Artist Spotlight: Kravelli

Artist Spotlight: Kravelli

Posted by Elizabeth on Jul 21st 2023

Kravelli is a small spinning, felting, and weaving equipment business based in the country of Georgia. Since their launch in December 2021, they have been steadily growing and expanding their range of products. Dea, founder and owner says that their tools are lovingly crafted by skilled artisans using traditional techniques, ensuring their durability and reliability. They take pride in their commitment to providing excellent customer service and top-notch tools for fiber artists of all skill levels.

Earlier this year, we added one of their spindle sets to our catalog and thought it would be fun to do a spotlight to showcase their incredible craftsmanship! My conversation with Dea is fascinating and showcases her passion for fiber arts. 

What first got you into fiber art? Tell us your fiber art life story!

I was born in Tbilisi, the capital of the ancient country of Georgia. Despite being under Russian (Soviet) occupation during my birth, our cultural identity remained strong. In this country, artistic craftsmanship is abundant and of exceptional quality, and it never fails to inspire. Our museums proudly exhibit the artifacts of our ancestors who have been spinning yarn and knitting for generations. 

I learned the art of knitting before I even knew how to write. Toys were particularly rare, and I had only one doll named Makvala, dressed in a plain gray outfit. Determined to provide my doll with a better wardrobe, I turned to my talented mother, who often knitted clothes for my brother and me. She patiently taught me how to knit a dress for my doll.

I consider myself fortunate to have had a beautiful and stylish mother, as well as an older cousin who shared my passion for knitting, crocheting, and sewing. My cousin Lika, who had the opportunity to leave the USSR (a rare privilege at the time), would bring back fashion magazines, which played a crucial role in our creative development. She became like an older sister to me, teaching me everything she knew about knitting, crocheting, and sewing.

During one of my visits to my father's ancestral village, I had the opportunity to witness the art of spinning firsthand. I remember being intrigued by the sight of a large spindle, although it appeared quite cumbersome to me at the time. My neighbor, a skilled spinner, seemed to effortlessly manipulate the spindle as if she had an engine in her hand.

Little did I know back then that these early experiences and lessons in knitting, crocheting, and sewing would eventually pave the way for the creation of Kravelli.

Would you like to talk about the history and importance of spinning yarn in the Republic of Georgia? Or its importance to you personally?

In Georgia, yarn spinning and fiber crafts were deeply ingrained in the fabric of family life. Wool felting, known for its decorative and clothing applications, also held great significance. It's often said that yarn making and knitting are encoded in the DNA of every Georgian.

Interestingly, knitting wasn't limited to women alone; both men and women showcased their skills in this craft. While yarn spinning has become less prevalent in modern times, the art of knitting remains widely practiced among the majority of the population.

While we initially celebrated our newfound independence in 1988 with the fall of the USSR, it was soon followed by a horrible period marked as a Kremlin-orchestrated civil war in Tbilisi. During this time, my focus shifted from fiber art to becoming a journalist. 

I won't dwell on this topic for too long, but I want to emphasize that being in close proximity to death is detrimental to anyone. That is why I am currently supporting and expressing concern for our Ukrainian friends, who are bravely battling against our mutual adversary to uphold our shared values.

I believe I may have drifted from the main point of this interview, but I recall an incident from 2012 when a French book publisher requested my biography for consideration. Upon reading it, he remarked that he wanted my personal biography, not the history of Georgia. I responded then, and still hold the same view today, that in developed and prosperous countries, individuals have their own biographies and personal histories. However, in countries like mine, our lives are intertwined with the collective story of our nation. Our personal experiences are inseparable from the narrative of the country we call home.

On average, how long does it take to handicraft the spindles?

My son and I, who are integral to Kravelli's existence, search for wood masters throughout Georgia. These masters are typically individuals who are 60 years old or older and have a deep understanding of the significance of spindle-making and the culture surrounding yarn production.

Currently, we collaborate with five wood masters located in different regions of Georgia. Each master has different levels of expertise, which means that some can create spindles more quickly, while others take their time. In many cases, the spindles that are meticulously crafted by the slower-working masters turn out to be the best in quality. For instance, the spindles we sent to The Woolery were made from acacia wood, which is challenging to work with. It was a risk on our part, but I had confidence in the master's ability to create perfect spindles.

It was a long journey before we found these people. A lot of masters refused to work with us because they thought we were joking. We faced significant challenges and encountered many difficulties when we started this venture. However, now we are ready for any goal we will set for ourselves.

Do you personally spin yarn? Or participate in other fiber art crafts?

Yes, I spin yarn a lot. The first time I realized the need to spin yarn was when I learned how to knit in the fire isle style.

I remembered that my grandmother used to spin yarn, but I knew very little about it. I embarked on a search for a teacher and found Yulia from Canada. I enrolled in her master class, purchased an old Soviet electric spinning machine from a flea market, and bought large quantities of raw wool.

Long story short, I delved deep into the ancient Georgian spinning culture and discovered that it no longer existed (though now it is experiencing a revival thanks to Kravelli). I then proceeded to create my first spindle, which was essentially a long knitting hook adorned with an artificial stone. It spun adequately,

It was during this time that I realized spinning was akin to meditation. Nowadays, I have amassed a vast collection of spindles, because sometimes I find it difficult to part with them. Some may label me as a poor businesswoman, but this is not business to me.

Since you’re a fairly new shop, would you want to eventually expand to other tools or equipment?

We are constantly evolving, developing, researching, and exploring new products and ideas every day. Currently, we have a few ongoing projects.

For instance, the kick spindle is one of them. I already have two samples made, but I feel that it still needs some more work before it's perfected. Another project we're working on is a Georgian mountain-style yarn winder. While it may resemble ones you've seen before, it will incorporate some local touches and uniqueness. And these are just a few examples among many more. However, my ultimate goal is to create a spinning wheel!

Now we are in the process of building a team with wood masters, and for some of them, Kravelli has become the first project where they are paid for their wood art. I am thrilled about this development. Currently, our main challenge at Kravelli is the high shipping fees. This is primarily due to the absence of direct flights from Tbilisi to the US. We are hopeful that Georgia will soon join the EU and NATO, which would alleviate many of our shipping fee problems. Thank you for the interview. I may have talked a lot, but it was with love and passion for what we do.

Warm regards, Dea from Tbilisi.

If you would like to support Kravelli follow them on Instagram: @kravelli_georgia and on Ravelry: