Vierka, who stands behind a workshop called Jadoli, is one of the few people that process local sheep wool in a traditional, non-invasive way.
Dear Jadoli, thank you for finding time to talk to us. Can you tell us more about where the name of your workshop comes from, what does it stand for and where is it situated?
I am a mother of three, Jakub, Dorotka and Linda, and that is where the name of my workshop came from. We live in the remote part of Beskids mountains, in the forest surrounded by animals. There is no solid road that leads to our house. We try to live in a modest, simple way, and as much as we can from our own sources. We cook on fire, heat with the wood we collect, eat the meat from the animals we breed.
How did you start working with wool?
My husband came to the Czech Republic to fulfill his childhood dream and manage a farm. When we found our dream house, we started looking into what animals we would like to keep. The chickens and sheep were the best choice for us. They are fairly easy to take care of, especially for the beginners in farming, like we were. And because we try to be self-sufficient and live by the “old ways”, without creating much waste, we decided to process the sheep’s wool. And it turned out to be something I became very drawn to, and enjoy doing.
What does the word local mean to you?
Local is a very broad term for us. We understand that our planet has been suffering for way too long and it is questionable how much more it can bear. And because we have three kids and would like to have grandchildren one day too, longterm sustainable solutions are close to my heart. People got used to a certain comfort, like having strawberries, mangos and bananas in December. However, I believe our bodies are by nature designed and used to local and seasonal produce. We really do not need to have everything all the time. We should make use of the sources we have, but not overuse them.
And if we need something, first we should try to find it locally, if we cannot and still really need it, only then we look elsewhere. And concerning wool? If you would look that up on the internet now, you would see that many of the farmers are desperate to get rid of the material, the wool itself is categorized as dangerous waste, and farmers even get charged for its disposal. And then we have tons of merino coming straight from Australia for the spinning purposes. Believe me, the local wool is just as good as the Australian one. There are so many beautiful, soft local breeds.
Once I sold a merino hat to a lady at a market. We got to talk about local wool in the meantime and she bought another hat. The fact that this one was merino too slipped the conversation. However the next day she called me that she needs to return the second one because it was very scratchy. She thought it was due to the local wool. What I am trying to say is that much of the information about the quality of the local wool is undermined by our own perception of it, the advertisement and the stories from our grandparents about how scratchy their sweaters from the original rough wool were.
Have you noticed any change in the way crafts are perceived today? Why is it important to continue doing them?
Being dependent on products means we are somewhat dependent on their big corporate producers and the authenticity of individual disappears. We all wear and have the same because it was cheap and made somewhere in China. We live in a world of full shopping malls and wardrobes full of clothes which we might not even get to wear. We do no longer appreciate stuff and that is how we treat them too. What we need is ethical, fair made clothing, same goes for the food. And for that, we need people who know the old skills and have knowledge of making. I do believe many people nowadays choose this way over the consumer one.
Where does your inspiration come from? Is it influenced by your surroundings?
Inspiration often comes from people who ask for something I have not made before. Although the internet is full of many helpful tutorials and inspirational images I get most of the ideas from my surroundings. Like when we graze the horses and I see their brown hair, the green trees and blue sky above me, I know which colour I am going to dye my wool with tonight. Or the pink-tinted horizon during twilight. That is a true inspiration for me. Maybe it would be easier to search online but I do consider my craft as something personal, coming straight from me and my life.
How do you perceive the wool itself? Why is it important?
The change from the fibre is fascinating. It all starts with a stack of raw wool, that might be smelly to one, but to us, the ones who work with it is amazing. First, you brush it into a fluffy cloud then you spin it and knit into a sweater. Wool is a fascinating material. I wash it in clean water and then I water my garden with it because the lanolin is a great fertilizer. The wool which I cannot process, simply because it is too dirty I put into a compost, where it mixes with soil and dissolves quite fast. Next season I use it for fertilizing the strawberries, bushes, trees. The little fluffs of it can also be hung on the tree to protect it from animal bites. What I do not spin, I felt, often into little balls used for dryers but I also use it for toys, dolls and so on. Nothing is left to waste. Wool is quite easy to process compared to nettle or flax. Thin wool yarn is perfect for summer when it cools the body, the thicker one is perfect to keep us warm during winter.
What else matters in the process?
Time and hands are scarce goods. But I do believe that the sweater that takes me half a year to make, comes from a sheep I know by name, and its every fibre went through my hands is something that will keep the end-user warmer longer and he won’t get rid of it after a season. And if there comes a day when it no longer serves, it will be very easy to compost it.
To spin a yarn for a pair of socks takes me 8 hours and then another 8 to knit them, not to mention that I also wash the wool and brush it before. The spinning of sock yarn is quite a time consuming because they need a very thin yarn with big loops, so the socks are durable, but also soft and comfortable. For sweaters, I prefer more texture. Usually, I go for more relaxed yarn, often from unbrushed wool which creates little lumps. I love the more natural shepherd look.
Where do you see the future of your practice? Would you like to keep it mostly at the handspun yarns or do you have other projects too?
I like to crochet, knit, weave, felt. Always depending on what the customer asks for. I am not afraid of new challenges. That is where I take a lot of inspiration from when they suggest if this and that would be possible. I have no problem with hats, socks, sweaters, scarfs. I also make workshops about life on a farm or processing of fibres. For the amount of the beautiful wool out there (which is currently thrown away) there are still very few people who make use of it.