“The voice that strengthens and cultivates the evolving artisan fiber mill industry around the globe.”
“Back in August of 2010 several mill owners who had met each other at various fiber shows connected on Facebook and started a private group known then as “The Belfast Mini Mill Network/Summit”. We began to discuss the hurdles of daily operations and learn more about each other, our craft, and the industry that we loved. That following fall we hosted a gathering at Morning Star Fiber which was then located in Apple Creek, Ohio. There were twenty-two mills that attended the event to have a tour through the mill and discuss each machine’s function, use, and maintenance which was guided by Jeff Birtwhistle. We also had several presentations on topics we all found relevant. After a decade that group has grown from a hand full of friends to over 285 active members.
That group is now known as just “Fiber Mill Owners/Operators” and while many new owners and operators have joined the group our purpose has always remained the same. As stated on our group’s bio: “This is a tool for cottage industry mill owners and operators only to engage and communicate with each other on issues related to mill processing. It is a closed group so that those in the network can share openly and freely. The long term desire is that our collective experience and problem solving will make our daily production more efficient and our quality more beautiful. We host occasional summits at a member’s facility to advance topics that are hurdles in our sustainability and viability as a network and as individuals.” It’s been a safe place for us to discuss our work and grow in our understanding of this craft.
In 2013 we began to talk about what it might look like to formally organize ourselves, what purpose it would serve, and how we could best go about doing that. The work has been slow as all of us run our own business, and sometimes run our own farms and moonlight on other part-time jobs. But we have been faithful to bootstrap as best we can for the good of the industry.
After our summit in 2019, five members volunteered to be on the inaugural board of directors to set up a non-profit status and develop a charter for our organization. We want to thank Rachel Boucher (President), JC Christensen (Vice President), Karl Heinrich (Treasurer), Wini Labrecque (Secretary), and Alesia Moore (Member At Large) for their service. This BOD has met consistently the second and fourth Thursdays of the month since October 2019.
As of January of 2020, we have identified more than 125 artisan mills in the United States and Canada who provide custom processing services to the fiber industry. Most of us know each other and communicate with each other on a fairly regular basis. Each week we strive to become a closer-knit community. Our businesses are not in competition with one another instead we choose to collaborate and spur each other on to a quality of craftsmanship and artistry that you will be proud to call your own.
Here’s to a strong network of artisan fiber mills in the fiber universe!”