Jerry and I are learning more about this fascinating medium from several Felting Experts. We're also finding this medium used in art in some unexpected places in our community.
Since that time, I've collected a few felted animals like Gem in the photo below. I adopted her from Becazzled Etsy Shop. She hangs out on my kitchen window sill and sometimes visits us at our shop to oversee packing and shipping. Gem especially likes to model for photo shoots.
The artist, Pat Willcox, has worked with Costume Design for 40 years. She designs and makes costumes for stage production and the movie industry. She has a studio designing and making Wedding Dresses and works in the Beaufort Performing Arts Children's Theater creating all the costumes for the plays.
I took some snap shots of the exhibit to share her creations with you.
One unexpected place we found Felt used is in Liturgical Art at our local church.
For several years Jerry and I have attended
St. John's Lutheran Church; but only recently noticed that some of the Church Banners are made with Felt.
We learned that some of these Banners were designed and created by members of our congregation. We were photographed below next to one of my favorites. The Butterfly is displayed near the alter during the Easter season.
I subscribe to the Living Felt newsletter and like to check in to the facebook page. I admire Marie's felt creations and enjoy seeing what her customers and students are creating. You can also see some of Marie's creations HERE
I wanted to get to know Marie a little better to find out how she learned about felting; and how she balances different aspects of her business while maintaining that creative spirit.
Check out our conversation below for her inspirational story about creating, teaching, and the start up and growth of her business.
I have no artistic training whatsoever and like many people I "learned" felting at a distance. I first discovered its existence during a "snippet" on the DIY channel which featured the work of Sharon Costello of Black Sheep Designs. I ordered a doll kit from her and quickly explored needle felting some of my drawings into sculptures.
One of my first pieces won a blue ribbon at a fiber arts conference and I was elated - I didn't even know there was a contest. I also explored wet felting and nuno felting within my first month of learning about the medium. I have never looked back.
My first sculpture was a male doll, I gave him bundles of wool and named him The Wool Merchant - his job was to keep me in fiber. At that time, I never imagined I would become "the wool merchant"; he has absolutely kept me in fiber! :) He lives in my office and is still doing his job.
Teaching for me is fun because it is community, sharing, interacting, inspiring each other. Yes, techniques are shared and learned, but the greatest part for me is the fun everyone has while also building confidence in themselves. It is a concentrated time of support, encouragement and enjoyment for everyone. I also learn with each class, so it is a fun growing opportunity for me as well.
My favorite part of felting is "exploration" -- I love stretching into new areas and trying new processes. It seems with each new piece I make that I fall in love with the process and think I will make a bunch more of the same thing, but then quickly I am off to try something new or some modification on what I just did. So for me, felting is always an adventure.
Because many of my pieces are "firsts", I have a hard time letting them go. I do give creations away, I have made commissions, gifts and donations -- but often my pieces turn into store models or get claimed by my husband...who is my biggest supporter and fan.
For needle felting, I always recommend choosing a project that you are INSPIRED to make...something you "want" to do. It will reign in your focus and make the learning process more fun and the outcome even better than if you begin with something you care little about.
As the Founder and CEO of Living Felt; can you tell me a little bit about how you do business? What about some of the ups and downs of being in your business? Does your spouse work with you in any aspect of the business? Do you have partners or employees? What are some of the challenges and what inspires you to be in this type of business?
I think the key to any business is PASSION and PURPOSE. Living Felt started with a single product = instructions with step by step photos for needle felting a bear. We sold them on eBay, and it was a very unique product at that time. I wrote the instructions to be of service to those wanting to learn, bears were not something I had ever felted for myself or as a gift; but many people discovering the craft wanted to make these because they were hot items on eBay and so I decided to teach what people were wanting.
Since that time, we have been committed to being of service to the good, to the creative spirit, to encouraging and nourishing our customers, our staff and our selves. We run every aspect of our business with this commitment in mind.
We started in a bedroom of our home in 2004, and were online only for many years. As the business grew, I worked full-time in another job and my husband stepped in more and more over the years to help manage the growth.
Getting to where we are required and requires nothing short of 110% commitment. Now we manufacture our own lines of wool and many other items, we have a thriving online business and a local store front where people can shop and take classes. I work in the business full time with our staff and while my husband still supports key areas, he is able to focus on his primary profession as a musician.
The conversation of business challenges and ups and downs could be a whole discussion in itself. I think the key to "challenges" is to ask "What is good about this?", "How can I grow within this to be the person and business owner I want to be?".
It is imperative to have competent professionals (such as bookkeeper, CPA, attorney, etc), it is imperative to do business above the table, with honesty and integrity at every turn. Deals must be Win-win. There is so much more I could say on this, but I will offer that a commitment to "personal development" absolutely supports business success.
What inspires me is the creative community in which we are both participants and gardeners. Since our inception, our customers become our friends, we get to know them through their photos and their sharing of stories. Through their notes and phone calls.
Numerous times I have had people call up just to give a gushing testimonial over the phone -- many more are written. That inspires me every day.
I love every aspect of our business from packing an order to getting in a shipment of wool to shooting a video or making a tutorial, but my absolute favorite is the joy in our customers who are having such fun with their creative expression.
It does not matter whether they consider themselves a dabbler, a hobbyist or an exhibiting artist...their joy is all that matters, we believe that the entire world benefits as a result of this.
We have themes each week that help us organize our content. Our customers send an endless stream of photos of their work.
We send out a weekly newsletter in which we share their work, we also share their creations on our website, blog, pinterest, facebook and now instagram.
I confess I am not very good on twitter. I do get behind sometimes and have had a helper with blog posts from time to time.
This community management has always been my responsibility and I do love it because it keeps me connected to our community.
There is more going on in Austin than I can get my hands around or get my body to attend.
Austin is a great town, very eclectic, lots to do outside, but for fun, I felt...and tell myself that I will make time for spinning and learning to weave.
For relaxation, I felt ... and tell myself that I will make time for gardening. I love walking myself and my dogs, I often take photographs of the natural environment for inspiration and pick up countless natural treasures from my walks for use in my work.
I love planting but am not a good garden tender...I have a bucket list for felting and felting tutorials that fuels me daily, I feel I will never run out of ideas of things to learn, to make and to share!
Be sure to visit Living Felt and like their facebook page.
If you have questions or comments for Marie; be sure to share them in the comments section below.
Look for Marie's Free Needle Felting Tutorial in our May Newsletter.