Sarafina Fiber Art

Sarafina Fiber Art

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Sharing - Walking the Thin Line

"The meaning of life is to
find your gift.
The purpose of life is to
give it away."
- Pablo Picasso 

As a painter I had a pretty close knit support group.  We were artist friends (still are) who talked shop, and technique.  We would share insights into the professional world of painting and selling.  I highly valued the camaraderie and owe part of my success to it.  Sharing painting war stories and triumphs always inspired me, taught me, and cautioned me.  Our sharing nurtured a collective creativity.

When I began needle felting in 2008, I had no idea the craft would become my profession.  My first critters were as you would expect, sort of loosely felted, not particularly well crafted, and more color blocked than color blended.  I don't even have good pictures of them.  All I knew was that felting was fun.  (Looking at these pics I realize I seem to have been incapable of felting eyes - most are blind!)

By 2010, I got better and opened my etsy shop.  Even that short time ago there were far fewer needle felters on etsy.  Still, I was lucky to be quickly recognized and generate sales. 

I felt very competitive with the other felters making animals.  Partly because I had never met them in person (the internet bubble), partly because I was determined to get better and continue to stay, if not on top, towards the top, and because this had become my livelihood. 

The only way that I could excel was perseverance and practice.  I did not have books or take classes.  I started with one kit and may have watched a few of Felt Alive's videos.  I messed up and tried again.  I used what supplies I could find and scoured resources to find better.  I experimented with armatures.  I collected fibers.  I holed up in my Hobbit like work space under the eves on my third floor and felted away, learning with every sculpture.  This is also the way I learned to paint, first with watercolors ( I had the help of my Dad), then oils (BIG learning curve there), then pastels, and clay to bronze.  I just did it without worrying whether I could or not.

I'm not explaining this to toot my horn; it's just always been the way I have grown as an artist.  And, my point is, I don't want to freely share what I know because I have worked so hard to obtain it.  But this contradicts my generous spirit and the notion that there is room for everyone to succeed.

So, many workshops, instructional videos, and internet correspondences later, I still find myself walking that line.  I am openly sharing the methods that I have developed and the techniques that I use but, admittedly, with business goals behind it and only after I feel I have explored it's full potential..

Recently I have been asked how I made the gorilla's face pose-able.  My lips clamped.  I wasn't ready to share.  I respectfully (I hope) declined.   I have so much I want to explore with this idea, so much yet to develop, before I hand it out. 

The artist in me wants to give freely, the entrepreneur knows better. 

I have boiled the thin line down to this...   Forge bravely ahead in your art.  Enjoy the process of discovery.  Do not rely too heavily on others because you limit your innovation, but pursue camaraderie among your peers.  Be as generous as possible without being stupid.


  1. Well and eloquently put. Thank you for sharing, Lee

  2. Up lifting; insightful; inspirational. And at five in the morning no less! thanks


  3. I appreciated insight into your practice and respect the fact that you have learned skills that have value, and as such, are not to be expected for free. Best of luck to you on your journey as an artist!

  4. You already freely give more than any other artist that I know of!

    You do need to take care of yourself too.

    Thank you for all that you share!

  5. The magician never reveals all. .. you have inspired me sara to try a wonderful new craft and shall enjoy experimenting. all its wooliness . even if the beasts end up looking like road kill ;-)... I'm giving it a bash

  6. I echo all the above comments. Thank you Sara for your generosity of spirit in sharing this wonderful insight and your exceptiona gift.

  7. Sara yesterday I came across your youtube tutorials and I couldn't stop watching. I actually fell asleep in my chair watching them because I had been at it for hours and hours. I just ordered your fox so I can try this wonderful art. Thank you for your insight and I hope that you keep up with the tutorials. I would love to get good enough to be able to make a representation of my two cats.
    You really inspire a person to get off her duff and try something new.
    Thank you, Judy

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