If you’ve been keeping up with the blog you’ll know that every other Friday there is a wonderful article on the Waldorf /Natural playroom. (If you haven’t been keeping up go back and read them now ’cause they’re worth your time!) Well today’s interview is with the author of those terrific posts, Nushkie, and I think you’re really going to enjoy getting to know her.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how and when did you get started with arts and crafts?
I suppose it started in the 3rd grade. I made a puppet with a hand-sewn costume and clay head portraying my teacher, Mrs. Briggs. It was as mean and troll-like as Mrs. Briggs herself. (Dickens could not have penned a more wicked character in his pantheon of unforgiving, switch-wielding school masters). At 8 years old, I suppose I felt rather vindicated molding her so
realistically…I am still redeemed: my four-year-old daughter, Eva, likes to bring this ancient, gnarly artifact from Mommy’s past out whenever she needs something truly scary for a puppet show! Loathsome as my memories are of Mrs. Briggs, it was a time when schools still had arts and crafts as part of their every day curriculum. It is a crime that schools today consider arts, music and theatre as curriculum which is a “nice to have,” but not a “must have.” In addition to choirs, cello, piano, and all the school theatrical productions, I was always writing or drawing and painting. Horses and dancers, mostly, but occasionally some really surreal Dali –type explorations, like a volcano with a cigarette-wielding hand plunging from it into the sky …sort of burning the sky.
My family was very musical, with lots of improvisation going on. Occasionally, we would just jam in the “music room” after meals. My brother Sam would play the drums, my other brother, the piano, my dad, the Lowry organ, my mom on tambourine or just dancing, and me playing the claves or singing. Eventually, I pursued much of my performance and writing interests through poetry, short stories, journaling, jazz singing, political theatre, one-woman cabaret, and even stand-up.
Over the years, I also used my creativity in cooking, and have made my own home décor items, including pillows and curtains, small paintings, as well as clothes. But it was last year when Eva enrolled in our local Waldorf nursery and I started mingling with all these fellow moms who live and breathe wool, that I rediscovered my interest in visual arts and my absolute infatuation with wool and felting!
I had seen these beautiful fairies at one of the fairs and tried to figure out how felting worked. I tried smashing wool together between my palms, needle felting with a regular needle (good luck!), throwing hot water around…etc. G-d forbid I should actually take a class. But I have a certain “I can do it myself” attitude that I now share with my toddler, so no classes for me. But
my friend Amy took one. She showed me a needle-felted pumpkin she made…It was beautiful. I said, “How did you do it?” She said she poked the wool with a felting needle. I said, “Yeah, I tried that with a regular needle. What’s the big deal?” Then she held up her needle. “Did your needle feel like this?” I felt the barbs along the side…and had a real “Ah hah!” moment. And that was it. I placed an order for needles, ordered fleece and proceeded to make pumpkins, fairies, playscapes, etc, for Eva, tapestries for her teachers, and dolls for her friends. I even felted a giant pair of butterfly wings for Eva’s Halloween costume last year. This was before I “honed” my craft. I stabbed them into our now fuzzy ottoman. Then, when they weren’t firm enough, I threw them into the bathtub and poured pots of boiling water on them and put on rubber gloves and massaged them with Trader Joes Purple Dish Soap. When all was said and done, they were beautiful but a little hot for wearing on a warm Southern California Halloween… It was the beginning of a beautiful addiction from which no 12-step program can cure me!
What is the main thing you make and sell in your store? What else do you make and/or sell?
It’s funny. When I first opened my shop, I had started to get really interested in wet felting and I bought baby shoe lasts and thought I was going to make baby booties and other wearable felt mostly and home décor… I started with two clutches…the third one; I made off with myself and
wear to parties! I plan to do more of that as we go along, but in the meantime, I have found myself tending toward needle felted tapestries, dolls, gnomes, playscapes, fairies and all things Waldorf. The natural and soft feel of the wool and the ethereal quality of what emerges in form offsets my darker, writing self, and creates not only beauty, but balance in my life.
As I have made non-patterned “Waldorf” dolls for my little one and make practically all her clothes, I may branch out there as well in the future. Perhaps I will also finally make use of those shoe lasts! I think the felt covered diaries are a step in the direction of practical applications of this beautiful art form, as are the earrings I just posted. I also made her a cute felted light switch plate that I’d like to make more of. Speaking of Eva…the toys I make for her, the dresses, doll clothes, scarves and hats… It really all starts and ends with my little one… Her nickname is Nushkie. That’s why I’m Nushkie Design.
Who if anyone has been instrumental in helping you hone your craft?
Ok, I did just take a Eurythmy class (no, I still can not spell that word!), but don’t usually like to take classes. I have found with acting and singing that I lose myself in trying to please a teacher. I tend to try to conform and try to be the “good student,” even when it doesn’t feel right. So, I don’t do it. I learned this with singing, that when I was studying, I was straining. When I practiced on my own I was fine. A few years ago, before Eva was born, someone my dad met had written an opera. He gave her my number. She called. When she asked if I was an opera singer, I said. “Yes.” I had never sung an opera before. I practiced like a crazy woman and auditioned and two months later, I starred as Anais Nin in a two-person opera to wonderful reviews.
You see, I lost my mom several years ago. But her inspiration remains. She sewed and cooked all the time without patterns. Because she never went to college, she did not often give herself enough credit. She would somet
imes complain, “Please don’t look at my seams!” But she was a huge talent. She made beautiful things and was a wonderful cook. She opened up a successful clothing boutique with no business experience, and when she got tired of that, at 55, she decided to become an actress. Again with no formal training, she had quite a prolific career as a television actress until she passed away. It is really from her that I learned not to follow too many rules and to just follow my heart when creating. I guess I never learned to draw between the lines while coloring. Now I know it was a good thing! Thanks mom.
Where do you get your inspiration?
Again, from my mom, but also my dad. He has a “can do” personality that enabled him to start a retail chain of organ (not internal, but keyboard!) and piano stores after convincing the Lowry Organ company to let him keep one organ and sell it on consignment. He rented a store, painted his name out front and that was the beginning of his becoming the national best seller of Lowry organs in the late seventies.
Mostly these days, however, it is my little Eva. Her waking dream life is so joyful, so boundless in its creativity and, thankfully, so, incredibly contagious!
Artistically, I’m inspired by anything beautiful that surrounds me. It can be writing, the more esoteric music of Kurt Weill; a film like “Wings of Desire”; the movement found in a Rodin sculpture; the emotion of a Van Gogh painting; the expression on a friend’s face; a song my daughter has improvised; an idea that pops into my head; the books of Elsa Beskow (what an incredible artist she was!); other Etsy artists whose work I admire, such as fellow Naturalkids team members or felters from Nfest team.
What are your favorite materials?
Let’s see…Wool, wool, wool and when I can get it, organic cotton…oh, and tree branches.
What advice would you give other Etsy sellers and those interested in opening up a shop?
Find something you love, make a few of them and open a shop. I think Etsy is the best deal in town. It would not be as easy or affordable to design and host a site and have the built-in traffic and promotional opportunities available to you that Etsy has to offer. Also there is this from my dad…I think one of the keys to his success was something he said to his sales folks. And it went like this, “When a customer walks in, don’t look at them with dollar signs in your eyes; Look at them and think, ‘how am I going to bring music into their lives.’ ” My goal is to bring my customers natural and heirloom quality creations that will add beauty and harmony to their surroundings.
What advice would you give to beginners in your main craft?
Invest in a felting needle and some fleece. Then experiment, but watch your fingers or, at least confine yourself to a sound proof workshop, as expletives will fly when that needle veers off into your finger during a rogue moment of exultant abandon!
Take a class if you really need to but don’t get schooled out of your natural instincts.
Try not to worry about how much time you have or don’t have. I do everything I do from about 9-11 pm after Eva is in bed and my inner cleaning elf has made some effort to unearth the bottom of our kitchen sink!
Try not to be so verbose when being interviewed…ahem…and lastly and quite seriously, remove “I can’t” or “I’m not creative” from your personal lexicon and just do it. Get an image in your mind and run with it. “Good is the enemy of great.” So forget about having to be good at something and you will allow your greatness to emerge.
What is your Etsy shop address and name? Where else can we find you?
The other place you can find me is at home with my little sprite, Eva and my wonderful husband, Bob…