Thursday, December 23, 2010

Business cards!

Have procrastinated on ordering business cards for awhile, and always kick myself. . .because I do meet people, get in conversations, they find out what I do and want to see it. . . and then, well, a pen (if we have one), a scrap of paper torn out of the Guardian or whatever's handy, which probably gets lost along with an opportunity to share my work (which, honestly, means more to me than selling it.)

So I'm a total "follower" here; I talked to a lot of people in SF in arts and crafts and the most popular card it seemed was from Moo.  And their Mini business cards are actually really cool.  You can have a different image on every card if you want to, with your contact info on the back.  Some images turned out better than others (I used seven different ones) but when I re-order I'll probably just use the 3-5 most definitive images.

I don't feel like I've been very organized or well timed in "getting it together" this year, but not terrible.  I feel like I'm laying groundwork that may open some doors and make 2011 a lot more interesting and fun.

SF Etsy Craft Meet Up

I'm really new to the craft selling website Etsy, and even newer to the concept of "teams."  I joined SF Team Etsy hoping to meet other artists, find inspiration, and learn from more experienced people.  It was really cool that one of the SF Etsy Team Members, Katy Atchison, was not only hosting a craft night but it was only a few blocks away from my house.  I'm super shy about meeting new people, but the fact that I'd joined a team to meet people, and that the week after I joined there was an event I literally could walk to made it impossible not to go.

I'm really glad I did.  Katy was a wonderful host and I enjoyed seeing her distinct illustrations and artwork in person.  The kitty cat "Tuna" was fun, and I didn't have allergies at all!!!

Everyone who attended  was a delight and an inspiration. Making arts and crafts is often lonely work, and getting out for this kind of thing was motivating.  And it's always great to meet wonderful, smart, creative people--it was well worth getting over my nervous social phobias,  off the couch, and out of the damned house!

Thanks Katy!  Hope to do it again.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Vanity Post?

Why not put a face out there?  The Wooliverse isn't about me. . . but in case you are curious.  This is a short bio post.  I thought about a pic of me at work at my "felting station" but, well, lately I've been spending more time photo editing and uploading stuff to etsy, and researching marketing and all that stuff that is creative in it's own way, but which I find leaves me feeling pretty uncreative in regards to the sculpture itself.

Which is the whole point in the first place!  To make art!  So, I'm going to take the next few days and focus on yoga and friends and just try to recharge.

Anyway, since this is a "me" post. . . maybe a brief bio if you are interested.  I like to read, play guitar, cook, travel, practice yoga, and swim.  My guilty pleasure is videogames and comic books. . . both sources of inspiration in my sculpture.  I was born in Southern California, and currently live and work in San Francisco, which is an incredibly stimulating and inspiring environment.

I'm fascinated by world religion, mythology and concepts of magic both primitive and modern, and though I have no formal training in visual arts, I studied  literature and creative writing at the University of Arkansas under some very talented professors, and was profoundly influenced by the graduate work I did under professor John Locke in comparative literature, religion, and world mythology before he was tragically  murdered by a student (and classmate.)

Remembering that day, I feel sad now.  Sadness is a pretty big part of my inspiration, too, now that I think about it.  Which is ok.  It's the flip side of joy, and feeling deeply of the whole range of human emotions, is, I think what life and art are about.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

SF is a small world, and a small town.

I'm shy by nature, but I've been forcing myself out there because I want to share this silly little gift I find myself with lately.  Still adrenalized from volunteering at Bizarre Bazaar, I was chatting at one of my Bikram instructors this evening about volunteering at Bizarre Bazaar, how much I love Urban Bazaar,  my new Etsy site, and my "busy sculpture season", and blah blah blah me me me (because being excited about me is new again) and, YAWN.    The universe said. . . shhhhh.  Listen!

It turns out she is not only literally Etsy's oldest member still selling, she just participated in a show at Urban Bazaar that I wanted very badly to go to but missed due to travel.  She is sublime in the art of crochet--and I'm currently in love with all things textile.What a cool coincidence, huh?  And if that isn't enough, her boyfriend has killer web design skills! (Another one of my future hopes. . . to have a and full creative control.)

Check this stuff out.  It's amazing!

 I have a number of textile artists I really like.  Sharing other artists in this field that inspire me  has been the next direction I wanted my blog to take after I finished catching up on writing about why I'm even doing this at all.  The fact that yoga has been such a huge factor in unlocking the visual/non verbal right-hemisphere of my brain, and that one of my most influential yoga instructors just happens to be an artist in a related medium .  . .I can't tell you how happy it makes me to be able to direct your attention to some very beautiful work from a true talent.

Sorry. . . I'm just having an unfiltered, unedited moment of happiness and spiritual awe.  It doesn't seem to matter how much synchronicity you experience, it never ceases to amaze.

It's just been a great day start to finish.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

"Nope. It's mine."

So. . . just when I think I'm going to have something cool to add to my Etsy shop, my wife looks at it, and says, "nope. . . this one is mine."  It was a tremendous compliment, and kind of a surprise. 

I'll leave it to her to give it a name and figure out it's nature and origin (she's a faerie and magical creature aficionado and fan of Brian Froud's art) so I'm guessing it's not extra-terrestrial, but an inter-dimensional from the faerie realm.

This piece is also a great example of my "imunu" process, the head in particular is just a "firmed up" clump of raw wool I discovered with this basic shape and face, and even the body, made of roving. . . I just wadded up some roving and started to tighten up the the dense and loose area's created in the wadding process (with about a bazillion stabs of the needle) until I could see what was coming out, then enhanced it. 

I've been working on "letting stuff go" but I'm honestly happy she wanted it (the first one she's specifically asked for, for herself) because in person it really exudes a life, a special kind of "controlled crazy" and I really didn't want to see it go  : )

Bizarre Bazaar: volunteering, learning, shopping!

I had a blast volunteering at Bizarre Bazaar SF arts and crafts fair yesterday at Fort Mason (they even had the Chairman Bao food truck!).  Got covered in sap setting up the xmas trees, and smelled like a combination of pine and a day at the gym.  Bought a lot of stuff (including a tie designed by Cody Vrosh called "Dressed for the Apocalypse" that I can't wait to wear.) 

It was fun getting to meet other artists, and some members of the SF Etsy Street Team. . . not to play favorites, but I freaking loved getting to see more of "Bugs Under Glass." Before my wife could get there he'd already sold the piece I wanted her to see (and maybe let me buy) but hey, it was exciting to see someone's shop doing so well!

I'd love to have a booth at a craft festival in the near future, but there's a couple things keeping that from happening so far.  Mainly, it's been a matter of inventory.  My process is slow, and I've sold a fair amount of stuff here and there.  The other thing is rounding out what I do with a specific niche or two of lower priced, more easily produced pieces.  And I'd like to do that without the "lower priced stuff" looking shoddy and poorly made (which is a problem, because "small" doesn't always mean quicker and easier with needle felting, depending on what it is.)

Pricing is something that is also really interesting to consider, because I have a hard time pricing my own work.  There was a fair amount of  felting/soft sculpture here and there--including a couple places specifically devoted to nothing else, but compared to the amount of jewelry, clothes and other more established, popular forms it still seemed pretty niche--there's so much more that can still be done in the medium of wool sculpture without aesthetic overlap.  But the prices seemed really arbitrary in relation to quality.  I enjoyed work from all the fiber artists there and I don't want to say anything critical, but I have to admit I was a little dismayed to see such high prices on a number of fairly shoddy, loose, little pieces (which is a disservice to the medium), and yet see relatively low prices on other items with more impressive aesthetic design and craftsmanship.

Also, I spent some time watching customers react to needle felting in particular, and I noticed some people expressing shock at prices (away from vendors ears)--and I mean on items that were totally reasonably priced in terms of their workmanship, artistry, and materials.  I think needle felting and soft sculpture are poorly understood and it seems of vital importance to engage customers and educate them that these aren't just stuffed plush items or quick, easy to make toys.  It seemed like, across the board in all mediums though, those doing best had good marketing materials and a true drive to engage with people passing by.

So those are some thoughts and lessons I feel like I learned about needle felting and the art of selling it (there certainly seemed no science, rhyme or reason to it), and I'm excited about finding more opportunities to work with the arts and crafts community (even if, like yesterday, it's just volunteering to help others who are further along their business path) and not spend so much time doing this work alone!

Again, it was a great fair, and I had a blast helping, as well as shopping--clothes, greeting cards, a painting, a print, jewelry, and, surprise surprise, a big bag of some really cool different colors of uncarded wool locks (from Pans Garden.)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Corporate Mascots are magic too.

Scrubbing Bubble. . . I've loved this guy as long as I can remember.   I like to do cute doodles when I am between the somewhat psychologically draining "vision quest" pieces.

Most people seem to like the cute doodles a lot more.  Someone saw Scrubbing Bubble, and asked me to make a gift. . . of Hamburger Helper's Helping Hand.

It's been really cool this year to have had a number of "special requests," and I haven't even put myself out there for that yet.  I find doing things that I wouldn't think to do on my own really pushes me to work in new ways.  I hope Helping Hand makes his recipient really happy:

I find it surprising and unexpected to have done two corporate mascots nearly back to back.  It was also odd to have found that even these cute, innocuous mascots yielded relatively enlightening creative experiences.


When I've talked about "magic" in my process, it has been mostly related to states of consciousness evoked during both the initial vision and then the "hypnosis-like" state during the often epic creative process. Also, synchronicity has been recurrent, as well as archetypal symbolism's effect on the unconscious.   The pieces that have "taken me the deepest" were very old icons, like the Egyptian Bastet.

Working on these corporate mascots reminded me of a discussion on "sigil magic" in Grant Morrison's essay "Pop Magic."  It's available free online if you wish to read it.  The basic idea regarding sigils is that they are powerfully charged symbols designed to lead to a particular outcome.  A sigil is classically more simple, like the Holy Cross, or the Golden Arches.  But simple Iconic images like Mouse Ears--and Scrubbing Bubble and Helping Hand--are symbols with a lot of power to affect and effect.

I just find this interesting to ponder. The Magicians of Madison Avenue know exactly what they are doing.

But my pedantic over-analyzing doesn't change the fact that Scrubbing Bubble and Helping Hand are also just really cute and fun.  They represent positive concepts. . . and I am thrilled to send them out into the world

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"Thank you" is in order. . .

While I'm thinking about it, I'm a very small piece of The Wooliverse.  I just want to say thanks  to my aunt and uncle who turned me onto this art form, my wife who's been a fan, an inspiration, and a constant source of encouragement, friends both past and present, local and online who've given invaluable feedback, my kids, the folks at Urban Fauna in SF who have taught me a lot and continue to help me dig deeper; also, the ladies at Urban Bazaar who in carrying and selling my somewhat weird creations have given me the confidence to go the extra step in opening an online shop.  And my yoga instructors!  And of course the long line of writers, musicians, artists, mystics, scientists, philosophers, rabble rousers and other powerful sources of inspiration whether known in person or through their work, who've helped shape my world view .  And to the world itself for providing constant input . . .beautiful, dark, spiritual, sparkling, depraved, writhing and alive.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

It's time to stop hoarding.

I've been chasing the magical folk of the Wooliverse out of joy, love and because it is utterly fulfilling.  I love these guys and even added shelf space for them in my home.

But there comes a time to let things go, to share with the world, to stop clinging so you can continue to grow. 

Recently I've sold some of these guys at  Urban Bazaar in SF, and it's a good feeling to know that these critters are bringing happiness to more than just me and my wife.  That's why I started this blog, and am making the Wooliverse available on Etsy.  It's scary, it's exciting, and it's a little bit sad to see some of these guys go out into the world.  But as I learned while wrangling with a particulary opinionated and bossy denizen of the Wooliverse, the quickest way to lose access to the magic is to refuse to share it with others.

Why "The Wooliverse?"

I had an odd dream shortly after returning from Patagonia and consciously implementing a loosely "shamanic" approach to what I was doing with wool.  I'll spare the explicit details (for dreams are almost always boring in the retelling) but the essentials were that I traveled through ten different dimensions of a Universe made out of wool.  The first realm was bright, light and airy.  Each subsequent dimension was more densely sculpted than the one before, and of a darker color palette.  The final realm was muddy, stormy and torn and I reached into the sky, grabbed a piece of cloud and used it to felt closed a hole in the ground through which the universe was pouring out into a dark void.

It was a few weeks later when I recognized that the colors and increasing materiality of the wool dimensions were much like the ten Sephirot in the Kabbalistic Tree of Life.  It was also when it occurred to me that creating "in the Wooliverse" was, so to speak, actually a path of healing for me.  I had known "intellectually" that art and magic are healing tools, but I had never "known" it in any truly experiential way at all.  Which says a lot for the limits of intellect, huh?

Chasing Imunu in Clouds of Wool

Mangrove Root Imunu or Kakame approx 1700s
I've been transfixed by the Oceana Exhibit at the De Young in SF since it opened (The Jolika Collection.) Most inspiring are the few pieces referred to as Imunu.  As I understand it, the Shaman would have a spirit vision, then seek out this spirit in the wood, and embellish it, rendering its most salient details more visible.

 This is the process I have used for a many of the wool sculptures I've done.  I do my best to respect the process, and differentiate between the wool Imunu, which are very much a communication between conscious and unconscious mind as they interact with the wool, and other pieces which are conceptual and aesthetic creations that are more intentional.

I don't want to scare anyone off with the "magical" and "mystical" vision stuff.  For the most part, I believe "magic" is a system of using deep symbolism to assist the conscious and unconscious mind to unite into another kind of consciousness.  Dreams, fasting, self-hypnosis, ceremonial magic, sleep deprivation, meditation, ecstatic dance. . . all of these things and more have been historically used to travel to. . . . wherever you want to believe that "other" place is.  Another dimension.  The unconscious mind.  The faerie realm.  I have no idea.  I'm as likely to pick up one of these hitchhikers in a walk through the redwoods as I am dancing to a high energy band.  Often one will arise, bright against my closed eyelids while resting, empty, in savasana after 90 minutes of intense Bikram Yoga. 

I look for these "visions" in one of the ever growing piles of wool around the house.  Sometimes I sketch them because I might not yet have the wool to complete them.  But the process.  It's hard to explain what it's like sitting down and letting one of these creatures form over many hours and days out of a cloud-like puffs of wool.  It isn't easy.  And it isn't always fun.   More than writing or music ever did, chasing these sometimes whimsical, and sometimes dark visions has been an act of self-exploration and a process of discovery and healing.  Whether I've wanted it to be or not!


Some dear friends invited my wife and I to join them on a camping and fly-fishing trip to Chilean Patagonia.  I had JUST learned needle felting and was obsessed with it, but was glad to set it aside for an adventure (of the unknown, because I knew NOTHING about Patagonia.)

The vast, empty landscapes in the southern part of the country were really inspiring, in part because of their sheer beauty, and in part because of their lack of wildlife.  I kept thinking it would be completely unsurprising if a dinosaur stepped out from behind a mountain, or if Cthulhu himself arose from one of the deep, blue lakes.  It was hear that I first started feeling like crafting fantastical creatures, and for whatever reason (I'm not even especially a Lovecraft fan) Cthulhu was the first creature I was certain I wanted to attempt making when we got home.  (Unbeknown to me at the time was that the Great Old One was apparently gripping the imagination of many Bay Area artists.) 

There were a few actual creatures living in Chile (not just my projected monsters), even in Patagonia:  SHEEP!  Again, ignorant  me, I had no idea.  Near Coyhaique we camped on a farm, and got to watch some sheep get sheered the old fashioned way, with a pair of big scissors.  And when we made it all the way down to Tortel in southern Patagonia (a swampy little fishing village that might be the cutest place on earth) we discovered a lady selling uncarded raw wool, dyed with plant dyes taken from her garden.  I bought as much as I could and brought it home with me.

When I started playing with this kind of wool, raw, uncombed, with all the whorls and personality of the sheep still intact, it was actually a revelation to my creative process. Previously, I had only worked with processed wool roving (which I still use for many kinds of projects) but there was something about the raw wool that suggested to me an idea I'd encountered in the De Young Museum's Papua New Guinea exhibit:  certain pieces called "Imunu" which are spirits the shaman/artist doesn't so much create, but finds residing in the medium (wood, traditionally) and "enhances" or makes visible.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

"A Bird does not sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song."

It never occurred to me to blog about my experiences with needle felted wool sculpture originally, because I had no idea that it was going to be a  journey worth documenting.  But I did buy a journal to jot down ideas in.  I chose it because I liked the cover.  When I got home I noticed a little peal-off sticker on the plastic wrap that said "A bird does not sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song."

I hadn't had a "song to sing" in a long time when I was introduced to felting needles.  I was a writer with nothing to say, a guitarist with nothing left to play.  I had been trying to revive myself, to get rid of that "dead inside" feeling through yoga, meditation and other techniques and was in a healthy place in many ways, but my neglected creative self remained stagnant.

The first time I had a felting needle in my hand was at my and aunt and uncle's art studio in Santa Cruz, and with nothing but a few pointers, I found myself in that creative state that is sort of like self-hypnosis--the kind of state I used to be able to enter while writing poetry or playing guitar.  With no conscious intent I first made a sloppy, poorly felted mushroom, and then an "alien wizard" or shaman which looked kind of neat, but was so loosely constructed it barely holds together. 

I bought wool and tools for myself and doodled around a little with these "ideas" of what I thought I wanted to do. . . things I thought other people might like or want.  And then a trip to Chile helped spark a transformation in the way I approached wool art.  That's a story for another post, but it took me back to my very first felting experience, and made that little Alien Shaman meaningful, because in a way it was a sign post to the path I would end up on, to the place where art and magic intersect.