Alpacas are an interesting animal. Native to the Andes in Peru, alpacas were never bred to be beasts of burden, like their doppelganger, the llama.
Instead, they were bred for their unique fibers, which alpaca expert Wade Gease has dedicated his life to and will discuss in a series of educational presentations Friday and Saturday at the Artworks Alaska Gallery in Kenai.
“People put it in their mind as some exotic animal and don’t really know exactly what it is,” Gease said. “But alpaca, in my mind, is the best natural fiber in the world.”
According to Gease, alpaca fur is soft, durable and highly insulated, making a great material to use for cold weather gear.
Over the course of the weekend, Gease will share his experience with alpacas and his alpaca products, branded under the moniker The Alpaca Guy. Items designed by Gease include cozy socks, hand-loomed artisan scarves, blankets and shawls.
“A good alpaca product is any alpaca product, really,” Gease said. “Alpaca, in general, has superior insulative qualities because these poor creatures evolved to stay warm, Mother Nature gave these animals a little different fiber. It’s really soft because it’s generally quite fine but compared to other fine fibers, alpaca has segmented air pockets in it.”
Alpaca fur, unlike other fibers, helps assist in the evaporation of sweat, instead of just wicking it from the skin, Gease said.
“Alpaca fiber is akin to natural body armor,” Gease said. “This fiber knows when the body needs heat and when to let it escape. … People in cold climates especially appreciate alpaca’s toasty warm properties.”
Gease will be at Artworks Alaska Gallery from noon to 5 p.m. Friday and from 9 a..m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, sharing his knowledge of alpacas, which he has honed over two decades of experience.
“I co-owned and ran one of the first alpaca ranches in the Midwest for 20 years,” Gease said.
What started as a couple of alpacas grew and grew into an agrotourism business and Gease started looking for other ways to utilize the alpacas.
“Having the animals and shearing every year forced me to find ways to get the fiber into products,” Gease said. “That led me down the production line to today, where I design and produce products that I sell wholesale throughout the nation to help support alpaca ranches with alpaca products.”
Gease will be joined by guest artist Nicolisi, who will be presenting a unique line of semiprecious stones, as well as educational discussions on their energies.
The educational talks will happen at noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. each day at Artworks Gallery, located at 4289 Beaver Loop Road in Kenai.