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Real felt birds

March 11, 2017

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photo Rende Zoutewelle

Painting has been low key for awhile. I’ve tried showing up at the canvas anyway, but end up just rehashing stale ideas. It is a period where I need fresh input, so I’ll be giving it a rest until inspiration comes again.

Meanwhile, I’ve been working on the little guy above. I’m not quite sure what got me started on making felt birds. I had made a flock of them as brooches several years ago.

Maybe it is because the birds around here (northern Europe) lift my spirits. Not only do I regularly see blue cranes on my walks, but also flocks of geese stringing across the big skies chattering and calling to each other; and that rare treat, a swan family, whooping above with the wonderful whooshing of the wings. You just feel like you got blessed when they have passed by.

My husband has rigged up several bird feeders close to our large dining room windows and we’ve come to know the regular visitors well. Sparrows of course, coal tits like the one above, chaffinches, blue tits, ring doves, and English robins are the main ones. I just love the coal tits with their neat little black fronts and soft yellow bellies and sides. They like sunflower seeds best and will perch at the feeder tossing out everything else until they get to a prize, then they retreat to a higher branch and crack it open by holding it between their claws and pecking at it until they get to the meaty part. Chaffinches and robins will sit on the ground gratefully picking up the rejects thrown out by the coal tits. Watching the interactions between the birds is also entertaining.

coal tit n finch1

So basically I made these birds to keep me company upstairs in my studio. The chaffinch is kind of crude, it was a first prototype . They definitely have some kind of presence, though, because our dog is jealous of them!

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photo Rende Zoutewelle

If I do make more (not for awhile, they are So Much Work) I’d do a sparrow next.  They are incredibly beautiful when you stop to look – with soft grey feathers and reddish chestnut caps and streaks of black, and various browns on the head and wings. There are also white accents, bringing out the contrast of all the different feathers. And did you know there are dozens of different types of sparrows? I didn’t until recently.

Anyway, the weather here is more springlike, so instead of sitting inside making felt birds, I’ll be out in the garden enjoying the real ones!

flock of felt birdies

flock of felt birdies

Crafty corner time! (Goodness, however will I keep up my image as a professional designer and serious painter by showing my small handmades?) Well, not my problem, I don’t see them as separate from my other work.

This group is sold out. I’ve found that selling works for me if it is to my immediate friends and other small local circles, like classes etc.

I wanted to share part of the process of making these little sweeties because it is something that evolved while working on these and might be fun or helpful for others.

During all my hand work projects I always felt bad about the waste of little bits of pure wool felt, silken embroidery threads and snippets of wool and acrylic yarns. I kept as many scraps as possible, but inevitably the tiniest pieces would get thrown away. Well, I just started putting them in a jar because the colours made me feel happy. And when they accumulated, the penny dropped, and whoopee, I discovered I  had ready-made stuffing for my brooches.

Here is my worktable surface, it pleases me how harmonious the colours of the washi tapes, scraps and Papaya mailing stickers are, oh and the crochet work in the background. I tend to stick to these kinds of warm pastels. Far left you can see my scrap collection jar.

tabletop

tabletop

work surface

Here is bluebird in the process of getting his innards.

getting filled

getting filled

And here he is ready to send to Sandy, my dear friend in Canada who will be his new mom.

‘Tweet’ (remember when that used to mean, bird word)!?

Bluebird with fancy toes

Bluebird with fancy toes

Ingrid and Stuart outside of Bon Papillon Gallery,Café, Framers, & Shop

I was lucky enough to stumble on Bon Papillon last summer when in Edinburgh. I’d just visited the wool shop nearby and needed a cup of tea and a place to just chill for awhile.  It was festival time, and my search for knitting wools had brought me onto a side street off busy Prince’s street, a good way down the hill. It was a relief to get away from the intense bustle and crowds, and when I saw the little terrace and art gallery offering cake and coffee, I couldn’t resist.

Bon Papillon had just opened a few months earlier. Once inside I sat down at a wooden table in a lovely, warm and intriguing interior and had the best cake and coffee I can remember having in a long time. And the prices were as friendly as the owners. I chatted a bit with Ingrid Nilsson about her art and this new venture she was embarking on with her partner Stuart Allan. It turns out Ingrid is an exhibiting artist, and Stuart has 20 years experience in catering. Judging from the deliciousness factor of the food there (11 on a scale from 1-10), that’s not hard to believe.

How can you choose????

Stuart's Beet & Ginger cake with lemon frosting

I have mixed feelings about sharing this here, because part of the pleasure, of course, is the surprise in discovering a gem like this. I’d hate to see it overrun and the owners start to consider expanding; the appeal is in the intimacy of a small 2 person place with so much attention to detail. For me the charm lies in the combination of amazing, food made with  pure, natural ingredients, the friendly ambiance which leads to conversation between tables should you wish (people bring their knitting and sketchbooks), the reasonable prices, and the great selection of art. I should add that Stuart has started a framing shop in the back, and it looks like this too is done with the same care and high standard as his cooking. Even though it is not edible!

Café interior

Stuart framing

So, when you are in Edinburgh, do go to this little haven on Howe street, say hi to Ingrid and Stuart,and eat some cake for me.

Oh almost forgot to say, they carry my felt brooches.
Tip- they’ve got some wonderful art shows coming up, see their blog .

Latest craft attack

October 7, 2011

Blue arch with beads

I have uploaded images of all my felt brooches (created during my latest craft attack) onto my Flickr site .  Someone has just taken an option on Happy Blues Medallion and Purple beaded shiboru.

Now, I have commissioned work coming in requiring writing and organising skills, so my felts, wools, silks and beads are all sleeping in their baskets waiting until I have the frame of mind to get to them again. I tried knitting because you can pick it up and do a few rows in between, but it somehow aggravates a problem in my right shoulder, so it will have to be no handwork for now.

(Cool, I just found out how to color text in this program!)

Craft chronicles

March 19, 2011

etalage before

For years our etalage has been a storage room for art and everything else

My new project is starting a shop/mini-gallery at home featuring beautiful handmade functional objects made by myself, my husband and guest artists.

Though I am not exactly thrilled at the idea of having opening hours (and probably won’t have any regular ones), the project answers a lot of my needs- short and long term. It gives me a structural, continuing base on which to build. This balances the nature of my free-lance work which usually involves large, one-of-a kind projects which sometimes demand a steep learning curve to learn to apply my skills to a set of new materials which I then don’t use again, often for several years (lettering a 100 year old huge document, burning letters in a wooden grave marker, decorating a period instrument, making a giant gold leaf sign for the local church/hermitage).

Having a craft shop in this period of rising interest in knitting, felting, crocheting, beading etc. supports good quality work and the artists making it, and also provides inspiration to aspiring handwork hobbyists.  I love to teach, so workshops will be a part of the concept.

new space

New space with hardboard wall removed

Important to me is the relationship with the local community. My focus will be in this neighborhood (rural northern Holland) and surrounding area rather than internet for now. I have a nice working relationship with the people who own the only other store (gallery and gift shop) in the village (besides the motorboat shop), they have a large space and we are planning an autumn creative course program linked with both our shops.

My space, on the other hand,  is tiny- three people max including me can fit in there and stilll breathe. But there is room for a table and 2 chairs and I can still offer one on one tutoring. Also, I am excited about the idea of organizing some local craft-ins, where people can just come and bring their currrent project and work and drink tea together.

Felt & beaded brooche- button from V&A museum gift shop(UK)

I have been having a great time working with felt, silk and beads to create some brooches for sale. My friend Betty just bought the first one, so that starts things off well. I’m making some great cotton roses for interior decoration, smaller ones for brooches as well.

brooches and buttons

Some brooches and a bowl of porselein buttons

I think I will post here from time to time (see Category Craft Chronincles) to share how this project unfolds. It is a leap, the last time we had a shop here, very few people came, and the village were not at all interested. But things have changed in 15 years and it feels like the time is right.