Kate Koconis is the creative mind behind Little Black Sheep Studio. She makes handmade goods from her home to yours; weavings, hanging planters, pillows, blankets and more. Kate's weavings have been a staple of Quirk's store for the past year and we are so thrilled to host her for her first workshop! We sat down and talked to Kate about her life, studio and the upcoming workshop.
Quirk Gallery: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Kate Koconis: I am originally from Wisconsin, and moved to the East Coast to attend school at MICA. That is where I officially learned how to weave. I grew up playing fort with my moms large rug loom, but that was the extent of my use of our family heir-‘loom’. As soon as I could, I signed up for a weaving class, and I loved it immediately. I knew I wanted to do something with the fiber arts, but until I took that first weaving course I wasn’t sure where fibers would take me. I only stayed in school for a couple years, but I managed to take every weaving course they offered, some twice. The rest is history, I’ve been weaving for over 10 years now. A new job for my now husband is how we made the move to Virginia 7 years ago. We bought our first house 4 years ago and I was able to finally put together the perfect studio space for myself, so I could start to grow Little Black Sheep Studio.
Quirk Gallery: In your weavings you typically use natural materials, where do you source these materials and what is the importance of using natural vs. synthetic?
Kate Koconis: I prefer natural materials to synthetic materials, but I do use both. Depending on what I am making will determine which materials I’ll use. When I am making a scarf, blanket, or something that is going to be in contact with you, I choose materials based on how they feel and what they are made of. I use a lot of alpaca wool, sheep wool, cotton, and linen. When I am making a wallhanging, or something that is intended to be viewed, I’ll choose materials based on what they look like. I still prefer natural materials when working on a wallhanging, and mostly use blends of cotton/nylon and wool/acrylic. The only time I use fully synthetic materials is when that material is glittery. I’ll always find some excuse to use glittery things, and there is nothing natural about glittery ribbon. My yarns are from all over. I can’t go to a craft store without walking out with an armful of yarns. I’ve found yarn in antique stores, and flea markets before. I also use online sources like Etsy and WEBS, if I find a yarn and I like it, I’ll scoop as much of it up as I can.
Quirk Gallery: Where did your use of traditional weaving techniques come from?
Kate Koconis: I use traditional weaving techniques because I don’t think there is any other way to weave. Even with the big computerized looms in factories the general concept is the same, it’s just a computer doing the thinking instead of a human. I think it is important to remember the skills/crafts of our past, and to not forget that we can make things with our two hands that are just as good, if not better, than a big computerized machine. One of my favorite things is when I surprise someone when I say everything in my store I made by hand. We live in a world now where the hand craft is being forgotten as a valuable skill. There is a shift happening where more and more things are becoming mechanized, and I don’t want to see these incredible skills we have be lost. There has been a definite growth in the handmade community more recently, and my hope is that it continues to grow.
Quirk Gallery: Can you talk about the value of a handmade object and the relationship between you, the maker, and the customer who brings this piece into their home?
Kate Koconis: Handmade to me means quality. I think when most people hear the words “craft fair” they don’t necessarily think quality goods. I want to change that thinking. When you buy something that is handmade, you are getting so much more than just that item. Hand making something takes longer and usually is harder to do, but you can see the time, energy, and care someone took to make it. I get so much joy out of making, and I get even more joy when I see someone fall in love with something I’ve made. Everything I make has a memory and joy attached to it and I hope that joy goes home with the item. I think there is more care and planning on the customers side also when choosing something handmade. Obviously I want customers to buy from me, but I want those customers to feel good about their purchase, and be excited to get it home and display it.
Quirk Gallery: You incorporate succulents and air plants into hanging planters, nests and even hanging weavings. Why create spaces for these plants in your weavings?
Kate Koconis: Adding plants to my work was an of course kind of moment. I have always loved gardening, and farming, and plants in general, and it just seemed all too perfect to add them into my collection. I love being outside and being in nature. There is a calm and ease of being when surrounded by nature. I think it is important to bring some of that ease of nature into the home. I like to create peaceful cozy environments, and adding plants to the equation seemed like a no brainer. Plus I have a slight plant obsession.
Quirk Gallery: This will be your first workshop teaching weaving, what inspired you to share your process?
Kate Koconis: Wanting to share my craft with others goes back to this feeling I have of it dying away. The more people I can get interested in weaving the better the chance it has to stay alive. Even if all you’re doing with it is using it as a relaxation tool on a Wednesday night after a bad day. Or making gifts for your family. Or even if you love it so much you choose to turn it into a business, all of these options are keeping weaving going and not just in the history books.
Thankfully we have had such a lovely response to Kate's workshop that both dates have sold out! If you were interested in attending this workshop but were not able to secure a spot, sign up for our mailing list to get updates about future workshops! If you are interested in purchasing one of Kate's weaving, stop by the shop to see her beautiful pieces.