Sunday, October 2, 2016

Studio Update

My work life has taken a big turn of late and I want to bring you interested people up to date :o)

Eight years ago, I set myself a goal of designing five product lines and selling them at a holiday craft show called Artisans' Alley in my home town of Coronado. In the Spring of that same year, I gave notice at the job I had loved and worked at for 20 years. Even though I was sad to move on from working in the capacity I had at Gallery Services/Artrageous!, I knew in my heart the time had come for me to move on. Also at this time, one of my sons was struggling in school, so I knew he needed an advocate who could be there to support him as necessary. Thankfully, my husband's business allowed us some financial flexibility, so we made the decision as a family to allow these situations to line up, and low-and-behold, I was a studio crafter with a home based business!

Artisans' Alley was a wonderful experience for me. At the end of the show, I learned I had been the Featured Vendor for the show! All of my product lines were warmly welcomed by the shoppers, and I sold much of everything I had busily been creating over the previous 10 months. Thus, "Val's Art Studio" was born, and my love affair with felted wool and needle felted embellishing was established.

Ever since then, I waded into the adjoining world of selling online via an Etsy shop, I began writing a blog (Hello, you!), I created a website, wrote and filmed an online teaching experience called Hello Felt, reached out to the world of consignment and wholesale selling. I have entertained at Gallery Openings, reached you via Facebook and Instagram, began teaching local needle felting classes and ultimately, I have taken my craft to a level I had never before imagined. All this time, what I was doing for the craft and art world was giving so much back to me!
Who knew this push-me-pull-you world of art and craft would have the result it has had on me?
During this whole time, along with running my art business, our family was facing some really tough stuff as we navigated my son's struggles and illness. We suffered through 3 years of my son being away from home in a residential placement setting, 3 lawsuits with our school district, which we fought - and won. We had multiple denials of care for our son from our insurance company, which I fought - and won. We struggled through the perils of my son's co-occurring disorder and worked hard to learn how best to support him. We worked through years of family counseling and helping our younger son deal with the unique trials our family was dealing with. I became an expert on IEPs, learned how to navigate the world of addiction, co-ran an Al-Anon support group, took and then taught the NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Family to Family class. All during this time, I wrote a blog on our family's experience called The Mom in the Arena. Whew!

Now, standing where I am and having the ability to look back at the wild jungle our family has trudged through, I can see the role art has played in my life. 
Art has grounded me, it has allowed me to focus and grow into myself. Art has calmed my worried heart, given me a vehicle for expressing my sadness and pain. Art has been my friend, my muse, my shoulder to cry on, my pride, my joy - ART has been (and IS) MY SALVATION!
I'm not about to tell you I am going to stop making my art, or that I am moving on. No, art will always be by my side and at my fingertips. But as I accept a new role life is offering me, I will allow my art brain to muddle and seep. This probably sounds weird, but I feel it's time to focus my attention in a different arena right now. My art brain is ready to move into something new. I do not know what that will look like, or how it will happen. I am simply going to TRUST that it will all happen as it is meant to in the grand scheme of life. 

Over on my other blog, The Mom in the Arena, I discuss my new job with NAMI San Diego, working as a team member of the Child, Youth and Family Liaison, as well as the matters of advocating for my son and family. Now, it is time for me to turn my attention towards families who need help, and work my own particular form of magic that I know to bring my voice, passion, and purpose to the table of Youth Advocacy. 

I will still be here, I promise! Just a bit more part time, while my "Mom brain" is doing what I can to help another cause I am passionate about. 

Please know you can find me at ONLY two holiday shows this season: I will be at the Contemporary Crafts Market in Pasadena this Nov 11, 12 and 13. And, I will be at Artisans' Alley on Sat, Dec 3 along with my mom, who is putting a few of her handcrafted items out into the world. I will still be showing and selling my work on Etsy, and in my local galleries, a list of which you can find here.

**UPDATE** I have added two additional December shows: The Pet Parade is on Sunday, Dec 11 from 1:00 - 5:00 PM, and takes place in the Gaslamp Quarter of San Diego. Learn more HERE. I will be showing my work with Sparks Gallery and I suspect the booth will be at or in front of their gallery ;o) 
Then, Dec 17 from 10:00 AM -4:00 PM is the Talmadge Art Show Pop Up Shop, learn more HERE. Hope to see you at one of these events :o)

Please know I will always respond to your questions and requests, so feel free to email me too :o)


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Little favorites

Hi there!

I was planning to show you a few of the custom pet pillows I've finished lately, but when I looked into my photo folder, I spied these recently finished woodland hoops and knew I had to share these first. So, I hope you enjoy these little critters. There will be more woodland animals added to this collection soon. I'm thinking a mouse might be next. 😊

I start with a simple sketch and then transform them by "painting" them onto fabric... Really, what I'm doing is needle felting. Then I add some embroidery stitching to give them added details and set them into a wooden embroidery hoop frame. I love each one and keep promising myself a pair to hang in my own home ... one day soon... promise!

This Mr. Squirrel is holding an acorn from a California scrub oak. My husband met with a native plant expert and brought back a twig. Leave it to me to snatch the acorn and incorporate it into my art!  😀


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Leopard pillow start to finish

I invite you to see the progression of a needle felted leopard pillow from start to finish. It's pretty amazing for me to get this many photos of the process. Normally, I get so engrossed in the needle felting, there's a huge gap from photo number one to photo number two, meaning too much progression in the work to show any work in progress pictures. These leopard pillows are so labor intensive that I need to take a lot of breaks. This time, I remembered to take photos as I went along. 

Do you know what needle felting is? If not, I am happy to tell you! I create these wool portraits by using loose wool fiber, barbed needles and a natural fiber backing which I sew up from felted sweater wool. First, I create a background for the wool portrait from a patterned patchwork of felted wool scraps to set off the portrait I'm creating. Then I begin mixing colored fiber to create the colors I want to work with in the portrait. In this case, I looked at many photos of leopards. Here's what my computer desktop looked like during the several weeks it took me to work out the design. See the leopard photo on the upper left? That is a picture of a previous leopard pillow I created. It looks so lifelike, doesn't it? :o)

Using the colors of fiber I mixed up, I begin laying out the colors on my felted wool backdrop according to the photos of the leopards. I use the barbed needle felting needles to attach the loose wool securely to the backing. The more you needle felt the wool with the needles, the more bonded the wool becomes to the backing. Once you are finished with the needle felting of the portrait, the two fibers are inseparable from each other.   

I pay careful attention to making sure the symmetry and proportion of the figure are just right. My background is in drawing and painting. This is a skill I've carefully developed. Once honed, it's a skill that has served me well. 

I love the medium of needle felting because I can easily move or "scoot" fiber with the needles whenever I need to make an adjustment to the portrait. 

I feel the eyes really make the portrait come to life. I spend a lot of time working on adding the right colors and shade the colors so the eyes look round and alive. 

The spots... Oh my golly, these leopard portraits spots take almost as much stress and time as the whole face! They take all my concentration and patience. On this piece, I worked extra hard to get the spots symmetrical. I really think the attention to detail shows in this amazingly lifelike face, don't you?

Finally, I'm ready to add the whiskers. 

He is so regal! I just love how this beautiful leopard turned out!

Here is the finished pillow. It's already been packed up and shipped off to its new owner. She will be displaying this in her African themed room. I hope she likes the pillow!

Thanks for following along!


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Cute overload

Have you had your daily dose of Cute yet today? Well, get ready... 'cause, here it comes...

I'm here to tell you it does happen! 
Cute overload... 
Symptoms include:
  • cheeks that hurt too much from smiling 
  • people looking at you strangely due to you sitting alone and laughing out loud 
  • happy squeals escaping involuntarily at inappropriate times 
  • new crease lines around the eyes from excess smiling 
  • waking up to realize you've had happy dreams 
  • an overall rosy outlook on life :o)

Let's just agree that there are many worse things in life, right?

Happy cutes!

PS. This cutie pie Bumble Bee in a Happy Donut car will be an upcoming class. Details coming soon over on my Classes webpage

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Technology frustrations

This sweet hunny bunny has no blips or malfunction, she is simply here to perk us up and make us smile!

Today, I woke up with chills, soreness behind my eyes, and a scratchy throat, so I just stayed in bed. I'm drinking lots of tea and staying warm. I hope I get better by tomorrow night because my teen and I are flying to AZ bright and early on Thursday morning for our first college visit at ASU. I admit, I am pretty excited about this and I don't want to be sick.

So I thought I'd spend some time today while in bed exploring my brand new iPhone 6S+. It's that giant phone that used to look so huge, but now it just looks normal. I've always had iPhones, so I've come to expect perfection straight out of the box. But I've just discovered this phone has a glitch. Whenever I'm looking at my mail and want to click on a link, the mail page freezes. Ugh, I hate it when these things happen. Now I have to GO BACK to the store and deal with it. Does it drive you crazy too??? 

This got me thinking about expectations. Do we expect a lot? Well, sure we do, especially when that item we bought cost us a pretty penny. Now I know that the Apple Store will fix the glitch with my phone right away, but the inconvenience of having to take it back is annoying. I know when I buy a product from Apple, they will stand behind my purchase and make it right. That's one of the reasons I keep buying Apple products. It's a business model I like, and one I've tried to use in my own business practices. 

Like the sweet bear doll I sold with "child safety eyes". How horrified was I when the customer contacted me to let me know an eye had come out???? Yikes! How did this happen? I told her to please mail it to me so I could fix it. Once the bear was back in my nimble fingers, I discovered the problem to be too fine fabric, and the eye made its way out. So I took that sweet pink bear and turned her missing eye into a winking eye with a pirate patch in pinks and green to match the colors of the bear. Then I made her another matching bear with reinforced fabric, ensuring the eyes would not fall out. I mailed off both bears with a refund for her original shipping charge, and hoped she'd be satisfied. A few days later, I received this from her:

"Val, I'm sooooo happy! Honestly you went above and beyond, thank you so much! I appreciate our pirate, she is adorable and of course Buddy Bear is welcomed into our family with love!"

Happy customers are customers who will come back. I know I will receive similar treatment from Apple. So I will return my phone with cheer in my heart. All is good when customers are happy! 😊


Monday, February 29, 2016

A beautiful story

Hi there. I hope you are in the mood for a sweet story. I have wanted to write about this since Christmas. Now seems as good a time as ever :o)

I'd like to introduce you to Nancy. Here she is... (Hi Nancy!)


I met Nancy a few years ago at one of my shows. As normally happens, we got to talking about my work with repurposing old discarded sweaters. Nancy asked me if I would be open to working with her to restore a beloved sweater of hers that she just wasn't ready to part with. I said I'd be happy to give it a go.  

I took Nancy's old sweater and cut away the frayed areas. I dug out my stash of repurposed sweaters, borrowing cuffs and hem border from several other sweaters. I added color, pattern and unique features to Nancy's sweater. I finished the piece by needle felting a lovely simple branch with berries, picking up the new colors I added to Nancy's original sweater. A sweater so beloved and tired was remade into something new and ready for another lifetime of loving. Nancy was thrilled with the job I did for her. Yay!

Fast forward to last Spring. Nancy called on me for ideas of what to do with her Mother's sweater. Her mother knit the sweater and had worn it during Nancy's childhood. We talked over a few options, and decided to try a pillow featuring a Cardinal. I made up the first one. I used the buttons from the sweater as nuts on the tree branches. Nancy was thrilled.

Maybe she didn't cry... but with a tear in her eye, she asked me to make one for each of her sisters for Christmas gifts. 

Christmas came quickly and with juggling all my custom orders and shows meant I forgot to photograph all the pillows. Each one was unique, each so lovely. Nancy shared there would be no packing the pillows away for any of the 5 sisters. These pillows would be "year round" display pillows!

Thank you, Nancy. I loved working with you on this project, as ever. You are so special to me. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

What's new?

Hey there! What's new with you? I have been up to something new, and wanted to share it with you :o)

My creative brain is always up to something when I least expect it. Lately, these cameo pendants have been showing up on my work table. They are pretty amazing, even if I do say so myself! They have incredible detail for being so small. 

Of course, it make sense that I would begin with bird faces. Even so, I soon moved on to women faces. I had been searching for Picasso art influences on Pinterest, and well, here we are. This is how things go over here.

In one of my MATS classes, I created an illustration of a big lipped woman with a fabulous shade of coral lipstick, and she has stayed with me. 

Starting to create the pendants is an exercise of will over the wool, which resists being tamed by the needle felting needle. And these are so small that I can only use a single needle. My next purchase will involve some extra strength magnifying glasses, that is for sure!

Once finished, I set them into the pendant blanks, and have fun pairing them with some geometric beads I found. I paint the beads to bring out colors in the pendant. I also use some of my crystal beads and lampwork beads I collected during my stint at beading. It's all too fun!

I will be at Glitterfest this coming Saturday. Hope to see some of you there!


Monday, February 15, 2016

Valentine Santas?

Silly... I know. Spring Santas? Valentine Santas? You might be asking 'What ... are these and (um) why?'

Well, you may or may not know that I sometimes enjoy making dolls. They started as a way for me to use up some scraps from my scrap bin. I just like making the occasional one or another. But by now, they have taken on a little life of their own. 

Right before Christmas, I experimented with making a couple of Santa dolls. They were well received... They all sold right away. Nice!

Here are the first three. Actually in order of making them, left to right. Each one got much better as I went along, don't you agree? 

The faces are super cute :o)

Well, as things tend to happen, one thing leads to another. Today, they are rather Scandinavian looking, and well, those hearts? Valentines Santas, for sure! I guess it will be A Santa for every Season. Or something like that!

Happy Santa!

Monday, January 4, 2016

A brand new creative year ahead!

Happy New Year, Happy 2016!

I am formulating a few creative goals this year. They are still unfolding as I write this. I find doing this exercise extremely valuable. It serves as a good life and creative guide for my whole new year, for when I'm going along and feel stuck, or just unmotivated, I can reflect on my goals for the year and I can redirect myself. Win win :o)

So far, I am committed to these things for 2016:
  • Choosing the right word for me in 2016. I've narrowed it down to love (as in taking and using care in every aspect of my daily life), or kindness (following up with the Kindness Project I began last summer), or courage (but I think I used this word really well back from 2012 - 2014, before I started setting yearly intentions). 
  • Devoting myself back to my beloved needle felted birds. The one above was created last week, during my thinking process. It is actually so lovely in person that it takes my breath away every time I see it. My, oh my.
  • Working on taking my needle felting up a notch. I am dedicated to getting into one of the American Craft Council shows within the next couple of years. (I'm speaking my intentions out loud here!!!)
  • Sticking with ME. Meaning, I will be taking those things that have worked well for me, and working on them further. Focusing less on listening to others, and less time taking classes taught by others telling me what to do. I think I'm on a path to put all those lessons and ideas into action (whew, finally!)
  • Spending time developing those ideas I have wanted to put into action over the last two years. More online patterns, kits, and ways to share my ideas and love of craft with others. This is gonna be GOOD!
  • Being proud to speak out by sharing my voice, my craft, and my intentions with others. Recently, I have been working on doing this, and it's been going really well. Plus, I have been booked for a creative workshop! Wow! I think it's finally time to really shine :o)

How about you? Have you set some creative intentions (or otherwise) for 2016? I'd love to hear (if you are willing to share, that is). Leave me a comment. Let's do this together. It's a wonderful and brave way to start the new year!