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 work 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! 😂


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!

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 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. 

xx
Val