Thursday, May 19, 2011

DJ Runnels American Handmade Artist

DJ Runnels is a lady that is on many on-line venues where I encounter her many talents. I think I first met her in Etsy Knitters Team. However, she also has a couple of twitter accounts where we keep in touch. We began to communicate after she advertised a really great sale on her yarns at her Artfire shop which has since moved to Life's an Expedition's main yarn shop, and hand wovens: You can get there by clicking on the title, or copy and paste the url. Somtimes she also has bulk yarn packages at:

The first picture (above) is a woven scarf that DJ made from one of her yarns. The second one is a scarflette that I knitted from that gorgeous yarn that I bought from her. Sadly, I haven't been able to get a real good picture of it. You can find these gorgeous yarns in her Zibbet shop (listed above).

I felt like we had a lot in common, and I'm even more sure of it, now. I also love putting beautiful yarns together for my projects. However, DJ is a much greater business woman, than I, who really knows how to market her products. She has really given me great advice. I love the fact that she makes her designer yarns from yarns that come from U.S. mills. The scarflette/collar above that I made from one of her great yarns and will soon be in my shop.

Promotion is one of your strong points, but if you had to choose between your businesses and knitting, which would it be?

My business. Knitting is more of a hobby for me. But the correct answer would be (e) none of the above. What I mostly live for is to pick up separate yarns, put them together and see what they look like. That was how my yarn sales started. I love to see what the yarns look like together. Once I start knitting or weaving them, the suspense is over. I want to set it aside and see what yet another combination would look like. I got obsessed with this aspect of the whole creative process and as I became better and better at coming up with inventive color combinations, the demand for my yarns grew and the yarn business took off. My yarn sales out-paced my knitting, weaving, paper mache, journal-making, vintage books, everything, in just a few months of starting Life's an Expedition. No one was more surprised than I was! I never set out to be a yarn designer or seller. Fortunately, the yarn combinations are what I love best, so everyone is happy.

The materials for your designer yarns come from U.S. mills. Is this a deliberate choice or did it just happen that way?

It just happened this way. Some of the finest mills are in the North Carolina area. But I am very patriotic. We devote large amounts of time to a charity that helps the deployed military overseas and their families back home. In fact, my secret fantasy is to sing our national anthem at the Superbowl, but if they ever ask me, I will decline as a public service. Not that my singing is horrible, mind you, but It's not that great, either. Still, just the thought of The Star-Spangled Banner gives me goosebumps. I used to sing it to my kids, all of the verses.

Those readers who are knitters certainly know why you would design and sell yarns, but what prompted you into the field of vintage?

In the first few months of business, my husband and I were still exploring what we wanted to do. He loved old books, and so do I, as I used to be a professional writer. So we accumulated a lot of books and sold them on eBay. I'm sure we've sold over two thousand by now, but I lost count. Now when we select books, we are more narrow in focus. We mostly offer non-fiction, such as art, history, science, travel. We want each book we offer to have something special about it.

Another factor which drove me towards vintage is my love of taking a vintage item and altering it in some way. I make journals from old dictionaries and cookbooks. And I love to paint and decorate wooden household goods, such as bowls, picture frames, trays. In the beginning, I was fairly timid with a paintbrush. Now I pounce without hesitation. You should see the decorating in my house. I just went wild.

What is the motivating force behind your on-line shops?

That's an easy one. I have several taglines that I use to promote Life's an Expedition. One of them is Adventures in Yarn. Another one is "Your expedition is about to begin." But my favorite one is this: Color. Nature. Texture. Culture. Everything that I said earlier about Color? I am the same way about texture, trees, leaf prints, botanicals, weaving from Guatemala, carved objects from Africa, anything that fits into those four categories. One day I had dinner with friends at the Olive Garden and one of them laughed out loud. She said it was fun to watch an artist explore everything. I was running my hand over the textured walls in the lobby, admiring the yellowish glow of a light as it hit a tan wall, analyzing the curly grapevines, waxing poetically over anything Italian, that sort of thing. I get the same way when I'm in another country. Or at Pier 1, for that matter.

I do love Dj's yarns, and hope she never quits making them.

Check out Dj's other shops here: Life's an Expedition imported goods, such as the Guatemalan tablecloths, and some miscellany:
Life's an Expedition books: new, used, vintage, antiquarian:
I usually put a sprinkling of items here, such as military birdhouses: