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The Texture of Community

Bike design for Vagabond Imports for Fiber Rain 2013.  Photo courtesy of Kassie Herbst

Bike design for Vagabond Imports for Fiber Rain 2013.
Photo courtesy of Kassie Herbst

According to display signs in most museums, art is meant to be seen and not touched. Artist and clothing designer Kassie Herbst disagrees.

Herbst, also a painter and photographer, was drawn to knitwear design while employed at Iris Fine Yarns, a yarn store in Appleton.

“The owner wanted to bring my patterns into her shop and in order to do that I needed to follow the correct procedures to run a business, so that’s how Poema Rose was developed,” explains Herbst.

Herbst’s business, Poema Rose, offers original knitwear patterns that use natural fibers and fair trade materials whenever possible. Herbst favors Industrial Hemp and makes a point of hand-selecting all of the yarn.

“Annette”, made of 100% hemp, is named after Herbst’s mother. Photo courtesy of Kassie Herbst

“Annette”, made of 100% hemp, is named after Herbst’s mother. Photo courtesy of Kassie Herbst

In addition to gaining inspiration for her designs from the world around her, Herbst says that often the people she surrounds herself with are the most influential to her work.

“I love naming my clothing after people who inspire me, taught me or have influenced my life in one way or another,” says Herbst.

In 2012, Herbst approached Jennifer Stephany, executive director of Appleton Downtown Inc. with an idea: yarn bombing. The pair developed Fiber Rain, Appleton’s annual yarn-bombing festival which transforms the town with yarn work covering anything from a bike rack, to a flower bed, or even a lamp post.

“Most of the time (yarn bombing) can be more like graffiti, whereas Fiber Rain came about as a community art project, bringing in businesses, schools, even students,” explains Herbst. “People of all ages come together and make our downtown beautiful with colors and textures.”

Herbst designed the knitting patterns for Fiber Rain, ensuring that the designs fit properly across the different structures.

“The creativity is up to the artist,” assures Herbst. “The purpose of these patterns is to give a guideline so that the pieces fit on the structure, especially when rain hits.”

This year, Fiber Rain will be held June 2-4. Although the festival will be directed by Leah Laczny, Herbst intends to contribute and her patterns will be used again throughout the festival.

Kassie Herbst Photo by Donna Leicht Photography

Kassie Herbst
Photo by Donna Leicht Photography

In the meantime, Herbst continues contributing to the community as art director of a project at Columbus Elementary School in Appleton. The project aims to further the progress started by the Neighborhood Partners Program, a collaboration of more than 20 local nonprofits, which began converting the all-asphalt playground into trees and grass five years ago.

“Last year, the students created art pieces” says Herbst. “They were installed this past summer by neighbors and other community artists to really celebrate the beautification of that playground.”

Herbst says that the future entails more knitwear designing, but she also will be focusing on her photography, which is not currently for sale. She’s scheduled to show her photography at ACOCA Coffee in Appleton late this fall.

For more information or to inquire about pieces, contact Herbst at kassie.herbst@gmail.com.

—FC

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