Tutorials and E-Books

I was trying to think of a topic I hadn’t posted about lately, so had a quick look back at some of my old posts. I came across a couple talking about writing tutorials, but couldn’t decide which one to use as a “Throwback Post”, so thought I’d combine them for a bigger picture, and for those who missed them the first time round! I’ve altered the wording slightly here and there so they fit together better.

In June 2013, I was working on my Polymer Clay tutorial, so I thought I’d do a post about what goes into writing tutorials or e-books. Looking at a really good one, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s pretty much just getting someone to take photos while you go through the stages, or at the most, stopping to take photos if you’re doing it alone. Then just adding some text to the photos in Word. Ah, if only it was that simple  🙂  Sometimes the shorter ones can be straightforward if it all goes well, but even then there is usually lots of photo editing,  cropping, resizing, etc. and rewrites of the text.

So, what does happen? Well we probably all do it a little differently, but usually I start off with a rough idea, a few things jotted down, then write a brief outline of what I want to include.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ll type this out onto Wordpad, then start to give it more definition, separate it into sections then add info about the content I want in each section. I usually do a copy of this new outline with a list of all the photos I need to take for it or sets of photos, then print it out and start on the photos.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ll probably re-print the list quite a few times as I work through it and change my ideas. I like to keep a notebook close by when I take photos because I usually end up with ideas for something else I need to include or an idea that will help make another set work better. Also it’s good to take notes about what you’re doing in the photo and at certain stages because it will help to explain the process more clearly.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEven when I’m not actually working on the tutorial, something will pop into my head, so I usually end up with lots of loose pieces of paper with little notes on. It’s like one idea inspires others and you can’t see how you can leave something out without it seeming incomplete. I thought from the original idea for my Polymer Clay tutorial it would be several pages long and just take a few days to do with careful planning, but by the time I wrote down my outline it was already turning into a mini e-book!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOnce all the photos have been taken, the most laborious part I find, is going through all the photos…deleting blurry ones first then going back and looking through the rest carefully to choose the final ones. And if you’ve ever taken photos of felt or fibre, you’ll know it usually takes a lot of photos to get the one good shot you need 🙂  I then usually make duplicate folders for resizing. It isn’t unusual for me to have 4 duplicate sets all at different sizes.

Photo foldersWhen it comes to the writing, I usually start by simply describing the process, trying not to overthink it, and use the photos to illustrate this. Then I pester anyone and everyone to read it through for me, it’s really good to get the opinion of someone who hasn’t tried what your tutorial is about, they can ask all the questions you need to answer but might have missed. Once the first draft is finished, I’ll probably ask Ann, Ruth and Marilyn from the studio site and Lyn from the forum to read through too, it’s good to make sure it’s understandable to people all over, and that there aren’t any words or phrases that are unfamiliar, even to English speakers. It’s strange the words we take for granted that are often questioned. Once I’m happy with all the words and pictures, I work on the layout. That’s where the duplicate sets of photos come in, if a photo used in the tutorial only needs to be small and doesn’t show any detail, using photos of smaller dimensions and file size can reduce the overall file size of the document and subsequent PDF. The finished ‘tutorial’, ended up as an e-book called ‘Polymer Clay Simply Made

It doesn’t matter how many times I write a tutorial, and many people will understand this, I always massively underestimate how long it will take. Actually, the underestimation probably increases each time as I think it should be easier/quicker having done it so many times! I started writing a new one in March 2017 on how to make one of those soft, wispy, scruffy, colourful pieces of felt everyone seems to love. We make them in about 45 minutes in classes, so I thought I’d just need one day to take all the photos, except my camera battery died after the layout photos. I probably won’t need all 120 photos, but I like to be thorough! This is the photo of the finished layout:

Luckily, it was bright enough the next day to finish off felting and get the rest of the photos done. This is just before it was rolled in a towel and left to dry:

I don’t know about anyone else, but when I take photos for tutorials, I jabber on to myself in my head, giving a running commentary on what I’m doing. I suppose I’m talking to ‘the reader’, so I can make sure all the steps are covered and I don’t miss anything out. This was going really well while I was doing the layout, I’m usually over-cautious (as the 120 photos would suggest) and end up with loads of photos unused. Let’s face it, even a complete beginner doesn’t need to see every step of the wool tops being laid out 🙂 But when I downloaded the photos and looked through, all the photos of adding the embellishments were missing! Where were they? Did I forget to download them and then delete them off the camera? No, because I didn’t download/delete anything until the 2nd day. So where were they? I must have zoned out as some point, wandered off to get a drink or put music on, then got too engrossed in adding all the yarns and shiny fibres because there were no photos between finishing the top layer of wool, and that finished top photo above. Luckily that was all I’d forgotten. Or so I thought! I wanted to show the versatility of the felt pieces and how they can be made into other things, such as the concertina pieces I’ve made into danglie decorative pieces:

So, while I was ‘on a roll’ with the felting, I took photos of the process of how to do that. Here it is all bundled up:

And then how it doesn’t have to become a concertina piece, but a more 3D ‘sculpural’ piece:

But that meant, not only did I not have any photos of adding embellishments, I also didn’t have photos of the finished dried piece! Luckily, I’m used to myself and how gormless and forgetful I am 🙂 And when you don’t have to take 120 photos of the process, doing a layout is really quick and easy, so it wasn’t too time consuming to re-create the piece and take photos of the missing stages.

If you’re interested in any of the tutorials I’ve written, including the ones mentioned here, please have a look at my etsy shop. I also have some larger, more in-depth e-books, Beyond Nuno, and The Right Fibre, which you can find out about by clicking the titles. And just in case there’s anyone who hadn’t noticed, we also have a ‘shop’ section here, and some of my e-books and tutes are listed there too 🙂

Posted in Mixed Media, Tutorials | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Second Quarter Challenge Almost Finished.

I will show you how things have been going with my second quarter challenge piece. If you missed my last instalment it is here. seascape-progress

I finished adding the green for the vegetation.

Next I worked on the flattened serf

First I tried this,

But no, and then this,

I might have been able to make this work by adding something to the edge of the wave but I didn’t like it

And finally I went back to silk throwsters waste. I also broke the water edge up into 3.

Next moved on to the foliage. I added green stitching here and there to give it a more vertical look. It doesn’t show much but does add to it. I added some handspun yellow that a friend Bernadette made up for me on the spur of the moment when I was moaning about not having the right yellow.

After this it was just a matter of adding more stitches. I did add more of the yellow to mingle them more and stop them being a line across the picture.

This is where I am, stitching away and I still need to add a little dark wool between the planks of the path. I had forgotten about that until seeing the pictures. They are more defined in person.

I was going to just keep going with the stitching.   The picture if you recall is quite plain but I was finding it boring, and to uniform in proportion. It needs something else. I wondered about a railing. Not this railing I think, it looks like a Japanese character (badly build temple maybe) or something.

I think I will finished the stitching  even if I add something else. Anyone got another idea? I have seven more days to be finished in time.

 

 

Posted in Challenges, Design, felt art, hand stitching, Needle Felting, Uncategorized, Wet Felting | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments

First Time Felting

Quarto Creates, the book publisher for The Complete Photo Guide to Felting, is taking parts of that book and creating a book for first time felt makers.

The book will be out in the fall of 2019 but you can pre-order it on a variety of online book selling sites such as Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

The emphasis in this book is on needle felting but it does have an introduction to wet felting as well. You can check it out here.

When the book comes out, I will do a give away for all of you lucky readers so look for it in the fall. If you already have my first book, then you will already have all the information that is in this book. But if you are a beginner and would like the basics to start with, this is the book for you!

 

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Selling Your Art Work

2019 has been an interesting year and we are only in June! A few unexpected / unplanned opportunities presented themselves with surprising results (good and bad), so as Surrey Artists’ Open Studios draws to a close this seems like a good time to chat about the pros and cons of trying to make a living from handmade textiles and to reflect on what went well and not so well.

As some of you may know, I gave up the day job 18 months ago to focus on felt-making full time. I knew the first few years would be financially hard so I saved diligently before taking that leap into the unknown. I am really glad I did, it is really tough trying to earn a living from textile art.

Contemporary Textiles Fair

The major benefit of no longer working for an employer is that I can be very flexible and consider opportunities that previously would have required me to sacrifice some of my annual leave allowance. One such opportunity was the Contemporary Textiles Fair in Teddington. This is a well known (in the UK at least), annual event, that generally gets good write ups, this combined with a business mentor encouraging me to take my one-of-a-kind products and bespoke commissions to “high end” fairs meant I was less anxious than perhaps I should have been about covering the £220 stand fee.

While I enjoyed the show, it was incredibly well organised and I met lots of really lovely textile enthusiasts, I didn’t sell enough work to cover the stand fee, and when you factor in the 3 days I spent at the show and the fuel travelling back and forth each day I made quite a substantial loss. Sadly, most of the other artists sharing my aisle reported the same. That said, I know some artists have been attending this event for years and are happy with their sales but I do worry that CTF will not continue for much longer if so few of the exhibitors are making a profit. Perhaps I should adopt the view of the stall-holder opposite my stand, she felt the stand fee was a reasonable price for the exposure / marketing opportunity. Personally I think a magazine advert would be better use of my time and money, what do you think?

The 3x Rule

Personally I use the 3x rule to decide if a show is worth doing again, if my total sales are at least 3x the value of the table / stall fee + travel and accommodation costs (if applicable), I will look to repeat the same event. Those sales should include commissions from people who saw your work but contacted you after the event too.

If my takings are less than 2x the table fee, I have effectively given up all the time I spent making what I sold and the cost of the materials, not to mention the hours spent setting up and manning the event to the organisers for free. That may be acceptable if you are just selling as a hobby but if it is your main source of income, it is utterly unsustainable.

How do you decide if you will repeat a fair or event again? Have you taken part in a show where you had poor sales but still returned the following year? Did you fair any better?

How do you decide which fairs and events to take part in?

Local Exhibitions

In April I entered a piece into a local exhibition, up until now I have always shied away from exhibitions and galleries that charge a significant commission. In part because I worry that if I increase my prices to cover the commission no-one will part with that much money but also because if it doesn’t sell during the exhibition I feel obliged to keep it on sale at the inflated price. Galleries understandably don’t like it if you have similar (or the same piece) for sale in your own shop for half the price that they are charging. This means I will only consider entering pieces into exhibitions that are truly one-of–a-kind. AppART was a good choice for me, the exhibition site is less than 10 miles away and the commission fees were 35% plus a £10 hanging fee.

Tropical Reef by Teri Berry

I entered my Tropical Reef hanging that some of you might recognise from earlier posts, and it sold! 🙂 What’s more, the lady who bought it found me in the Open Studios brochure and paid me a visit, how lovely is that! 🙂

This is one event I will definitely apply to again next year, I am already percolating ideas for felt sculptures to submit.

Working Outside the Box

Sometimes opportunities present themselves where the WIIFM* isn’t immediately obvious or you do something for fun or charity not expecting any reward.

A good example of this is a local art group (Pirbright Art Club) I joined a few months ago, I enjoy painting and drawing and while I don’t think I am good enough to make a living from it (60% of what I paint goes in the recycling or is cut up to make greetings cards) it has become my hobby now my other hobby (felt-making) has become my day job 🙂

When I joined I thought I might make a few friends and pick up some painting tips but was asked if my felt dragons, could be included in a dragon-themed exhibition, I had no idea when I made them that this event was on the cards. How is that for serendipity in action?!

Petunia – the Flowery Sea Dragon
Bunsen – the Flame-throwing Dragon

No sales came from this exhibition but I did gain some more exposure, it was free to enter and Bunsen and Petunia had a fun day out together 🙂

Open Studio Events

I wrote a post on hosting an open studio event last year, I will not repeat the tips from that post but you can read it here if you are interested. This year I tried some new approaches, in particular, studio trails.

This is where a group of artists who live geographically close to each other (the closer the better, walking distance is ideal but not always possible) get together to create a trail map. They then encourage their visitors to visit the other studios on the map, including yours, a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” sort of arrangement.

While the trail worked to some extent, I had about a dozen visitors who said they were following the trail, I think the biggest benefit is from networking with other local artists rather than an increase in visitor numbers. This is already starting to present teaching and exhibition opportunities that I would not have been aware of without my new network of fellow artists.

I offered a few teaching sessions during the days when my studio space was closed to the public, strangely everyone wanted to make a nuno-felted scarf on the same day, I could have filled this class several times over but only had space for 2 students. Sarah and Pene were the quickest to book their spots and both did remarkably well with what is quite an advanced technique, Sarah had never made felt before!

Sarah chose a geometric pattern
Close up of the gorgeous colours in Sarah’s scarf
While Pene was inspired by the jewel-like colours in a Tiffany lampshade

Of course Bunsen and Petunia stole the show, although only one gentleman was brave enough to try Bunsen on while Petunia kept a watchful eye on her friend from the windowsill….

This was only my second year of taking part in Open Studios and it was even more successful this year; this event is definitely going in the diary for next summer!

What is your experience of selling face to face? Do you have any tips to share? How do you choose which fairs and events to take part in?

It’s only 6 months to Christmas…… 😉

*WIIFM – What’s in it for me?

Posted in Uncategorized | 21 Comments

Naturals For A Nature Lover

I wanted to make a piece of felt for one of my friends as a thank you for helping us out recently, he’s into the environment and nature, so I thought a piece using all natural wools and undyed fibres would be something he’d like. I really enjoyed not having to put too much thought into it apart from trying to use as many different fibres as possible. I can’t remember all the wools and fibres, but I definitely used: English 56s; Gotland tops, scoured fleece and raw locks (from Zara-thank you, again!); Brown Finnish, Grey, Brown and White Merino; scoured Shetland; Bluefaced Leicester locks; hemp; flax; soy tops; cotton nepps; silk noil; silk coccon strippings; Tencel; viscose fibre; bamboo fibre and ramie. Here’s the finished piece:

Close up of the top:

Close up of the bottom:

It’s not as textured as some pieces I make, but you can see how it is looking at it from an angle:

This is a close up of some of the flax:

A really nice, shiny Gotland lock with a gingery tip:

Another Gotland lock with some Soy top above and BFL locks at the bottom.

This is the BFL, I bought a bag of washed locks ages ago and forgot all about them until I went looking for something else!

The Tencel looked really shiny against the darker wools:

This is one of my favourite parts, because it has lots of texture, there are Gotland and Bluefaced Leicester locks, flax and hemp, Tencel, and cotton nepps:

Do you  have a favourite combination of wools and fibres? I didn’t get a photo from this piece, but I really like the silk noils and cocoon stripings on the dark brown wools, you often get little holes which look like a tiny bug made them, and the brown shows through the thin parts giving a ‘rusty’ look to it!

Posted in natural wools, Uncategorized, Wet Felting | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments

A tutorial: how to make roving with a drum carder

This week has been hectic. I haven’t had much time to do any felting. I did a little bit of stitching on my seascape, but not enough to show you and a little bit on a set of shoelaces. Mostly I made pasties for the market. They are more popular than we anticipated and we are down to the last few.  This is a few about to go in the freezer. They get bagged once they are frozen.

I thought you might like to see this post from way back at the beginning of our blog journey. This is one of the first posts I did.

After you have carded your wool and it is still on the drum you might like to have it as roving instead of a batt. This will show you how to use a simple diz to do that.  You can make a diz out of almost anything. mine is a piece of plastic cut from the side of a plastic sour cream container, it has a hole in the middle for the wool to come through. you pull a small bit of the carded wool through the hole and turning the drum backwards slide the diz around the drum pulling the wool through in a long rope as you go.  the diz rest directly on the drum. You control the amount of wool in the rope by how fast you slide it across the drum as you go around. If its too hard, you are trying to pull too much wool through the hole.

Ann

Posted in Fiber Preparation, Tutorials, Wool | Tagged , , , , | 19 Comments

2nd Quarter Challenge – Seascape

I have been thinking about what I would do for the Second Quarter Challenge since Lyn posted about it in April. We don’t have seascapes in Montana where I live and I usually base my artwork on the Montana landscapes. Then I found a book to help with my watercolor painting attempts and found a wonderful photo of a watercolor by Zoltan Szabo’s. The book is his “70 Favorite Watercolor Techniques“. I couldn’t find a photo online to share with you of the watercolor painting.

Here’s the wool layout. I used preyarn for the trees and needled felted it a bit in places to tack it down. I then wet felted the piece. I didn’t full it very hard as the plan was to add stitching and hang it on the wall.

Here it as after felting. Now to add some machine stitching.

I used a dark brown thread and free motion machine stitched the smaller branches. I also added some texture to the rest of the tree. I then needle felted the small flower bits for the fireweed in the foreground.

 

I then started adding stitching to complete the flowers. I used a variety of pink threads. In the center photo, you’ll see that I added dark pink stitching and then tried out some prefelt leaves. I then needle felted the leaves in place (right photo) so that I could stitch over top of the prefelt without it shifting around too much.

And here’s the completed piece. The center photo shows the backing I chose for the piece. It is off to the framers to get a black frame.

Thanks for the challenge Lyn and Annie! I enjoyed creating this seascape. Now to come up with a good name. Suggestions?

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Challenges, Free Motion Stitching, Stitching | 11 Comments