Monday, 12 December 2016

2016 Summary?

I'm usually very late with summing up the year gone (or close to it) but this year I'm doing it on time! The last fair is done, the ETSY shop got the last Christmas delivery date (not many items there anyway) and I do not do any felting at the moment and in the nearest future. Getting ready for the family coming to spend holiday time with us...
So let's talk a year 2016!
What was new:
         - I started framing my wool watercolours as pictures;
         - I exhibited at the art level the first time;
         - I applied and took part in many (too many?) craft events/fair/shows, most of them new;
         - I started to teach online;
         - My fish are on display in the art gallery (the magic word "gallery"!);
         - ETSY sales were down comparing to the last year. Quite unpleasant surprise!
         - I've tried a couple of new techniques - crazy wool scarves and "wool stencilling" in cushions; 
         - something else I've forgotten!..
I'm quite pleased with so interesting and intense year, but every of these new developments has positive and negative points and definitely space for improvement!
Try to talk through those above and make some resolutions or even plans for a future year.
         - exhibiting as an artist with my felted pictures was a great achievement for me! At least I felt that way at the moment :) ! I was thrilled by kind comments of  MarmaladeRose and Sheila Smith, people picked a lot of my business cards, I'd been invited to another event and was asked to give my fish to a local gallery to exhibit there. Fantastic! It was really great to get some recognition from masters who are at such high level of achievements and from just general public. That was July event and I cooled down a little bit since. It seems that being an artist is even more demanding than being just a crafter! And more difficult to sell as well :)!  One of the tricky points is that I'm rather confident that I'm a good crafter (OK, reasonable), but I'm quite unsure about myself as an artist. I'm still thinking whether to apply to next year Art in the Pen event, not sure, but there is time to decide still.
        - I need to sort through the list of the craft events I took part this year and some which I wanted to do but was not accepted. It'll be Crafts in the Pen definitely, I did well there this year, Masham sheep festival as well, I liked it, but need to work on display more.
        - I'm still looking for a local shop to sale those my items which are tricky to sell through ETSY. It's my main priority for the upcoming year. 
        - ETSY! I was sure that the third year was going to be as good as previous one if not better, but in November and December sales were much slower. Was it Brexit, weak pound, presidential election in USA or just me being busy and neglecting ETSY a little bit? No idea, but I need to sort it out!
All in all I worked really hard. I can't make more than I made this year and I know that all my most popular things such as fish and "watercolour" cases are always in demand, so I need to rethink the priorities and focus on new events and ideas.

Sorry for such a long post without a single picture! I do not expect my readers to get to the end of it, it was mainly thinking aloud for my own benefit!      

Monday, 21 November 2016

Back from Crafts in the Pen

I'm back from Crafts in the Pen!
The weather was so foul, there were even a few cancellations from the exhibitors. And still at least 160+ pens were full of wonderful stuff. The quality of products on offer was much higher this year (means competition  😊) and  1300+ visitors on Saturday only. I believe that Sunday was a bit quieter but still it was a good flow of people.
 - I've met some nice people, old friend and made new ones;
 - There were quite a few customers who have already bought some stuff from me last year or at the other shows and they came to say hello, thanks, and buy more. I'm really touched!
 - I've been shown items I sold last year being very heavily used (like phone cases) and in perfect condition still! What a relief!
 - I've not been frozen to death, being better prepared;
 - We booked a double pen this year to have more space and let people to browse and it worked quite well;
 - The fish were the stars 😊!
 - I sold very well, even better than last year despite the more competitive market.
And we stayed with friends for two nights which was very nice.
Just a few pictures of my stand below:

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

What is a good fair?

Just before my largest craft fair of the year I started to ponder on the subject :) Why I need a fair at all and what is a good one?
At first it's of course fun and excitement! Meeting people, getting their reaction, making new acquaintances or friends (even better).
But from practical point of view? What's in it for me?
- I could sell things which I do not sell through Internet. They are bulky or heavy like pictures and cushions or I do not know how advertise them properly like fish. I still want to make them and the fairs provide opportunities of sales.
- Felt is difficult media, it's much easier to sell in real.
- Not only to sell but to attract attention of  "important" people like those who run shops, galleries and other craft events. You may not even know about them and it could be more difficult to get into uninvited.
- Spread the word about yourself especially if you make something unusual. I become known as "a fish lady" :)!
- Advertise your classes if you teach. I've got one fantastic student for the fish course!
All these points above may be hard to estimate in money equivalent so let's talk profit!
What fair is good in profits? How to calculate it?
1. Put all the expenses together. Everyone could get it different and it very much depends on the particular fair, but general points are: - the cost of the stand.
                               - if the fair is far away  - the traveling and accommodation cost. In my case I need to include the cost of my husband's day away of job because I do not drive and anyway I need his help for a large shows.
                               - comparing to Internet sale there are extra expenses for staging the stand. They could be one-off (table  covers) or regular like extra packaging.    
2. Put your sale profit together.
3. Now it's a tricky one. I know a lot of people consider a fair to be a successful one if  #2 is more than #1. Not exactly.
I do sell through Internet and in a real shop. If I was to sell there (not at fairs) I would avoid all expenses #1 but will lose 35-40% of commissions.  So I deduct say 30% of my profits #2, then deduct expenses of #1. If the result is more then zero I am in profit! How much it's to everyone to decide!

To finish on a lighter note I'll show one of a few cushions ready for the fair. Hope to sell it and make some profit :)!

Friday, 21 October 2016

Catching up...

Oh dear! I'm so behind, do not even know what to talk about... OK, what's gone is gone, I'd better tell you what's on and what is coming.
I'm in the third week of online course on Fantasy Fish. It's the final week so it's time for a brief summary:
- am I happy with the course - not exactly;
- do I know what should have been done differently - no;
- am I going to run another course, later - not sure.
Very positive, isn't it?

The second show of Crafts in the Pen is coming next month. I was quite happy how the last year it went and was looking forward for this one. Now it's close and we've got a brochure and I'm growing  more apprehensive as it nears. 
At first it's huge this year 176 participants instead of 105 last year, and many of them (myself included :( ) have double pens. It means vast space for visitors to cover and it's not indoor meaning a lot of customers will just give up before checking on the all stands.   
Then the selection of exhibitors is a little bit strange to my taste. I do admit that the last year show was a mixed bag, and the standards of this year is much higher but it's much closer to art show than to Xmas craft fair. I do agree that artistic quality of, say, paintings or prints, is much higher than, say again, of decorative candles, but we are there for Christmas! I'm sure people would prefer more festive staff which means - cheerful, cheaper, even slightly kitschy. I myself was exhibiting at art show earlier this year but at Crafts in the pen I'm to present very different stuff.
Anyway "happiness comes from having low expectations" and my expectations are really low!

To end on more optimistic note I'll show something cheerful! Sunflowers tea cosy, just finished:

Saturday, 3 September 2016

The first fish of the autumn

Summer - time for holiday, getting away, family time etc - is over. We are in September now, autumn is arrived. Back to work, and here is a new fish - the first fish of the autumn:

Silk laps on the top of the body and wool nepps with some silky staff on the bottom.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Art in the Pen -2016 Thirsk

It's been a while I wrote here in my blog... Holiday, family staying and most time and mind consuming event - my first Art in the Pen show. AITP is the well established art fair here in North. This year they expanded to a new venue in Thirsk.
It was my first exhibition as an fibre artist and I was very excited and a little bit scared. But it went well.
- I like the venue and the atmosphere. Despite being just a cattle auction market it has very light and airy feel. Some people with more experience than myself commented that it was one of the best venue of the kind. And the weather was a proper summer weather.
- Everyone was very friendly. The pen(stand) we've got at first was of a rather awkward shape not suitable to my kind of display and we were moved to another one with proper walls and corners, getting more light and located just in the centre of the action.
- I've met some people, textile artists, whom I knew by there work on Internet.
Public response was very good, I've got so many very complimentary comments from the visitors and professionals alike. I was thrilled to bits when Sheila Smith came to my stand and praised my work. We chatted with MarmaladeRose (Fiona Gill) about our professional "secrets" and she's bought my glasses case! I think I should put it in my CV :)
- What was very unexpected that some visitors (whom I've never seen in my life!) came to see my work, which were recommended by other felt artists. It was very nice to know!
 - I've sold two cushions to a lady who has already had my tea cosy. It's just great to have customers coming back.
- There were a lot of gallerists and markets organisers looking for new interesting exhibitors and I run out of my business cards by the end of the show. I've been already invited to a designer market next year!
 - And finally - I sold well.

Overall it was very good and exciting weekend and I hope to repeat it next year.
Here are some pictures to illustrate:
How everything started:

         My husband dealing with the fish display:

This side of the pen is finished:

"Panoramic view":

And myself in the middle:
My family came to support me at the end of the first day. Some fish and cushions have gone and a picture...
Some pictures of the other exhibitors' stands:


Wednesday, 1 June 2016

New Delivery

This scarf was made without a wool layer, just pre-yarn and silk fibre on the top. No good, too many holes and the holes are too large!
I tried to rescue it and added a very thin layer of carded merino on one side. Not the tops but carded one because I thought it would catch better with already felted pre-yarn. Here is a result:

It's more solid now which may be a disadvantage but adding another layer of dyed wool created more interesting play of colours.

 Anyway, I like it better now!

And see what I've got just delivered:

 There is nothing to stop me now!

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Experiments with crazy wool technique

I continue my experiments with thin rovings and crazy wool technique. This time I used rainbow coloured ball (at the bottom of picture):
The roving/pre-yarn I work with is much thinner than standard pencil roving:

 The technique is the same as earlier: the layer of roving, very thin layer of matching merino, another layer of roving and generous layers of silk/viscose fibres in matching colours on both sides.
The result:

I'm quite happy with colours and the sheen:

This is how thin and holey the scarf is:

I'm still struggling to find a thickness I'm happy with, so you are to see more experiments!

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Crazy Wool Scarf

I've seen a lot of scarves made in the "crazy wool" technique recently - on Facebook and forums. I've made one myself, using pencil roving, some yarn, a bit of viscose and silk fibres and VERY thin layer of fine merino. The weight is 64g, it's 165cm long and 38 cm wide.

It looked underfelted to me and I worked with it some more. I wanted it to become narrow as a scarf not as a wrap. Now it's 162 cm long and 32 cm wide.
In both pairs of pictures the top one is original and the bottom one is after additional felting. Not much difference on the pictures but the feel of the scarf changed - it become more substantial, like proper scarf and extra delicacy's gone. Do I like it more now - there is a question... 


Friday, 13 May 2016

Back from FELTROSA!

I'm back from Italy where I spent a week  - three days in Verona and four days in small town Mel where the annual felting festival Feltrosa was held this year.
How was it? It was good even if I've heard some opinion that previous events had more interesting programme and were better organized. I couldn't compare because it was my first time and I couldn't complain - beautiful scenery, glorious weather and Italian food made up for all the shortcomings many times over.
I'm a felter still so the main reason (or excuse?) to go there was to see felt, workshops and take part in one of them. There were three workshops I've seen:
 - small jacket, 2-days workshop run by Natalia Shvets. As expected the "small" jacket became "full size" jacket and it took much longer and I've not seen the finished result unfortunately. Natalia wrote her own report on Feltrosa, it's in Russian but with many informative pictures - HERE 
- two one-day workshops on toques and fascinators run by Italian feltmaker Karin Monica. Small hats were presented in such a variety and made with such taste and fantasy that it was the best course in my opinion! See some pictures below. These hats were made by tutor but students' works were of the same high quality!

I attended the short  half day workshop on technique when you make digital print on silk fabric and could felt it in to create fully felted piece. Unfortunately it was a disappointment - both digital images I worked with disappeared completely by the end of felting process and I was left with blank piece of prefelt. The other participants got very mixed results as well... I was rather upset at first, then considered it as a new experience!
To finish it on more optimistic note there is a picture of lovely green heart one of Mel's resident created to his mother by carefully planting and pruning large ivy plant!
UPD: I've found the picture of a good result achieved by one of students, the image of daisies is a digital print:
 Unfortunately, I can't show mine because it was completely blank, no slightest image left...

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

This is a new fish I'd made just before I've left for Feltrosa.  I needed it quick so it's a repeat of my recent fish and it's inferior to the original (happens often with copies)!

Felted Fish

VERY close-up of details

Friday, 1 April 2016

Talk on design and composition of felted wraps. Part 3 - Dynamics and Movement

This is Part 3 of a translated transcript of the Russian felt artist Maria Gladchenko talk. 
Part 1 - is Here  
Part 2 is Here

 In Part 3 she is talking  about Dynamics and Movement.

If we want to use a lot of small elements in our wrap and create well balanced piece we need to arrange the bits properly, give them direction and create flow and movement.


We need to be sure that this multitude of small elements is not positioned randomly or just thrown together but arranged so that all of them have got general direction in common, a flow similar to some nature phenomenon like fluid and harmonious movement of shoal of tiny fish.

The dynamic is always associated with organic movement of life and nature in contrast to static and geometrical compositions which are often considered as artificial and somewhat industrial. Fluid movement of the nature is the source of our inspiration.

This picture of a beautiful maple tree may look as a random array of small elements but it’s just at first glance.
There are a few centres from which the elements are spreading in groups and in different directions. Every branch is equivalent to a group of similar elements with their own directions of movement. We could do the same in our composition of the wrap, we group details.   At first we define the position of the centres of the flow – the largest or the brightest or the most prominent element.

This arrangement should be done according to the same recommendations as above ( avoid stark symmetry, consider how it’ll look wrapped, balance…)  When we decided on the position of the main central elements we can start filling the entire surface of our piece working with the array of small elements.
Here the small leaves follow the lines of the wrap folded around the figure adding the softness and feminine feel.

To create more dramatic impression and add more energy to our composition we can use more vibrant elements like this spiral design with the centre of the spiral positioned just off geometrical centre of the wrap.

And here is a finished piece in all its glory!
                                                                    The End!
I'd like to thank Maria again for the generosity in sharing her knowledge and experience!