Briefly describe yourself and what you make
I'm a very lucky stay at home housewife and mum of 3 kids. I also have arthritis and bi-polar disorder. I've had to face the reality that I will never work 'main stream' again and desperately needed to find something to occupy myself. That's when my obsession with felt began. I found I could make small and cute things very quickly which suits my short attention span. I make everything from softies to hair clips and mug coasters. In everything I make there is an element of re-purposing. The stuffing for softies is old t-shirts and scraps of fabric, the beads come from vintage finds, quite often the fabric is thrifted. I don't believe in waste on any scale and I keep every scrap, right down to little threads, as you never know when you might need them.
Aside from the felt madness I also own and run a costuming business with 2 close friends of mine. We have no shop and do business by word of mouth but it works well. We sell custom ordered costumes to the LARP, Live Action Role Play, community.We've made cloaks, dresses, shirts, waistcoats, and a myriad of other things that have been requested too. Every item is made to fit the the buyer and we only use a stock pattern as the basis for our work, I alter every pattern with the customer in mind to ensure they get a good fit and a garment that will last for years.
Who or what inspires you?
Inspiration comes in many forms for me. Something in a film might trigger an idea, a weblog I'm reading may open new areas for me to explore. I have a large collection of vintage craft books that I flick through on a regular basis to help motivate me I constantly learn new techniques. Country Living Magazine is also a favourite of mine for inspiring images and colour. One of my biggest inspirations is my husband, he always had words of encouragement when I start to slack, he will sit and discuss fabric with me and patterns and ideas even though he isn't a creative person at all. Having support from your loved ones is an amazing thing that can lead to all sorts of creations.
When / how did you learn?
I can remember sewing scraps for fabric together for my teddies when I was about 5 so I've been crafting all my life. I've never had any formal classes for anything I do. I learned how to use a sewing machine, do cross stitch, learn several different hand sewing stitches, all on my own or from reading books. Once you have the basics down it's just a case of expanding on that and keeping going. Don't give up.
Why do you 'bother' to make things by hand?
Making things by hand is satisfying. It's deep down, soul calming, karma re-aligning, snuggly blanket on a cold day satisfying. Wearing a skirt I made makes me feel good. On the rare occasion I sell something from my shop, I feel good inside. There is also the element of the time and effort put in to something, the love and affection as you carefully wrap it to go to it's new home, knowing that someone wanted something YOU made. I think that making things for your home is important too. It stops it being just a place you live in and a turns it in to your own unique stamp on the world.
What is your craft "philosophy"?
Use everything and don't waste a thing. Do it well, make it to last, and love what you do. It's as simple as that.
Fondest craft-related memory?
When I first opened my Etsy shop I sold something on the first day. I was utterly stunned! The best thing was the story I was sent from the buyer about how she had had a mouse pincushion just like that when she was a child, her grandmother had made it for her, and she had lost it. She'd looked for another one to replace it for years and never found what she was looking for. Not until I posted one up of course. She was very very grateful and, even though I've never sold a thing since, it still gives me hope that someone out there is looking for just what I make.
How do you deal with crafty mistakes?
There are no mistakes just artistic license! I've rarely had to start again on a project because I've messed up. Though they frustrate me at the time I normally find they just add to an items uniqueness in the end.
Favourite book(s) or craftbook(s)?
I have the entire series of Golden Hands that I found in a thrift shop for £5. It's a 1970's magazine publication and it's all in large binders. It covers every kind of craft you can think of from silver metal work to macrame and clothes making.
Do you have a designated craft space? What does it mean to you?
Oh the dreams of my own craft space. The cupboard under the stairs is mine to store things and I have a kitchen table that is regularly the home of my sewing machines. Most of the time I make small, palm sized, projects and I have a tray that I cover with the bits I need. I'm afraid I do most of my crafting while curled up on the sofa listening to audio books.
Do you use a sketchbook or journal?
I have a sketch book that use for all my designs and will sometimes just cover a page in doodles before picking something I would like to make 3D. I don't colour any of my pictures as I'm not confident enough. I do add little notes all over the place though and sometimes scraps of fabric.
Why is crafting good for you?
Crafting allows me to release all of the pent up energy I have inside. It also helps to settle my mind.I find I spend a lot of time couped up indoors because of my illness and it's a way of relaxing and being productive when I wouldn't otherwise be.
Is your craft a business as well? Any advice on running a crafty business?
I do run my crafting as a business, 2 business's in fact as my costuming and Etsy shop are seperate. Word of mouth is important for both of these so I always do my very best when making an item. I haven't spent time on promoting either of them but I should. I have very little advice I can give currently as I'm not doing very well over at Etsy. The sotuming is much easier as people are constantly seeing my work and hearing how good the end products are.
What impact (if any) has the internet had on your craft?
The internet has given me a whole world of supportive friends via blogs and forums. It's also a constant source of inspiration.
Do you make art or craft? Is there a difference?
Some of my items are seen as art, others as craft. I think they are all a combination of the two. They are simply 2 terms for the way a person expresses themselves, in my mind anyway, and have many cross overs.
If you could make any project without limits to cost, materials or even skill, what would it be?
I'd like to make a full sized dragon. One that moved and blinked etc. I've wanted to do this since I saw a movie called 'The Monster Maker'. It's based on all the letters that Jim Henson used to get from kids wanting to work with him. In the mean time I keep making smaller dragons that full of stuffing and fluff and need to be cuddled.