I Am a Spinner: David Kortier, Harp Maker

Day jobs and other activities often fill-up our days leaving precious few moments in-between to sit at the wheel and indulge in our love of fiber. The Spin Off Spring 2017 issue’s “I am a Spinner” featured a Q&A with spinner and harp maker David Kortier. To find out how a passion for building harps led to spinning, read on!

Q: Tell us about your day job.
A: I build harps for a living. I am self-employed and have been doing this for about thirty years. I trained as a bassoonist and played for many years in symphony orchestras, but I have always repaired musical instruments as well. At a certain point, I began making instruments instead of simply repairing them, and eventually I settled on harp making as a focus. It is a specific product, yet it involves many different skills to go from the raw materials to the musical instrument that I ship to a customer.

Q: How did you become a spinner?
A: As a woodworker, I thought it would be an interesting project to build a spinning wheel—lots of fancy lathe turning involved. But it occurred to me that I should learn to spin first so that I could design and produce a working tool, not just a piece of furniture that looks like a spinning wheel. I took a spinning class and found that I liked the activity. I then discovered that good spinning wheels are very affordable, so I bought one instead of making one. I never have gotten around to building a spinning wheel, although I often repair or rebuild them.

David Kortier with one of his hand-built harps.

David Kortier with one of his hand-built harps.

Q: Do you have other fiber hobbies?
A: I have tried everything and find that I especially like doing crochet. Oddly, I have never taken to handknitting, but I love to tinker with knitting machines and own several. My current fascination is deconstructing sweaters from the thrift store using a spinning wheel to collect the yarn.

Q: Do your job and your fiber/spinning hobbies ever overlap?
A: No, I keep my two worlds apart, but it is handy to have a well-equipped woodworking shop when a spinning wheel needs a missing part or just some TLC.

David Kortier at his spinning wheel.

David Kortier at his spinning wheel.

Q: How does spinning fit into the rest of your life?
A: Fiber is my diversion: learning about the plants and animals involved, fiddling with the tools, working with the sensuous fibers, appreciating the beauty of the yarns and the finished items made from them. When I started attending guild meetings in Duluth, Minnesota, which has a very strong and active fiber handcrafters’ guild, I was very impressed with the beautiful things that members would bring in for show-and-tell. It was daunting to think of the time involved in producing items of this excellence with my limited “free time.” So I made the conscious decision back then that this area of my life would not be goal oriented. That was the most inspired thing I have ever done—or not done. I spin fiber into yarn because I enjoy spinning. I enjoy knowing about all the tools and fibers, and I enjoy sharing this activity with the nicest people you could hope to meet. The balls of yarn accumulate on a shelf at home, and I never feel guilty about not spending more time finishing projects.

Q: What is your favorite thing about spinning?
A: My absolute favorite thing about spinning is being in spinning circles. I never miss our guild’s Second Saturday Spinning Day, and I never regret taking the time to be there. There is always something new to learn, a friend to get caught up with, or a chance to help someone who is just getting started on this path or to see how others have mastered some puzzling technique.

Featured Image: David Kortier at work in his harp-making studio. Photos by Penny Schwarze.

Do you know someone whom we should feature in “I Am a Spinner?”
We’re especially interested in spinners with unusual careers, locations, and perspectives. Drop us a line at spinoff@interweave.com. If we use your suggestion, we’ll send you a treat from our stash of fiber goodies! Because of the volume of submissions we receive for this feature, we will only notify you if your nomination is selected.

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