We interviewed Jill Laski from Ashland Bay Trading Company, one of our 2016 Bison Sponsors.
Spinzilla: What is the focus of your shop/business?
Jill: We are a wholesale business focused on providing the highest quality fibers and yarns for hand spinners, independent dyers, felters, knitters and weavers.
Spinzilla: What is your typical day like?
Jill: As the co-owner of a small business, I don’t think there is such a thing as a typical day. Just about everything that is required to run the business falls under the category of my typical day at Ashland Bay. However, my main focus is our product line. I continually experiment with the fibers and yarns, allowing me the opportunity to become familiar with the products so I can provide technical support for our customers. I also contribute to our blog with articles about spinning techniques, dyeing, felting and knitting and general textile information. If it is a really good day I get to spend a few minutes with my spinning wheel.
Spinzilla: What is your favorite part of your job?
Jill: I really enjoy product development; it is creative and very exciting. I experiment with different color combinations and fiber blends, looking for new and exciting fibers for spinners, knitters and felters. I also play with different ways to spin colors together and share these techniques on our blog. I really enjoy talking with our customers. I love when they share what they are working on. I feel as though I have spinning and knitting friends all over North America who I have never have had the opportunity to meet in person.
Spinzilla: Which of your products specifically help spinners produce more yardage and how?
Jill: The preparation of our fibers, other than silk hankies and silk noil, is combed top. This preparation is very easy to spin. Our dyed top is combed after dyeing so the top is very open. This means there is no pre- drafting needed. Spinners can sit at their wheel and immediately start spinning.
Spinzilla: What about your business would surprise our team hosts and spinners?
Jill: Ashland Bay ships close to 80 tons of fiber and yarn a year with 4 employees. Here is a little video of some fiber being unpacked.
Spinzilla: Wow, it’s as if it is coming to life! What do you wish you knew starting out that you know now?
Jill: One of the most difficult parts of having a fiber business is managing inventory. In the beginning I wish I knew how to recognize when products were waning and needed to be replaced with something new. Just because I love a certain fiber does not mean it is a good fit for the business.
Spinzilla: What kinds of crafts or other activities do you enjoy personally?
Jill: Knitting, spinning, felting, mosaics and collage are among my favorite hobby crafts.
Spinzilla: What is your fiber background?
Jill: I have been hand spinning and working in the spinning industry for over 30 years. During that time I have raised fiber producing animals, taken umpteen workshops, taught many workshops and have spent countless hours experimenting with fibers. Here is a link to a blog post about spinning multi-colored yarns that might interest Spinzilla participants.
Spinzilla: What was the first fiber item that ever caught your interest?
Jill: The first fiber that caught my interest was angora. At the time I was working (a different job) with a woman who raised French Angora rabbits for show. She would tell me all about raising angora rabbits and spinning their wool. I never even considered spinning, but the idea of raising animals and spinning their wool was so intriguing. I was hooked.
Spinzilla: What is the most fiber fun you have had?
Jill: The most fiber fun I have had is during spinning conferences. The conferences are a combination of spinning, learning from others and workshops that challenge skills and inspire creativity.
Spinzilla: Tell us about why you are in the fiber business? How did you get started?
Jill: Ashland Bay originally started with 3 angora bunnies. Those bunnies grew the rabbitry to over 25 wool producing rabbits. We also raised sheep and angora goats. I would blend the angora with hand dyed wool and create batts for sale. It became evident that we could not produce enough angora to keep up with the batt production. We never considered importing until a friend of ours suggested we import angora. So began our first importing adventure.
As I became more involved in spinning groups and guilds I could see that many people loved to spin but did not have the time or space to process a fleece themselves. This experience gave us our idea of providing dyed combed top on a wholesale level.
Spinzilla: Why are you sponsoring Spinzilla?
Jill: is an honor to sponsor this event that creates global camaraderie and friendly competition while spending time perfecting the hand spinning craft.
Spinzilla: Jill, Thanks for the interview and for being a part of Spinzilla this year.