Glen Proabstel

Interiors Addict

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Little Dandelion was featured by Jen Bishop this week on her site Interiors Addict. Jen sent me a series of really interesting questions, some of which were challenging to answer. You can read the Jen's interview here.

Thanks Jen for including me on your blog. I have received a lovely response from your readers. The power of social media has once again amazed me. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Editing is a fine craft and I think Jen has done a great job narrowing in on the more salient parts of my answers. I tend to be quite wordy so she had quite a task. If you are interested, I have included here all of Jen's questions and my responses to them. "Why the name Little Dandelion?In the last weekend of October 2009, my Mum was in the final stages of a terminal lung disease. As I flew North to say my goodbyes, My Husband and second child walked around Sculptures by the Sea trying to keep their minds off the sad drama unfolding. My little fella found a dandelion, picked it up, blew and made a wish as the tendrils floated away. He asked my Husband, "Dad, will my wish come true?". My Husband answered, "If it is a heartfelt wish, it will come true." "Oh good", said my little fella, "because I've just wished for Nan to get new lungs."………. About 12 hours later she did! Go figure!

Dandelions have since held a very special place in the heart of my family, so I new I wanted to use "dandelion" in my business name in some way. I kept tossing around a few possibilities but nothing resonated with me. A dear friend suggested that I put it out to the Universe: "ask and you shall receive" were her words. So on a sunny afternnon in beautiful Sydney, I took a leaf out of my little fella's book. I found a dandelion, picked it up, blew and made a wish as the tendrils floated away. I took a moment and listened for what the Universe had to say. I know it sounds kooky, but I really did. I figured I had nothing to loose. Eventually, after hearing absolutely nothing, I looked down at the dandelion and there sat one tiny little tendril still attached to the head. Okay, I thought, that's it - "Little Dandelion".

Your throws are all super chunky, which I LOVE. What made you decide to go for that look? Is anyone else doing anything similar?Thankyou. I love a bit of sensory feedback. Always have. My blankets and throws do just that.I love texture and movement. I'm one of those people who has to touch the paint on a painting. I'm completely drawn to texture. Ultimately, if I was going to make the commitment of setting up my own business, it needed to be for something that would move me. My goal was to make the type of blanket that I wanted to buy but could never find: something almost sculptural in nature, an artwork as much as a functional item.It has taken me two years to get to this point. I have experimented a great deal to achieve my look. I've not found anything similar as yet. There are lots of "chunky" knits out there but none as extreme as mine.

You make everything by hand. How long does a throw take you?A really long time. We are talking hours and hours and the process is quite involved. Sitting in the middle of the lounge room floor is my standard repose now and everything has to keep a wide berth around my needles. It is quite a start/stop process for me though. You can be sure that just as it sit down to start a new row, it will be that moment that I hear, "Mum…….".

What inspires you?Nature mostly, but I'm also driven by a need to slow things down a little. It's my contribution to creating a more simplified life. I really appreciate the effort people go to in making something by hand. That someone can devote time, energy and love into creating a unique, one-of-a-kind creation is really special and we all need to value it more.

Mass production really bothers me. We are mindlessly producing so many things we just don't need and I find it really upsetting. I have this intense desire to break the mould of sameness and standardisation. I love imperfect, I love living outside the box and I am over feeling constrained by people's expectations of how one should live.

You go for lots of moody greys. Is that your own personal taste or what you think might be popular?Funnily enough, it's the sheep that dictate my colour palette. The wool I use is the colour it comes off the sheep's back. I get to work with a range of colours from Merino white to silver, dark grey, nutmeg and vegemite. However, there are distinct variations within these colours from season to season so each blanket or throw I make is truly a unique piece. I think sheep are amazing creatures and we owe them a debt of gratitude for all they provide.

While these moody colours take centre stage, I then edge my woollies with a contrasting "pop" colour. I can't help myself because I love colour and this is reflected in our own home. We have white walls and white painted floorboards with lashings of colour wherever you look.

I'm not driven by what's popular. I'm driven by what makes me happy and what appeals to my aesthetic sensibility. My blankets are very much an extension of  my personality.

You've already had some great press and no doubt there's demand for your product but no stockists as yet. Are you going to speed that process up now?The press coverage has been very generous and lovely. I am very grateful. There is also more in the pipeline which I'm very excited about.I now have two stockists in Melbourne - Hermon & Hermon in Richmond and Spacecraft in Fitzroy. Their collective support has been terrific. They are both fantastic and experienced retailers and I am very pleased to be in their considered and professional hands.I am in discussions with two other potential stockists here in Sydney, both of which are amazing, so fingers crossed.I also do custom orders. I am currently working on a King size woollie in merino white. It is looking incredible. Making a blanket in this size is a bit like wrangling with a crocodile. It's also a good work out for the biceps.I'm also about to start a King size blanket in a gorgeous taupe linen with a herringbone self stripe. The linens have a beautiful draping quality and are also very moody.

How do you feel about the mighty Glen and Sharyn styling and photographing your product? What did it mean to you?Aren't I a lucky duck?

I met Glen last year, through a mutual friend, when we lived in Melbourne.  I showed him my work and he said he'd be happy to take some shots when I was ready. Glen really understood  my work and what I was trying to achieve and it was wonderful to get that kind of feedback from someone like him. It's so easy to second guess yourself but his affirmation buoyed me to keep moving forward.

When the time came, I spent several hours watching Sharyn and Glen do their thing. They work so intuitively together and are captivating to watch. Sharyn and Glen are artists really. These two need to do a book. They knew exactly what to do with my blankets. I have never been privy to a shoot like that and was amazed at how considered every placement of an item is that makes up a frame. It was so much fun.

Sharyn and Glen's images continue to open doors for me. How can you repay that?

Where would you like to see Little Dandelion go? Will it always be just you from home or can you see yourself expanding?First and foremost, I'm a Mum of three crazy chooks and they are my main priority. The blankets are my passion and they represent my little contribution to creating a happier place. For now, it's just me doing some extreme knitting at home and I'll keep chipping away at it. I am currently trying to rope in some friends who want to try their experienced knitting hands at a more extreme version of the craft.

Ultimately, I have visions of a "Fair Trade" business where I partner with an artisan community is some far flung land for mutual benefit. One day! It would be helpful if I had a current passport. I have some great plans to expand the range so stay tuned.

A lot of people find knitting therapeutic/relaxing. Is that the same for you?Oh absolutely. I'm an introvert at heart so I crave solitude: I need it to feel energised. Knitting takes me to the place regardless of what is happening around me: it helps to centre me and quieten my mind. Give me a cup of tea, knitting needles and wool and I'm a happy girl.

How should people use your throws in their homes? How do you envisage them? You describe them as heirloom pieces.In our home, we use my pieces to add a textural element to our furniture and bedroom and I think most people will do the same.The woollen and linen blankets are equally at home over a modern piece of furniture as they are over an antique chair.

However, they are not intended for high use. While functional in their warmth, the blankets and throws do need to be handled and stored with care. They really are like an artwork and need to be handled accordingly. If you do, you'll have them forever, hence my description as an "heirloom" piece.

How important are the materials used?The materials are everything. I deliberately knit my pieces in uncomplicated stitches because I want the wool and the linen to remain the main event. It took me a long time to source my wool and fabric. I wanted to support local farmers and suppliers as much as I could and I'm very proud that I've been able to do that. I've developed lovely friendships with these people. One farmer even sings to her sheep for me to make them grow their fleece faster. Just gorgeous.

They're not cheap. How do you justify the cost?It's really hard to get an idea of the scale of my blankets from a photo. People are always taken aback when they get the chance to see and touch one up close.My woollie throws contain a minimum of 5 kilos of wool and a king size can eat up to 15 kg. These are substantial works!In regards to the linen, a king size blanket will eat up at least 30 metres of linen at 150cm wide. That's an awful lot of fabric.I work with Masters Accredited Linen and my wool is sourced from boutique farms in Australia and New Zealand. It is very hard to get my hands on and I am competing for supply with crafters from all over the world. Australia makes the good stuff and it's getting harder and harder to find. Most of our wool is now sent to China for processing. It's a real shame for our farmers.

So, my raw materials are expensive and then there's my time. And how do you account for that? It's been challenging putting myself out to the world creatively and my natural tendency is to under value my time. My throws and blankets do take me many many hours to make: I'm talking days and, in some cases, weeks. I don't charge for all of my time. I remember doing a calculation with Glen one day trying to work out how I should price my blankets. We factored in an hourly rate for the actual time it takes me to make a blanket and the figure came out to be some exorbitant amount. We had a good laugh and then quickly re-adjusted the numbers. It was a reality check.

Then there is also the fact that every piece is a one-off. There will never be many of these beauties out there and as I've said before, I'm not one for mass production. These things are limited in their supply and that makes them even more special.