Aug 4, 2021

One hour and twenty minute beach

Regarding my post of July 20, once again what I hoped to do got pushed to the bottom of the list and didn't get done.  So today I'm following my own advice and doing it first!  And what I want to do is write about the second workshop we did:  the "twenty minute beach".

While my sister was here, she took the reins and guided us through the creation of a 2D needlefelted beach scene. 

This was inspired by a piece she gifted me for my birthday, a 3 3/4 x 6 1/2 inch beach image (along with a luscious fibre "Paradise Island" Living Felt sampler for making beach projects).  She said it was just a quickie, something she did in a twenty minute session.  Wow!  Just twenty minutes?  So she said we could all try it and see for ourselves!

The first thing we needed to do was choose an image for inspiration.  We easily found lovely examples online.

Sadly Mom backed out at the last minute (but after seeing the results she said she'd be willing to try if we do it again).


With pieces of backing felt cut to size (Kunin Felt made from recycled plastic bottles from String Theory) and fibre covering the table (from Fibrecraft, My Butterfly Green, Heidi Feathers and Dimensions Crafts), we jumped right in, the timer started!  

Choosing a dark color, we placed our horizon lines, then outlined other major features.  Doris advised that the sky should be dealt with next, and then the water.  This is where she showed the super easy way to blend fibres together, creating beautiful, unique two-tone lengths.  Lovely!  

This is where it also became obvious our session was going to be a one hour and twenty minute beach workshop!  With instruction and guidance, of course this was entirely expected but I think we were both surprised at our finished pieces.  Doris' little seagull and boat were a challenge and my stairs gave me a bit of trouble.  

Ta da!  
As you can see, my beach is very fluffy and loose, while Doris' is smooth, sleek and tight.  It's a very individualistic craft and allows for a lot of personalization.  

It was a really worthwhile workshop and I learned a lot of techniques and it's very different from doing a 3D object.  I think my fluffy image is me struggling to do something flat, I really want to try it again and pay more attention to my sister's technique.  But for a first try (and also a timed effort!), I'm very happy with my piece.  The goal for me is to get good enough to create "the" perfect beach with our dogs running on it, Willow's favorite place of all.  So next time we get together we'll hone our skills!  

Jul 22, 2021

Manufacturing creativity

Further to my last post, so how do you jump that hurdle to get started again?  I don't think collectively we've ever experienced anything like the COVID restrictions that have dragged on and on... and on and the damage they've done.  My sister even said that "creative despair" was a thing now, even with its own cartoon drawings!  To combat this, I thought about how can you manufacture creativity, how can you actively start the motions without the inspiration or passion?

So that's what we did!  My sister visited and we put aside time for a workshop I prepared.  All three of us (Mom joined in too) sat down and made needlefelted mushrooms.  Why mushrooms?  They're easy with a lovely shape and colors, can be used to create woodland scenes and none of us had ever made them so we were all beginners.  

I found some lovely pictures and printed them out and started the mushrooms' stems with a pipcleaner and some polyfill so we could start easily with the base in hand.

And we were off! 

It was really interesting to see how we all jumped in and

all with a different style of "poking".  Each mushroom materialized, and each was unique!  We all helped each other out, experimenting with how to make the white spots and different ways to make the annulus (the little skirt under the cap on the stem).

In about 2 hours, we had each finished a lovely fly agaric mushroom!  We felt great, we hadn't drawn any blood and had renewed our confidence.  Goodbye creative despair, hello magic mushroom!

Jul 20, 2021

Shall we get back to it?

COVID19 restrictions have done a lot of harm to me and my family.  There's no way to regain the lost time, lost energy, experiences or friendships but I plan to be more dedicated to my interests.  And sharing them here on my blog.  Please note that blogger email subscriptions no longer work (according to blogger) so it's up to you to stay up to date with the bloggers you follow.   

So how to stay creative?  I found inspiration from athletes who are dedicated to their sport in an article from the July/August 2021 issue of Rural Route.  Their tips on how to start and maintain a creative routine (in their case a workout routine) make a lot of sense to me so here's the points I found most helpful (with my own additions):


If you're having trouble getting motivated, try rewarding yourself.  For example, if I finish the needlefelting beach kit, I'll treat myself to buying more fiber.  If I do the polar bear head from the "look inside" page of that book on Amazon (and it's a good book), I'll buy the book to finish the project.  Perhaps like me, you also need to rebuild a healthy association with your art (because starting and working on a project seems so daunting and the voices in my head demand perfection every time) by using treats (just like training a dog).


Be realistic:  you have things you have to do every day (like work, exercise, taking care of family).  But your creativity also deserves to be part of your firm schedule.  Map out your day and include creative time.  Be flexible but plan to stick to your schedule 80% of the time.  Creative time should be as important to keep as having dinner or walking the dog.  If it's not scheduled and you have to decide on taking time every time, it's hard to get it into your busy day and too easy to shrug it off until "maybe later".  It shouldn't be the last thing you get to do after everything else is done.  


Take every experience as a learning experience.  You're allowed to make duds, stuff you throw away.  When you make a dud, it does not define who you are as an artist.  Ignore the voices in your head. Take 15 minutes to fume and feel crappy, and then move on.  You are not defined by one failure OR by your best work, you are the sum of many projects and your consistent performance over time.  You really are your own worst critic so ease off and believe that you've got what it takes.  


This is a big one for me.  Making nice things, creating beautiful art, is hard.  It takes practice, experience, a building of skills and more practice, practice, practice.  If it was easy, everyone would be painting Mona Lisas, creating Steiff Teddys and needlefelting like Mikaela Bartlett.  If you jump ahead of your skill level, you will probably be disappointed so take the time to learn and add skills and experiences.  If you find yourself stuck, put that project aside and make something you know well and stroke your self-esteem. From that happy place, you'll know you can do it and you'll take on that challenging project with renewed gusto.


Sometimes you just don't feel like it.  That's okay, so long as you don't let that become a habit.  Skip a scheduled time and take time to think, work out a problem, mull over the step that doesn't inspire you, etc...


Runners have a rule of thirds:  1/3 of the time you will feel amazing, 1/3 of the time will be neutral and 1/3 of the time you will be disappointed.  It's worth coming back for those amazing times when creating gives you a natural high that can't be beat and the disappointing times are when you learn.  It should all make you feel alive as you push yourself to create those images and dreams in your head, motivating you with the hoped-for thrill of satisfaction.  Yeah, but sometimes it'll suck.      


This is a hard one for me:  I've had no luck.  But finding a community of like-minded and like-skilled folks can be a huge help to staying motivated.  Find people who will accept you as you are, and who will push you to do more without scrutinizing you.  Having fellow artists along for the ride is a lovely motivator, or so I'm told.  Good luck with that one.  

May you find your inspiration, hold on to your motivation and have fun creating your dreams! 

Mar 12, 2021

And suddenly...

 ... it's Spring!  These photos were taken March 10 and today 3/4 of our snow is gone, mostly overnight with +8C and strong winds.  

Here's the runoff from our downspout, a real flow!

The Willow buds are showing just a crack of white...

while the snowdrops are seriously sprouting!!  

Happy Spring!

Jan 5, 2021

The story of a fox

In June 2020 I ordered an intriguing needlefelting kit from Fibrecraft, a Mississauga based online business that sells a nice range of quality needlefelting supplies.  It was my first ever order from this small business and I was impressed by the entire experience, from an easy to use website, straight-forward ordering procedure, super fast delivery and well-packaged products (there was even a little extra "gift", which was a treat!).  In these COVID times when visiting a farm to buy rovings isn't possible it was nice to find a great Canadian online spot!

Fabian the Fox was just what I needed:  a challenge!  I've completed simpler critters but nothing at this level.  I was eager to get started...

First the instructions were detailed in how to create the wire armature.  Then I started to build up the core body, and then legs.  Instructions were step-by-step but I feel some experience is needed as it's not aimed at beginners.

I have to mention that the fibres were delicious to work with, so soft and felting quite easily. (And plentiful:  there was enough for the fox with some left over.)

Once the basic body was created...
It was time to work on the face.  Eye holes were created and beads inserted to hold the positions.  This was well described... but the nose?  The instructions left you to figure it out on your own.  I ended up with a rather large nose.

Then the black "mascara" was added along with the mouth and other facial markings.


Ears were made from scratch... with good instructions on how to do this.

And eyes were created from felt too!  That was an amazing feat, I thought!  I was impressed with how they turned out!  Again, though, the instructions were a little short:  how do you make smooth eyeballs?  I found it was very helpful to wet and role the eyes in my hands to get nice, smooth balls.  

The next step was not so much fun:  adding the black to the paws to build up the feet.  Because of the wire armature, there was no room to poke without hitting the wire.  I broke two needlefelting needles trying to get the black fibres to stay in place.  Also, the instructions at this phase were very short and didn't supply the necessary details on how to create the feet.  I looked online for reference images of fox feet for help.

Luckily I had other needles and could keep going...

Until they were finally done!

Now it was time to make the fox furry!  The thighs and hind quarters were done first, adding long fibres and then trimming them down to the desired length.  The chest and tummy followed and finally the tail.
The reverse needle was used at this stage.  Here the instructions were good on how to blend out lines and add just a bit of fluffiness to even out the fox's coat.

And Sabian was finished!  I think my fox is more a female then Fabian so Sabian seems to suit her.

Yes, it took me 6 months to finish her!  But there were LOTS of interruptions!

Ta da!!  
Aside from the one shortcoming in that the instructions could be a bit more thorough, I would certainly do another Chicktin Creations kit.  The unicorn looks like fun...

Happy New Year!

 To everyone:  may 2021 bring back to us all the things we sorely miss, remind us not to fall back into old habits that bog us down and let us experience grand new adventures!  

Dec 9, 2020

Hallowe'en withdrawl

It's December already and I'm still looking at Hallowe'en goodies and eating those wee little chocolates.  Sigh.  Around here, it's incredible the amount of Christmas decorations that people have put up!  I just wish they had had the same enthusiasm for Hallowe'en!  

Anyway, we had a LOVELY Hallowe'en, even with the COVID restrictions.  Everyone was super polite and wore masks, and I handed out candy with my BBQ tongs... this certainly slowed things down a bit as the children marveled at my clumsiness, but that was okay. 

We had an absolute blast taking all of October to unpack every box and set up every decoration in and outside the house!  Wow, there were forgotten treasures!  Here are some of the best pictures of our yard:

It was the perfect night:  not too cold, dry and just a bit of wind!  

I think everyone's favorite was the skeleton under the tree with his doggy skeleton friends!  Three pups enjoyed his company, each one with its own bone to chew on.  

Howler and Beelzebub were also enjoying the evening air, and as it grew darker, Beelzebub enjoyed the spotlight! 

And then the moon came up and it was magical!  

The next night was far more sombre as we set up out alter for the Day of the Dead.  Since it was SNOWING we had to change our plans and set up inside, so we used the sunroom.  

First we enjoyed some homemade Day of the Dead bread and hot chocolate.

And then we created our best Day of the Dead alter ever!

Hallowe'en certainly is all about creativity!  
I hope you enjoyed October as much as we did!