FreeSpirit North new company for local artist
Blue Earth has a new local artist who creates high-quality, one-of-a-kind silk scarves via an incredibly delicate dying process. This artist, however, is already very well-known in his community.
Keith Larson, 30, of Blue Earth, is known for his passion for driving his golf cart with his mother, Sue Larson, enjoying time hanging out with the local fire department, police department, and EMS teams, and is a collector of hats. Add to that list silk scarf creator.
Larson and his mother, Sue, who helps him with his day-to-day mobility and routines, came up with the idea of making scarves a few months ago. The 30-year-old works at S.T.E.P. Inc., in Blue Earth, and while Larson does his best to assist with the work at S.T.E.P. Inc., Sue admits it can be a challenge for him.
“We were looking for alternatives for work for Keith to do,” she says. “S.T.E.P. Inc. works really hard to keep people with disabilities employed with at least a minimum wage job. With his mobility, a minimum wage job that suits his needs around the area just isn’t in the cards for Keith, so we created his own business.”
The duo worked together to have a custom-built tray made to hold the thickened water and paint used during the process of the scarf dying. They also received help from S.T.E.P. Inc., to allow Keith to create his scarves in the work center, and special assistance from Lily Berg, who helps Keith with managing paint supplies and the dipping process.
Berg, who is an employment consultant for Keith, also helped the duo receive a grant from The Arc Minnesota for $990, to help the business grow. Previously, all of their supplies came from Keith’s own savings.
“We are always looking for businesses to partner with to provide individuals with their own jobs in the community,” says Berg. “S.T.E.P. Inc. provides as much support as needed to help individuals be successful.”
Another person who has had a huge hand in helping Keith get his business up and running is Becki Steier.
“Becki has been an incredibly huge support for us,” says Sue. “She helped us design our logo for FreeSpirit North, Keith’s company, and she is our exclusive retailer for the scarves Keith makes.”
There have only been a few sessions done so far of Larson’s incredibly mesmerizing silk scarves, and they are flying off the shelves.
“When Keith finds out someone buys one of his scarves, he is just elated,” says Sue. “It really is an honor for him that so many are already interested and purchasing these scarves.”
The high-quality silk scarves, once they are designed and created by Keith, are set out to dry on a drying rack, hand washed and iron-dried before going to B.S. Studio, on Main Street in Blue Earth, to be sold.
Keith uses a variety of tools during his process. Besides the special paints that he uses to dye the scarves, household tools like rakes, spoons, and other items are pushed and pulled through the thickened water and paint to create a whole new dimension for the final product.
“There really isn’t much rhyme or reason to the color schemes Keith chooses,” says Sue. “He just kind of goes for it and we see what comes out. We are learning different techniques with lots of different tools and application methods to make sure Keith is involved in every step of the process.”
Not only is the silk scarf making process beneficial financially for Keith, but it is therapeutic both physically and mentally for him as well.
“We work on making sure Keith stretches out his arms, and uses the dexterity he has to place the paint where he wants to,” says Sue. “And I think anyone who creates art like this gets the added benefit of mental therapy. Each one comes out differently, and seeing him through the process is just calming to watch.”
Sue says she and Keith hope to give back to the community by sharing Keith’s work with community groups and fundraisers.
“We really want to do our best to give back to our community,” says Sue. “Because our community has been so incredibly good to us.”
Sue also mentions she hopes to share the joy Keith has had with his creations in the future by hosting dipping parties. The duo also hope to expand their line by designing alter-ego scarves, a specific kind of scarf that has both rayon and silk in the scarf. The dying process will then present a double color effect. They also hope to create silk ties in the future for the gents.
These unique scarves truly cannot be duplicated, and each one is one-of-a-kind, just like their creator. Thin enough for summer and large enough for the colder months as well, FreeSpirit North’s scarves are perfect for proms, bridal party gifts, unique wedding shawls, and fit for any occasion from formal to casual. Anyone interested in having a scarf designed with specific colors can look for FreeSpirit North’s Facebook page, or by visiting B.S. Studio.