Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2010, Year of the Maker?

I just posted my first contribution to the Etsy Dallas blog. I made the illustration above and scanned it for the article, but here's a snapshot of it. I had way too much fun making this. I see more of this in my future.

When I was a kid I had a notebook just for describing new inventions, a binder with notes, illustrations, and diagrams/floorplans for the stories I was writing, a folder for poetry, sketch pads for drawings and paintings, and collections of things for craft projects and sculptures. I didn't think of myself as an artist or a crafter and certainly not an artisan. I considered myself a "maker." It was the word I was most comfortable with and best described how I saw myself. My output was limitless and I was very prolific. I always had multiple projects going and I was constantly trying out new techniques.

Since then, I've gone to art school, art history grad school, worked in museums, galleries, universities, and been a part of a very creative community. With my professional career though, I stepped out of the role of "maker" and became a culture producer - a terribly clinical-sounding way of describing someone who works in the arts, but isn't the artist.

Right now, though, I feel more like a "maker" than I have in a very long time. Don't misunderstand, I NEVER stopped making things. I crocheted, collaged, drew, photographed, etc. I can't not make things (double negative for emphasis). But, that part of myself was pushed aside as I stopped identifying myself as an artist after art school and took up the label amateur crafter and DIY'er. I am in a transitional place, between jobs and at the crossroads of my career. I wonder, aloud even, if I'll ever work in the arts again. Maybe that was my last job in the profession I trained in? Who knows. I'll keep looking and keep trying - I'm not giving up. But, I feel free to try anything and everything: writing, drawing, making, inventing. Everything feels open and limitless.

Here's a quick sampling of a few of the projects I'm working on:
writing for Arts + Culture - pick it up at a local gallery or museum
producing and hosting Art This Week - a video podcast featuring interviews in local museums and galleries and art news
contributing to the Etsy Dallas blog as a guest writer, hopefully once a month
maintaining my Etsy shop, Modestambition
assisting and apprenticing to Hip Hazel Hoops, a very cool company that hand makes hula hoops and teaches lessons
blogging more frequently here

I'm working on a few more things too, but you get the idea. I'm trying to get a grasp on my plan for 2010. My new year's resolutions will be the next post.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Monkey boy

I don't make kid's items for my Etsy shop and my track record for making baby gifts is mixed. I'm terrible at guessing sizes so my things are usually too small. Now that I have three nephews and two nieces all under 3, I have more opportunities to try to get it right! Here's a preview of the Christmas presents for the 7 month old twin boys and the one-year old nephew on the other side of the family. Pretty cute, huh? I can't wait to see what these look like on!

Making the badges for the initials was a good warm up for the more complicated project ahead. The monkey applique is a new technique for me. I drew the monkey on my computer. Any real graphic designers would be horrified to know that I actually used MS Word to draw the ovals and circles. I saved it as a PDF then resized it when printing it. If I remembered how to use Adobe Illustrator, I'm sure I could have made a really cool vector graphic and done all kinds of neat things. As it is, I'm so proud that this worked at all! Once printed I cut out the main shape, taped it to my felt and cut that out. Then I trimmed the pattern down to the next interior shape, taped that to lighter brown felt and cut that out. I glued the two pieces of felt together and cut and glued the inside ear half moons. I stitched on the button eyes, white buttons with black buttons on top, and added the yarn smile and nose. I glued the whole thing on to the hat and then carefully did a running backstitch all the way around the monkey face. Finally, I added a stitch in the middle of the ear to tack down that tiny sliver of felt. Now all of the felt pieces are glued and sewn (the eyes, mouth and nose hold down the center felt piece).

These were fun projects. I'm looking forward to giving these as presents and maybe trying my hand at other animals in the future!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Etsy, a furry dog, and a crocheted collar

I just applied for the Second Etsy Community Council, which consists of a group of Etsians talking about Etsy - sounds fun! I'm sure everyone is applying, so I'm not holding my breath, but I thought I'd share my answer to the essay question: Why do you want to participate?

"I believe Etsy touches on some of the most important issues of our time, including, but not limited to, how we work, how we live, how we use objects to identify ourselves, and how we interact with each other in a marketplace and as a community as well as sustainability, DIY, entrepreneurship, craft/art, fair wages, globalism, and craft as heritage."

So there it is in a nutshell, well 250 words. Etsy touches on most of the questions that rattle around in my brain. It may sometimes just be a site for the cute and the uber-geeky, but it has the potential to be so much more.

By the way, my dog does not usually pose for my Etsy listing pictures. I don't make any dog items, but he was sitting still and I was sorely tempted to make him wear this piece. I actually just draped it on him for 30 seconds, snapped the pict when he looked at me and took it off. No dog cooties to worry about. Too bad we can't see his cute black button eyes! He loves this cold weather and is looking especially wooly.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Melancholia and Wool

I know I mentioned this hood at the bottom of my last post, but since then I went on the Etsy Forums and asked for a general critique that took this item in particular to task for being overly dark. I prefer to think of it as dramatic and moody, but they are right. It's dark. I reshot it and you can see the new sunnier, happier photos on Etsy. I tried to play up the whimsy of wearing a hood with a funny pointy top and big soft poms at the ends of long strings. But still, I'm attached to the original photos (the three photos shown in this post), which say more about how I'm feeling this winter.

Winter is a tough time of year; it's dark and cold. Like many before me, I use the long hours trapped indoors to challenge my hands and try to "make" my way out of the winter-blahs. I made a brightly colored hood to distract/shield/protect me. I turn inward, away from the light and become a darkened silhouette.

Winter is a very fertile time for my wooly imagination. I think of ways to stay warm, new patterns and designs, and develop hand and arm muscles that rival a marathoner. And, as excited as I am about the ultimate handmade gift exchange opportunity (Christmas), I am still slowed and pulled down by Winter's forces: an enveloping gray sky during the day revealing the dead leaves and grass and at night a chilled dark blankness. I appreciate the opportunity to slow down and reflect, even mourn for the year that has passed. I know I wasn't the only one to have a rough year, so I won't go into it. Like winter, this will pass. Who knows if 2010 will be any better, but at least we'll have the opportunity to make it our own.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


I have been very busy working towards the holiday shows this weekend. Not only have I been working to replenish my inventory after the Jinglebash, but I've been developing new things as well. I do become bored very quickly with repetition, so I like to try lots of new things, including these individual leaf pins. I designed the leaf sets originally for hats, but now I'm trying them out at pins. I wore the one I had completed to the Jinglebash and sold it off my dress. I also found a stash of vintage buttons at the thrift store that add more color than my usual brown buttons.

I still haven't had time to work on the fingerless gloves I've designed. I've made two pairs, but that hardly seems like enough to put out. We'll see... I'll be at the North Haven Gardens Holiday Arts and Crafts Fair, 10-5, Sunday, Dec. 6. My fall leaves and hats should fit right in.

My big accomplishment for the Thanksgiving holiday was the completion of a hood crocheted in wool and then felted. The felting was so tight I had to do a running stitch with needle and thread to create the loops to add the mohair trim. It has my first foray into intarsia with crochet - just a simple repeat of three stitches. I also changed colors on almost every line. I'd gone to the yarn store earlier that day and I was feeling the need for lots of color! The little balls at the end of the strings are made from hand-dyed and spun yarn (that I bought) that was un-spun to make perfect soft little puffs.

(See more on this item in my next post)