It's getting cold outside and my weather app says there might even be snow in a few days. Worst of all, because of Daylight Savings Time it feels like the sun is going down pretty much right after lunch. Around this time every year I start to feel a familiar combination of sadness, lethargy, and frustration. I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and it actually runs in my family.
But this post isn't just about my mental health. I think that stuff is important (and my husband is a counselor so we talk about it all the time), what I want to talk about though is how something like SAD impacts my creative output, and what I have done to cope. Lots of creative people out there suffer from SAD, and if you are one of them I'm hoping that by sharing a tiny bit of my personal experience I can help you figure out your own.
The first thing that I have figured out that has helps me cope during the winter is trust. It used to be that I would force myself into my workroom for long hours during the winter. I wouldn't make much but I had this nagging belief that if I went too long without making anything that I would somehow "lose the magic touch," that I would no longer be able to make the things I loved to make. Eventually though I realized that for all those hours I was only making a few hats, and they weren't up to my standards of quality. I had to let go of this fear. What I found out was that even if I took a day off (or even several) that when I returned my fingers would know what to do. That creative part of myself was still there. I learned to trust it and to trust myself. That creativity was a part of me and wouldn't just vanish. Sometimes I still have days where I push a little too hard and hold on a little too tightly. But when I realize I'm doing that I just disconnect and come back later when the time feels right. And it usually works out better than I thought it would.
The second thing I have figured out that helps is that I really need to be careful to engage in good self-care. For me in the winter that means going out to do fun things as often as possible, even if I don't feel like it. Making plans with friends, going to greenhouses and florist shops, and even spending a little extra time in the produce section at the grocery store are all examples of what I've done. There is a real temptation to isolate myself or to stay buried under blankets. So instead of pushing myself to sit in my workroom, isolated and miserable, I push myself to do whatever might help me get out and get moving. This doesn't cure my SAD, but I do find I tend to have a few more hours a week in my workroom than I used to where I actually making things that live up to my standards, even though I actually spend less hours in my workroom overall.
The last thing I've figured out that helps is to just accept that SAD is a reality for me. That doesn't mean that I resign myself to it or just give up. It means that when I am depressed in the middle of winter that I just let myself be depressed. I accept it and know it will pass. And (more importantly) it means that when I'm not depressed that I make plans to cope ahead, figuring out what I can do now while I feel okay that will help me when I don't feel okay. That means that I save big but unnecessary projects (like redesigning my website) for the Summer months when I'll have more energy. I also pre-make some hats during the warmer months so I have more room for downtime come January. Rather than judging myself for being sad during the cold months, or trying to force myself to be "normal" during those times, I accept that I will not feel like my normal self and figure out what I need to do to cope with that reality now while I do feel normal.
These are some things I've learned through years of trial and error. They might not work for you and that's fine. The only thing I want is for you to take that creativity that is so central to our lives and apply it to things like your mental health, and not just towards making something beautiful or filling orders for customers. Think about your life in new ways, and be okay with yourself when you can't think that flexibly and you just need to spend a few extra hours in bed.
We talk a lot about the artistic process, how to get inspired and how to turn that inspiration into one of a million different projects of self-expression. One thing we don't talk as much about though is the idea of having a workshop space. At first it seems like a no-brainer. Or course we should have some little corner of our living space dedicated to art where we can set up our easels, our hat shapers, or all our skeins of yarn. But sometimes it can seem so obvious that we actually don't really think about that artistic space and why it is important. So I wanted to spend a little time today thinking about those creative spaces in a more intentional way. Why do we need a space set aside for our creative work in the first place? And what are some things to keep in mind as we setup that space?
There are lots of reasons why it is a good idea to have a special space where you can do your art. Most of those reasons are practical. For someone like me who has lots of tools and supplies that I use daily, I need a workshop space because otherwise all those materials will start to take over the rest of the house. And it makes projects easier if everything I need is in one place and is easily accessible.
But for me there is a deeper reason why I need that workshop space. It is all about mindset. As soon as I step into my workshop I enter a different headspace. I become focused on my latest project or crafting idea. My mind becomes filled with all the little details of the craft. I put on a podcast or something in the background, and I might as well be on a different planet, cut off from the rest of my home and the rest of my life, focused on the work I will be doing. Then when I leave my workspace and shut the door the rest of my life comes flooding back. It's time for dinner and it's time to watch Bob's Burgers. It's time to rest and relax. It's time to talk to my husband about all the other little details of living. I know there's probably some psychological reason this happens, but I don't know what it is. I just know that having that line between my workspace and my personal space helps me to do my art with so much more focus. It makes it easier for those creative juices to flow. This is probably because my brain is trained to think creatively in that space and to think about the rest of life in the other parts of my home.
Over the years I've had several different workshops and workspaces. Here are a few of my thoughts about setting up your own workshop area.
Thought #1: Find a good balance between messiness and order.
Or to put it another way, make sure you remember the reason you have a workspace in the first place. It is to get things done. Design your space to be easy to clean and de-clutter, and learn to be okay with the messiness that comes with the creative process. For me it is like a wave. I start a project and as I work I pull all my tools out and lots of different materials. When the project is finished (which can take several days) then I will clean up to get ready for the next project. Being able to leave the messiness behind without worrying about cleaning it up right away is another great psychological reason to have a workspace. Maybe the process will be a little different for you. Pay attention to your own patterns. Is your workshop too messy or too clean, to the point where it is distracting you from your work?
Thought #2: If you can, put a door on it.
One of the main reasons to have a workshop is because it lets you put a line between your personal life and your artistic life. Another way to make that line even stronger is to actually have a contained workshop space, where you can shut the door to separate it from the rest of your home. That door can have lots of uses. When I go into my workshop space and close the door I can't see any of the life stuff in the rest of my home. My husband also knows to leave me alone because I'm doing something important. And like I said already, when I'm done for the day I can just shut the door of my workshop so I don't have to worry about seeing the clutter in there (and getting anxious about it). It is something physical that helps me to mentally compartmentalize.
Thought #3: Decorate intentionally.
This is all about avoiding clutter and making your workshop easy to clean and work in. More than once I've seen photos online of incredibly well decorated workshops. While I think they all look beautiful and inviting, some little part of me wonders about how stressful it must be to keep it looking like that all the time. I imagine it can become its own chore, making sure your workshop is picture perfect. Instead I tend to have a more practical philosophy. I do have decorations in my workspace, but I chose them specifically because they inspire me in my fiber art and because they don't get in the way. Ultimately it is up to you to figure out the sort of balance you want to strike. I know some people who really need their artistic space to have a certain vibe, and that requires all kinds of decorations and cleaning chores. That's fine. All I'm saying is that you don't have to do it that way. You don't have to be intimidated by all those Pinterest photos of perfect workshops. Take some time to figure out what actually makes sense for you, and know it is okay to have a bare little workshop if that is what helps you to do the art you want to do.
I hope that's enough to get you started in thinking about your own artistic spaces. I would love to hear some tips, tricks, and stories about your own art spaces. Post them here or on my Facebook page so we can all hear about your experiences! Photos would also be great!
See you next week!
I have never had so many different hat designs and customization options in my shop before, and even for me it can sometimes be a little overwhelming. As we move closer to the Fall, and all the autumn festivities I look forward to every year, I thought I might put together a little guide to help you navigate all the different hat styles and options for the 2018 Fall season. This way you can get a sample of all the different hat possibilities all in one place, simple as can be. Each picture below takes you right to the listing for that hat. So if any hats in this post catches your eye just click or touch the picture to see more details and pricing information.
The foundation of every hat is the brim. And the first thing you need to know about the brim is that it comes in several different sizes, from the smallest at 4 inches to the largest at 8 inches. Not every hat has the full range of brim sizes though, so check individual listings to see what options you have.
Besides the different brim sizes there are also several customization options to make the brim of your hat look unique. Each option is meant to give the hat different textures or dimensions, depending on the look you are going for. First, we have the "tattered brim" style which adds cobweb inspired points (like this hat), a lattice pattern (like this hat), or a jagged edge to the brim (as pictured). Second, we have the "curled brim" which adds a curl to the front of the hat for a more jaunty look. Finally, we have the hat wave, which is my newest design option. It adds a simple wave to the hat so it looks more lived in and organic instead of being flat and circular.
The most iconic part of the hats that I make are the ridged and curling tails. What you may not know about my hats (if you've only ever seen them on Pinterest or around the internet) is that I actually have six different tail styles that you can choose from, and each one creates an entirely different look for the hat. The "Crooked Tail" style is new for this season, and for 2018 I also brought back my "Short Tail."
Most of the hats I make I also dye myself (except for a few one-of-a-kind color patterns). That means I can offer all kinds of different color options depending on what you're looking for. If you are thinking about a hat that is a different color than the classic witchy black here is a sampling of the four most popular colorways that I can do, showing the full range of vibrant and nuanced colors possible for your hat.
Maybe witch and wizard hats are not really what you are looking for right now, but you like some of the colors and styles you've seen so far. I do offer a variety of completely different hat and hood designs that might fit the look you are going for. I'm especially proud of the Witch Hat Fascinator, new for this season!
For The Adventurous...
If you have something a little more creative and interesting in mind I have a few options that might fit in better with your adventurous tastes. One possibility are my one-of-a-kind hats. Each of these hats are already made and ready to ship, and they feature designs, colors, or decorative elements I will not be offering again. So each hat will be unique in the world. Another possibility is a custom silhouette hat, where you send me ideas for a design you would like felted into your hat to give it a completely unique colored pattern. Finally, I do also accept custom orders from time to time. Let me know what kind of hat project you have in mind.
And that's all the information I could fit in this hat buying guide! I hope that helps you to better understand the dozens of design, color, and customization options I offer. One more thing to keep in mind is that each and every hat is handmade by me, from scratch, and made-to-order (unless otherwise noted). Each hat is its own project, and its own moment of artistic expression for me. If you are thinking about getting a hat for Halloween or other Fall festivities it may be a good idea to order sooner than later. I can only make so many hats after all, and I want to make sure you get yours in time for all the fun!
If you have any questions about anything also feel free to contact me. I answer all the messages I receive personally and within 24 hours.
Happy Halloween 2018!
Lots of people are hard at work making their own felted fantasy hats, either using one of my tutorials or what they learned during one of my face-to-face workshops. But there is one question my students ask me over and over: "How do I make an extra wide brim?"
That's a good question. The standard hat shaper that I use in my Wizard and Witch Hat tutorial only allows for a brim as wide as 4 inches, while some of the hats in my shop have brims as wide as 8 inches.
The short answer is that I had to figure out how to create an extended brim hat block using the simple materials I had at hand or that I could buy from the local hardware store. After months of experimenting I finally came up with a design for a custom extended brim hat block that would allow me to make all those wide hat brims you see in my shop. Since I've came up with the design I've made seven or eight more extended brim hat blocks, and all of them have lasted for months and dozens of hat projects each, without much sign of wear and tear at all. The block is waterproof, perfect for wet felting projects, as well as sturdy and easy to clean.
If you are interested in making hats with brims as wide as 8 inches, and you are thinking about getting my tutorial, here are a few more things you need to know. First of all, this is a video tutorial. If you've bought any tutorials from me in the past you know they are all PDF tutorials with step-by-step instructions written out. I decided to make the change to video though because there are just some parts of the process that it would be hard to describe without the benefit of seeing it in motion. I also did lots of voiceover work in the video so you still get the benefit of hearing me describe the process as well as giving you some helpful hints along the way. Through the whole video you will see me go from describing the individual materials and parts all the way through assembly, start to finish.
For anyone worried about the video quality, this is not a low-res YouTube video. The video resolution is 1920x1080, with lots of lighting, and the voiceover work was done after the video was recorded using a written script and a Blue brand desk mic. (not using the camera mic or anything like that). The file download is about 1.13 gigabytes and is in MP4 format, playable on most computers. But this is my first video tutorial so let me know if there are any technical issues, if you need the file in a different format, or if you need the video at a smaller resolution. I'm sure I can get Grumpy Husband to figure it out for you.
Keep in mind this is a video tutorial on how to make an extended hat block. The video does not include any information on how to actually make a hat, so you will either need to know how to make a felt hat already or you will also need my Wizard and Witch Hat tutorial.
For a full material list check out the tutorial listing. And good luck!
For all the crafters and students out there, I am still working hard on my new video tutorial on how to make your own extended hat brim. My goal is to make it available by the end of the week (the beginning of September). If you are interested in this tutorial you can sign up for my student newsletter to get an update the day it comes out (I only send out the newsletter when I have something to announce that would be interesting to students, so only a few times a year). Click here to sign up.
In the meantime, to get ready for the new tutorial I have completely updated my "LEARN" page here on my website. Now it should be easier for you to find the information you need to help you with your own fantasy felting projects. Feedback is welcomed.
The "Design Deep Dive" miniseries explores some of the ideas and inspirations behind my different hat designs. This week I will be looking into one of my newest designs, the Witch Hat Fascinator. It has all the same wrinkles and curls you would come to expect from one of my hats, but on a smaller scale.
I'm definitely not a fashion expert, but the way I understand the whole idea of fascinators is that they are supposed to be a decorative alternative to a full-sized hat. People wear them when a hat would also make sense, but they are more like a fashion accessory than something functional, like something between a smaller hat and an oversized hair clip. I first started seeing all kinds of fascinators a few years ago when I was dabbling with steampunk inspired top hats. Lots of steampunk models were wearing these tiny little steamer top hats fastened on with hair pins or bands. They really caught my eye back then because they were a whole new kind of hat design that I could play with, and because they were so cute! Since my hats are decorative anyway, and not really functional, it also made sense to experiment with fascinators. At that time especially I was really looking to try all kinds of hats and not settle on just witch and wizard hats. But that was years ago and I still had a lot to learn. The few times I tried to make my own steampunk hat fascinators back then they came out looking more like fuzzy cups than mini-hats. There was no real interest for steampunk hats anyway, and I eventually I moved on.
But every year or so the idea of making a fascinator hat design would come back up, usually after spending awhile on Pinterest and seeing fascinator hats come up a bunch of times. Last year I took one of my first solid steps towards creating a fascinator witch hat since I first attempted fascinator hats years ago. Right after Halloween I was out at all the stores picking up discounted Halloween decorations, and I happened to come across this mini-felted witch hat. It was obviously machine-felted and mass produced, and I think it was meant for dolls and not necessarily to be put on someone's head like a fascinator, but it was just the right size. I also had an idea to turn it into a miniature hat block that I could use to shape witch hat fascinators. I bought it and took it home and then dunked the whole thing in Plasti-Dip, which is supposed to make it water proof and rubbery, perfect for shaping wet wool. But then the Holiday Season started up and I lost all track of my personal projects. My fascinator hat design would have to wait, and I put the rubber coated hat in my closet with the hope of getting back to it one day.
Finally things started to slow down for me and I was able to catch up with my 2017 orders. As the Summer of 2018 started up I found that I had some time to experiment again and make hats that I wanted to make, just for fun and just to see what I could do. The results of that work are several one-of-a-kind and experimental hats that you can check out here. But I also pulled that rubberized hat block out of the closet and decided to finally give it a real solid try. Another reason my attention turned back to witch fascinator hats was that I have been getting lots of requests for smaller hats this season, sometimes for children or dolls or other reasons. My fascinator hats are not necessarily designed for children or dolls, but those requests kept the whole concept of mini-hats fresh in my mind. I sat down and began putting together prototypes, trying to figure out just how to create a miniature hat that still looked unique (and similar to the full-sized hats I already make). It took a couple of weeks of attempts before I finally got the design down.
If you are curious about what the final product is like check out the listing page, which has more details about the hat, the decoration options, and lots of extra photos. Instead of going with built-in hair clips to hold the hat in place I decided to go with a milliner-grade band. But you can hardly see the band as the pictures show, so I think the whole thing turned out well.
What do you think? Are fascinator hats interesting to you? What other uses are there for hats of this size?
One of the things I like the most about wet felting (which is how I make my hats) is how sculptural it can be. I used to do a lot of painting, but that was all flat on the canvas. When I make hats I'm making three-dimensional things that look different depending on the angle you look at it from. As I started making hats though I began to realize that even though the hats had shape they could also look a little flat if they are all just a single solid color. I tried to fix this problem early on by using different colors to make colorways, adding decorative details like leaves and hat bands, making textured openings to resemble birch bark, and using special blends of wool to get different color effects (like marbling). For the most part this is still how I do things.
Then one day I received a custom order request. Someone wanted me to make a white hat and add some blue color, not in shades or lines, but in a particular shape. The process itself was simple enough. Wet felting is all about adding layers of different wool, so all I needed to do was add layers of blue onto the white hat in the proper shape. Up until that point though I never even considered adding specific shapes to my hats.
My favorite custom silhouette so far was a custom order I received three years ago. The customer wanted a hat that had big orange eyes that almost resembled the eyes you would cut into a Jack-o-Lantern. The finished product was spooky and fun, a hat that watched you as you watched it.
What kind of shapes and patterns would you want on your own custom silhouette hat? Chances are I can make it for you. I'm currently accepting custom orders so if you have an idea that you would like me to breathe into life just visit this page to read more about custom orders and to get in touch.
I've been doing lots of behind-the-scenes stuff this week too. Just yesterday I finished a huge photo-shoot session where we took pictures of three different hats! Keep an eye out for those OOAK hats showing up here and on my website over the next week or two.
This week I was so excited to find out that my work was featured on the front cover of the German felting magazine FilzFun! In honor of that honor I thought I would put up a sneak peek of what you might find in that issue. I'm posting a few (not all) of the interview questions they sent me and my responses.
Question: What was the initial spark [that made you become an artist]?
I have always gravitated towards the fantastical even as a very young child. I can recall how I spent most of my 6th grade study-hall time illustrating a little book I wrote myself about unicorns. It wasn't until I combined my love of fantasy with my developing felting skills that I created my first Witch Hat. When I sold that first hat at a local craft fair I remember being so relieved. This really cool couple bought it and I was thinking "...wow I am so glad somebody bought that really weird hat..." and I almost didn’t make any more because sometimes it takes more courage to be different than most might realize and highlighting a difference can make you feel vulnerable. But asking someone to give you money for being different can touch you down into your deepest ego and leave you the most vulnerable of all.
Question: How does your artistic work influence your life?
My art and my daily life are very intertwined. When my art became my family’s main source of income the amount it influenced my life grew. My art is both a job and a joy, some days it can be overwhelming, but I am so happy that I get to do what I love for a living. Packing hats to be shipped, answering dozens of e-mails from customers, and posting on social media are more the job end of it. I know that without my art I would not be doing fun photoshoots, going on trips to teach felting workshops, or traveling to wool conventions. So my art has shaped my current life greatly!
Question: How do you work? Exact planning or spontaneously?
I might draw a few sketches, but I sit and think about how to craft the envisioned design in a technical way before I make the hat. Once I have walked myself though the process enough times in my mind I begin. At this point I let things become a little more spontaneous. Maybe this color instead of that. I don’t like to go into a new design without a plan but I do allow for moments of spontaneity. In my early felting days there was lots of experimenting! Which means I have a box in my closet filled with projects that didn’t work out. But I have a rule that every person who visits my home studio for the first time gets to choose an item from the box of misfits.
And that's it! I only posted a little bit of the five type-written pages I sent back to them, so this is only a small spoiler. FilzFun publishes in German, but they publish internationally so I think they have an (UK) English version (so go check out their website). The Fall issue is the one that will be featuring my hats, and you'd better believe I will be posting more about it when I get my hands on that issue. See you then!