Tag Archives: learning

Stitch Yourself into an Expert

So, I’ve been working on lots of new or re-visited things lately. I’ve been feeling like wanting to do something new and creative and have a few things that are sitting in a position of almost ready to launch but I am still deciding what to do, and when. Meanwhile I am still spinning fun yarns and going down a bit of a rabbit hole with sewing. I decided that being the new parent of a toddler requires a bit of time to oneself sometimes. So, I am going to take little workshops and classes from time to time so I can get some focused creative time. I started a few months ago taking a sewing boot camp class at Black Orchid Designs and it’s been a nice wake up call to get reacquainted with sewing and sewing machines. I’ve already made a fun pillow and I’m working on a dress for myself that I hope to finish this weekend. At home I have pulled out my sewing machine and read the manual and we are getting reacquainted as I turn my baby quilt project into reality. I decided some time ago to save all of Bee’s little sleepers and make a quilt out of them. It’s quite meditative cutting out the squares for this project.

I’m doing a simple patchwork design that I might add some interest to when I quilt the top layer. These cute little patterns are full of so many memories. I feel like I remember lots of places she went, and all sorts of milestones where I can still see her wearing these pajamas.

I’ve been trying to spread around my creative pursuits a bit and get into things that are not necessarily a part of what I do for Studioloo, but just fun in general. I’ve also been thinking on the concept of business vs. pleasure in the arts and in creative expression and also about how to be a professional with your skills. It got me to thinking about back when I first learned to spin. My skills were still quite new and had a lot of room to get better. I was spinning yarns I liked, but in smaller amounts, and with simpler techniques. I was not confident enough for some time to get started selling my yarns. I decided for about a year to just spin and use my yarns in my freeform crochet, as at the time that’s kind of why I started. I had been looking for yarn that was interesting enough to make really one-of-a-kind hats. That’s the very reason I started researching about making yarn. Then I just fell in love with it.

The point I am getting at is that there is value to learning your craft really well, and finding your style before you start to market yourself, or your craft. I look back at all that I have learned about spinning art yarns and I know that what I produce today is far better than what I produced 15 or more years ago. It’s hard to imagine how long I have been on this journey, and still that I love this yarn. The worst thing you will do as an artisan with the intention to sell your wares is to sell something that is not up to your quality standards. People will buy from you, but if they have issues they will not be return customers, and they might even leave bad reviews about you online that are hard to resolve. That’s a topic for another time — the whole anxiety of being perfect, making mistakes, not being able to afford mistakes, and customer service, etc. It’s a big topic.  My point is – love what you do enough to make sure that you make that ‘made with love’ really apparent to your customers. Learn your craft. Never get too comfortable in your expertise and keep learning!

Some of my tips about spinning art yarns successfully would likely be:

  • Anchor your coils and complex techniques with a strong ply so that they don’t fall out if the yarn is cut.
  • Make sure your yarns have tensile strength – don’t sell yarns that have fibres that fall apart of float away.
  • Don’t ply with sewing threads or other weak, easy to snap, yarns or threads. This makes your yarn an easy candidate for snapping.
  • Knit / crochet / weave with your own yarn – it’s your best way to learn how to use it and troubleshoot/advise on questions like ‘what do I do when I get to this flower add-in?’
  • If you can, produce a simple pattern to be used with your yarn. Art yarns are incredible and usually require only a simple stitch to be an amazing finished project. They are often bulkier so you can produce samples quickly. (I need to follow my own voice here – I do make samples but often they sell. I don’t like to keep things around too long.) Get someone else to test knit your pattern.

In other life events, we were lucky enough to visit the AGO and see Yayoi Kusama’s ‘Infinity Mirrors’ exhibit. We had a lot of fun and it was great to wear polka-dots and dress up Bee in a polka-dot dress.

And we went to the Creativ Festival and I  might have been bamboozled into some fabric stash enhancement.

I will sign off by sharing my contribution for the #artvsartist hashtag on Instagram. 8 pictures of your work and a picture of the artist.

Ebbs and Flows of Felt

It has been a very eventful week, full of memories, perspectives and lessons. For some time I have been emotionally preparing for good things, and bad things. A very dear friend of mine, Sue, had been in the hospital fighting the return of breast cancer after a stroke, and the onset of lung cancer and pneumonia. It has been a couple months of reflecting on life and taking in how much I am learning in my thirties. Mostly I am learning to love, and to listen. I do a lot in my life, and often I feel like the world can be hungry to know everything about me, but I have reached a time where I kind of want to be quiet, do what I do, and not worry about the repercussions of being less available. So much time is spent on things that promote our lives, that we often lose a lot of time to live them. I don’t want to do that anymore. I am still trying to shape what that means for me, as a person, an artist and a small business owner.
Life events seem to happen in waves, and I was fortunate enough to get to spend some time at a felting workshop with Marjolein Dallinga of http://www.bloomfelt.com this week. I have taken a felting working with her before, a couple of years ago, and I found her to be a breath of fresh air, with a lot of great advice, methodology and inspiration. She shares her work, herself, and her space with you and brings a wash of relaxation and makes you want to think differently. As you massage wool into sculptural forms, you reflect and think about a lot of things. I have been doing just that this week …unplugging as such. I was thinking about my friend Sue, her family…my dear friends, and how their lives will change. She passed away on Wednesday surrounded by her family. I thought about our time together, and how I last saw her only a couple weeks ago. She was in pain but lit up so much when I visited. She was able to talk some, and understand me. She was able to express frustration with the speech recovery being so slow, and the pain she felt. I held her hand and felt very connected and tried to show her how much I love her. I have great memories of laughs, and sweet things we have said to one another. I will always treasure what she gave me in life. She was a funny, bright, chipper woman, with a lot of love and pride in those around her. She was a gift.
As I thought of this, I felted….carefully massaging layers of fine merino wool, tossing it around, rolling it in my hands, forming it. I listened to the different questions other felters asked Marjolein, and how she answered with rules, grace and patience. She has a way of guiding people to do the right thing for themselves, if they are open to it. She teaches you not to be obsessed with the product, but instead to celebrate the process. I love the process, but running a business can often lead you to worry too much about the product. Marjolein assigned us to use colours we didn’t like, that we would not normally choose. She pleaded that we not take pictures during the workshop, which I love, because it keeps the space and time very sacred to those in the room. She asked everyone to be quiet, focus on the work, and she battled the distractions around us. It was the time I needed to get through these things I have been feeling – worrying about a difficult client at my work, worrying about Sue and her family, worrying about my family, and my show schedule. One of the women attending the workshop had been talking about her blog, and asked Marjolein if she was on Facebook. Marjolein responded that she wasn’t and that she was ‘old fashioned’ and didn’t really spend much time on the internet. She told us about another artist she worked with who said that she spent 20% of her time on her art, and 80% of her time online, promoting her art – Facebook, Twitter, website updates, shop maintenance, newsletters, photography, image editing, uploading, networking……as it was discussed, it make me feel kind of nauseous…thinking about how much time I spend doing this stuff, and how it is far from enough for me to be in the top yarn spinners or ‘random artist description’ group. I have been at this for almost 12 years now, and I do well at it….but it is changing, as I am.
I know I may be quoting Marjolein way too much in this post, but she said a lot of things I needed to listen to, things I have been thinking about, seemingly at the time I really need to hear them. As she showed us a slideshow of her work, she talked about getting accepted into a prestigious show one year, but then the next year, not getting in. She then gave a really good analogy of how art careers, or pursuits sort of move in a figure 8, or an S-curve. When you go up, you have to go down a bit, only to go up ahead, or perhaps down, but then back up. This is about popularity, notoriety, success but can have so many factors – trends, judges, luck, etc. It’s something to think about. You are allowed to take a break, then come back strong, then take a break – have a child, change careers, go to school, work on your health, breathe.
I may not be a frequent blogger, but know that I love my work, and that I will always continue it – there may be times I am really active, but then other times where I really need to travel, smell the ocean, get lost in the woods or knit something for myself. There are days all I want to do is roll around on the floor with my dogs and have a crush on my husband.
If you ever have the opportunity, I definitely recommend a workshop with Marjolein – she’s a wee bit of amazing wrapped in soul food – http://www.bloomfelt.com/
I will end with something I have been reading more since this workshop – the knowledge of Mongolian felt making, a blessing – http://feltnomadic.com/a-traditional-mongol-felt-blessing/