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!
It was too short notice for me to attend as an artist but the people running the event were nice enough to give me two free tickets. They hoped I would come by and check it out and consider signing up for next year. So I packed up my Grumpy Husband and made the trip to Louisville this past week to attend. I'll spoil the end of the story for you right now though. I don't plan to attend again in the future (as patron or artist) unless they make some important changes. Here are some of my experiences and the biggest problems I had with this event...
It was impossible to actually talk to any of the artists.
We arrived just when the doors opened, and about ten minutes later the live music began. I'm not really a fan of loud music to begin with, so maybe that colored my experiences, but this music was so loud that I couldn't hear my husband shouting right next to me. More than half the artists were also set up right around the stage where the musicians were. I tried to talk to a few of them. Some of them had some really beautiful and unique items that I wanted to learn more about. But we could do little more than smile and gesture towards each other. Our voices just couldn't compete with the music.
It was difficult to actually move through the venue.
This event took place in a performance space with a stage in the middle and couches everywhere instead of traditional seating. There was also a big balcony section circling above with more couches and space for artists to set up tables. While it might be fun to sit on a sofa and enjoy a performance (I appreciate the more informal vibe) it was actually really difficult to move from one artist to the next. The venue was not designed for this kind of movement, so there was only enough room between the artists and the walls and sofas for a couple of people to pass each other. If I stopped in front of an artist's table I literally stopped the flow of traffic because no one would be able to get around me. All I could do was walk around and around past the tables, taking a few moments to gesticulate at the artists I liked best.
The general mood of the artists and patrons was pretty low.
I only stayed for about 45 minutes so maybe things changed after I left, but for the most part everyone I saw around me seemed to be uncomfortable and unhappy to be there. The artists only smiled if you made direct eye contact, and even then many of them could only manage a weak grin. They seemed disengaged and overwhelmed, staring off into space, sitting behind their art instead of beside it, frowning when they thought no one was looking, and otherwise just shuffling around. The patrons, those people who came there ostensibly to shop and make connections with artists, all sat on sofas that were distant from the artists themselves. Many of them looked bored and disinterested. They couldn't even talk to each other because the music was too loud for any of them to comfortably communicate.
As an artist I would love more places to show off my work, make connections, and maybe even drum up some sales. I especially like the idea of a showcase that is different than the norm, something that is more intense and more engaging for the people who go. I think that is what RAW wanted to be that evening in Louisville. But instead the whole thing felt more like they were checking boxes rather than trying to actually figure out what works and what doesn’t, or how they can actually make the artists feel more like the center of attention rather than sideshows on the way to the bar.
Finally, I know that RAW also has allot of controversy surrounding it. There are many people who accuse them of scamming artists and putting on "vanity shows." I'm not going to speak to that directly. I'm not here to rant. But if you are an artist considering participating in a RAW event in your neighborhood I would suggest doing a Google search or two before you sign up. Read what other people are saying. Take their advice seriously and make sure you know exactly what you are getting in to and how you can use it to boost your exposure. Without that solid game plan it is easy for events like RAW to swallow you whole.
Way back in the year of 2017, which in reality was not too long ago, my art was featured in its own exhibit in the lovely town of Berea, Kentucky. It was such a huge milestone for me to be able to display so many different facets of my art in one place and to show the real dynamics and extent of my portfolio as a felt artist.
I hope that, in part, while watching this video, you all get to see a side of my art that maybe you didn't even know about before! Not only do I have hat making under my belt, so to speak, but the world of felt art is truly endlessly! Scarves, décor, fashion, everyday accessories, and the list doesn't end there! I have experience in turning wool into so many fun, interesting, and beautiful things and that's why I am so excited to share this video with you--as kind of a sneak peek of all the things you too are capable of achieving!
My character was a Lady Milliner who had "time traveled" back to the 1200's of Scotland to show all the Scots the proper way to make a top hat. I got to show-off my black felted top hat and that was fun.
This past weekend I attended the Lexington Comic & Toy Con, a great mid-sized convention right in the heart of Kentucky. I have managed to go to the con for the last two years but this was my first time going in a full cosplay costume. I decided to build a more adventurous steampunk outfit than my Victorian-styled steampunk costume (that you can see here). The centerpiece to the entire thing was my black steampunk top hat which fit together perfectly with my black-and-white costume.
Part 1: Getting Ready
I spent months gathering up all the pieces of this costume and matching them to the hat and the overall theme of elegant adventure that I was going for. My belt in particular was something I was proud of because I had built it myself from all kinds of bits & bobs, rivets & cogs. But right at the beginning of a photo shoot, only a few days before the convention, the belt buckle completely shattered. There was no way to replace it that close to the convention date and I began to worry that I would have to switch costumes or even skip the costume altogether for another year.
It just so happened though that some of my family was visiting on the same weekend as the con and they brought with them a big jar of buttons and other little things. After digging around in the jar for a while I found the two halves of an interesting vintage belt clip. It was maroon colored and did not match the belt at all though so I had to figure out how to paint the clip in metallic colors and then add a patina-like coloring to age the clip so it would match the whole costume. In the end I learned a new skill, repaired the belt, and saved the costume! It was wonderful serendipity that relatives from across the country would drop a new belt clip right in my lap only a day after the original was lost and just in time for the con.
Part 2: At the Con
In just the couple of years since I started attending this convention it has grown quite large. This year I was able to spend awhile talking to several other crafters who attended and ran their own booths. My first time at the con there was only one steampunk vendor, but this year there were at least four, as well as a corset maker, a wigmaker, a cat-ear vendor, and many other handmade cosplay accessories. I could have spent the whole day just getting to know each crafter vendor and looking through all the wonderful things they brought with them!
As the name of the convention implies there were also several dozen toy vendors at this convention. My favorite toys are the original first-generation My Little Ponies which I collected a ton of as a girl, and I still collect them when I can. There were not too many ponies to be seen but it was still fun to dig through the bins and peak through the boxes hoping for a pony treasure trove.
There were several other people at the con also dressed in costumes that I bumped into. One of the first costumes I saw was a Rose Quartz cosplay from the TV show Steven Universe (a favorite of Grumpy Husband). There was someone dressed as Bumblebee from the Transformers movies as well as a blow-up Stay Puft Marshmallow Man who attends every year. There were also many Deadpool sightings as well as a fleet of Dr. Whos and Harry Potters (and friends). And as always the 501st are not to be missed.
Part 3: Ending the Day
The last day of the convention just a few minutes before closing time I was looking around for one last interesting photo to take before I called it quits and headed home myself. It just so happened that outside of the main convention hall there was a group who made life-sized and life-like Proton Packs and as the convention was winding down they were offering a few last-minute photo ops for a small donation (all proceeds to be given to a children's hospital). It was a perfect opportunity!
The Proton Pack was bigger than I first thought it would be but it actually really matched my adventurous steampunk costume. With Grumpy Husband taking as many candid photos as his cellphone would allow I did my best to smile, pose, and never cross the beams. The perfect end to another fun convention in Lexington. I can't wait until 2017! I wonder what costume I will wear next year?