Jan Durham lives in Lexington, but she grew up in the Mountains of Southeastern KY, where she was exposed to countless fiber opportunities. Her grandmothers and her mother worked magic with their hands—she and her sister were the only girls whose dolls had hand smocked dresses that matched their own.
Jan learned to appreciate hand made things, and she learned how to take an idea and turn it into something you could touch and others could see. As she sewed herself, she found she especially enjoyed wool—the way she could mold it using steam and pressure. When she starting knitting, wool quickly became her favorite fiber. She loved that she could twist the stitches together in a pattern of colors or shapes and make something that was beautiful.
The more she learned about wool, the more her appreciation grew—she loved how it seemed to continue to be alive, even after being sheared from the animal. Eventually she began dyeing wool herself. She comments, “That aliveness shows when I hand dye it, when I felt it, or when I mold it into something that does not seem possible with hair.”
She continues, “ I am amazed with the different qualities that each breed of animal has. Some are shiny or soft, curly or straight, coarse or smooth, light or dark, but always possibility waiting to happen. I feel I have learned so much but there is still so much to know. Wool is as old as humankind and so rich with heritage. It knows no cultural boundaries and has a history throughout the world.”
Jan Durham’s work can be found at the Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea, all in Berea, KY.