Tell us little about yourself!
I like to joke that I’m a recovering New Yorker. I live in Los Angeles, (the hot, hot, San Fernando Valley, to be specific), with my husband, my 5 1/2 year-old daughter Eva, Cutie our cat and my ever expanding organic kitchen garden. I grew up in a family of very creative people. My Mom started acting at 55 and was a working actress on TV and in film ’til the day she passed away a few years back. She used to sew all my costumes and many of my clothes growing up…without patterns. When she decided to do something, she did it, and when she decided to fulfill her life-long dream to act, she never let her age or lack of formal training stand in her way. My dad has the entrepreneurial spirit, he always taught my two brothers and me to never take no for an answer. When he decided to stop touring as a jazz pianist and settle down to raise his family, he painted his name on a store and made a deal with the Lowery Organ company (think keyboards, not livers, lol) to loan him one instrument at time until he sold it. Years later he was the number one dealer in the entire US. He always told his sales folks, “Don’t look at your customer with dollar signs in your eyes. Instead think, ‘How am I going to bring music into this person’s life.'” That’s how I run my business; I think, how am I going to bring the most beautifully crafted woolly creations into my customers lives for them to enjoy for generations.
Ok, what I didn’t learn from my folks was how to be short-winded, lol!
What do you make and how long have you been creating?
Through the technique of needle felting, I create soft sculptures (gnomes, sheep, etc), hanging fairies, and three dimensional wall hangings or tapestries, which I have coined, “Sculptural Wool Paintings.” I used the finest wools and other natural fibers I can get my hands on and them poke them with a single barbed needle into magical entities. I have been working in this way since about 2005, but I have been creating all my life. It is really a rediscovery of the visual and tactile arts I studied when I was much younger and utilized as a graphic artist more recently. Over the years, I have pursued many areas of creativity: I am a published writer, have performed theatrically on stage from NY to Edinburgh to Baku and produced my one-woman shows in LA and Amsterdam. I produced three films, starred in Opera, sold movies at Cannes, performed stand-up and hosted a cable tv show…the bizarre list goes on. When I had Eva, and started making her toys and gifts for the teachers at her Waldorf school, I got kind of addicted to this art form. I find it very rewarding to see my creations come to life in my hands and touch the lives of others. The beautiful and heartfelt praise I receive from my beloved customers is very fulfilling; it tells me that my art moves them, and that’s what’s really important to me. The world needs a great deal of healing right now. If my work can inspire the imagination, or simply allow us to see the world through a child’s eyes, perhaps we will find new ways to approach our very adult world problems.
What inspires you?
Elsa Beskow, Sybil Von Olfers, Renoir, August Rodin, the commitment to beauty and natural materials that I share with my fellow Natural Kids Teammates, people who can still be moved by beauty, the innocence and inquisitiveness of children, the buds on my apricot tree, Howard Zinn, Emma Goldman, Isadora Duncan, may daughter, my husband, you for taking the time to ask me these questions!
What got you started working with Needle Felting?
I was at a Waldorf faire, a May Faire, I think. I saw these beautiful little fairies and thought…”I can do that.” So, I went home with some wool and rubbed it a lot and actually made a fairy. My next move was to poke wool with a regular needle, to no avail. I am not one for following directions. I tend to jump right in, so, no, I didn’t have a felting needle and had no idea why I had to buy one til my very brash, hilarious friend Amy told me…”It’s barbed, you idiot.” That was a real “ahah” moment. So, I broke down and spent .60 on a needle and that was that. I was making things for everyone, tapestries, fairies, scarves, purses, hair thingies…I am convinced there is nothing that can not be made from wool! My favorite early project was Eva’s butterfly wings for Halloween four yeas ago. I stabbed, beat, threw in the tub with scolding hot water…I was going to make those wings without asking anyone how if it took me all night…and I did it. Many lessons learned. I guess you can surmise that I have not taken any classes in felting; it is against my nature.
How long have you been on Etsy and how has it been for you so far?
I joined Etsy Feb 8, 2008 after some dabbling on Ebay. This interview comes at my two-year anniversary. It was slow at first, but as I have improved upon my craft and added items to my shop, my business has continually increased. I think folks trust that when they get something from me, they get a box with my integrity wrapped up inside. I will not send anything to anyone that is not my absolute best effort. In this awful recessional time, I probably tripled my autumn/Christmas season this year as compared to last year. I am so grateful for that business!
What advice would you have for other Etsians?
Remember when you create that any kind of creative block is the difference between wanting to be brilliant and the proverbial blank page. Let go of judgment, trying to do it “right,” when you’re creating and your true ideas will manifest. Please stay original, so when that s
ale comes through, you know you own it. There are literally hundreds of thousands of shops just on Etsy they could have shopped at, but they chose yours. It is an honor. Always remember that. Respect your customers and always deliver them your very best. Never take them for granted and communicate with them with gratitude. Several of my customers have become my friends, and isn’t that what having your own one-person shop is all about, relationships you build through your creations? Don’t give up. Start with on item if that’s all you have and just re-list it til you have something else.
What do you hope to learn/gain/contribute from being part of the Natural Kids group?
I really enjoy being part of a group of artists who believe that they, too are part of the healing process in the world. How do they do this? By choosing to work with natural materials that come from the earth and will return to the earth when their time is done…and that time will last for generations! I love that the finished products of their labors are toys, for example, that ignite the imagination. What I gain from this marvelous group is the positive effect of a critical mass of folks creating in this way and promoting together. I have benefited greatly from this association and hope that my participation helps other in the team as well, through promotion, purchases of their work, etc. I love tweeting about my teammates creations, and catching treasuries to feature them when I can. Once I get past all the deadlines that seem to keep popping up, I hope to contribute more by working on the website committee. I also hope the reputation my shop has earned over the past two years will reflect positively by association to all the other teammates. Finally, I have benefited so, by the deep friendships I have made with a few of the members. Thank you!
What thoughts do you have for parents on the importance of natural toys for creative play?
Where do I begin? Children’s minds are rooms with no walls. Every idea, story, instance, taste, smell, etc…that enters the room of the child’s senses is fodder for play, for them to move around the room, turn upside down, dismantle and rebuild. That is how children process and learn. Natural toys ask questions of children, “What am I? How will you play with me?” In this way their rooms, so-to-speak, stay open and continue to expand. The channels between the left and right brain, so needed for both academic and social/emotional “success,” get strengthened, they learn to problem-solve, to create, to apply whatever they have learned elsewhere in their own individual way, and to, well, think! Ingenuity comes from finding a new way to use something; open ended toys give children this opportunity. Conversely, when you offer a toy to a child with rules as to how it is used, or which plays for the child through battery-operated gadgetry, the walls begin to close in around the child
. He/she no longer has to think, to create, to imagine; it is already done. Natural toys also bring the elements of nature, such as wool, silk, wood, etc… to children, gently caressing and encouraging their senses of smell, touch and sight in a way which promotes a calming sense of being part of the world. This adds to greater sensitivity, empathy and social well being; conversely, digitized toys, etc, remove the child from nature, desensitize him or her to touch, sound and smell, and have a more anti social effect, where the child feels more strongly bonded to the lights and sounds than to friends. Open ended, natural toys promote leadership and ingenuity, as the child “owns” how he or she plays; the others promote passivity or aggressiveness, and rule following. It’s hard to be creative when you have to be correct. Though, sometimes at dinner, that’s helpful, lol.
Your items can be found where: http://nushkie.etsy.com
Interview by Beccijo of The Enchanted Cupboard