2014-15 Folklife Apprenticeship Award recipient
Carlene Dowell lives in Cumberland, Maryland, where she raises specialty wool sheep and alpaca on her farm, The PrAiry. Her interest in fiber arts started when she was living and working in Wyoming, raising and showing Afghan hounds as a hobby. During this time, she began experimenting with spinning the hair of Afghan hounds blended with sheep wool.
In 2010, Carlene retired and bought The PrAiry. As she says, “The abundant rain, sunshine, and long growing season in western Maryland give growth to rich fields that can become the perfect sheep pasture, an essential part of sustainability. Western Maryland’s close proximity to universities and county extension offices, soil and water advisers, and others who know the lay of the land offers numerous opportunities to learn how best to become self-reliant and self-sustaining. It’s healthy up here.”
Carlene connected with Mountain City Traditional Arts in Frostburg and master fiber artist Elaine Pressman, who mentored her in the art of rug making. The pair received a Folklife Apprenticeship Award from Maryland Traditions in 2014-15 to support their work together.
Since taking on the farm, Carlene has become interested in the genetics of fiber and has bred animals with gorgeous fleeces. She has taught weaving, felting, and hat making and dyeing, and she sells yarn, combed tops, socks, scarves, hides, and a variety of items made from the fibers of her animals—including her beloved Shetland sheep, Tinkerbell, who will be joining her at the National Folk Festival.