ByrdCall Studio
My Groundhog sees his shadow today.  I cut this groundhog out of steel with a plasma cutter when my welding friend, Virginia Sperry, was kind enough to give a mini-lesson a few years ago.
Happy Winter!

Aren't I on-the-ball getting my newsletter out on the first (2nd) of the month?  (OK, so I didn't send one in January and a few of you noticed and called me on it.)  I appreciate being missed.  I have an excuse:  I have started a new ritual for getting my book written. I am writing for 2-3 hours every morning. 

Then I found the rest of the day got swallowed by other things and the newsletter did not write itself.  So I must find a balance. My life is a balancing act.

Please forgive me if I ignore your emails and phone calls in the mornings, but will get back to you as quickly as possible in the afternoon.  It's all for the sake of getting the book done.

Lots to share in this issue, so relax by your computer monitor (for biggest, best pictures) and enjoy the adventure of what's shaking in and around the studio.   If you got snow like we did, I hope you enjoyed it and took advantage of it for cleaning your ryas.  See below.

In this issue: 
OK, dive right in... In case you haven't guessed, this looks better on a monitor than it does on a smart phone.


A Very Kind Snowstorm . . .

The weathermen were telling us to get our generators serviced and gassed up because high winds and records snows were going to take down the power lines and we probably wouldn't have electricity for days.  That stresses me because I have a freezer full of homemade soups, stews, and chilis which I didn't want to thaw all at once. 

And, like a spoiled brat, I get tired of no electricity after the first day...BUT the storm was beautiful and gentle.  (Rough on the snowplow operators and anyone who had to drive somewhere.)  But I was thankful to just go with the flow and watch the snowfall.  I took advantage of the clean white powder to dry-clean all of therya rugs in the house.  Flipping them around in the snow and shaking them removes dirt and dust.  (Try it!)  


I Enjoyed Your Visits during the Studio Tour 
Becky and Susan lay claim to what's left of the boxed wine (because the boxes match their jackets!)

Byrdcall Studio had more visitors than ever during the 2015 Studio Tour weekend.  I'll be opening the studio again during the Studio Tour in Dec. 2016, but might be announcing Open Studio days now and then during the year, so keep your eye on the "Save the Dates" column in the right hand column of each newsletter.  (If you lost an eyeglass case during the studio tours, I found a gray case on the table where the practice rya rug was being knotted.  Let me know if it is yours!)


My Rya Rug Makers are on the Map!

I've been wanting to do this for a long time.  On a whim, I ordered a map online, then got to work pinning the address of each new (and old) rya rug maker who has bought rya supplies in the past year. Read more about what I will (or COULD) be doing with this information.  Click on the map to read the blog post.
Please share your thoughts and ideas at the bottom of this blogpost--click on map.
My apologies to my non-USA rya friends.  I considered getting a world map, and may someday, but it would mean too many pins in a very small area of the map. A few Canadians are pinned here though.  Read on


No Mistletoe Mart for Byrdcall in 2016

My final booth at the 2015 Mistletoe Mart.  You probably think that is me to the right of center.  It is not.  It is my friend, Gail Paul.  
I had an excellent 5 year run at the Mistletoe Mart in Westminster, MD.  The show is a three-day show, quite exhausting, but a great way to share my hand-printed shirts with many hundreds of people--and sales were always great .

But all good things come to pass, and I got my farewell notice last week.  But before you jump to conclusions, I'll just say, a well-run art show and sale must vary their vendors regularly because as soon as people perceive it as being the same as the year before, they stop coming.  I benefited by the rotation-out of previous vendors. Now another vendor will benefit by being given my booth space.    

As long as you check in with my newsletter now and then (i.e. "Read it.") you will know how to get all the shirts you want--as long as I am doing shirts.  See shirt article below.
Thank you, Mistletoe Mart for making the event so worthwhile.  


The Latest Word on Comfort Color T-shirts

Hard to believe, but even with the Comfort Color T-shirt shortage in this country, I was able to fill all the orders I had except for a few for some very kind and patient people who said, "I'll wait."  

We are still waiting for Comfort Colors to catch up on the production end.  I could switch brands, but heck, change can be hard.  So I'll keep you posted. Let me know if you discover a particularly wonderful line of quality shirts.


Over 1/4 Million Views of My Rya Video

Tree of Life -- This design is featured on the video.
Proof that sometimes we have no control over where we are going in life. In 2011, Ken Koons of the Carroll County Times created a Handcrafted Tradition video featuring me making what I thought was to be my last hand-knotted rya rug.  I knew of no other suppliers in the world and nobody seemed to know what I was talking about when I mentioned "rya rugs."  

Slowly, viewing numbers climbed. Helpful people in Finland, Sweden, Norway, and the USA contacted me and guided me towards the few suppliers left on earth.  I started to get calls and emails everyday from around the country and world.  The video now gets one thousand views a week! 

Now I supply all the materials anyone might need for making this heritage craft of Scandinavia.  I have supplies from Norway, Sweden, Finland, and bought back my grandparents' business which had been sold for 35 years.  And dominating my life for the past three years:  I am writing a how-to book with lots of perspectives and stories. My life path has totally changed.  And it is good.  Thanks for hanging in their with me through these transitions.  I believe the best is yet to come.  Click to see video on YouTube. It is 10 minutes long....


Ten More Kit Designs from Norway 

I'm doing my best to keep posting designs for the pre-packaged kits from Rauma in Norway.  I just added 10 more in a recent blog post.  I have sold two of these kits in the past month or two, and it has been enlightening!  

First of all the colors are more wonderful than the photos can show, so if you like the photo, you will LOVE the colors that arrive.  I learned that Rauma has no instructions in English!  I spent the better part of a whole day typing the Norwegian instructions into google translate so I could come up with an accurate translation for you English-speaking folks!  So have no fear of needing to speak Norwegian.  Remember that I have been listing photos of the Rauma kits available in recent blogs.  Go the The Byrdcall Blog on my web site and scroll down to see the dozens of kits available.  I order them when you order them, so it might be a 3-6 week wait.  

I learned something very interesting.  About 90% of the Rauma designs are designed for using 2 strands of rya yarn on the needle, not three.  Well, 10% do call for three strands, but one of the three is not rya, but  Prydvevgarn.  (Go ahead, say that.) It is the same heritage breed sheep fleece as the rya (ryegarn), but thinner.  And I love blending the two yarns.  It adds lots of texture.  Uh-oh. TMI?


Common Ground on the Hill--I'm teaching again!!

Jackie Snelson with her first rya project.
I had a great first year teaching at Common Ground last year. In one week, my rya students designed their rya, made technical yarn calculations, and began knotting their very first ryas.  We are going to do it again this summer.  I will be teaching the second week:  July 3 - 8 in the afternoon.  So if you are interested, mark your calendars.  I recommend that you go to their web site and sign up for their email catalog.  That is where all the details and descriptions of the hundreds (?) of classes they offer will be shared.   
Click here to go to Common Ground web site

                       The Common Ground Mission:
To provide the opportunity to teach and to study various musical instruments and art forms representing various ethnic and cultural traditions. To sponsor a series of musical and artistic events from cultural and ethnic groups who are marginalized in our society or who are in conflict with each other and listen to their voices, e.g., Indigenous People, African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, Asian-Americans, Euro-Americans etc. To encourage and facilitate dialogue, by way of the arts among different cultural traditions, in order to discover that this artistic common ground unites us, and that, as a result, the world might become a more human place.   


Thoreau Linocut featured by The Thoreau Society
I think every artist want to have their work recognized and featured occasionally.  It feels good.  A few months ago, I was contacted by the editor of the Thoreau Society Bulletin (from Concord, Mass., my home town.)  They did a Book Review on Picturing Thoreau by Mark W. Sullivan and wanted my artwork to accompany the R evie w.  Why not?! I just received my copy last week, and I love to see my work printed and in the hands of thousands.  (OK, a little ego booster, I must admit.) 

And on top of that I was just contacted by a professor of Economics and Finance at Rutgers University. He is co-authoring a book on "Simplicity" which is expected to be published early 2017.  I have given him permission to use my linocut in his book.  So there you have it.  Who knows where a piece of art work will go after you create it.  Fellow artists, create on!  You never know.

Henry has been a guide for me all my life.  I started first grade in Thoreau School, learned to swim in Walden Pond, studied the sciences and natural history throughout college, and worked many years as a naturalist.  I have kept dozens of observation journals and read his writings often.  He has been good to me.  And I am being good to him by keeping his image in the forefront.


A Few Rya Projects Made by Readers:
I love to share your works with everyone because it is inspiring and fun to look at.  I try to remember to ask if it's OK to share your pictures with others.  Let's put it this way...If you send me clear photos, there is a good chance I might share them in the blog or newsletter.  If you ever don't want me to share them, please just tell me and I'll mark on them "do not share."

I have a feeling that there are other photos I was going to put in here and forgot where I placed them on the computer.  Please, no hurt feelings if you don't see your ryas.  I'll come across the picture eventually and may surprise you...or you could gently remind me that I was going to show your ryas--and forgot.  keep those photos coming!
Here is a beautiful first-project rya designed and made by Ashar Boyle from the United Kingdom.   Ashar is an expert in fragrances and has been experimenting with scents for rya.

From Eleanor Wiesenthal of Fleischmanns, NY:  "My inspiration came from the colors my daughter picked.  I used some of your wools plus some thick rug yarn from Halcyon in Maine.  We created the layout as we went.  [Elly, did you leave your loops as loops?  Fun.]

 This is about the 15th rya rug made by David McKenrick from Cincinnati, OH.  I asked David about his inspiration.  "I like symmetry.  Along with this is a term the "golden rule," for the layout, construction of items that are pleasing to the eye.  There is also a logarithmic or golden spiral.  In nature we see this in many things, snails, galaxies, the formation of flowers etc.  So...I wanted to see if I could accomplish something like this in a Rya."  Pretty amazing, huh? 

Remember the four women who took a rya designing class with me last early spring?  They were 2 sisters and their two daughters (cousins to each other) who gathered at Byrdcall Studio from Kentucky, Virginia, and Maryland to learn a traditional craft together.  If you want to read more,  click here.

This is Sarah Balliet's completed rya of her own design.

I am so impressed.

It seems to be inspired by old Scandinavian designs I've seen as well as some rugs I've seen from Morocco.

Here is a picture of Sarah with her completed graph, her pile of supplies, and the rya in its formative phase.

(And by the time my students start knotting, they are free to sample my delicious homebrew or wine.  Talk about  incentives! )

Sometimes it is helpful to see the behind-the-scenes work of these artists.

Carol Solinger from Ridgefield, CT was not new to making rya rugs.  She bought a backing and many colors.

See how she drew her design on the backing?  And I suspect she adlibbed all the color blendings within each drawn area.

Carol used all Rauma yarns from Norway.

And see what the final rug looks like:

This is another first-time rya project designed and made by 
Dana Pasila from Truro, Massachusetts.  I believe Dana is working on another rya right now.  Looking forward to seeing the next one.

And my final sharing for you is from Paul Beebe in Idaho Falls, Idaho.  He is making the Rauma rya kit called Anemone.  Both of us were "taken back" by the brilliance of the colors in this kit.  In fact, I just ordered another Anemone kit just to have on hand since I know others will love it, too. 

I love seeing works in progress. Paul is saving himself the trouble of constantly counting rows to see where he is by applying a piece of tape marking every ten rows.  Add that to your good idea list.

Take a look below at what this Anemone design will look like when completed.  Let me know if you want one.  Notice the vibrancy of the colors in the photo of Paul's rya over the vibrancy of the colors in the stock photo of Anemone.   The price of entire kit is $386.


785 Newsletter Subscribers to Start 2016

In the last issue, I wondered if we could hit 800 subscribers from the 750 we had at the time of my last mailing.  We didn't quite make it to 800, but we got 35 new subscribers since the last newsletter which isn't bad considering I never got a round to doing a January newsletter.  Welcome to all subscribers--old and new.  Let me know what you'd like to see more of in the coming issues.  And as always feel free to share this with a creative person you know.

T hat's all, folks!  See you next month!



Melinda Byrd

Byrdcall Studio
Woodbine, MD


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