The Gnomes

The Gnomes
the gnomes

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Giving Thanks to some of the most wonderful people in my world...

In the spirit of giving thanks for the blessings in my artistic life I want to present the some of the best people in my little felting world.
When I started and through out this artistic endeavor I had a lot of support from women and I want to acknowledge these amazing wonderful people.
Nilda my sister who saw what I was doing and said " You know these are really good you could sell these." Now this statement was very important to me because my sister is a straight shooter (some would say blunt) and if she says its good, its good. She also single handedly runs Kerr Advertising which is a pretty amazing feat.
Angie and Jennifer who were my very first customers. I made them both Santas in 2011 and they insisted on paying for them, wow what a feeling!
Lisa Angell from Boutiliers Art Center who has given me unfailing support and was the very first store in Vermont to display and sell my felt.
 Natacha Luizzi at Brown Dog Books and Gifts in Hinesburg. Brown Dog was the second store in Vermont to carry my work and has been ever since she emailed me after  my friend Laurie Brown (who by the way owns Triple Loop) gave her my card.
Mary Heinrich Aloi from Vintage Inspired Market Place who took a chance on me teaching needle felting classes at her store.
Joanne Kalisz from Happy Fantastic who has become my friend. She has offered support and advice ever since I showed my work on my Iphone at the BeCause craft show.
Laura Hale from Found Beauty Studio who found my facebook page and I think was one of my very first fans. She became my friend and mentor. Not to mention she is one of the funniest people I know and has my similarly skewed sense of humor.
Bradie Hansen of Jabo and Belles who has been my partner is crime when it comes to wool experimentation. She and I met after we emailed each other on etsy when we saw that we were both in the same area of Vermont. I don't know what I would do with out her and this next gal...
Leslie Lewis of Ewe Who Farm. My friend and first local wool supplier. Fabulous quilter, knitter, dyer and friend.
Carol Farmer and the gals from Mountain Fiber Folk. These ladies freely share ideas, techniques and have some of the best wool in Vermont.
Molly Molly who was my very first sale on etsy. God I love that girl.
Laura Amedio who was my first out of state repeat customer. There were times when I would think what the heck am I doing and then Laura would pop up and say I would like to order....
Amy and Mark Yandow from Sugar Tree Maple Farm who had me set up a table at their sugar house during Maple Open House. They are some of the most fabulous people that you will meet. Go buy your maple sugar from them.
Megan Humphrey and Moe O'Hara who run the Women's Festival of Crafts. They run the best  women's craft fair in the Burlington area and the biggest one I have ever done.
Vermont Handcrafters who juried me in, introduced me to some of the most wonderful artists and has been a wonderful support and resource.
Ellen Thompson from Grand Isle Art Works who sought me out to sell my work at the store. She and her husband are the reason there is goats in my repertoire.
The thing that all these folks have in common besides be a great support to me is that they are all small business owners. Everyday they go to work at a business that they created and shaped. So for small business day and for the rest of the year please support them. They offer wonderful products and service from Vermont. You will be thankful to know them. I know I sure am.

Friday, October 18, 2013

How to Needle Felt a Realistic Eye

*Note: I first posted this tutorial in my Meylah shop that I have since closed for an indeterminate vacation. 

How to needle felt a realistic looking eye.
Materials: 40 T All purpose felting needle and a 38 Star felting needle, foam mat, several swatches of wool roving in these colors: white, black, brown, flesh tone, a light color for the eye and a darker color in the same color family.
First using your white roving, needle felt an oval. You can use either needle, I generally start with a 40 T and finish with the 38 star.

Next take a swatch of your light eye color and wrap it into a flat circle, putting it in the center of the eye.

Needle Felted it into a round circle in the center of the eye.

Taking your darker shade of eye color, pull it into a long thin line and then needle felt it around the lighter color.

Now taking a piece of black roving make a smaller circle for the pupil and needle felt it into the center.
Then with your brown roving needle felt a thin line around the pupil.

Voila, we are almost there!

Now with your white again make a small circle on the edge of the pupil with your felting needle. For this I like to use my Star needle.

It should look like this picture.

Now for the eyelid. Take a small swatch of your flesh roving and shape it into a crescent.

It should look like this…

Needle felt it so that it is a solid piece and then attach to the eye like this..

Needle Felt it down.

Now with your black make a thin strip and carefully needle felt it onto the eyelid where the lashes would go.

The final product!

You are finished! You can use this technique by following the steps on your felting projects face or make the eye like we did here and felt it into place.
Hope you enjoyed this tutorial! Happy Felting!

Monday, September 30, 2013

There is No Assembly Line in Handcrafted Felt

            I have been thinking about writing this piece for several months. Many of my fellow artisans, jewelers, silk screeners, illustrators are in production mode right now for the holidays. Many of them are able to make many of the same thing by creating an assembly line type way of  working or in the case of illustrators/card makers and silk screeners transferring the image onto a wide variety of products. Some are even able to hire folks to assemble for them.
         As a felter I have wracked my brain to figure out a creation that I can mass produce in a timely manner. There a  few products that I make where it is possible.
Acorns being one of them. I needle felt and then wet felt the wool balls, dry and acrylic the acorn tops, drill holes, add fishing line and then glue them together. I can do quite a few acorns this way.
Little nest pins are the other that I can produce similarly to the acorns.
     Honestly that is really about it. Every other creation is really a one of a kind piece of art work that is made from start to finish over a period of hours or days. It can't be replicated. Both wet felting and needle felting is not a quick process art form. You can't hire people to help make your pieces because then it becomes their piece since every piece will have a personal spin regardless of how you try to make it uniformly.

     I am always baffled when people ask me how much time it took me to make something. If I really told them and charged for the actual time they would not be able to afford the pieces. Each piece has wool that has been sourced from a Vermont farmer or a small New England company. These days it has wool that I have bought raw, washed and carded to make it usable for felting. Skirting a fleece, washing and carding and sometimes dying is a whole other story.
     So when you see my meager offerings at a craft fair or on etsy and wonder why there is not more of the same or replications that is why, you are getting a one of a kind piece of art. And by the way, price wise you are getting a steal.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Crazy Summer

Well summer started off with a bang. The pixie got out of school on June 17 and we were off and running. We spent a wonderful 2 weeks with our friends from Wales, UK and went to a conference where I donated a playscape to raffle off.

I was really happy that it raised over 100 dollars for the VACTERL Family Network. My daughter has VACTERL association and the network and its conference has been a real life saver for us. The best part is that we get to meet people just like us like our friends from Wales and new friends who are from Vermont! How insane is it that we had to go to Boston to meet a VACTERL family that is 2 towns away from us!
When we got home I got busy with making some costume pieces for the Flynn Theater for Shrek the Musical. Can you guess what characters these are for?

There will also be a gnome hat making an appearance some where in that musical but you will have to go to spot it.
Next up is the Waterbury Arts Fest this weekend. Then I will be up in the Islands for the Annual Trunk Show and Sale at Grand Isle Art Works  July 27 and 28.
As always the internet shops at Etsy and Meylah are always open at
Cheers to a happy summer,




Thursday, May 16, 2013

Monday, May 13, 2013

Felting: Why is it Art Versus Craft?

 Imagine my surprise after creating "the girls" (that is what I call my sheepskin nudes) that I was thrust into this philosophical debate of art versus craft. Apparently the Art World in certain circles whispers the word Crafty as if it is Art's ugly step sister who should be kept in the backroom.
I have been struggling with body perspective issues since I was a teenager. As I have gotten older I find myself wanting to confront my demons and emerge with a better sense of self. The best way I have found is to make bodies in my felt work. Now I consider this work, Art work. For me it is thought provoking and cathartic. Fiber is a  great way to show women's bodies, the softness of the wool, the stiffness of the sheep skin background, the solidness yet softness of the needle sculpted wool.  Having done a series I thought it would be wonderful if they were grouped together in a gallery to be seen, to stir and create discussion. So I started pursuing various avenues to make it happen. And then it happened. My work was called Crafty. What? What does that mean? And why does it mean it would not belong in a gallery among other Art work?
 Mary Ann Kohl, an author and educator  explains it in this way:

creative, unique, original
similar (or identical) to other people
comes from within the individual
directed from a teacher
open-ended, end results unknown
closed, directions-oriented, end results known
process is valued over finished product
finished product is valued over process
copying and imitating

Now not everyone agrees with this assessment.
Kate Themal wrote a beautiful piece on Ragged Cloth Café that I want to excerpt here:
"CRAFT is technique; it requires discipline, practice and repeatability. A Craft is a learned skill; it can even be used to describe an action. To craft something means to make or build an object. Whether or not an object displays good or bad craftsmanship can be determined by specific and measurable standards.
Art is not a separate “world” from Craft. These two things are not entities themselves but rather they are specific aspects of all creative work.
ART is not a physical object. ART is an expression of thought, emotion and/or intent. ART is communication. When we create a work of art, we are reaching out to the world because we have something to say. Sometimes the viewer understands our communication. Maybe our execution of certain techniques gets in the way of our message and the viewer misses it entirely. Other times, the viewer interprets the work with their own unique perspective, adding nuance to our original intent. ART depends on that moment of connection between two or more people: the artist and the viewer(s). It cannot be measured or judged by a set of precise standards. Whether something is “good” or “bad” art is a completely subjective opinion. Therefore ART can never be truly “perfected”.
To create art is to be vulnerable. We expose our deepest feelings and thoughts, and we put them on display. It takes courage. And each one of us has to build up our nerve, explore our souls, find our passion and strive for honesty in our work. We all search for ways to express ourselves. Developing a craft is just a way to connect with our work and expand our communication skills. "

Now when asking lay people in our community after viewing the girls if they thought it was Art or Craft there was a resounding Art response.
Other artists responded that if it has a function it must be craft. One artist stated that my nudes could be viewed as art because they had no other function but to be seen but my masks served a function so they were craft.  
Another artist said that textile, fiber or other traditional materials used by women denotes a craft even if it doesn't "serve a function".
Now interestingly enough, I am self taught so there has been no teacher directing me in my work. I do draw inspiration from others as do other artists and craftspeople. I never know how a sculpted piece will end up. Process definitely takes precedent over the final product and the final result is original and one of a kind. Very few of my pieces can be replicated.. So in many ways defined by  Mary Ann Kohl I would fall into Art category if I have to be categorized. But my medium is wool and I am a woman so in some minds I will always be Crafty which I find a silly type of bigotry. Kate Themal's piece makes the most sense to me. It is respectful of both Art and Craft and can see how they can entwine and meld.
My artist statement is the best way for me to explain my processes and choices:
Sheep’s wool is what most people would consider an unlikely medium to express a feeling or perception but that is what felting and wool sculpting is for me. It gives me the power to express my worldview through a natural substance. My journey combines both a new way of manipulating wool, through needle felting or sculpting wool and an ancient tradition, wet felting. It combines Art and Craft.
Through felting the transformation is magical, whimsical and powerful. The fleece becomes what I see or want to see in the world while staying firmly rooted in the natural world.
All that is important to me is an inspiration. My daughter’s strong belief in magic and magical beings, the noticing of titmouse’s visit to the bird feeder, the curvy softness of my body growing older…these all come out of the wool.
Whether it be a piece of functional art such as hand felted slippers decorated with my impression of snowdrops to a Red bellied Woodpecker to a soft woman’s body emerging from a sheepskin it brings me an indescribable feeling of anticipation, excitement, joy and power.
What are your views on Art versus Craft?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Vermont Bird Museum Special Exhibit

So a few days ago I opened an email from The Birds of Vermont Museum and read
"Dear Susi,
We had so many wonderful submissions to our call to artists! We’re delighted to invite you to show your piece, “Red-bellied Woodpecker”, with us for our Breeding Bird Atlas exhibit. If the Titmouse is available, we'd exhibit it also...

This exhibit celebrates the Vermont Center for Ecostudies’ updated Breeding Birds of Vermont atlas and its release as a printed book (see more at ). This atlas is a gigantic citizen-science project and the result of hundreds of volunteers and thousands of hours of birding observations and data analysis. The art will show how we see and treasure birds through many perspectives, complementing science and conservation.
Our exhibit runs from May 1 through October 31.

The Birds of Vermont Museum is in Huntington Vermont and collaborates with the Vermont Audubon and other organizations to preserve and record the amazing birds in Vermont. I feel very honored to be one of the artists invited to participate in this fantastic exhibit.
If you are interested in purchasing a bird or want a custom bird please contact me. I have made several (examples below) and am willing to work to your specifications.