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.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Hoarder or Prepared?

Sometimes, when I watch "Hoarders" I think, "I am only one tragedy away from becoming a hoarder."  I am saved by the fact that I enjoy a purge almost as much as a binge.   Most creative people hoard.   I am making the declaration pretty confidently without exhaustive studies.  

One of my sisters hoards beads, the other fabric.  One of my friends, a spinner, covets every fiber producing animal she sees; lets just say she has as many as she can handle.  My Father is currently trying to whittle down his collection of art supplies which fills a 1200 square foot studio top to bottom side to side and in the middle.  ( I haven't decided yet if I am saved or cursed that he lives so far away that I can't easily take his crap off his hands and make it my own crap.)

Studio 5 - William Ferrar Renzulli
We see the possibility in everything.  We are artistic McGuivers, delighting in finding the perfect bobble in our stash to execute the creative urge that is pulsing at the moment.

Here is a current list of things that, once seen, must become a part of my pile (and this is just the 'work' related stuff.):

Wool and fibers - any and all - I will find a way to use it

Wool Sweaters and Tweeds - sorry Goodwill shoppers, but I have taken it all

Birds' nests - little miracles of construction

Feathers - also little miracles and useful in my animal sculptures

Random pieces of nature - interesting stones, sticks, stumps, gourds, roots, fungi, lichen, moss

Wooden Crates and Baskets - pretty AND useful!  I mean, you need something to hold all the stuff!

Miniatures and Props - if I come across something that one of my sculptures, present or future, can hold, sit on, consume, play, cook with, wear, look at, sit next to, be surrounded by, and/or climb, it comes to live on my shelf with the other props waiting to become a part of some genius creative vision

We have not even tackled the subject of whether or not you are an organized (anal retentive or OCD) hoarder or, more like me, a content-to-throw-it-in-the-most-convenient-place hoarder.  Let's save that discussion for next time.

Remember, you can't implement it, if you don't have it! ; )

(BTW - the only reason my hoard looks as beautifully organized as it is, is because I now have Kyla, a.k.a. Everything in Its Place, helping at Sarafina.) 


Friday, September 6, 2013

The Truth About Needle Felting

I have a pet peeve.  It bugs me when artists describe their work as "painstaking" and then proceed to elaborate on the amount of time, or stabs, or difficulty that is involved in their work.

Do they want us to feel sorry for them?  Are they trying to justify an out of kilter price tag?  Or do they really truly feel burdened by their creativity?  Maybe it's the first and/or second reason but I can't believe it could be the third.

Needle felting is fun.  No matter how many stabs it takes, every single poke is a split second of affirmation and achievement.  Further more, aside from the mis-stab that hurts your finger, even the bad stabs can be easily fixed. 

The process of stabbing the wool is rewarding but we have the additional enjoyment of our fibers.  (Imagine me here tossing lovely locks in the air with abandon and running through a field of bunny angora.)  At the risk of sounding like a looney, I am convinced that working with natural fibers is healing.  I even keep locks in my car to settle me when I feel my anxieties creeping in.

And, if you can believe it, there's more!  When you have finished your project, you have something to enjoy, or sell, or give as a gift.  It's all good.

No wonder the craft is spreading like wild fire.  It's affordable, easy to get started, and instantly rewarding.  And I believe those who are trying it are falling in love and will 'stick' with it - so to speak. 

So quit your whining felting artists!  I know the truth about needle felting and the rest of the world (or at least the 10 people who follow my blog) will now know too!

Happy felting.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Growth and Gorillas

My sister (I forget which one) once said, "Blogs are like diets... you announce your blog to the world with the best intentions and then directly fall off the wagon."  I  wish a could maintain my blog more regularly because I really do enjoy both writing and sharing.

So in the spirit of jumping back on the blog wagon here I am.

I would like to introduce you to Kyla DeStefano.  We met at the end of the school year when my son, Max, attended her son, Andrew's, birthday party.  He came home with a dvd video of skits that they had performed that day.  I thought, "Who is this woman that can have 8 kids in her house, provide all expected birthday traditions, shoot a video, and then edit and prepare dvds for them to take home in 2 hours!?" She was the answer to my prayers, Kyla, mother of two boys, self taught videographer and self proclaimed anal retentive.  She can now add "entrepreneur" to her resume as she is helping build Sarafina Fiber Art.  Kyla is the yin to my yang.  Where I am mostly circular thought and ideas she thrives with columns and action.
Kyla and Finley

With Kyla's help Sarafina has a new energy and potential for growth.  We are working really hard to bring the best felting supplies to you as well as needle felted sculptures.

Today, while I fussed over finishing my gorilla and giving him a proper photoshoot, Kyla whipped around the workspace cleaning, stacking, organizing, sorting, and planning.  I cannot tell you how amazing it feels to have a second heart and mind invested in Sarafina.

Which brings me to my gorilla. 

 People often ask me, "Is it hard to let go and sell your things."  I usually say no.  But this guy has been my companion all summer as it has taken me that long to make him. And he has a way of looking at me as if he wants to be animated and included.  It will be hard to let him go no matter how flattered I am that someone might want to buy him.

Well, I hope this is the beginning of renewed attention to my blog.... at least for a little while.