The Au Gres Sheep Factory

The Au Gres Sheep Factory
 

The Au Gres Sheep Factory is a business born out of passion for natural fiber and a gift of a spinning wheel more than 20 years ago. Jean left a teaching career to raise a family and Rich left a tool and die design profession to take over the family farm. Jean, already an avid knitter, taught herself to spin, felt, and dye, and Rich began making spinning wheels.

We did our first art fair in April of 1984, paid $125.00 for booth rent, made $32.00 total, nearly ran out of gas on the way home, and Rich quit. Jean was not discouraged and continued to pick away, learning as she went, until at our peak in the mid to late 90's, we had 30 employees and were selling our designs worldwide. Our designs have been on QVC, in the MTV Building's window in New York City's Times Square, our nativity set was in the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., in 2002 and 2006, and various designs have been in New York's Museum of Folk Art. We have been featured in Country Woman magazine, Country Business magazine, on the cover of the Journal of the American Professional Craters Guild, and featured in many newspapers throughout our state. We have sold to Bergdorf Goodman, Marshall Fields, Bath and Body Works, Swiss Colony, Coldwater Creek, Land's End, Pet Co., and over 6,000 smaller companies. We have received first place and/or best of show awards at Amish Acres (Indiana), Penn's Colony (Pennsylvania), and War Eagle (Arkansas), and Krist Kind'l Markt (Canton, Ohio Art Museum).

The kids are now grown, and gone, Rich sold the potato operation in 1999, and we are almost back where we started. We do a number of art fairs and events in the late summer and fall of the year, and have turned the business back into a small joy rather than a large roller coaster ride. I am back doing what I like best: spinning my heart out, combing fields for natural dye material and designing new items to add to our list of woolly creatures and "woolly fun stuff" just for ewe!

Jean Nixon

Jean Nixon

Rich Nixon

Rich Nixon

Gladys Nixon

    

Our mother will be 88 this summer and she is still as pretty as the flowers and the foilage she tends for us to keep our business looking beautiful. Each year when she returns from Florida in late May and moves into the upstairs apartment, she faithfully takes over the care and feeding of the shop flowers. If you pass by around 6:00 A.M. and often again around 7:00 P.M. between late May and mid-October you are more likely than not to see her dragging hoses, hoisting water cans, and (much to our dismay) climbing ladders caring for the beauties she creates.
She is our resident outdoor artist, and what a great job she does! Thanks, Mom!

     

Lisa began here as a "school-to-work" when she was fifteen. She now has a degree in retail management. It has been because of her highly capable management of the business that my husband and I were able to leave in the fall and do as many shows as we were able to do. Lisa worked her way up from washing wool to running the business. She is a jack-of-all-trades and Master-of-all around here! Nine times out of ten it will be her voice on the phone when you call.

Four years ago, she had to good sense to marry our oldedst son. They now have their own business and though she is no longer officially with us, she is still good enough to help us out of an occasional pickle.

Lisa Huber/Nixon
Lisa Huber
    

Ivy Kurowski
Ivy Kurowski
    

Ivy, our newest addition, has been with us since 2001. She was hired in to work with our son Tom in the woodshop and has turned into one of those rare people who is willing and able to do many things. She has designed quite a few of our newer items, is a capable and creative craftsperson, does our packing and shipping, and knows where everything is. And as of this year, Ivy has begun her own business "Little Lambs and Ivy". We still work together and produce many of the same items, but Ivy has some of her own creations as well, including a complete line of wooly things.

Tom is our youngest son, and though no longer officially with us (he is now working locally as a production engineer), he kept us in wood parts for animal bodies and ornament parts, working summers during the years he spent at Michigan State. He also keeps our computers running and since he is still in the area, we are grateful for his getting us out of an occasional jam. You may even see him and his wife helping us with sales at a few of our events.

Tom Nixon

Tom Nixon



 

 
© 2011 The Au Gres Sheep Factory
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