Playing with Process

Now that the busiest months of the year have passed, and my business taxes are filed with the state, I have some time to experiment with materials and explore the process of feltmaking. In the fall, I’m working towards one goal: make as much as I can with a minimum of wasted time. This doesn’t leave much time for flights of fancy. When fulfilling orders in my Etsy shop, stocking my consignment accounts and filling wholesale orders, my focus is on creating a consistent product with little material or time wasted.

Now that the orders have slowed, I can indulge whimsy and fancy. Today I spent the better part of four hours carding a matted mess of partially felted rambouillet locks, turning them into fluffy clouds. This is the first layer of a larger piece of felt. At this point, I’m not sure what it will become, but I’m curious about the texture I will achieve. Let’s call this my research and development time.

As I was driving home, I noticed how the sky resembled the arrangement left behind on my workbench. These clouds were on the move, on their way to becoming something else, somewhere else, just like my tufts of roving.

Your Name In Letters

A few months ago, the editor from LMNOP, a cool new Australian lifestyle magazine, invited me to submit some felt balls for their 2009 Holiday Gift Guide. Their inquiry was my first introduction to the magazine, but a quick browse through their most recent issue was all I needed to see. The photography and styling is gorgeous, just the sort of eye candy I love.

My custom felt letter balls are featured in Issue 9, page 13 of the gift guide and page 38, in ‘Summer Hits’. Each of the nine issues are available for free download from their website.

Their latest issue also includes articles for families traveling to New York and Tokyo.  The piece on Moomah, a restaurant/art-space in Tribeca, caught my eye. It looks like a feast for the senses and a great place to spend the afternoon.

Mystery Package Birthday Contest

The mail carrier brought three packages yesterday. The contents of two were easy to identify: buttons ordered from MJ Boutique and two custom shirts and some poppy pins from ModestMaven (a birthday present from my mom).

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The third package was a surprise from an old friend, the guy who lived in the apartment above ours during college. Mark was just the sort of guy you hope to meet in your early twenties. He was eccentric in a good way: interested in old movies, esoteric music, Paul Klee, typography, Indian cuisine and vintage cameras. While he majored in Art History, it was clear that his talent lay in something more creative. His keen eye for the overlooked beauty in a rusted factory led him into photography. I never get tired at paging through his portfolio.

Mark has always been fascinated by the marginalia of life: an abandoned refinery, vintage Elizabeth Cotton recordings or cans of condensed aged cheddar sauce. When his package arrived yesterday, I was delighted but not surprised by the book. Candy Jernigan is cut from the same cloth as Mark, picking up bits of ephemera from her wanderings to document her swim through daily life. However the other objects in the package, wrapped in a brown paper bag from an antique store in Texas have me stumped. What could they be?Measuring 10″ long, hollow with a brass tip.

This is where the contest comes in. Leave your best guess as a comment and I will randomly select a reader for a mystery package. The drawing will happen on Thursday, my birthday. Gotta share the love that flows so abundantly my way.

Winner:

Maya of Springtree Road. Not only did Maya correctly identify the mystery object as textile spindles, the number one was selected by two different random number generators. A surprise package for felty goodness is on its way to Maya. Thanks for all the fun guesses!

Brain Dump

In the last few days, I’ve come across an abundance of amazing events, letters and websites. Since my work at the moment is in a pure production phase, I’m going to share other people’s cool stuff instead.

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Wet spring weather brings out the godzilla slugs in our garden. Before I go to bed, I walk out in the rain to peel them off my tender new lettuce. Despite my dislike of the creatures, I couldn’t resist this felt snail.

I can’t recall what chain led me here, but Gartenfilz von Frauke is only one of many fantastic pieces in the Filz Galerie, a German gallery of felt pieces created by participants in Feltalong. I really, really wish I read German because I want to know more about the other pieces in the blog.

If you want to participate in the Crafster Feltalong challenges, search for ‘feltalong‘ discussions on the Craftster felting discussion boards.

feltunitedGet on board for the International Day of Felt, October 3.  2009 is the International Year of Natural Fibers, as declared by the United Nations. Sign up, spread the word, plan, organize and participate. More details at FeltUnited.

Future Craft Collective is a very creative group of energetic folks working to make something beautiful in community. Two things melt my heart: seeing people make art together and watching a child bring an idea to life. Some lucky folks in Austin may get to work with them in person; I’ll have to settle for admiring from a distance and then continuing to build art in my community.

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The yummy felt bead necklaces made by  Kleas and company for Mother’s Day gifts look good enough to eat. These remind me of the world’s best salt water taffy, but made of wool. What more could a mother want?

Not sure how to describe the next bit, except to say watching this video and getting into the mind of this woman led me to dimensions I had never imagined. See and watch crochet coral as examples of hyperbolic geometry.

paper_boatTime for a slight fiber detour to the world of paper craft. Make some crazy collage, paint some paper, sew some paper together, fold a boat and then mail it to Joanne Kaar. Each piece will  be auctioned in support of Mary-Ann’s Cottage, a living history museum in Scotland. Submission deadline is August 10, 2009.

Stating my intention here,  in the hopes that will make it happen (thank you Future Craft Collective), I plan to embellish paper with the parents and children of Seattle API at the next monthly gathering of the Handcraft Group. Look on theirblog for photos of the oustanding pieces they have received so far.

Collaboration and Recycling

I came across two neat tidbits today from the fiber world to share.

First, my talented friend Shirley sent a link to the wearable art show in Juneau, Altered States. Many of the pieces in the show used reclaimed materials prominently in the garment. The gallery of photographer Seanna O’Sullivan showcases the event on the runway and backstage as the models are prepped for their appearance.

The International Fiber Collaborative is working on building a tree as a way to illustrate the idea of interdependence. “Much like a live tree is interdependent on its leaves and roots for survival, societies are interdependent on the greater whole, family units, communities, and countries. Participants from around the world are invited to create leaves to contribute to the creation of the tree. ”  The submission deadline to have your leaves added to the tree is March 15th. Leaves must be created using fiber, but beyond that, use your imagination. Make sure to look through the gallery to see the submissions they have received so far.

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For several years, I’ve wanted to try making silk paper in an effort to reproduce the embossed leaves from this piece by Emily Archer of Milkweed Arts. I found some instructions on Pat Sparks’ website, but I’d love to hear whether anyone has worked through this process. My son wants me to coordinate a project for his K-1 art class, and I’d love to dovetail the two projects. Am I biting off more than I can chew and swallow?

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If I can’t carve the time out in the next two weeks, I have a box full of these felt leaves to send.

Illustrator Credit

Credit is long overdue for the wonderful work by artist Geninne Zlatkis, creator of my spunky mascot, SpiderFelt.

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I believe a post about this mobile first drew my attention to Geninne’s work. There is something so wonderful about the simplicity and liveliness in these colorful leaves.

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Geninne is a professional illustrator who sells prints of her work in her etsy shop. This print is now framed, sitting on my bureau, waiting to be hung. Her work is detailed, quirky, imaginative, playful and luscious. If I don’t read any other blogs during the day, I always visit Geninne just to see what she has drawn today.

In an effort to promote the work of talented artists who fill the pages of Etsy, I plan to regularly highlight purchases I have made there. The etsy administrators will soon be launching a marketing campaign to encourage people to ‘buy handmade, buy local'; this will be my contribution to the cause.

While I’m sure there are several other bloggers who do the same, the idea was brought to my attention through the site Sock Prøn who chronicles her purchases on EtsyFriday; while it is easy to say “I could make such and such’, or ‘That looks so simple’, the reality is that you haven’t made it and someone else has: Seize the moment and buy it. Bring something lovely into your home and sprinkle some money around. As an aside, my husband is convinced that etsy is kept afloat by the mutual admiration society that exists between artists; if we are buying each other’s goods, are we actually making any money? Good question, but I know talent when I see it, and I also know my own limitations, so when I see something well made, it is worth stepping up.

Lovin’ Lopez

We just returned from the most marvelous weekend of camping at Spencer Spit State Park on Lopez Island, a two hour drive and a 40 minute ferry ride from Seattle. Lopez is one of the San Juan Islands in the Straight of Juan de Fuca, between Washington State and Vancouver Island, BC.

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Saturday morning we drove down to the Farmer’s Market in Lopez Village where we met farmers, musicians, artists, craftsmen (of both genders), bakers, recyclers and many young entrepreneurs selling cookies, lemonade, felt sheep and jewellry.

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We ate pounds of snap peas, bunches of carrots, handfuls of strawberries, and seasoned dehydrated flax crackers. We rolled on the grass, ran in circles, sampled smoked salmon and chatted with artists. In NVC terms, our time at the farmer’s market met my need for community, fun and learning. I felt fulfilled and inspired by everyone I met.

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First, there was Beckie and Dave Heinlein of Arbutus Farm; they were selling roving and yarn from their flock of Romneys. Dave told me all about breeding sheep with a double-recessive gene for coloration. Beckie and I talked at length about the wonders of needle felting. She needlefelts purses until they are in the rough shape she wants, and then wet felts them to finish the fulling process.

I love the way she weaves the roving to form Celtic knots as she is needle felting. Then there was her sock solution that left me dumbfounded. She uses needlefelting to repair holes in socks instead of darning them, or throwing them away. Why hadn’t I thought of that before? There are two pairs of socks sitting under my knitting chair just waiting for such a solution.

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Needless to say, I brought home several balls of roving, and plan to buy more in the future. Because much of the undyed wool is a brindled blend of black and white, the dyed colors have beautiful variations. I can’t wait to work with it.

Marianna Haniger is an artist transitioning from video and film to sewing clothes from vintage fabrics. I spent at least an hour in her booth while Owen schmoozed the little boy selling cookies just across the way (he got three free cookies, and I bought a skirt).

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The yellow and red skirt in the middle was already sold, but I had to take a picture because it was so beautiful. Marianna said the vintage silk scarf used on the bottom was printed “Made in occupied Japan”. She described the origins of several pieces, recounting where she found the fabric and the challenges she encountered trying to make the pieces fit her vision. It was inspiring to hear about her process and work.

We have two weddings to attend this summer; I have my eye on either the seafoam skirt (top-right) or the orange medley (middle-left). Ironically, I made sketches for a very similar skirt in my bedside dream book months ago, but I’m not sure I’ll have the chance to finish them before we leave for New Hampshire.

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We bought a pair of knives from Wayne Hagel of Arrow-W Knives, handmade on Lopez Island. I should have taken a picture of the schematic Wayne posted next to his table; it showed the process he uses to create the knives from a piece of forged steel right down to attaching the custom handles. Each knife is unique; all works of art. In hindsight, I wish we had bought more because they would make such wonderful gifts.

As I was scrambling around, trying to buy one more basket of strawberries (the sweetest little berries I have ever tasted) before my family drove away (they threatened to leave me at the market several times), I realized I’d dropped my camera case. Retracing my steps brought me back to Beckie and Dave’s booth. Sure enough, someone had found my case and because of the needlefelting, presumed it belonged to them.

Forgotten in my excitement as I browsed was the woman who makes beautiful baby clothes out of recycled cashmere and merino sweaters. The pants, jumpers and sweater sets were well made and beautifully crafted. Sadly, there is no directory of merchants for the Farmer’s Market, so the only way to find these artists is to visit again. I wonder if I could write that off as a business expense?  

As I was writing this post, and trying to narrow down the pictures, I told my children I wanted to create a separate blog post just describing our adventures, our travels, and the wonderful campground (the quietest ever). My super-private son asked me, once again, not to. Since he is my son, I will respect his wishes, but I can still include a link to our flickr photos, can’t I? But if you see him, don’t tell him you’ve seen any pictures.

Petal Trees

I will always credit Emily Archer of Milkweed Arts  for inspiring my love of felt, and taking it from a mere appreciation to a desire to create. Lance and I bought these two pieces from Emily at a Christmas craft fair in Peterborough, NH in 2003. They hung in our living room while we lived in New Hampshire, and now they hang on either side of my attic bedroom window. I never tire of looking at the leaves, made from leaf impressions on handpainted silk, held in place by tiny beads along the center veins.

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Drawing further inspiration from Feltissimo, I made this card for Lance’s Aunt Sue, who lives in New Hampshire.

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Leaves were cut out of prefelt and layered onto a piece of wetfelt. The end result was embellished with peridot chips. A piece of card stock was sewn to create the card.

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There are more pieces in this series on Flickr.

Inspiring Mothers

A friend called me on Monday morning to wish me a belated Happy Mother’s Day. She, too, is a mother, so I was a little surprised to receive her call, and her apology for getting to me so late. She has established a tradition since becoming a mother three years ago, of honoring mothers who inspire her on Mother’s Day. What a wonderful idea. I was touched to be included in her circle, and immediately started thinking of the women who would be on my list.

In no particular order, these women are all part of the Attachment Parenting community in Seattle:

fritilaria.jpgErika Jennings – for pursuing a path to peace, for envisioning a different way to communicate with our children, using the big-hearted language of Compassionate Communication. Thank you for making this your life work and sharing it with me.*

Sara Cole – for leading and guiding our community, for your friendship and support, for being the bridge that enables our community to be.

Tera Schreiber – for the gift of wisdom and the ability to express it so well. Thank you for bringing all of the hard work of parenting into perspective, and encouraging us to discuss it.

Jen Witsoe – for vision and leadership; with your ambition and drive, we will create a better place for families to grow together.**

Kristin and Heidi – for reminding me how precious and joyful the small moments can be with a wee one. Your faithfulness has given me a reason to continue carving out time in the week for my nourishment.

Erika Carlson – for leading a life that treads lightly on the earth, and for working to better your relationships rather than turn away from strife and difficulty.

*Erika is a peer educator working with the “Peaceful Families, Peaceful World Project“; she moderates a bi-weekly practice group that meets on the first and third Sunday of the month at the Greenwood Neighborhood Service Center.

**Jen is spearheading the research around forming a new co-housing community, gathered around a love of family and diversity, living in affordable housing in an urban setting. A general information meeting for anyone interested in exploring this idea is being held at the Douglass-Truth Library on Sunday, June 3rd, between 3-5pm.

Fields of Tulips

On their way home from Seattle, my parents stopped in LaConner, Washington for the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. This part of the Skagit Valley was settled by several Dutch farmers who brought their knowledge of flowers and bulbs to the region. You can see more pictures of tulip fields in their Flickr album.

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This picture captured my imagination when I saw it yesterday. The composition and colors are perfect. I went to bed dreaming of turning this picture into something.

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A piece of felt is laid out. I created the background out of some Jacob roving, layered with some blue merino roving. After felting the background just long enough to hold it together, I added the details: bands of red and green for the tulip fields, some wisps of white in the sky, pieces of green prefelt cut out to look like poplars and maroon pencil roving for the trunk.

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Lacking the colors I needed, I tried to capture the symmetry of the original photo.