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Making a raven (and the mistakes in the process)

Making a raven (and the mistakes in the process)

Around December of last year, I was asked by a friend and customer to make a life size sculpture of a raven. I’d never done one before, so it was an exciting challenge to accept.

My husband, a professional painter and sculptor, helped me create a template. I then created the core with needle felting foam rectangles, which I cut and glued to size. I then covered the foam with wool.

Feathers were another challenge for me, I researched quite a bit online to see how other people were making them and tried a technique whereby you add wool top to fusible interfacing, add a wire in the middle and steam iron everything together, but the interfacing was just too white and showed through. Sorry I don’t have any pictures of these, they would have looked very nice in a differently coloured bird. This part stumped me and took ages to resolve.

I left the feathers conundrum to simmer in the back of my head and moved to raven feet. I made mine out of wire that I covered with pipe cleaners and then wool.

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Although the feet looked nice enough, they were not too lifelike. As it turns out, the wire was also not too sturdy for something this big, since it became clear it was too soft to hold the raven’s body at the angle I wanted. The poor thing stood too much like a duck!

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It became clear I needed to replace the feet, so I did some surgery: I cut the original wire out, then added a sturdier one and repaired the cut site with more wool and felting. I had an idea to use polymer clay on the feet at first because I thought it would look more lifelike but it was an absolute fail: clay, once hardened, has obviously no yield and therefore can’t be posed, which can be a problem depending on the surface you’re placing your sculpted animal on. Back to wool it was.

Enter a magic technique I had never tried before: wax.
Adding wax to wool makes it look less like fibre and more like a proper part of animal anatomy. See below:

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You can see by one of the pictures above that I got the feathers to work eventually. After much musing I cut felt sheets to size and put the sewing machine to work to add the central stem you normally see in real feathers. Some of them still had wire in them for structure.

Because I really love how the feet looked after adding the wax, I couldn’t wait to play with this new-to-me material on another part of the corvid: the eyelids.

Here’s an image of my raven without eyelids. The poor thing looks too startled and weird to be real.

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Now behold, with eyelids!

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What a difference. I wonder how I made it without using wax on sculptures this long.

After making more longer feathers for the tail, my corvid was ready to be unveiled. Photographing black wool is notoriously difficult so I apologise for not having more professional-looking pictures to show, but I believe these show you the end result well enough.

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This chap has been named Huginn (old Norwegian for “thought”) after one of Odin’s ravens. I think it suits him.

I felt sorry to send Huginn to his forever home. After spending so much time (5 months!) working on him on and off, I really built a connection with this character. I’m glad he’s receiving much love and will even have a custom-built dome to keep him protected against the elements…

Let me know what you think of him in the comments, and if you’ve any questions about the making process I’ll do my best to answer them. Thanks for reading.

Ten Ideas for Increasing Your Felting Creativity

Ten Ideas for Increasing Your Felting Creativity

Do you generally work in the same way every time you create a piece? Do you feel like you’re in a rut and need to change up your routine? Here’s a list of 10 ways that might get you jump started and moving creatively in a different direction. Put on your experimenting hat and try something new. These suggestions are geared towards felting but you can adapt these ideas to almost any type of art. I have used a variety of photos from our library and not all the photos are of my work.

4 batts together

  1. Switch up your color palette. Do you use the same color palette frequently? Why not try changing one of the colors that you normally use. Perhaps you always use bright, jewel toned colors, why not try a more muted color? For example, if your color scheme included a spring green with bright yellow and turquoise, what would happen if you changed the spring green to a dark olive green? Wool Snakes in the Bathroom
  2. Try a different breed of wool. If you always use the same type of wool, such as merino, why not try a different breed? See how that breed felts differently than the one that you normally use. Take a look at a few of Zed’s posts to get inspired 🙂comp of raw wool
  3. Use a new technique. Have you seen a technique that you haven’t tried before? There are lots of free tutorials online so take a few minutes to browse online if you need instructions and then make a few samples using this new technique. Once you’ve got the method down, plan a piece around using that new technique.Texture of Newspaper
  4. Switch the blend of fibers that you use. Do you usually add your embellishments on top of the wool after layout? Try blending the embellishments into the wool before layout. How does that affect the felting process? How much embellishment fiber can you add to the wool and have it still felt?

    Third time through the carder
    Third time through the carder
  5. Work inside out. When you are using a resist, do you usually add the embellishments to the outside and then felt? Try adding the embellishments to the resist first and then the wool, felt as usual and then when you open the felt to remove the resist, turn the piece inside out so your embellishments are now on the outside. Or perhaps you could make your piece reversible and have embellishments on both the inside and the outside?Resist Shapes
  6. Cut up an old piece. Do you have any UFO’s (unfinished pieces) that are just lying around taking up space? Try cutting the piece up and putting it back together in a different configuration. Or use the cut up pieces to make greeting cards by stitching the felt down on to the paper card. Or if you have several UFO’s, cut them all up and put them all back together into one new piece.ufo's
  7. Hand mix your colors. Do you always use solid colored roving that you’ve purchased commercially? If so, why not try mixing several of those colors together by hand to achieve a variegated color instead of one solid color? You could use hand carders or you can do this in small amounts just using your fingers to mix the different colors of wool together. What color do you get if you mix complementary colors (colors on opposite sides of the color wheel) together?

    Food Color dying
    Food Color dying
  8. Try using only prefelts. Do you normally mainly use wool roving when making a felt project? If so, try making some prefelts (don’t full, just leave the felt soft or buy them commercially) and use only prefelts in your next project. How many different ways can you think of using prefelt?dreamspin prefelt
  9. Add in a different media. Try going to the bookstore and finding a book on a type of craft that you haven’t tried before. Look through the book to get some ideas of how you could add that media to your felting. It might be as simple as finding a stained glass design that you want to replicate in felt or it might be more complex by actually adding that media to your felt in some way.

    Beads, Buttons, Stitch
    Beads, Buttons, Stitch
  10. Take your studio outside. This might not be too practical in the winter time but if you can, try doing part of your process outdoors. Be inspired by your surroundings. Just moving where you normally create can change your thinking and give you new ideas for further creations.IMG_2673

Most of all, play around, experiment and just have fun!

What is Marketing?

What is Marketing?

Every artist who wants to sell their work needs to understand what marketing is and isn’t.  Judging from the questions I’ve received, it is a total mystery to most people.  I hope to be able to dispel some myths and ideas and help you to understand the basics to so you can devise a plan for your business without losing some of the mystery that marketing offers.

Marketing is not easily defined, because it is multifaceted and is used differently by many companies.  The simplest explanation I can give you:

Marketing is an effort to discover, create, arouse and satisfy customer needs.   It is a process of creating and communicating value, understanding your customers and their needs, teaching the customer what the differences are between your product and your competitors, and developing a demand for your products.

My intent is to not overwhelm you.  It is a huge subject.  I will try to keep discussion to those simple concepts that apply to artists.

sale tagSo, what about selling?

Selling is the effort to devise tricks and techniques to get people to buy a product. 

Marketing supports sales by providing communication, creative work, research, product development, and marketing strategies to name a few services.

There are no formulas or right way to create a marketing plan. Most of you work alone or have a partner.   So, marketing and selling must go hand in hand.  Yet, they are two separate sets of strategies.

Marketing pie

This graphic depicts the different aspects of marketing.  It is close to a traditional marketing model. However, as the individual business person you will be wearing all these hats and make decisions about how much time, effort and/or money you will put into each segment.  I will address each one of these along our marketing journey.

Marketing is dynamic and changes as customer needs, wants and the marketplace changes.  When I first started in marketing  there were the four Ps of marketing– Product, Price, Promotion and Place.  Today there are at least six.

psProduct – the items you make to sell

Price– the price you determine based on materials, time, distribution and other costs plus desired profit margin

Promotion – What methods you use to promote your work and the places you will feature it.  This has been called the “face” of marketing because it determines how your potential customers will perceive you and your products.

Placement – Where and when you will present your work for sale

Positioning – Each artist should have a unique selling position for their products to distinguish them from competitors.  It is a promise to the consumer to provide a particular benefit.  For example, M&Ms — Melt in your mouth not in your hands.

PR/Publicity – How you tell people about you and your work using public media

People –For artists, it is your network of friends, family, colleagues, customers and you as a person and artist. This is particularly important when using social media.

Customers are key.  Marketers spend a lot of time getting to know their customers– who they are, their age, where they live, what type of lifestyles they have, how they behave in the marketplace, what they like or dislike, the avenues of communication they use, the places they shop, how they shop and their buying preferences.  They use this information to formulate their strategies on how to approach the customer. This is obvious in the commercials on TV, magazine and newspaper ads or radio commercials.  Or even the ads on social media.  Information is constantly being collected to be able to target the consumer. This is another big subject we’ll address later.

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Who is your customer?

While these pictures represent stereotypes, they are meant to get you to think more about who your customers are.  It may be a combination of types of people depending on what you are selling.  For example, fingerless mitts will likely appeal to a younger person who likes to text.  For someone who spends a lot of time outdoors in the cold, but enjoys handmade articles a nice heavy woolen scarf may be what they want.  An art scarf may be purchased by a socialite or fashionista.

Food for thought:  While you are pondering your customers, think about yourself and how you relate to your customers.

We’ll continue our marketing journey soon.  I’m looking forward to your comments and  insights.

Keeping Your Creative Juices Flowing with Artist Dates

Keeping Your Creative Juices Flowing with Artist Dates

We’re going in to week four of the Daily Dose of Fiber challenge. How’s it going? Have you been having fun with your “5 minutes a day of creative time”? I am happy with my progress, I’ve almost got my homework completed for stitch class and I don’t go back until the end of February. I should have some extra time just to play soon. If you haven’t been able to work in some creative time, what have been your obstacles? Some times people feel that they can’t think of any ideas or get stuck. I usually have too many ideas and not enough time but that’s a different subject. Here are a few ideas to help get that creativity flowing.

If you haven’t read this book, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and you are feeling “stuck” or “blocked”, this is an excellent resource. I read this book years ago and I go back to it occasionally to try some of the exercises again. The most helpful things I got from this book are “Morning Pages” and “Artist’s Dates”. The morning pages exercise is to write three pages every morning in a journal that you will not show to anyone else ever. It is stream of consciousness writing where you just keep continuously writing until three pages are filled out. It gets the extraneous thoughts from the day before out of your brain and allows you to move on. I don’t do this anymore but it was really helpful at the time when I was dealing with work issues that were overtaking my creativity.

The “Artist’s Dates” are a tool for giving yourself time once a week to “play”. These are scheduled so that you take an hour or two and do something to refill the creative well. It might be just going for a walk with no other agenda than to see what there is to see, visiting a gallery or museum, going to a book store and looking at inspiring books, going to the playground and swinging on the swings or going to play with an artist friend and trying out a new technique. The date can be anything you want it to be.

Over at the “Sketchbook Challenge” blog this month, their theme is “Artist’s Dates”. Go check out the blog and see what all those wonderful artists over there are doing. They have a lot of suggestions for different types of activities to try. You might also want to check out their Flickr group because there’s tons of eye candy there and hundreds of people participating in the challenge. If you join in, they have great prizes each month too!

Another idea that I heard recently was from a podcast by Rice over at Notes from the Voodoo Cafe where she spoke with Tammy Garcia about bringing more creativity into your life. I really enjoy these podcasts, I usually listen to them while I’m stitching. Anyways, Tammy suggested that you go to the bookstore and pick out several different books from sections that you wouldn’t normally visit. Then take a look at the books while you’re in the store and just page through them and read parts as it interests you. Have your notebook handy to take notes of ideas that come up when you’re reading. This will give you ideas that you wouldn’t normally think of as you are reading from books in subject areas that are unfamiliar to you. For example, if you were reading a book about psychology, you might have an idea of how you could incorporate how your brain works and felting.

I hope you take the time and schedule an “Artist Date”. Do let us know how it goes, what you did and how it affected your creativity. Don’t forget to join us over on the forum for some great discussions and to see what everyone else is creating.

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