Binding of love…

The wedding of a dear friend prompted a collaboration with three others in our women’s circle. One took luminous photos of the ranchland that is the literal grounding force for the newlyweds. The second hand painted a complementary layer of floral and textural patterns in rich metallics and natural hues. The third created a unique essential oil for the couple. My role was to create the book and protective sleeve. When I received the painted photographs, already folded in half, I had no idea what I was going to do. I have never made a book before. But I knew I only had one shot at getting the design right, so I decided to create some mock-ups. My experiments (not pictured) turned out to be crucial in finding the right design solution. A traditional codex binding would put stitching down the center of each painting; Simply gluing the paintings front to back seemed risky and might create warped pages. Searching for ideas in books and on the internet, I happened upon the star fold binding technique. Nested, folded pages in varying lengths are put together to create a book that fans into a star pattern; each painting can open fully without any binding stitches down the center. The added bonus is that the book itself is a sculptural piece.

A traditional codex binding would put stitching down the center of each painting. Simply gluing the paintings front to back seemed risky and would likely create warped pages. Searching for ideas in books and on the internet, I happened upon the star fold binding technique. Nested, folded pages in varying lengths are put together to create a book that fans into a star pattern; each painting can open fully without any binding stitches down the center. The added bonus is that the book itself is a sculptural piece.

Watercolor paper was cut to a size a couple inches longer than the paintings, folded in half, and stitched into a traditional codex. The paintings were then glued to the forward edges of pages. I used museum board and metallic scrapbook paper for the cover and stitched the cover to the pages using copper wire. The heart charms represent the bride, groom, and the bride’s two children from a previous marriage.

For the sleeve, I wet felted natural brown and beige alpaca roving, incorporating a small pouch for the essential oil.

I am so happy with the outcome. It is as uniquely beautiful as the couple who received it.

Woolly jewelry…

Winter is lingering here in Central Oregon. Skies are gray, snow is falling, and temperatures are hovering around 30 degrees. Warm layers and outerwear are still the required clothing, so wool jewelry is a perfect accessory. Using natural, cream-colored alpaca wool roving and yarn, I made a wrist cuff, earrings, rings, and necklace by combining the processes of wet felting, needle felting, and hand stitching. Minimal, modern, and monochromatic – this set of wool jewelry adds a gesture of warmth to the winter wardrobe. Some items are available in my Etsy shop.

Handmade Holidays…


Winter has officially arrived with the first snowfall of the season. It has been a busy few months here on our new property. Observing the seasonal changes of this high desert landscape has been a favorite activity of mine. At least that is my excuse for not posting about all that I have been making recently. I do want to share it all, but I will spread it out so I don’t flood my otherwise quiet blog with too much noise.

The holiday season means a bevy of creativity in my studio. Decorating the house, organizing and filling the Advent calendar, creating a seasonal card, and making ornaments are just a few of the things on my to-do list.

This year, my card is a 3-dimensional construction – a little house. Photos (credit: Eji Eustaquio) adorn each surface of the house which was created using SketchUpPro. I printed the 3-dimensional box pattern on glossy photo paper, then used spray mount to glue it to heavy cardstock. Assembly involves cutting, folding, and gluing each of the boxes by hand, as well as adding a hanger ribbon. Mini candy canes are hidden inside; revealed by lifting the roof flap.

The ornament this year (shown as a prototype) is made from paper and felt; a small Himmeli gem made from rolled magazine paper, with an origami star above, and a felted wool ball and tassel below. The final version will likely use different colors of magazine paper for the Himmeli gem, and glossy or glittery origami paper for the star.

May you find inspiration for your own handmade holidays this season!

A necklace to catch love and optimism…

The dreamcatcher has has become a popular feature in retail displays, home decor, and DIY craft sites. I also created my own version of this Native American handmade object, blogging about it here.

I am inspired by all things handmade, and do not mean to offend by misappropriating sacred symbols. By interpreting the concept and adding my own meaning, the object is transformed into something that reflects the past but is open and inclusive of the present.

This latest felted necklace has been in my Etsy shop for awhile, but I wanted to share the meaning behind it. First of all, it is another example of spontaneous creativity. Little stacks of felt pieces and stainless steel washers sat untouched on my work table for weeks. Frankly, I am bored by production. Making one or two of any one thing is quite enough for me. Making more requires a level of commitment that is more occasional.

So while avoiding making more necklaces, I was making more wet felted wall pockets (among other things.) All scraps and cut edges were saved in a bin. And this is how a new necklace came to be. A combination of the cut scraps from the wall pockets and the washer necklace. The scraps became the fringe. Braids of alpaca yarn were added in between the felted fringe. The final piece reminded me of a dreamcatcher. As a necklace worn near the heart, I like to think of it as a catcher of love and optimism.

Making to Manifest Spring…

The weather is warmer. The days are longer. New buds are showing on the trees. Spring Equinox is upon us. But with nights still near freezing here in Central Oregon, flowers are not quite ready to sprout. So I thought I’d make some felt blooms. It’s my way of manifesting what I hope to see soon outside. Color. Color. Color. And a bounty of sunshine.

I’ll be teaching a felt flower workshop at the end of April. If you are near Bend, Oregon consider joining me in celebrating spring by learning how to make flowers by combining the processes of wet felting and needlefelting. Details can be found on my Workshop page.

Collaborating for a cause…

Collaboration, like solo creation, usually starts with an idea, vision, or concept, that is then altered as the process unfolds. But unlike solo creation, collaboration affords many more opportunities for unexpected outcomes. When collaborating with young children, I like to set parameters for success by limiting color choices, size, and shape. In this class art project for the school auction, each Pre-K student made a circle-ish piece of flat felt using three colors of alpaca roving donated by Flying Dutchman Alpacas. A dinner plate set the size limit as they laid out the layers of roving in one main color. Two other colors of roving were added in the final layer in whatever design they chose.

After the student’s felt pieces were finished, I spent about a week just exploring different wall hanging ideas. I even worked with the children a second time to create felted wool balls that I thought would be a part of the final piece.  My original wall hanging concept just didn’t seem right anymore. Then a conversation with a friend sparked the idea of using leather as a backdrop for the felt.

Although I had never worked with leather before, I was up for the challenge. The leather was generously donated by Maverick Leather, and Warpony Saddlery punch all the holes for stitching, saving me countless hours. Each piece of leather was hand cut in an irregular circle to highlight the raw, organic shape of felt. A hand sewn saddle stitch in artificial sinew creates a contrasting border. Unseen are dozens of holes that I hand punched into each circle of leather so the children could easily hand stitch their felt piece onto the leather using wool yarn and a large eye needle. Their unique, individual stitches add more texture and personality to the wall hanging. Finally, a juniper branch was cleaned and sanded by a friend with all the right power tools.

The culmination was a large, colorful felt and leather wall hanging – a collaborative creation, made with love for the school auction.

Doll Face…

About 8 months ago, I created a set of wet felted nesting dolls; minimal, modern, matryoshka. I always knew I wanted to embroider faces on the dolls, but I kept avoiding the project. Embroidery requires an attention to detail and precision, and I am unpracticed in needlecraft. I was worried I’d mess up and ruin the nesting dolls. Avoidance was easier. The time has now come for me to face the uncertainty and discomfort.

Recently I’ve been giving much thought to what I do and how I do it. Unlike an artist who becomes an expert in a certain medium or method, I have always been a dabbler. Certainly, I have built up enough experience (not expertise) in using various materials and tools that I have developed a comfort in making almost anything; much like a multi-lingual person might feel comfortable learning yet another language. But this experience does not preclude me from occasional insecurities and doubts which boil down to the same basic mantra “I am not good enough.”

Which brings me back to the matryoshka. I didn’t feel I was skilled enough to add the faces. I tried to see them as finished in their minimal, faceless state. But that was just avoidance. They needed personality and detail. So I thought about those times when I feel successful working with unfamiliar materials or methods. And it occurred to me that the key is to “pay attention.” Amazing things can happen when you give all of your attention to one thing; focus in and let all else fall away. The skill you thought you lacked may blossom when you spend the time to look and act with care. So I took the blank felt dolls off the shelf and researched embroidery stitches on the internet. With a pencil, I lightly sketched the faces on each doll, and then just started stitching; slowly, carefully, trying to keep stitches as even as possible. And by simply allowing myself the time and space to pay attention to my work, I was able to create personalities for the matryoshka.

I encourage anyone who feels “I’m not creative” to think about those times when you make the time and space to pay attention. Our best creative thinking and doing occur at those times. I posit that creativity is less about the skill and more about the attention. My own making is proof of that.

 

Reversible felted necklaces…


  
  

These modern felted necklaces are an experiment in simplicity and purity of shape. The circle is symbolic of renewal and regeneration and continuity. In my creative work, I am focused on trying to create closed loop products; locally sourced, renewable, recyclable, reusable. These necklaces use locally sourced alpaca wool roving, natural deerskin lacing, and recyclable steel washers.

Inspired by the DIY necklaces found in Urban Scandinavian Sewing by Kirstyn Cogan, these necklaces are relatively simple to make. Working with circles in various sizes, materials and colors creates a near infinite number of combinations. Using handmade wet felted sheets cut into circles of various sizes, I created layered combinations. using the opposite colors on either side. The edges are hand stitched with a blanket stitch, and a washer reinforces the hole for threading the deerskin lacing. I searched for used washers with a naturally aged patina but was unable to find any. I also think it would be interesting to use heavy jewelry wire hammered into a spiral as an alternative to the standard hardware store washer.

Why not make your own version of this necklace? A simpler alternative would be to use store-bought felt which comes in all sorts of colors. Since the typical polyester felt is quite thin, I suggest gluing two layers together so each circle is thick enough to hold its shape. It makes a perfect handmade gift.

A wall pocket for an air plant…

 


Every air plant (Tillandsia) deserves a cozy felted wall pocket. This integral piece is wet felted by hand using a variety of natural brown to black alpaca roving from Flying Dutchman Alpacas here in Bend, OR. The pocket interior reveals a surprise of light cream felt, which blended with the dark roving during the felting process to make the pocket lighter than the background mat. A few of these wall pockets are available in my Etsy store.