As a maker, you would think that I never buy commercial Valentine cards. In a perfect world, I would make all holiday and event gifts, cards, and decor by hand. Now just imagine that. Not happening. I buy things like most everyone else, and for the same reasons. Time, resources, personal tastes, etc. So this year I bought Valentines with cute erasers for my 6yr old to give to her classmates. And then I felt guilty. How many cards are actually saved? What is the real lasting value? I bet all of these end up in the trash or recycle bin. In our home, we have amassed quite a collection of (unused) erasers and pencils from every holiday and birthday. Too much stuff.
So I returned the Valentines and erasers to the store, then sat down with my daughters to create special hand made hearts using supplies we already had at home.
The first is a transparent heart filled with glitter and iridescent paper hearts inscribed with sweet phrases. The plastic for the heart was cut from packaging for a bed linen set. We used a sewing machine to stitch the edge in pink thread, but handstitching would be extra special.
Next, we made a 3D heart ornament using a hot pink paper that we had collected from a recycling bin. Using a paper punch, we cut 14 hearts, folded them in half, and glued them together. We added the ribbon before gluing the final sides.
Finally we cut up an old, dark pink, wool sweater that we first felted by washing and drying hot. Felted wool can be cut without unraveling. We used a sewing machine to stitch around the edge with pink thread, filling the heart with polyester fill that we had saved from an old stuffed animal. “Love” was handstitched onto the heart with cream wool yarn.
I can never assume that these handmade Valentines will be saved or cherished any longer than a storebought one. But I’m OK with that since the resources we used were either on-hand, or upcycled. The real value is the experience of making them and giving them away. That is a lasting, joyful memory.
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.
I first came across the art of spirit dolls as a child, using corn husks, bits of fabric, yarn, and beads to create a spirit of the fall harvest. Spirit Dolls can be elaborate works of art, imbued with intention and inspiration of the maker. They are made as expressions of Peace, Hope, Healing, Wisdom, Mother Earth, the Wild Woman, a Goddess, a particular ancestor, etc. Created intuitively using found materials, these Spirit Dolls can serve as messengers to us, from ourselves about a quality or virtue we would like to increase or explore.
I gathered aspen twigs from around my home, took a nature walk with my 5 year old to collect seeds, leaves and other interesting bits, and gathered other various materials from my craft bins. Most challenging for me was sculpting the face out of clay, inspired by the terra cotta faces made by artist Lyn Belisle. I wanted my spirit’s face to express a calm happiness, but I am not experienced with sculpting, so I struggled to get the expression and proportions to be ‘good enough.’ Although not perfect (as most of my making is beautifully flawed) my Golden Light Fire Spirit is a work of art. She reminds me to stay alert to the creative spirit and joy – that bright light – within myself.
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.
Part of my creative process is being witness to everything around me. Being witness means looking and listening with care and attention, moving slowly, noticing as much as possible. Colors are more vivid; objects have more texture and detail; light and shadow are in strong contrast. Being witness always leads me to new creative ideas and inspiration.
While walking along a creek in the Sierra Mountains, I came across two perfect branch pieces – one became a walking stick and the other a talking stick. Aside from removing some remnants of bark, both sticks were left natural. I simply used hemp twine to create a wrapped handhold on each and added a pair of tassels as a minimal decoration.
Last month I was fortunate to be invited to lead a craft at Soulodge Fire Circle Retreat; my very first solo retreat; first time away from my little family; first time giving permission to myself to reset, renew, and reconnect. The retreat gathers women interested in earth medicine, so I conceived a simple wet felted medicine pouch, adorned with a slender, wire-wrapped piece of kyanite and hung from adjustable deerskin lacing. Instead of using a more conventional plastic resist to create the pouch, I chose palm-sized river rocks. I wanted the felting process to be as pure and natural as possible – as if we had gathered all the materials on the land. Each woman wrapped her chosen rock in natural alpaca roving and then knelt over a large metal tub filled with hot soapy water to wet, soap, and rub the wool until it was felted tightly around the rock. Cutting a small hole at one end, the rock was then pushed out – sometimes with great effort and humorous analogies to giving birth. The open pouch was then wet, soaped, and rubbed again to complete the felting process. After rinsing, squeeze drying, and hand shaping the pouch, the stone adornment and lacing was added. A slender kyanite stone was wire-wrapped onto the center of the deerskin lacing, which was threaded through two sets of holes punched through both sides of the pouch. The lacing was then secured with two slip knots for adjustability. For anyone who was not able to make a medicine pouch at Soulodge Fire Circle, I’ve made a few felted ones and posted them for sale on Etsy.
After making several of these felted mats with integral bowls (I can’t come up with a name that isn’t just a description), I was inspired to make a similar design as a wall hanging. Although I meant for the bowl to be more of a pocket, it is tilted upwards just enough to be able to hold moss and an air plant. The piece is secured to the wall using simple thumbtacks that are covered with leftover felt. I will keep making these and playing with the bowl shape and angle. I envision a whole grid of them on a wall in varying natural alpaca colors.
Back to the name dilemma. What would you call this piece? Maybe just a real name, like Susan? Or a made up name like cars models – The AVRA. Anyway, I will consider any and all suggestions. In the meantime, this item is for sale on Etsy
This set of handmade trivets was wet felted from a blend of natural merino and alpaca wool roving. 1/8” thick mats were cut into 10” and 8” squares. The remnant cut edges were then needle felted onto the squares to create a minimal vertical appliqué. Aside from the functional (and obvious) use as a trivet, I can imagine a whole wall covered in a grid of these minimalist felted squares. Like warm, textural wallpaper. Or more simply, they could be applied to a square piece of homosote and used as a pin-up board. I could also sew them into a quilt or create six quilted panels that are then sewn into a modern cube pouf. Lots of ideas and probably not enough time or focus for me to realize all of them.
For a little income this summer, my 10 yr old daughter chose to make and sell handmade giant bubble wands and homemade giant bubble juice at a local music festival. So of course I excitedly helped with research, design, and graphics. What a fun alternative to the usual lemonade stand. Even my 4 year had great success making giant bubbles with the homemade juice.