Showing posts with label about me. Show all posts
Showing posts with label about me. Show all posts


Some Questions Answered...

Thanks for all the great questions everyone and keep them coming! I've answered a few of those sent yesterday, below and more answers are on the way. Maybe tomorrow?

Thanks again for all the questions~ Here's a flower for your efforts...

Do you draw your creations before making them? How do you get started with a new update, do you ever get daunted by an empty desk or a blank page? ~Rebecca

Usually when I begin planning for a website update or a large group of work, I pull out my patterns (there are over 60 these days), look at the fabric and mohair I have in the studio, and start brainstorming. Often I draw, but sometimes I just need to see these things in front of me and I start making piles: this pattern with this mohair, this wool felt, and this cotton print... I think about the scale of different pieces, mixing the fabrics I have and deciding what I might need to make the whole body of work feel fresh and exciting for me. As I go I make quick sketches of each piece so I can get an idea of how all the pieces will fit together as a whole. 

I find sketching to be the easiest way to break any creative block. When I want to make something new, I often begin by doodling and usually something will come out. When all else fails I head to the library to look at children's books, collections of antique items, or something... I just wander around the shelves and within an hour or so I come home with more ideas than I know what to do with. After I ruminate on what I've seen I start sketching again. It helps to see my drawings instead of looking directly at something from the books once I'm back in the studio. The whole process of seeking inspiration, letting it all soak in, then drawing helps to narrow my focus and come up with something that truly feels like mine.

Which part of the process do you enjoy more, the sewing and construction of the pieces or the "decorating" with fabric for clothes and accessories?  ~Dawn
I love to make patterns and work on brand new designs.  I like some patterns so much I make them over and over and some I only make a handful of times... but more than anything I like the decision making phases of the process the best. The conception of the design, creating faces and expressions, and the final finishing when everything comes together seem to be the most "active" and interesting part of working for me. No matter how many times I make something there is always something new to learn and each piece really is an individual- it's just my job to discover that individual as I work. 

I love the In-Progress shots....It would also be fun to see a design completely from start to finish: your inspiration, sketches, the mock-up test run, and finally the finished adorable mohair creation. ~ Michelle René
I love this idea. Here's one blog post which goes something like that, but I'll have to work on another! thanks for the request Michelle.

Are your tags for each piece handwritten or are your printing them? ~Dawn
 Do they get their names at the start or do you name them after and where do you get the names? ~Denise and Rebecca 
All my stationary, labels, and tags are off-set printed but I hand write each and every card by hand as soon as I finish the bear or animal. I look them over and figure out who they are,  name them, and write up each tag. Sometimes I reference the Social Security Website for help, they list the most popular names by decade which gives me a never ending supply of great old ones. I'm the most drawn to those name which have been around for a while since that's the quality I'm most interested in creating with my work- I want all my pieces to feel like old souls.  

What books in your crafting library were invaluable in creating your art? ~ Fantastic Toys
When I first started making stuffed animals with my mom I poured over the "Button in Ear : The Steiff Encyclopedia". I looked at that book over and over again- endlessly. It really formed my ideas about what a stuffed animal could be: infinite forms, colors, designs, personalities- all beautifully made with the best materials available. Now I look at a lot of sources- books, blogs, images all over- but I haven't found anything that held my imagination like that book did. It was magic and unlocked something in me. 

What pieces are your personal favorites-bears, mice, dogs, cats, bunnies? ~Dawn
hmmmm, that's a tough one. I think it really depends on what mood I'm in. I can honestly say I don't have a favorite, but I only have a handful of my own pieces, some just hang around without me really choosing them: either the design wasn't quite right or I wasn't ready to sell them... but I've chosen two pieces and they're both bears- so that tells you something i guess! I'll have to post about them in the future.

What parts of your creations are machine sewn vs. hand-sewn? How do you decide when its best to glue vs. sew? ~  Lisa
 I sew all of the arms, legs, bodies, heads, etc by machine. Occasionally when I'm making a really small bear (3" or less) I hand sew the head to make sure it's perfect but other than that everything is sewn on the machine. It's not exact and my seam allowances are far from perfect, but I think that makes each bear or animal unique. Once I turn the pieces right side out all the rest of the sewing is done by hand. 

Which update season is your favorite? ~ Dawn
I like making everything at the beginning of each season- I'm SO excited to get to work, but by the end I'm really ready to move on. It's perfect I guess. I can't wait for winter and then by the end I don't what to think about white, mica, tinsel, and snow and just like that, it's Valentines day and everything is romance and couples. I love that. 

I'd love to know if you have any plans to sell patterns for any of your stuffed creatures. ~ Malu and Lisa

I do! That's one of my plans for this summer. I've been saying it for quite a while, but I think I'm finally ready to start working on them now. I'll post more info as things unfold here!

I'd love to learn more about what inspires you and how long you have been collecting all the great vintage materials that go into your work. You have just the perfect balance between modern and vintage. ~Debi V 
What a great question... hmmm what inspires me? There are so many things. When I was growing up my parents took me to antique shows and auctions all the time. They were big collectors of antique toys and all things old and beautiful. The collector gene was passed on to me, but it's been tempered by my love of diverse objects. I'm equally excited by old toys, the always changing trends in art, fashion and design, folk art, Japanese "cute" and children's illustration. I'm kinda all over the place. My tastes change all the time but having spent so much time browsing through "history" with my parents at those flea markets I learned so much about how objects age and where all things used go... My collections and interested grow and change, but I'm still deeply engaged in what it means to make objects. I want to make the next generation of objects that last- things that don't just get tosses away, but rather get passed down from one generation to the next.
 Since the birth of my son two years ago, he has become my greatest inspiration. I now want to make things that make him laugh and smile; and while it drives me crazy when he "steals" one of my bears I know it's the greatest endorsement. I love that he wants to play with them- it makes everything I do seem worthwhile. 
As for my collections, I'm always gathering materials for my studio. I used to frequent estate sales, antique shows, and search ebay for one of a kind items but in the last few years I've been slowing down a little. I don't have nearly as much time since having my son Claude, and I really so have SO much stocked away. My mom and I joke that our studios are "The Shop": one can find anything they could ever need in there.

I would love to see the very first teddy you ever made. ~Tammy
I found these photos last year and it brought back so many memories for me. I wrote about the first group of bears and animals I made here. Ohhh look at the 11 year old me. 


What are your thoughts on “originality”…is anything truly original? ~Kari
I think it's important to understand what we're all sponges and we soak up everything we see.....  and there is truly so much out there, but I do believe there is always room for original work. The most important thing is to be honest with yourself about what is yours and what is your version of someone else's work.  While I'm working I never have any "direct inspiration" images or pulled material around me. I like to think over the years I've created my own "Visual Atlas". I see the way someone has used crepe paper, I see color combinations, and I see material combinations: and they all get stored away in my memory and make up my "Atlas". It's my best friend while I work, and it's the source of my constant inspiration.  I think working that way allows you to constantly be original. You're never stuck on one composition or style. Everything you've seen gets mixed up together, allowing for truly original work to come forth. 


    goodbye Rome and an informal list

    We are headed home very soon- time is running out and this list is due so without further ado, I will miss very much:
    •  walking past the Colosseum on a regular basis
    • getting pizza bianca on the way to the park nearly every morning with Jay and Claude
    • the super fresh and beautiful food at nearly every store and every market (it's truly breath-taking and it makes grocery shopping so so much fun)
    • the 87 bus- who knew I would love the buses- but I'll miss them terribly
    • being able to walk into a new church nearly everyday and still be surprised each and every time
    • PIZZA- in all forms- everyday - yes, every-day
    • wine and cheese and olive oil and all the baked goods
    • the fountains everywhere from the simplest to the most complex- all with clean drinking water for thirsty little boys and their mothers
    • the utter and overwhelming kindness that Italians shower onto all babies and children
    • the Pantheon
    • and all the other amazing structures, sculptures, paintings, fountains and...
    • the salty sea
    • the plants and trees and flowers and the smell spring blossoms as you walk down the street
    • this time with Claude - watching him become more and more and more....... and more
    • the breadth and depth of the beauty and complexity of this city

    goodbye Rome- my home away from home. (each day when we get back to the house after a long walkabout- Claude spreads his arms wide, arches his back, and yells "HOME!". I know I'm not the only one who will miss this place.)


      way back when-

      I started sewing animals when I was 11- and while my mom has a lot of the pieces I made then I don't have many- well, honestly I just have this one: a bright orange kangaroo. He's so bright orange in fact I had to take him down a notch in photoshop- it was just too orange to handle and a little unbelievably bright. He's been in every studio I've ever had for as long as I can remember. I haven't kept him on purpose. I wasn't all that fond of him or attached. He was just a prototype of for a pattern I made but couldn't sell because no one wants an obnoxiously orange felt kangaroo, but over the years he's burrowed his way into my heart. He refuses to be lost - after spending years in this or that odd drawer or shelf- only to pop up unexpectedly while cleaning or moving- he's finally made his way out into a position of prominence in my studio. He now sits proudly on my sewing desk - and greets me each day- brightly. After 20+ years I think I'm happy he's stuck around... He's a mascot of sorts- a sign of my childhood and example of how long I've been sewing.
      Writing this post reminded me of the photo my mom sent me a few years ago. This is me at 10 arranging the first group of bears I ever made out in our front yard. Funny to see that little girl- I almost don't recognise myself- but then I look at those hands. Oh yep- that's me. It's odd to see those adult hands on that little girl-


      It's our Anniversary! and notes about "doing it all"

      Happy Anniversary Everyone! Well well well... It was around this time last year that I posted my first entry on this blog. Needless to say a lot has changed in the last 365 days. I moved out of my huge, beautiful, sun-filled studio into a newly renovated space in my home, bringing my whole life under one roof. I gave birth to my first child, sweet Claude last July and I've spent the last 7+ months trying to figure out what it means to run a business, be a mom, and keep everything in balance.

      The question I've been asked more than any other in the last year is "how do you do it all?". Well, the only honest answer is: I have a lot of help.

      Most people don't have the luxury of demanding creative time in their day whether it's not lucrative, not valued or there are to many other demands which are inflexible - it becomes the thing that is pushed aside. I've carved out a space in my life for making in large part by splitting my days with Jay. Since we're both artists our schedules are fluid and we're able to give each other more or less time in the studio depending on our current work load. We have nannydays once a week, and I have an assistant who comes in a few hours here and there to help keep the studio tidy and running tiptop. Even with all the help, trying to get everything done is a daily challenge and I've found that readjusting my expectations has been the hardest thing about parenthood.

      It all comes back to balance. That elusive, desirable, and oohh so difficult to attain sweet spot. I find the harder I try to hold it all perfectly together in preconceived order, the quicker everything falls apart and I'm left feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. On good days I'm able to float though with grace and ease- caring for Claude's needs, getting a post on the blog, sewing a bit, answering all my emails, and if it's a really good day maybe getting a little knitting in before I settle into bed. Those are good days. The bad days look a little different- I'm frazzled, running around seemingly aimless, getting nothing accomplished and all the while not being the best mom either. Really, most days fall somewhere in the middle.

      I hate the idea that I've created some unrealistic example for women to- get it all done- all the time- with the full time demands of caring for children. While I feel unqualified to be dispensing words of wisdom... I guess this is what I come back to when I've had a bad day:
      Just keep simple.
      • Enjoy being with my child when I'm with him.
      • Focus all my attention on work when I have the chance to be in the studio.
      • Take full advantage of nap time.
      • Make time for myself.
      • Family Day!
      • Cultivate gratitude for the love in my life and the joy that's all around me daily.
      That may sound overly simplified and it is, but I think that may be the point- and today that's the best most honest answer I've got. Thank you all for spending the last year, months, days with me on the blog... it's been a very good year and I'm glad I've been able to share it.


      Family Day...

      We were oxygenated and refreshed in the humid air-
      it's the perfect respite from brutal winter weather.


      State Fair Fun!

      My sister, Claude and I all headed off to the Great Minnesota Get Together yesterday. It was the perfect day- 68 degrees and sunny with a slight breeze, which made carrying Claude in the sling a snap and we maneuvered around the hoards of people with ease. I didn't eat anything on a stick which is amazing considering EVERYTHING comes on a stick (obviously corn dogs and cotton candy, but also Giant Bacon, Cheese Curds, deep fried Candy Bars, something called a Fudge Puppy, and my fav. the Pickeldog- A quarter dill coated with cream cheese and wrapped in pastrami), but I did have a beautiful cob of roasted corn. That's almost on a stick- well it's kind of a stick itself right?!
      Anyway, the highlight of the fair each year is the photo booths. They are getting harder and harder to find these days, so I look forward to the Fair to get my annual fill. I was ooh so happy to introduce Claude to the fun- and while I'm not sure he enjoyed as much as Kindra and I did, there was no cries- just one very sad face caught in the flash-


      it's a boy!

      Hello Claude Winter!
      Our little one arrived late last night a 11:39- 07/14
      He's is 7lbs 9oz and all wonder and joy... (and currently asleep on my chest -mmmmm) We couldn't be happier.


      day dreaming of lazier days

      With all the work going on in the house and studio over the last two weeks, I can't help but daydream about lazier days. Last year at this time, Jay and I took what we coined the "trip of a lifetime" to the south of France. We stayed in this beautiful villa in the shadow of the hilltop village of Gordes. Ahhhh, the magic of travel. This image of myself reading one afternoon in the villa after we'd had a grand lunch, takes me back to the fields of blooming poppies, miraculous stone villages, endless wine and cheese plates, and, and, and...


      Thank you Grandma

      Taking after Miss Dolores.

      I think my fascination for sewing was ignited by my Grandmother and by the honorable place her beautiful quilts held in our family. Each Christmas she would gift one of her hand-quilted compositions to one lucky person. They were meticulously made, and thoughtfully reflected the recipients personality. She was a thrifty woman, and would use every scrap. I love the economy of quilt making and while fabric prices have gotten quite expensive (or maybe it's just my love for imported and designer fabrics haha!) I try to employ that frugality while designing my own quilts. I began my first quilt three years ago, and I've (started many and) finished a few now. My Grandmother passed away well before I started quilting, but she passed the bug to me... and I'm carrying on the tradition of gifting a quilt each Christmas. Here are a few I've made and a few still in progress.
      the quilt I love to much on my wall to finish for my bed...

      X's Quilt in progress

      Baby Quilt... for the baby in my belly. See a detail here.

      2008 Indigo Christmas Quilt for Mom and Dad


      Hello Baby!

      Jay and I went for our T2 ultrasound last week... it's official, there is a baby in there. We've decided not to find out if we're having a boy or a girl, but all in due time. 21 weeks down and 19 to go...