Name: Jill & Nicolas Duarte
Business name: HipStrings
Website(s): HipStrings Website, HipStrings Shop
What kind of items do you make?
We make support spindles, fiber tools, and offer a variety of natural and handdyed fiber (and even a little yarn!).
How long have you been in indie artist?
This is our first year, and our first show – be nice!
What got you interested in your art of choice?
When I first started spinning, I fell in love with spinning cotton with Tahkli-style spindles, but I was dreadfully jealous of all the other beautiful spindles out there. When Techshop opened in Pittsburgh, I got the inspiration to use modern materials that could be etched to make a superior Tahkli-style spindle – and HipStrings was born. I am also interested in naturally colored and dyeing with natural and organic dyes because I’m allergic to some dyes and it’s kept me from being to enjoy many of the beautiful hand-dyed fiber available. I love working with fiber that spins well on my spindles, and sharing it with others.
What do you most enjoy about what you do?
I love creating things that I immensely enjoy and being able to share that with other people. That our work brings joy to other people is the icing on the cake. I love trying out new things that aren’t necessarily the typical offerings in the marketplace and breaking fiber stereotypes – like spinning cotton is hard.
What most inspires you?
We are both greatly inspired by Art Nouveau and mid century modern design. It is also inspiring to mix new technology (laser cutter/3D printing/carbon fiber/etc) with “old” technology (spindles, handspinning, dyeing).
What makes your creations unique?
Our spindles are unlike anything on the market, making use of “modern” materials such as acrylic and carbon fiber to improve the performance of ancient technology – spindles. The fiber we sell has been carefully selected and prepped to optimize your spindle spinning experience.
Do you have a favorite item or colorway?
My favorite item is the Mistral support spindle. This Tahkli style spindle is a joy to use and super productive – I can usually fill it up in a day or two of spinning. Though my Akha spindle prototype is a close second – the first set of them should be ready for their debut at Indie Knit & Spin.
What is something you strive to offer the fiber arts community?
We aim to provide tools for the fiber arts that are both ideally suited to their purpose while being decorative and inspiring at the same time. For our fiber, we want to provide fiber that is a joy to spin on spindles (and wheels!) while also being heavy metal free.
Does being an indie fiber artist affect other aspects of your life?
We are constantly looking for designs that would look good on circles, looking to nature for color combinations for dyeing, and always wondering how we could use new materials for spindles. It’s been amazing how so many other skills we’ve collectively accumulated have been applicable to being a fiber artist.
What is your fiber arts superpower?
Making spindles that spin and spin and spin and spin and spin and spin….and making fiber batts that magically turn themselves into singles in the blink of an eye.
How is the fiber arts world different for you today than it was five years ago?
I was just getting into fiber arts in a serious way five years ago – then I discovered Ravelry, and joined a knitting group that became some of my best friends in Pittsburgh. I love the community, and the ability to experiment on a daily basis, whether it’s with crochet, knitting, spinning, weaving, fiber prep or spindle making. Coming from a science background, it’s such a great way for both of us to combine both of our technical prowess with our creative minds.