FeltLOOM founders, Lanette Frietag and Don Bowles, have been operating a working farm since 1984 and started a wool mill to make their farm sustainable. They saw a need for a large-scale felting machine and there weren’t any available, so they set out to develop their own. In the words of Lanette, “We started our mill in 2003 and took 5 years to have a working prototype that we thought was a good unit for a fiber artist. We received a rural development grant from Kentucky Science and Technology to help us through the process of product development with the requirements we had. There were many tweaks to make it an outstanding unit. The farm was the beginning of the FeltLOOM. The US utility patent was allowed in 2008.”
FeltLOOM, like most family businesses, has a small, dedicated group of people who do all the work. We wear many hats to do the different tasks that need to be done. For example, marketing the FeltLOOM is a challenge because there is a great deal of education that goes with it. This is new thought in a way to make products and it needs to be shown. Goal setting is very important to our focus. It keeps us on tack for growth. However, we try to have Sundays as a day away from typical business activities to refresh our minds.
Don and Lanette have a team of FeltLOOMers behind them, working directly on the business and contributing to the FeltLOOM community through their discoveries and learning of how to expand the possibilities with the FeltLOOM.
Don manages the production, new product development, engineering, and warranty piece and assist with sales.
Lanette manages overall operation, website, customer correspondence, fiber art research, marketing and financial planning. We have help to build the units and run the mill. FeltLOOM has grown consistently since it was first developed, and now they offer various models, depending on the customer needs. For example, an artist may choose a model from the Artist Series and a fiber mill might choose another, larger FeltLOOM model, such as the Pro Series or the Lab Series.
The FeltLOOM Owner’s Event is a major annual event and has become a tradition. In the words of Lanette, “We invite the FeltLOOM Owners to come the farm and have a sharing, learning experience that last for three days. We have special activities the encourage growth in fiber art with the FeltLOOM. It is a fun time and we look forward to it. Many owners have come every year, and don’t want to miss it.”
FeltLOOM continues to grow and expand into new areas. It is an innovative tool that serves fiber artists, educators, fiber mills, and light industry.
Learn more by watching the FeltLOOM team live on a recent Fiber Art Now FAN Fare program.