respect at every step of their development.  In today's world of mass-production, that can be a rare opportunity for most people.  I feel so lucky to be able to live this challenging and beautiful life on this beautiful old farm.  I hope that some of the joy I feel is passed on to the people who buy my work.

4. How does your art fit into your dreams for your life?

I've had quite a few different jobs over the course of my life.  Many of them were both easier and higher paying than this one.  But living here on the farm, creating beautiful and useful things from my own home-grown materials, is the most authentic and satisfying thing I have ever done.

Now I just have to keep making progress, both with my art and my marketing, so the profits can begin to grow a little bit too!

5. What have you learned about yourself from starting your shop and learning your art form?

For me, creating the art is inextricably entwined with running the farm.  Both of these are constant learning experiences!  Nearly all of the pieces I create are one of a kind, so there is no set routine.  It's always new, every time.

I've learned patience, because my ideas flow so quickly but they take time to bring them to fruition.  I've learned courage, persistence, and the ability to take responsibility and make the tough choices, in the face of overwhelming and sometimes heartbreaking circumstances.  And most of all, I've learned what my sister and I refer to as "thinking sideways."  That means, when your path seems blocked by an insurmountable obstacle, you develop the habit of brainstorming a dozen different ways that you can still reach your goal, even if you have to do it a different way than you'd originally planned.

How you can contact, stay in touch, fan or follow Nancy Change from Ingleside Farm:

Icelandic sheep: http://www.inglesideicelandics.com
Fiber arts and handmade jewelry: http://www.etsy.com/shop/nancychase
Farm-related cards, calendars, & gifts: http://www.cafepress.com/inglesidefarm
Farm Blog: http://www.keepingthefarm.blogspot.com


V.R. Leavitt said...

Wonderful interview!! Thanks so much for featuring Nancy! She's a great person and as more people are starting to discover, a wonderful artist.