We had the pleasure of meeting Dana in person at the Briar Branch Alpaca Farm in Clements, surrounded by alpacas both big and small!
Our featured artist started raising alpacas in 2007 while also working as an oncology nurse practitioner (NP). Dana’s father had recently died of heart disease at that time and the main farm was transitioning from tobacco to a focus on grain. Given the many changes and challenges of that period of her life, Dana found herself to be much in need of a “happy” and stimulating distraction. Hence the alpacas became part of the farm and with them arrived endless opportunities for endeavors in the fiber arts.
Ms. Russell’s initial goal was to start a mill, where she would be processing other people’s fiber but over time she started to rethink her business model and reshaped plans for the future. Fortunate for Dana her colleague and best friend, Angel Forbes Simmons of Villa des Alpacas in Aquasco, was (and still is!) an important ally and mentor for the care and raising of the Briar Branch alpacas. A new barn was recently designed and built as a location to help facilitate teaching and providing education about the alpacas. Prior to the pandemic school and youth groups would visit, take tours, and experience farm life first hand. Dana’s grandchildren of all ages have become skilled at animal husbandry, fiber works, and retail/ business skills.
Always on the go, Dana believes that it is still very important to find time to do what you love regardless of how busy life can be. Dana’s hobbies and interests include “anything fiber related” – knitting, crocheting, weaving, felting, quilting. and especially dyeing yarns sourced from her alpacas. In 2016, after 25 years plus, she left her career as an NP to focus on helping to care for her grandchildren. “Virtual schooling” has become her most recent project since the COVID-19 pandemic hit and she also opens the on-site boutique shop twice a week plus by appointment. Despite the many challenges of life in general, Dana has managed to never be bored and is often in the midst of an artistic project.
Dana professes her artistic style to be “very rustic, simple, practical, and economical”. At the small shop located on her farm one can find alpaca products at reasonable prices, often less than at similar shops. Dana strives to offer affordable yet high quality items so that others to share a love and appreciation for the alpacas from her farm and in general. Briar Branch Farms also hosts local artists and small businesses for Craft/ Vendor shows, Open Air Markets, Alpaca Yoga in partnership with Evolve Yoga and Wellness, Fashion Shows and Yarnfest.
To learn more about our featured artist visit their newly updated website at: www.BriarBranchAlpacas.com, find them on Facebook at: Briar Branch Alpaca Clothing, or call 301-904-8884.
Thank you Dana for being a valued part of our community and sharing your love for “all things alpaca” with others!
(Submitted by St. Mary’s County Arts Council. Photos provided by artist.)