A New Journey for our Family

Image courtesy of http://www.aletheaandruth.com/

What is this thing we call "Life" and how come it is so reliable to throw one curve ball after another? Sure there are good curve balls, exciting ones, scary ones and some we downright do NOT like at all. I suppose curve balls are what keep us on our toes, though, right? 

2021 brought us a great BIG curve ball, which is my husband's health. In June, it was discovered he had a stage 4 glioblastoma tumor. The curve balls have kept coming ever since then. I had to stop working and become his full time caregiver. This has been way harder than all the previous hard stuff we've navigated. There have been tons of prayers involved and the main answer to prayer was this: "Take one day at a time." So, that is what we are doing. 

The big thing in all of this is that I have had to rely once again on my biggest coping tool: needle felting. Needle felting is what rescued me the last time our family was in crisis, and helped me figure out the big stuff like navigating the major disasters thrown at us when my son was ill. Now, we have new and different disasters, or how about curve balls, where my husband is concerned. If you are interested in learning more, please feel free to head over to a Caring Bridge blog I write about his current condition and what we have been going through since June. https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/gregheb

My needle felting is better than ever as I continue to hone these skills. I hope you will visit my Instagram page, where I post much of the newest work I am working on. Here is the link to my IG page: https://www.instagram.com/valsart/

Thank you for checking in here and I do hope life hasn't thrown you too many curve balls lately!

xx, Val

Face Masks Have Saved Me

Well, hello there.

I hope you have been well in the past... oh, half a year ... 😬 since I checked in here. Golly, that's simply hard to believe. But the dates don't lie. And besides, we have been collectively in *outer space* it seems for the past 4 months. How come it seems like it's been about a year since March and since the Pandemic hit?

March 16th, 2020 was a really strange day, and maybe you remember this date as well as I do. I was at my full time day job when the announcement was made we would all be transitioning to working remotely due to the Governor's stay-at-home order. So a hasty departure was made, and we all thought this might last for 2-3 weeks. Well, here we are 4 months later and we are still working remotely, and continuing to survive one of the most unusual times in modern history. 

I was very thankful to have my job and for the availability to work remote. Even though I was working from home, I also have a private art studio that houses the work I create for Val's Art Studio felt and textiles, so was able to leave home to make the 5 minute drive over the bridge and work both my jobs in my studio. But before I knew it, worry set in, as all the maker's markets were soon cancelled, Open Studio cancelled, and visits to my Etsy shop dried up. My local shops selling my work all closed due to the Pandemic. All of the sudden, I realized that with no income coming in from my art, I would be faced with closing my studio. My heart sank.....

About the same time, my neighbor encouraged me to put my sewing skills to use and asked me to make her a face mask. She jokingly suggested that while I was at it, I might make face masks for all the elderly neighbors on our block. So, I found a pattern I liked on YouTube, and managed to work through the terrible translations to make a mask that seemed to be a good design. Once I posted the above two photos on my Facebook page, well... the rest was history. By the end of that day, I had orders for over 100 face masks!

About that same time, Kristin, who is one of the founders of San Diego Made, where my studio is located, agreed to partner with me in making face masks. Amazingly, she had found the same face mask pattern, and the two of us compiled our fabric, interfacing, muslin, elastic and sewing skills. The orders poured in like crazy, and before we knew it, we had more orders than we could handle, and so we took over a good portion of the San Diego Made Factory for our face mask operation.

We enlisted lots of help. My mom sewed for us, and Sarah, who is another one of the founders of SD Made, both volunteered their time and skills to assist. We hired Kei as well, whose eye for details keeps Kristin and my work looking sharp and fine. Kristin and I were already friends, but our shared desire to help the cause brought us even closer together. Plus, we are both Virgos, so need I say more??!!

Pretty soon, we were receiving large orders, as everyone loved the style and fit of our face masks, and once they order for themselves, they reorder for friends and family, or even so they have a different face mask for each outfit in their wardrobe! Who can blame them?!

One company ordered 300 masks with a one week turnaround. The photo above shows our tremendous production. We made up all these face masks in 3 days!

Kristin and I are alike in so many ways and we work so well together that we decided to form a new business together; Twofold Textiles. We are two women making twice the impact, twofold using art and textiles. 💞

We support small artists who design their own fabrics. You won't find our fabrics in any fabric shops!

We also support local businesses by sewing face masks for them featuring their logo. Look at these beautiful face masks for Be Kind Vibes. You can check out Matt's shop here: https://www.bekindvibes.com/collections/accessories

And recently, we donated our time and materials to make 50 face masks for A New PATH, helping them to raise funds for this important organization. A New PATH works to reduce stigma associated with addictive illness through education and compassionate support, and to advocate for therapeutic rather than punitive drug policies. Click here to learn more: https://www.anewpath.org/

I am really not joking when I say face masks have saved me. This adventure has grown me in many new ways, and for all of it I am very grateful. Mostly, I am excited for what the future holds, as Kristin and I venture together using our sewing skills to make a heartfelt difference in our world. 

If you are interested in checking out our face masks, you can find them in my shop: https://bit.ly/HandmadeMask. Our Twofold Textile shop is coming together and we will be opening up our etsy shop very soon!

My Val's Art Studio felt and art work is still being created, just on a slower scale than before.

And, last of all, I cannot end this post without pointing out that my hair, like so many things in our collective world, has gone "Covid"! Yes, I have let my hair grow out, and an getting used to this other "new normal," hah!

Thanks for checking in with me. Take care, you! 


Happy New Year, Happy New Decade!

Happy 2020!

Wow, 2020... that seems so futuristic, doesn't it?!

Hopefully your new year is off to a positive start. It somehow seems mine is and it is only day 2 of this brand new year! I'm not sure if it has to do with a sense of newness, like when you open a gift of something you've been coveting and can't wait to spend time with this new item. Or, is it because there is something different in the air... like the feeling that comes along when snow is on its way? Maybe it's due to a chance meeting with a special new friend, and feeling like there are great things in store! Whatever it is, I'm pretty much all in already, yep, here on day 2. 😃

I have given myself the gift of "work on whatever it is you want" since Christmas, and what has come out has been art with a "Home" theme. Is this a sign?! I AM doing a workshop on Saturday, January 18 featuring Winter Home hoops (learn more HERE), so maybe that is why cozy houses are on my mind. Plus, winter coziness is best spent at home, right?!

And would you look at this menagerie of felted wool?! Where my mind dreams up these things, I will never know or understand! When I began this wooly project, my intent was to create a gnome-home sort of creation, but this is where I have ended up. You know, the funny thing is this is the art creation of my childhood. Always drawing cozy homes with flowers and a bird or butterfly. In some ways, I am still in my childhood heart, and that is fine by me! 

As with every new year, I make a declaration promising to spend more time on my blog. I am not going to apologize or make some long-winded excuse about not blogging, but I do want to say it is my intention to spend more time here talking over my artistic process, thoughts on needle felting and how to go about knitting together my mental health advocacy and artistic worlds. I just have the feeling they are coming together. Ever so slowly, indeed, but coming together, they are. I will bet a "4" on it (referencing 2020)! 😉

Take care, friend, and talk very soon, kay?!!

I Love You, But.....

Oh my gosh! Someone recently sent me an email they had intended to forward to a friend. It was one of my e-mailer messages, and instead of sending to the friend, it came back to me. Well, it sure gave me a view into another's opinion of my work, yes-siree-bob. 😬 Let me clarify by saying it was complimentary, but they raised two important considerations, and I thought I would take the time to address them here. Because I want these truths to be out, and on-the-table, if you know what I mean. I intend my work to be honest and forthright, just like me!

The very beginning of a custom order pet pillow. I have built a background from repurposed felted wool taken from discarded wool sweaters. Often donated to me, I love repurposing with wool which is a forgiving and self-cleaning natural material.

Consideration #1: "It's expensive."

Tough to reason with this complaint, because it's all relative, right? What might be expensive to one person is a very fair price to the next person, depending on where you're coming from. But I do hear this occasionally. I also hear comments like "She puts her heart into each piece she creates." and "Now that I have taken one of your classes, I understand the complexity of your work!" and "How did you ever learn to create pieces like this? I have never seen anything like it." 

The first step is looking carefully at the photos of the animal and determining which to use, then mixing colors from loose wool fiber in order to match colors of the pet's fur. You can mix wool roving colors much like mixing paint. Pulling two colors together will mix a new shade. Adding white will lighten the shade, just like mixing paint! I use small pet brushes called "Carding brushes" to assist with mixing larger amounts of color. I even have giant carders when I need to mix large amounts of fiber, or wish to create modeled colors in a certain colorway.

In truth, my art is a reflection of my whole life's work. Even at a very young age, I was exposed by my mother to life's creative pursuits in the form of sewing, painting, nature walks and gathering pods, making a warm and happy home, decorating, needlepoint and hand sewing, and cooking too, of course! My mother was a real "Home Ec" type mom, and I was her first born, so she was my whole and total world. I was fascinated with all of her many crafts and pursuits, and if you knew my mom, she is still at it today and she is 85 years old! She continually amazes me!

Did you notice I changed the background for this pillow? I decided the original one I made was too similar to the dog's fur, so made up a new background. This is part of the "love" and "whole heart" I put into each piece. I give close consideration to each step in the process! Here is where I begin mocking up the pet's face. At this point, the roving is loosely needle felted in place. Often I need to pick up the entire face and move it, or I need to correct the proportions. I do not draw out the face/details before hand, I just lay down the fiber and go!

So, back to Consideration #1 "Expensive"... my work has evolved from my 55+ years of honing my craft, (ie. my experiences) + my college degree (ie. BA Fine Art with Painting emphasis) + my 45 years of sewing experimentation + my personal art curiosity. And this thing I do right now is born of all of this. So, putting a price on all of this is not easy for me. I generally try to think of it in terms of what I want to be paid hourly for my personal creativity. And that's a hard one. The truth is I try to pay myself $25.00 an hour. But really it's probably more like I pay myself minimum wage because there is so much more to this business thing than just making the product. There is the marketing, the social media-ing, the networking, the blogging, the shopping, the tagging, the meeting with people-ing, and so. much. more. 

This portion of the portrait has probably 4-5 hours of needle felting.I lie down the fiber, add the lights and darks to make sure the fur looks real, check to make sure the markings reflect the pet I am working on, and that his proportions are correct, which is one of the most challenging aspects of this art form. You can't erase and start over. Once you needle felt too far, the fibers are locked into the background, and you either have to cover your work or sometimes you can cut the fiber away and start again.

Let's talk about on Consideration #2: "Moths will eat holes in the sweater wool." 

Well, this is something to be concerned of, particularly if you have a current moth infestation going on in your home! Many people think that moths are drawn to randomly eat wool. That is not the case. Moths are drawn to food that is dropped on wool. So when people buy my work to wear as garments, I warn them of this fact, and tell them to make sure to inspect for food droppings and have the garment dry cleaned before storing in the drawer or closet for the summer season. If you have a cedar closet or cedar lined drawers, that also helps, but simply cleaning your wool before storing it away works to keep the garment hole-free. 

In this photo, I am trying to get a sense of the dog's tail, which is difficult to determine from the photo. So I pull up images of the breed in order to figure out how to best proceed with making up a body part I cannot see.

Also, if you do indeed find a hole in one of my pieces, I will happily repair it for you! I am a very expert wool hole repairer by now, and can get this done in about 5 minutes. Or, I can also add needle felting over the hole, which is another creative way of dealing with this sort of problem! 😂 Or, if you are interested in learning how to repair moth holes in sweater wool, take a look at my educational video on this topic by visiting this blog post.

In every photo provided of this dog, the dog was wearing a sweater. No problem! I can create a sweater for this pup. But wait... The pup isn't a girl pup, so probably wouldn't be wearing a pink sweater! Urgh! Back to the wool scraps for a better sweater selection!

Let's try this, which still works ok with the pink tones in the pillow. Part of the order is to create the pillow with pink tones, which is a favorite color of the dog's owner, to whom this  pillow is being gifted.

In truth, anything of value needs to be looked after. In today's "throw away" society, the mindset is to just discard it once it gets holy or threadbare, or any other number of excuses. Personally, I aim to take care and protect my belongings so as to keep the ones that matter to me in good shape so you I enjoy them for many years to come. 

The needle felting is mostly complete on this cutie-pie. Now to design the pillow borders and background. I will sew it together, turn it inside out and stuff it with fiberfill, then will do a final look-over to needle felt any loose sections and make sure this one will last through the test of time, keeping away from curious pets, direct sunlight, and ... moths of course!

Well, I appreciate you sticking with me through this explanation, as well as checking in with my pet portrait process. This has been a total of 2.5 days of work on this sweetie guy, but in my eyes, it is priceless and a labor of love. And I guarantee the recipient will be thrilled. ❤️💝

If you are interested in ordering up one of these custom pet pillows, please visit my etsy shop and here's the direct link: http://bit.ly/Pet_Pillow Even though my custom orders sometime sell out, when they do I generally can reopen them up a couple times a year, or as soon as I get caught up on my current batch of orders. 


Hey! Hi! Hello!

How are you, and how has life been treating you lately? 

I am so jazzed about my new and evolving situation over here at the San Diego Made Factory, and cannot tell you how happy I am here in my new studio. In fact, my new studio is now my even NEWER studio! I spent the first 6 months trying things out in a tiny 10' x 11' studio, which was of course fine, but it was cramped. Cramped I tell you, in fact my nickname for my studio was "Studio Sardine".... all right, it was functional, but only just so. For instance, if someone would have reached out to me telling me they just did a load of spring cleaning and were planning to donate 100 sweaters to me, I would have to politely decline. UGH! There was simply no way I could accommodate 100 sweaters into my Studio Sardine! 

Here is the original Studio Sardine:

Yes, it was tidy, cute, and very well organized. I will say that! And so did those of you who have come to visit. But a girl can only do so much when being creative is her thing, and so I had to e-x-p-a-n-d.

And expand, I did! I moved across the hall to a studio that is almost TWICE the size as Studio Sardine! Take a look:

This is just ONE HALF of my amazing studio!

And, each month on the Second Saturday, we have a fun Open Studio party in the afternoon. I am always open, because I like to meet the peeps - and this means you! So, just so you know, you are always invited. Mark your calendar for an upcoming 2nd Saturday at about 3-4 pm, and come for a visit. You will see my a-m-a-z-i-n-g giant studio, and maybe you can even help me name it. "Studio Sardine" is officially RIGHT OUT!

Take care, and hope to see you soon. 😀


Studio Move to the SD Made Factory!

Well, hello there! I'm not sure how many of you still check in here since I only post on this blog about twice a year now (sheesh), but if you're here, I am happy you've clicked over. 😃

A big studio move is coming up for me, so the photo above shows 1/2 of my studio in what's certain to become a much more disheveled state. This makes me feel so anxious! So much so that I decided to turn my back and write a blog post. Yikes... that just shows how much I use avoidance during difficult tasks 😜

My new studio space is going to be A M A Z I N G but it is about 2/3 the size of my current space, so my painting area you see in the back corner of the room is going to have to go. I spend most of my studio time needle felting anyway, but it's always nice to know I can paint whenever I fancy. 

My new space will be in the San Diego Made Factory, and I am thrilled to have a studio in a shared artist / maker building. There will be plenty of opportunity for open studios (yay!) and shows at the Factory that I can participate in without having to pack up my entire booth and haul it off to a venue. I think this is going to allow me to grow in a new way, and may pave the way for one of my long time dreams to shape up... having my own maker retail shop! 

In all cases, I hope to be able to post more regularly and let you know of the SD Made Factory events in hopes you will come visit when you're in the area. Please stay tuned and check back and I hope to see you at a Factory event very soon!


I'll be at the Contemporary Crafts Market this October 26-28, 2018


Did you think I'd fallen off the face of the earth? Nope... still here :o)

I am still working for NAMI San Diego and was recently promoted to my dream-job position: Program Manager for the Children, Youth & Family Liaison. This is really fantastic news, for it allows me to put my heart, soul, and passion towards helping families to survive and thrive while navigating a child's mental/behavioral health concern. After working for NAMI SD for the past two years, I can officially say this is truly where I am meant to be right now. 

That said, it doesn't negate my need to repurpose, re-sew, needle felt, and stay connected with my art studio. Whew, right?! I still struggle with staying connected to all my passions, and this is the best way for me to navigate this right now. NAMI during the week, and Studio time on my days off and weekends. Works for me!

I applied to and was accepted to the 2018 Contemporary Crafts Market in Pasadena. Hooray! I am really excited to be doing this wonderful market once again after my positive experience in 2016. I can honestly say this was the best market I have done, and I am looking forward to going back. So, I am extra busy, busy prepping in my studio during each free moment I have. 

Please mark your calendar and come visit me this October 26, 27 and 28 at the Contemporary Crafts Market. I will have my "cutes" as always, will have plenty of lovely artistic wearables for ladies, children and baby sweaters, and will have a lovely new selection of Woodland Needle Felts. I can't wait to share them all with you!

Please follow me on Instagram, and see the very latest of my creations as I work on lots of new inventory for this market. Also, Custom Orders are currently CLOSED as I get prepared for the show. If you wish to be added to an interest list for when Custom Orders reopen, send me an email, or comment on this post so you will be among the first to know as soon as custom orders reopen. Thanks for your understanding!

Take care, and hope to see you soon!

Oh, Hello 2018!

2018! Well, that was quick. Where did you come from? We turned our backs for a minute, and suddenly, here you are!

                Lovely, luscious days pass; spring, summer, winter, and fall.
                Nights so dark, filled to the brim with dreams of my heart.
                Heaven and earth spin slow, then faster -
                Here we are suddenly, a new year at hand...

Sitting and pondering a new year. What dreams do I have? What are my goals? Is there a word of the year this year? (One can only use the same word - Trust - for so long!) It seems it is time to shake things up a bit.

My children are older now. TAY Youth is the language we use where I work - Transitional Age Youth, or that period between early teens and young adults. I joined an online workout group filled with young moms, and it helps me remember that time in my life. People told me my children would grow up quickly and the time would fly by fast. Man, they weren't kidding!

My #best9 from 2017 on Instagram

My husband and I aren't empty nesters yet. Though our youngest son has gone off to college, there are still needs and growing up decisions to make. Some made successfully, some with a teenage brain still in the driver's seat! I think the model of teens going off to college is quite nice. It's a gradual sort of leaving home. By the time they are at home for summer or winter break and then it's time to return to school, and though you know you will miss them madly, it's kind of nice seeing them head back to school. And then you get your life back to yourself for a while. 😊

Our older son and his girlfriend, who is living with us too now - it seems we've GAINED another - 🙄  they are taking a bit of a different path. Well, life is certainly always an adventure, isn't it?! My husband and I have always known this one just needs more time. It's all good...

My word of the year seems to be emerging and I think it will be this one: 
I have always been a pretty passionate person in many aspects of my life. I think this year I am looking for more purposeful passion. Meaning taking the job I am doing, whether it is hard or easy, fun or less than, I want to bring a passionate approach to all things I allow into my life this year. Whether it's something I am doing at home, at work, or in my studio, I really want to feel the passion in the doing. 

Do you have a word of the year this year? Please let me know by leaving a comment!

My goals and dreams for the year are also formalizing. Though I am now working full time in my job at NAMI San Diego and loving the work I am doing so incredibly much, I have many goals and refinements I hope to put in place for Val's Art Studio. I have been paying attention to the pieces I create that seems to bring the most meaning to myself and others - this is the passion! 

Several shops that have represented my work have sadly closed this year, and my artist co-op in Coronado where I show most of my work may also soon be closing. I am not sad or worried about these changes, for I know that something even better is right around the corner for me and for Val's Art Studio. I just can't wait to see what it will be!!! One thing for certain is change is constant, right?!

What about you? I'd love to catch up! I wish I had more free time so I could spend more time with you here in this space. Working really puts a dent in one's free time. I miss you so much, please know you are often on my mind!

Take good care. Happy New Year!

A look back: Favorites of 2016

One of the things a new year brings for me is a look back at the past year's projects. Basically, I take inventory of what worked and what didn't work so well. Which items I will add into my regular repertoire - meaning I will definitely make them again, and which items I will retire. This year I thought I would share with you :o) *All of these fall into the category of 'Worked out well'!

1. This Mrs. Robot was a labor of love to create. I worked on her off and on for months. She sold at the first show where she made her grand debut. I missed her the moment she went into the bag. She is irreplaceable and one of a kind. Yes, I will certainly keep creating these wonderful Robot dolls!

2. Owl hoops with a glitter frame and tied with a bow? Heck YES! I love the addition of embroidery stitching, and bold background fabrics. Super duper sweet, and I will continue creating these bird hoops!

3. These Santa elf dolls.... I have actually seen people swooning over them. What is not to like??? Fair isle sweaters? Tiny working bells? Sparkle fiber beards and mustaches? Posable legs, and button sewn-on arms? All these features are winners in my book!

 4. I doubt I will ever stop making these special bird pillows. They truly make for a unique piece of room art, one that doesn't need to be hung on the wall.

5. Woodland needle felts. These are some of the most requested items I am asked to teach. Even though each character takes several hours to make, I love working the wool and watch as it goes from loose fiber to a sculpted character. Yes, these fantastic creatures will definitely stay among my repertoire!

6. Mr. Squirrel with acorn in hand? Are you kidding me? This is one of my all time favorite, top of this list cutes... well, almost top of this list! I would like to create a whole series of woodland hoop art pieces, each carrying something beloved from the forest :o)

7. Sniff-sniff sweater. Each baby sweater is truly so special. This one has a bone on the back, which is what this pup has her eye on. I modeled these eyes off my dog, Lola's eyes. She is all "sniff-sniff-sniff-sniff" when she spies a treat! This sweater also had big embroidered "sniff sniff" above the dogs head. It sold right away. Too cute!

8. Ok, this one... Hands down, the cutest thing I have ever made!!!  A bumble bee in a donut car? Oh gosh, I love it so. This one may need to stay with me... forever!

I hope you've enjoyed the show! As ever, I am so happy to share my work with you. Thanks so much for another year of fun projects, support, and love. :o) 

This brand new year

Happy New Year to you and yours! I can't believe I've been away from blogging in this space for so much time. But as you can read in my last post, I have been a wee bit busy 😊

With much humble gratitude, I'd like to let you all know just how appreciative I am for your support this past holiday season. My fall shows, though much fewer this year than normal for me, were all banner shows. Some shows I sold half my booth and sold out of certain items I stock deep. This tells me that I still offer a special and unique product that people value. Here are some of the comments I heard from shoppers:

  • "Wow, I've never seen anything like this! Your work is amazing."
  • "You made all this? The craftsmanship and quality is fantastic"
  • "What an imagination you have!"
  • "Everything is made with so much love!"
  • "This just make me smile. Everything here is so cute!"
My booth at the Fall 2016 Contemporary Crafts Market, Pasadena, CA

For years I have been asking myself the Hand-Maker's key question: "Who is your ideal customer?" Apparently, by answering this question, I should be able to figure out how to best funnel my handmade business towards success. All through the years as I have been asking myself this question, I always came up short, never able to pinpoint my ideal customer. Sure, I know it's those people who love fine, handmade craft, people who value buying from local artists, people who support artists who use repurposed materials in their work. These categories are broad. But the true nature of my ideal customer escaped me time and time again as I went through these exercises. 

Finally, at one of my shows, it hit me! The answer to this long sought after question stood there before me as I surveyed all the making I had accomplished. 

Who is my ideal customer? It's Me!

Yes, it's me!!! I make what I love, and in that, people buy and support me and my work. I am my own ideal customer! If I were walking a craft show and came upon my booth, I would fall in love with this work and buy numerous items from this artist, and in order to support this artist. 

Maybe this isn't the right answer to the question, but it is the answer that works for me. 

In doing the work I do, I can finally acknowledge the importance Handmade Craft takes in my life. This form of art has been my lifeline during the past 10 years, when our family navigated deep and rough waters of my son's illness. Fine tuning my advocacy skills in fighting for what's right for my son went hand in hand with fine tuning my design skills and my needle felting skills. It is all interwoven. 

What a relief it's been to figure that out! I always felt like I was split brain with my advocacy work and my craft work. Now I can see how they supported each other and allowed me to find success in each world. They are not separate, for without one, I doubt I could accomplish the other with the same success rate. These two opposing worlds worked in complete tandem towards success for my son. Wow, just wow. 

So, now as I sit here on New Years Day and ponder all that is bright and new before us, I am thinking of new avenues, or better yet, fine tuning the avenues I'm on. My advocacy work has morphed into a full time job working for a company I deeply respect, NAMI San Diego, and the Child, Youth and Family Liaison, and giving the gift of advocacy to families who need help. Val's Art Studio continues at a slower pace, but with a sharp eye on purpose driven craft, if there is such a thing. 

Back to this business of a brand New Year... I have decided to reuse the word of the year that has been my faithful ally since 2015: Trust.This worrd has served me so well in the way I approach daily life, and in trying to hold back my need for Control. But I am adding to it: Abundance. I love this word and all it represents! With Abundance, I can realize that 'this is enough' and that 'I am enough' and be reminded to apply this notion to all I encounter in my home, work and studio life. 

What about you? Have you given this deep thought to your work and world as we march headlong into this brand new year? If so, I'd love to hear about it! Please share in the comments.


PS. I am so sorry about the teeny tiny type. I bought a new blogging app for my phone and started this post using that app. I have tried about 100 times to increase the font size, but nothing works. Urgh! So I guess you will just need your magnifying readers to understand what's in this post.....

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)


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!  😀


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!