Fiberactive Organics, LLC offers a unique combination of art , green living and altruism in an American entrepreneurial success story. Fiberactive Organics' founder, owner and visionary Julie Mullin uses the title Alpha. "That means I'm the leader of the pack," she recently told LoveToKnow editor, Sally Painter. Learn more about this interesting company in this exclusive LTK interview.
Fiberactive Organics Interview
LoveToKnow (LTK): What inspired the creation of Fiberactive Organics, LLC?
Julie Mullin (JM): My father raised all of our food organically when I was growing up. When I became a fiber artist I naturally wanted to use organic and reclaimed materials.
LTK: What is your mission?
JM: I actually have two missions. My first mission is to bring organic cotton into the mainstream of American society. I want to create a better market for organic cotton so that our North Carolina cotton farmers will leave their chemicals behind.
My second mission to give jobs to women who are basically unemployable. I employ Montagnard refugee women from the mountains of Vietnam. They've never had electricity or running water, so they were completely unprepared for our technologically advanced society. They all have babies at home, so I make it possible for my employees to work from home or to bring their babies to the studio with them. We use the studio as a combination pre-school, workplace and Montagnard community center. I provide medical assistance, English as a Second Language (ESL) and other classes, free transportation,and lots of help in understanding American society.
LTK: What type of organic fibers do you use and make?
JM: I use organic cotton for most of my thread, ribbon, braid and textile products, as well as post-industrial and post-consumer scrap fabric for my fabric vessels. This is donated to us from quilt groups, seamstresses and industries. Occasionally customers request hemp and organic fibers for the vessels.
For the past three years we have spun, spooled and sold organic cotton sewing thread in two weights, 29/2 (Tex 40) for machine sewing and 24/3 (Tex 60) for hand quilting and top stitching. These are available in black, white and natural. This fall we have become the United States distributor for a new GOTS certified (Global Organic Textile Standard) organic thread available in 28 colors.
From our natural Tex 40 thread we make a 16-ply braided tape, which is a little less than a quarter of an inch wide. My favorite thing to do with it is knit. I'm introducing hand-knitted shawls and scarves for the holiday season.
Our embroidery floss production will begin soon. It will be a six-ply strand of our Tex 40 thread, hand-twisted and hand-dyed in our studio. After the first of the year, we'll be adding candle wicking to our embroidery products line.
Raleigh, North Carolina Studio
LTK: Are all of your products handmade?
JM: All of our products are sewn here in our studio in Raleigh. I design the fabric vessels and quilts, and Kendal Leonard designs the clothing. When we design a new product Kendal or I make the prototype ourselves, then we teach the Montagnard women how to make it. Since the women can't read, they memorize how to make each design. It's amazing to watch them whip up a men's shirt or little girl's dress with nothing but the pattern pieces to go by.
LTK: What are some of the other products your studio makes?
JM: We make table cloths and napkins from organic cotton sateen that comes from a fair trade mill in India. It's finished with a soy softener and is a pleasure to touch! The linens are sewn with our organic thread. After the sewing I hand-dye them so the fabrics and threads match.
We're just fleshing out a full line of clothing for every member of the family. Right now, we have several styles for men, women and children.
Quilts, Portraits and Vessels
LTK: What kind of artwork do you offer?
JM: I create all the art work myself. I've been a fiber artist for over 30 years designing and making heirloom quilts, art quilts and designing continuous line quilting designs. For several years I did portraits in fabric. Recently I've become infatuated with fabric vessels, my first foray into three dimensional fiber pieces. I love playing with unusual fabric and found items. People see my work and bring me fabric scraps, old laces, feathers, jewelry and all sorts of wonderful things to put into my art. The vessels have taken me into a realm that I never expected - I'm creating cremation urns and they are being sold all over the world.
Making Fabric Vessels
LTK: Can you explain how you make the vessels?
JM: The vessels are made by wrapping various cording with narrow strips of fabric. This is done for me by two of the Montagnard women. I use all sorts of scrap fabrics from satin to fur. And since all the scraps are donated to us, I never know what the palette of colors will be. I make all sorts of shapes including platters, bowls, tea cups and saucers, lidded jars and even three-foot-tall urns. Sometimes, I add beads, feathers, wood or whatever appeals to me.
Earth to Earth Division
LTK: How did you become involved in natural burials and what led you to create your newest division, Earth to Earth?
JM: I worked for the Colorado Springs Hospice back in the early '90s. Everyone working there has to plan their own funeral so our families will never be faced with the question of what we might want someday. I've always wanted to be wrapped in a quilt and laid in the ground for my burial. When the green burial movement started I knew I had to be part of it. I had just begun making fabric vessels, so I asked a friend who owns Final Footprint what the requirements were for a cremation urn.
My urns are sized for the ashes of one or two people. They can be made of bio-degradable fabrics so that they can be buried in a green cemetery. Or, they can be made of durable fibers for a keepsake. Each one is a unique creation, but there are a few designs that I am asked for repeatedly. I love to take special requests. I can even include fabric, jewelry, buttons and other objects that the family provides for me.
Recently, I have designed an organic cotton shroud that has a wooden framework so that it can be easily carried by pall bearers and lowered into the grave. It's wonderful to make something that will mean so much to a person and a family. It's an honor to put my hand to the creation of something that will take a body back to the earth.
Special Thanks to Julie Mullin
LoveToKnow would like to thank Julie Mullin for taking time out of her busy schedule to share her vision for a greener and better world with Fiberactive Organics.