Shut Door; Open Window

The time has come for me to transition into something new. Developing an identity as a crafter, becoming an artisan and a teacher and then running my practice as a business has given me a focus and a flexible occupation while my children needed my active support. I have explored this side of my personality and now I’m satisfied with what I have learned.

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In 2006, I discovered the art of turning wool roving into felt by borrowing books from the library and diving in. After working on my kitchen table for two years, then moving into a small studio in my basement, I rented a studio in the BallardWorks building in November 2010.

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My hope was to concentrate my full energies on exploring the tradition of feltmaking, methodically moving through material, process and technique. The studio gave me the space to get really messy, and to begin teaching.

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Over 4 years, I moved into successively larger studios, expanding what I was able to do with each new space.

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The highlight of my time was spent teaching a fiber arts class to several families in Seattle’s homeschool community. Supported by a student intern and a friend with eight arms and a bottomless well of enthusiasm we stitched, felted, wove and explored the varied forms of fiber. It was an exciting year. However, being the midwife to my students’ learning forced me to shelve my own creativity, and when the year was over I found I was tired, and didn’t have the energy to fully commit to running a business.

If I was to pinpoint the biggest reason behind my decision to move on it would be the strain caused by the relentless self-promotion required to make this business thrive. In the end, the endless marketing required was not an authentic or sustainable part of my personality. And despite tweeking the business innumerable ways, following all of the best advice from  indie marketing gurus, the business was not profitable. I put in too many hours to continue working for free. If I’m going to work without a wage, I would rather be a literacy tutor or a child advocate, where I can make an impact on someone’s quality of life rather than flog my latest creation.

This transition is not without discomfort. First of all, I have no easy answer when people ask ‘what do you do?’ Right now, the answer is ‘I make lists’. There are boxes, bins and drawers full of materials I need to move along to new owners. Anybody want 1000 kraft boxes? What about a mismatched set of pine stools? Following are photographs of some items that need to find new homes before I can close up.

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I have a large stash of wool fleeces bought from farms on Whidbey and Lopez Island. Some are washed, but most are still ‘in the grease’. There are lots of dyed locks and dyed silk noil still avaialbe. If you’re on Ravelry, I’ve listed my inventory in my ‘stash’ tab under ‘willing to trade or sell’. The prices I paid for the wool are my sale prices. I’m just trying to recoup my costs. My username is ‘kneek’.

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Feltcraft 40″ Rolling Machine – $1800
This gently used rolling machine takes the back-breaking labor out of the feltmaking process, though it does not eliminate all of the steps. Fiber is laid out on the blue bubblewrap, wet down with a soap solution, rolled up and placed in the machine where it rumbles along for 10-30 minutes at a time. Production feltmakers rely heavily on rolling machines. It works very well for nunofelt, enabling the fibers to fully embed in the fabric before the fulling process.

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Gridwall display with 5 halogen lights and hanging components, currently listed on Craigslist.

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Recycled whiteboard in a painted upcycled frame $75

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Rotating powder coated aluminum card stand with heavy base $80

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3 IKEA sawhorses, adjustable height, pine, unfinished – $25 each

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2 IKEA cabinets, particleboard, three shelves, stackable – $40 each

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4 IKEA LACK floating shelves – $5 each

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6 pine stools, varying heights, various manufacturers – $15 each

Additional items not pictured: lots of wicker baskets, a set of 3 japanese paper lanterns printed with designs, and an amplifier with two speakers. If possible, I would like to avoid having a large garage sale. Prices are negotiable if you’re willing to take several items off my hands.

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As for the studio space on the main floor of BallardWorks, I am leaving it in good hands. Amy Hamblin, the multimedia sculptor who has shared the space since April 2014 is taking over the lease. Be sure to stop in to see her on the 2nd Saturday Ballard Artwalk.

To everyone who has supported me over the years, I thank you. I couldn’t have made it this long without you. If you’d like to know more about what it takes to run an Etsy business, I have some valuable lessons to share.

14 thoughts on “Shut Door; Open Window

  1. Hi Leah,

    From distant memories and sensibilities, I believe that I can understand your loss and transition. I have admired greatly your delving into this venture and for making the world a more beautiful place.

    Your desire to now focus on helping others more directly and concretely I also appreciate.

    I wish you well in these new adventures.

    xo
    –D

  2. Wow! Leah! I had no idea you were shifting to new adventures. I have been so impressed by what you have done and been in your life so far I am certain that you will find the next right fit… All the best to you. Re; “the stuff”-There are one, possibly two, items you have listed here that I and a friend would like to have. Two of the mannequins.. I am in such a different place in my life than you..especially age- wise, being a billion years older…taking steps some forward, some back to see what’s next. Iif the mannequins are still available can you hold them for me.? I don’t have a car..so I would ask my Ballard friend to stop by and pick them up..

  3. first of all, hard decision, very courageous of you to make such a huge change…much admired ….I can totally understand having been a fiber artist for fort years on a small island, where I made a choice to not market my work big time, as it took too much of the creativity away and so worked at another job three days a week to avoid production work…..
    i have followed your enthusiasm over the years and always admired how productive and business savvy you were…..so know it is a huge letting go…so good luck and i am sure you will be great at whatever path you venture into….

    Now for the letting go of goodies….I am interested in those 50 boxes for twenty five….but live in canada….I have paypal and so let me know if they are still available…..I do sell at our local ,markets etc in summer so these would be useful…
    How about silk blank scarves, any of those? Or teeswater locks …..just asking…..if i wAsnt pushing seventy that rolling machine would be great…..but. Trying to use supplies and have introduced weaving so I best pass on the roller…
    Thanks so much for the enthusiasm you have brought to felting over the years ….cheers Cedar

    • Thanks for your words of support and encouragement Cedar. The boxes have a buyer coming on Monday. If they’re not all taken, I will let you know. I do have a few silk blanks, plus lots and lots of silk yardage, and a raw teeswater fleece.

  4. Leah, I am interested in your fleeces. Is it possible to look? I’m in Wallingford, with an open schedule.

    Thanks and good luck with your next adventure.

    Richard

  5. Hello Leah,
    I wish you the best in your next adventures. Do you still have the stools? I could use a new one. I prefer the tallest one, or one which may have a curved seat.
    Thanks much,
    Deb

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