I have been in the bed sick for days, so I am totally blaming this post on the cold medicine. As I sit down to write today’s blog post my mind is in 50 different places. I have often partaken in a series of post called the Friday 5. Today I am going to give you a hodge podge of brain blips I am calling the Wednesday 11 (because I have also had two cups of coffee… Woohoo).
No. 1: A closet full of fiber. I have not been too ashamed to disclose the obscene amount of wool I have stashed in this closet. Like beyond-life-expectancy-full-of-wooly-things-to make kind of stash. Aside from using a bunch of it for my dye classes, and a bunch more for one crazy art yarn ideas, I have been ruminating about carding some bats and making felt hats. I started down this path last year, and then set it aside to finish the move. Supplies in place. I am ready to dive back in. Hats, and maybe some bags and slippers, but mostly hats. Not sure why, I really don’t wear hats, or even thing I look good in hats (my face is too round). but I am into the hats.
No. 2: I only make mugs. So this clay hobby has kind of become a thing. All I have been making really is mugs. I have always collected handmade mugs. I enjoy making them. I love drinking my coffee out of a mug (or 2…3…okay 47…) that I have made. I have no idea what I am an doing with this new obsession other than filling my cabinets. I definitely do not want it to become a product line. I have not been opposed to the idea of selling a mug or two. And if you are wondering what you will get from me for Christmas…just know it will be a mug. I may venture into making some bigger mugs that are chili bowls.
No. 3: Do not email me with the suggestion to make yarn bowls. They are trickier to make thanks to their tendency to warp at the cut out space. Seriously…I am not going to make them. I have 4, I rarely use. I only make mugs.
No. 4: I am also ready to get this monster working. I got this lovely Structo loom off craigslist for $50. It is only missing the hex bar that would hold the warp spools. I even have a bunch of the spools. But I am not really a fan of using a boring white cotton warp. The reed was full of rust and was finer than I imagine I wanted to warp. Enter Gowdy Reeds in Rhode Island. They make custom sized reeds. Perfect! Structo closed shop decades ago. I have an order in for a replacement reed form Gowdey. Hopefully can get cracking on this new direction in my work.
No. 5: That being said, what I really would love is a Saori loom. I have literally avoided fiber shows because that siren song is super strong. I decided that if I can get the Structo working, and actually start using it, then and only then will I let myself invest in the loom I really want. Wish me luck.
No. 6: I must be an old lady. Because for what ever reason all I want to do is crochet this freaking afghan. AFGHAN!!!! ugh! Not sure why I am all about making a blanket. Winter is coming…I have only 2384706 sweater WIPs in the basket. And I actually could use some new sweaters. I just can’t stop making this insanely addictive stash buster blanket. I am using this stitch.
No. 7: Maybe it is because I am not leaving the house much. I only leave to go to the community art center. Seriously. I have discovered that actually paying for grocery delivery service saves me in time and impulse buying. Yep, delivery fee and tip is cheaper than my hourly rate. Plus price comparing is easier online, as is sticking to a list. This really only works because I am big on meal planning.
No. 8: Meal planning is my creative jam. Here is how life happens when I don’t meal plan. It’s 5 pm, I am mid project and not really in a place to stop. I kind of panic because I realize I need to start thinking about what is happening for dinner. In my head, I inventory what I think is in the fridge. I remember I have skirt steak! Woot… I am making Vietnamese noodle salad bowls. 45 minute later I am at a stopping point, go upstairs and either realize A) I am missing some vital ingredient or B) I am just too overwhelmed to do all that prep work. We order Indian food. Food budget blown. If I can think of 7 meals that involves ingredients I have on hand, fill in the rest with my list, I have meals to choose from and beat the overwhelm. I don’t schedule out what to eat on what days, because I find I might not be in the mood for something. I always keep spaghetti on hand as my back up meal. I use smorgasbord days to use up leftovers than need to be eaten before they go bad.
No. 9: I belong to the cult of Instant Pot. To be honest, I did not even really know what I would use it for when I bough it at a Black Friday sale last November. I only knew that many of my friends had drunk the instant pot Koolaid and … Hey look it makes yogurt. Holy crap I love my instant pot. I used it no less than 5 times a week. I have been collecting crazy good recipes on this pinterest board. I never knew mashed potatoes could taste so good, or that I even cared about mashed potatoes. Mashed potatoes are really just a vehicle for other flavors. Incidentally I have yet to make that yogurt…
No. 10: I digress…must be time for lunch…
No. 11: So much art so little time. Did you know Picasso also made ceramics? I feel like I should know this, and maybe I did, but in my Nyquil induced Pinterest surfing, I newly discovered that Picasso made some cool pots, pitchers and vases. This became important as I vacillate between mediums finding uses for all this creative energy in my head. I have always dabbled in many, many mediums. It has only been in the last 15 years settled on a few to mediums to dive deeper. For what ever reason, I worried that dividing my attention also divided my creativity. You know what… I think working between different mediums has really only multiplied my creativity in each area. After a lot of struggle, I have let go of the idea that I needed to focus on one. That guilt over not focusing has lead to some of the biggest creative blocks I have ever had. Yes some projects never get finished, but then again, some projects just need to die. If you are making art, it is because you were meant to make art. Stagnating over how you should be making art means you are not making art.
Hey I get it. Every artist at some point or another starts to think about selling what they make. Be it because friends are demanding it or because they have lofty dreams of quitting their day job and doing something they love all day long. But I have to say, selling your work is WAY more complex than opening an Etsy shop and putting a price on something. Now, I have written a few articles on how to price you work and things to consider when pursuing a creative job. Today, fiberista, I am going to break down some things to consider when creating work to sell.
Product verses art. Creating can actually take two routes, Fine art and art product. Fine art is one of a kind thing you make. Think gallery type of work. Art is the kind of thing you languish in making following your heart. It is usually priced higher. Product is a thing you craft using your art and skills. It is repeated and produced as efficiently as possible without losing it’s handmade qualities. Think art fairs and craft shows.
Start with the art. Making stuff is fun. Pinterest is fun. Crafts are fun. But stuff is stuff. Popularity dies, trends come and go. When you are an artist you are moving beyond making stuff and really diving into expressing visual language no matter what your medium. Being an artist has a longer shelf life. Art is what will add value to your handmade stuff if you are producing product. You can easily copy a product, but adding your art to production will set you apart and become your brand (more in this in a minute).
In fact make art a habit. So even as you develop a product that is financially viable to sell (you kind of need to read this article first), you are still going to need to be creating art work for yourself. Even if it is art journaling. Actually, I think you should art journal regardless. Your style will evolve. What you make will change. Developing an art habit will keep you from becoming a one hit wonder. Scheduling time to make art is as important as production of items you are selling.
Where you sell is important. So where do you want to sell? In Galleries? On Etsy? Art craft shows? On your own website? How you like to pimp your stuff can be just as important as what you make. And depending on what you are resonating will determine what you make. For example, you really would not approach a gallery with your craft product. And you might be frustrated trying to sell you one of a kind paintings at a craft show. So how do you see your self selling your work?
What customers are really buying. The thing is when customers buy your work they are not really buying your stuff as much as they are buying into you vision. People feel good when they buy art. They can get any old picture to hang over the sofa, but when they buy art, they feel good about supporting culture. They want to know artist statements and inspirations. They are curious about their studios. Even fine crafts they want to see how it is made and know the history behind techniques and the details that the artists bring to the methods. This becomes as much a part of the product as the product itself.
Which all points back to your art. Developing your art is your brand. Developing your art is your story for customers. It is the starting point for your product. Developing you art is what will fill you up when the grind of pimping your work takes its toll.
So, Fiberista. If I had only one piece of advice for you when it comes to selling what you make it would be this: No matter how deep you get into growing a handmade business, make time to keep making art. It may seem counter productive and a waste of precious production time. But, trust me in the end it will sustain your business more than anything else.
A little more than a year and a half ago, I opened up a little space on FB for fellow fiberistas to gather and share inspirations and ideas. The past year and a half have filled me with so much awe. I am humbled by the courage and willingness of those who shared what they have been working on, no matter what the discipline or skill level.
For me this was not just about creating a gallery of ideas or another place for the fiber community. For me it has always been about giving artists a voice in the medium of their choice. It has always been about helping knitters and crocheters, spinners, weavers filters of any skill level to understand that their work matters even in its perceived failures or skill limits. Skill is just craft, idea and creative choice is heart and visual language.
There are so many different cultures represented in our little corner of FB. Seriously, we are worldwide. When I scroll through the collective feed, I see not just great work. I see people and their voice. And whether they know it or not, their work is a reflection of everyday life experience that brought them to the very moment when they created that piece of fiber art. I find it absolutely amazing. I find myself curious about the variety of cultures, and lifestyles behind that work. How did they learn to knit? What are yarn shops like where they live? What kinds of fiber art exist where they live and how does it compare to what I see everyday? What does finding time to knit look like in their everyday life? Be it the next county or across the globe…I. Am. Fascinated. Did I mention how humbling this all is?
If you ever wonder if art really has an impact, remember back to the horrific Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris where commercial artists were murdered because of the political drawings they published. This tragic spot in history is proof that visual language has power. Visual language is the artifacts uncovered in ancient lands, recounting religious beliefs or sharing a glimpse of what life is like centers ago.
I am not saying your chemo caps will bring about social justice. And if they are unearthed centuries from now, I doubt archeologists will have better knowledge of our culture because of them. When you share your work, it marks a place and time in your life. The choices you made were influenced but what you live and know.
So, share your work no matter how mundane you think it is. Your work matters and just know that I see you.
So you are ready to get dyeing yarn and fiber. It is hands down the most frequently asked question I get at UrbanGypZ. It is also a series of classes that I am working up as an offering. I am so excited to share with you guys.
I also knew that I needed to emphasize the need for some studio safety and some considerations you should have when pulling your supplies together and setting up your space. today I want to touch on some major considerations you should have when setting up your space. And some of the first steps for you to take to get ready
Where will it all go down
This is a big deal. However you do not need some crazy dye kitchen with equipment (one can dream…). Most of us are stuck with the options of a standard kitchen, maybe a garage or carport, and maybe some back yard space. You might have a nice basement space with a utitily sink.
No matter where you decide to play, the absolutely most important thing the space should have is ventilation.
I am talking a way to move steam riddled with dye chemicals out and fresh air in. A stove hood is great, a window with a fan is great. Outdoors is ideal. You will also need water access with a hot water hook up. Like a normal sink. I personally do not like using a utility sink because they are way too deep for my short body frame. When rinsing yarn and fiber, the less I have to bend over to reach the bottom of the sink, the better for my back. Washing and rinsing in smaller batches is way more manageable and will prevent felting. You also do not need a stove in your space, although I will go into techniques you can do with your stove and oven. You will need a heat source, but we will go into the different options as they pertain to each class. You will need room to work (like a big table) and space to hang drying skiens and fiber. I often dry mine outside, in the sun on a laundry rack.
Buy this stuff first
Get a really good comfortable face mask. I use this one. This is super important when it comes to mixing your dyes. The dry dye particles are not something you want to breath in. You also will need some gloves. These are just fine, I like these even better(super cheap and disposable). I also love these. Grab an apron, or some dedicated clothing you’d can wear when dyeing. Get a tube of this stuff. It will scrub the dye off your hands. But honestly anything exfoliating will work. Just not sure if my expensive facial scrub is what I would rather use.
Covering surfaces to protect them. When covering surfaces. You not only want to protect them from the dye, you also want to keep the dye from becoming airborne, staining something you don’t want stained. Or worse yet, once again, becoming something you can breathe in. I would suggest investing in a sturdy shower curtain liner (the plastic is stronger and more flexible than drop cloths). Layer sheets of news paper over the shower curtain liner and wet the newspaper with a spray bottle filled with water. This will keep dye powder from becoming airborne if it hits the surface. It will also prevent dried drops of dye from becoming powder again. You will dispose of the newspaper after each dye session (pro tip: those dye stained newspaper sheets make awesome art journaling papers).
If you are dyeing in your kitchen. You are going to have to be extra careful if you have Formica counters and vinyl flooring. They stain so easily. Consider handling dye powder elsewhere if you do. I would use blue painters tape to tape drop cloths to your base boards to protect your floors.
How to schedule your dye sessions.
I found out the hard way that it is not healthy to dye yarn in long sessions day after day. As vigilant as you may be, you will be exposed to dye chemicals. Your body will need a break in between sessions. So, even though you may feel fine. Give your body an opportunity to reset. Drink lots of water and take walks in the fresh air breathing deeply. Get lots of rest. Aim for no more than twice a week. Once a week is even better. This is really important. Don’t skip this.
Art journaling your adventure
If you follow me at all, you know I am really big on keeping an art journal especially if you are creating a body of work. And no matter how you decide to keep your art journal, you will want it to hold inspirations and or to take notes of what you did with snippets of yarn and fibers for reference. I have to admit I rarely kept dye notes, but did keep dye inspirations and note for working out colorway ideas. In this learning phase either way you will want record of what is and is not working either visually or technically. So go ahead and found that dedicated book. I will talk more in the classes about what you can journal for that class.
Up coming classes
When I sat down to hammer out this offering, there were so many things I could teach. There are a million different ways to dye yarn and fiber. And there is also a set of basic information that will apply across all methods. The basics are super important as are the safety concerns. And I really want you to have that information no matter what. I am going to give you some super across the board basics. Kind of like my weaving series, it will be enough for you to dive into dyeing on a super basic level. I will offer more in depth techniques and more dye theories that are illustrated by the individual techniques. These lessons will help you dive deeper into observing how dye and fiber react in different ways, really learn how to use those observation to find unique colorways that are an expression of your art and hopefully spark other ways you can adapt that info to your own methods. I think individual techniques classes will let you pick and chose what you want to learn, as well as keep classes as affordable as you need them to be. And honestly it will give me the space to deliver thoughtful thorough information to you.