Updated: Nov 5, 2021
Amelie Blanchard, founder of the Quebec fibre festival, TWIST, is a person who makes big things happen. For fifteen years she was a documentary producer, who’s work life consisted of writing contracts, building budgets and finding creative ways to make films. She loved the work but looking back feels that on a personal level, she lacked some form of escape or creativity. However all this changed when she bought a farm in St-Andre-Avellin, Quebec and named it, “La Chèvre d’Oeuvre”.
It was then she became interested in goat husbandry and began to investigate various breeds which led to her discovering the cashmere goat. She bought some and began to discover the complexities of this magnificent fibre. She joined the Canadian Cashmere Producers Association which led her in 2010 to Fibre Week in Olds, Alberta and to a workshop led by Dr. Joe David Ross (Sonora, Texas) to identify and classify cashmere. This experience was a revelation to Amelie. During this time she got to know fellow producers and many fiber enthusiasts. Before this she’d known nothing about spinning.
But when she met a group of spinners on the “cashmere to shawl” night, everything changed. She was instantly hooked. She says of the experience, “The sharing, the passion, the knowledge. I just knew that when I flew back home, I HAD to learn to spin. So that’s where I caught the spinning bug. And a local friend, Marguerite, showed me the ropes.” Becoming involved in the fibre world completely changed Amelie’s life and brought her back to the basics, teaching her how to build new forms of creativity from the ground up.
She began TWIST after realizing there was no major fibre festival in Quebec. It was a dream she felt she could bring to life. It was a challenge but also an opportunity to develop her own concept of fiber festivals which would provide space for creativity and inspiration. She was also interested in showing off what the new generation of contemporary artists was creating. She did research, attended a Pluckyfluff camp, and met Lexi Boeger who offered great advice.
Amelie was also determined to make TWIST a bilingual event, a language barrier-free space for sharing. She founded a non-profit organization to produce the event, and built an amazing team to surround it. Without the programming committee and her amazing team of volunteers, TWIST, Amelie says “would have never seen the light of day.”
Recently we asked Amelie about her role as TWIST creator and as a fibre enthusiasts. We are so pleased she agreed to take part in this interview.
What is the best part of the festival for you?
So much work is put into the programming of the festival and finding really great teachers and original workshops that will hopefully please the crowd. So I think that the best part of the festival for me, is the day of the event, seeing it all come together, a lineup at the door, participants going to their classes carrying their wheels and project bags, knitters and spinners from all over, and finally meeting all the people I had been in contact with during the preparation. It’s a pretty awesome feeling shared with a really awesome community.
How do you discover your teachers?
We scout some teachers, as we are pretty active on social media and try to keep track of what’s out there and we actually ask our community what they would like. We invite teachers and artists to apply and suggest classes they would like to give. A lot of the work is done by our art director, Marie-Anne Adam. She studied at the Centre de Textile Contemporain de Montréal, in textile construction. I really appreciate her modern take on textiles. We also do some testing when we organize our fibre retreats twice a year, it helps to get a feel for what people find interesting and to learn more about what they are into.
This year’s workshops include classes in felting, dyeing, knitting, weaving and embroidery:
Here are a sample of the instructors that will be at this year’s festival: Jennifer Tsuchida, Natacha Sansoz, Nathalie Tremblay, Anna Mathis and Julie Asselin. To find out about workshops visit: festivaltwist.org/en/workshops/
Do you have a favourite Quebec fibre supplier?
Tricky question…there are so many!
What do you enjoy the most about the festival?
During the first editions of the festival I was so focused on the operations that I didn’t have the chance to see much. Now that the team is bigger and have a lot of devoted volunteers, it seems I have time to chat and enjoy the event. My wish is to be able to attend at least one workshop in the next year.
Are you a fibre artist? If so what do you do?
I’m a cashmere goat breeder to start, and a spinner. I love all fibers and especially love dyeing. I add an artistic touch to my work with colour.
This year’s Twist Fibre Festival takes place August 19 to 20, 2017 from 9am to 5pm. The entry fee is $10 per day (taxes included) or $15 for the weekend pass, FREE for kids under 12 years old, accompanied by an adult. It takes place at Complexe Whissell, 530 Rue Charles-Auguste-Montreuil, Saint-André-Avellin, Québec.
A day at this festival is filled with great events, delicious food, wonderful kid’s activities, and, of course, and fibre. To learn more visit: festivaltwist.org/en
Mark the days on your calendar, you won’t want to miss it.