Sunday, November 27, 2016

Needle Felting!!!

As an art teacher, wife, and mom, life is busy. It's all relative. Many things demand my attention and time. I am learning a lot about Pokemon from my children. A LOT about Pokemon. My husband is an art teacher and graphic design artist, so I critique projects he's working on. Every artist needs a fresh set of eyes to look at their work from time to time. We talk a lot about font. Anyone who knows me knows that I am constantly looking for ways to make my classroom more efficient, my lessons stronger, searching for new ideas that help kids learn what I want them to know. I give a lot of my time to the community and the school. Folks ask for artistic favors. 


Every once in awhile I carve out time for myself to try something new, to make something just to make something, and it's such good medicine for the soul. I need to do this more often. For years I've read about others love of needle felting, I've purchased adorable needle felted work, thought it looked pretty neat-o, and kept telling myself that I was gonna try that someday when I had the time. That day finally came over Thanksgiving break, and I am IN LOVE!


The pies were made, the turkey was in the oven, and I had some time to kill. Could I have been washing a few dishes or prepping the table for the big meal? Absolutely! But the dishes weren't going anywhere, and before prepping the table I thought I'd make an artsy mess first. 


In anticipation of this glorious day of felting I'd ordered a starter kit on Amazon weeks before. Nothing too fancy, but enough to get my feet wet. I looked up some basic "how-to" tips and dove in! The very first thing I made was a red heart with "art" in the middle. One of the how-to videos I'd watched was of a lady making a heart using a cookie cutter to help her shape it. I didn't have a heart cookie cutter and decided to wing it. I was pleased. It wasn't perfect, but anyone who's read "Ish" by Peter H. Reynolds would agree my heart was heart-ish. It had character. Once my adorable little heart was complete I added "art" to it. It was too empty without it, and green is my favorite color. While shaping it and stabbing at it with needles I thought about the many times my grandmother had embroidered the names of loved ones on things she made with her hands. She would have loved this new project adventure o' mine! 


I was so pleased with my handiwork that I was sure I was ready to take off the training wheels and ride this new bike! But what to make next? Well, fish are a common theme in my work. My brother-in-law, Captain Gregg McKee of Wildfly Charters, taught my children to fish in sunny Florida. It's an important part of our summer each year. Some of their happiest moments are on the water with uncle Gregg! We visit beautiful Matlacha, Florida for family, fun, and FISHING! Matlacha also happens to be a very artsy little island. I spend much of my time there each year checking out the galleries and painting fish! When I'm not sure what to make, I make fish. My favorite fish to paint is a Tarpon, so I went with that! To get started, I folded some yellow felt I had laying around (secretly wishing it was white felt), cut out a fish without drawing it out first (I will probably draw it next time, as I ended up trimming quite a bit to shape it), and stitched the two fish pieces together, leaving a hole at the face. As I was stitching it I decided to leave the mouth open. I stuffed the fish with roving wool and started stabbing away! I wanted to shape it so the mouth was open (another reason for not stitching up the face) and hoped stabbing black wool into the mouth would work. It did!


I attempted to apply what I've learned from painting tarpon to needle felting one. Making something you've never made before without directions on how to make that specific thing is like solving a puzzle that hasn't been made yet. There's so much creative problem solving going on that people around you can probably smell smoke escaping your ears. I thrive on challenges like that. This project was SO MUCH FUN! 


I built up the face and altered the shape of the fins. I curved the body. The eyes were a struggle. I had considered using seed beads but it just didn't look right, so I decided to tackle (see what I did there? HA!) needle felting them instead. It was intimidating. The eyes were small. I wanted them to have more than one color swirled through and a white accent like they do when I paint them. 


The eyes looked great! Next I needed to work on shaping the mouth, it didn't turn up quite like it should. I added a white line along the side of the body. I wanted a bit more detail throughout the body and face, a little more color variation, but it was coming along swimmingly. HA! It's a fish, that swims!....yeah.....The fish is fin-ished! I've got big plans for this little guy, but will save that for another day! It's time to upgrade some of my needle felting supplies! There's so much to  make! Go make something!


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