The holidays are stressful times for
all of us! Between all the parties and plans, food making and
shopping, it’s easy to loose your creative spirit. I
usually make at least some of the gifts every year, but I always have a
hard time when I start thinking about what to make for my mom.
You might remember from my intro post
that my mom is a fiber artist. She’s very creative and into many
different realms of creating with fiber – from processing and dying the raw fiber, spinning yarn, and weaving or knitting the yarn into finished goods. What I struggle with is
that she doesn’t wear jewelry! And at this point, I’ve beaded enough
cutesy household stuff for her too, like the beadwork on this fireplace match basket.
Several years ago, she expressed the
same sentiment to me – how many knitted hats does one need, after
all. So we came up with a new way to approach the gifts we give to
each other. Instead of sending a specific gift to the other person,
we send items to inspire the other person’s creativity.
I’m pretty sure it all started when Mom
mentioned to me that she had been making felt ball pin cushions to
sell. Well, I wanted some felt balls! I remember making them as a child –
wadding different colors of wool into a pair of pantyhose, tying
knots between sections, and running them through a hot wash cycle. An easy fun fiber project for bored kids, they use up a lot of wool
that isn’t really yarn quality, and they don’t break windows when
thrown indoors. She makes them slightly differently now, to make
larger more compacted balls, then cuts them in half for pin cushion
use. But not every blob of wool felts properly. I mentioned that I
might be able to use balls that weren’t as dense in the middle for
some creative project…and the exchange began.
Elementia was the first sculpture I
made with a felt ball…well, this one was more like a felt rock!
Flat on one side, and much larger than the other balls, I was very
inspired to make something out of this hunk of wool. I sculpted a
large polymer clay face, glued it down, and basically just used the
felt ball as a base for large scale bead embroidery. The interior of
some of these balls may be too loose to cut into, but the outside is
perfect for stitching on.
Here is another example – my
representation of Proginoskes from A Wind in the Door by Madeline
L’Engle. Progo is a cherubim, so not only did I take inspiration
from the description of the character in the book…but I also
researched biblical and historical references to cherubim, and tried
to incorporate all the different themes. Because the ball was round
on the bottom this time, I hammered a few nails through a piece of
wood in a grouping of three, and speared the ball to keep it in
place. This also gave me a base to decorate.
I have two more felt ball sculptures in
the works right now. One is going to be a circus monkey – the face
is a molded fabric vintage doll mask. This is going to be my first
attempt at joining multiple balls together…I suspect there will be
some hot glue involved to hold everything in place for stitching.
Occasionally the wool doesn’t felt properly on the outside, and the
ball ends up with pockets or strange crevices. You can see I’ve
started a bit of beading on what will eventually be a marsupial
animal sculpture. I’ve always been fascinated by marsupials of any
kind, so creating my own will be fun.
She has also sent me weaving samples,
flat pieces of pre-felt, and other fun things, that stretch my brain
into the realm of mixed media beading. I have an idea to use one of these woven samples as the flap on a leather bag, but haven’t gone beyond the idea phase yet. Still, anything that gets the brain scheming is what’s important in our inspiration exchanges.
So what does a beader send a fiber
artist for inspiration? Sometimes its as simple as a selection of
artisan or antique buttons. Sometimes I make buttons or other large
toggle style closures. This button is stitched around a polymer clay
shank button that I made, in an attempt to make a marigold.
One year Mom mentioned that she had
been looking through my doll making books, and that she might want to
make an art doll with some of her handwoven fabric. So I made this
polymer clay face that she can use as a mask on a cloth body.
This year Mom has a brand new,
digitally programmed loom, and she’s going to experiment with weaving
iridescent fabric. Well, I am obsessed with iridescence in anything,
so I am pulling some things from my stash that I think might inspire
her. I went through my fabric, and cut swatches of all the
iridescent fabrics I had. What makes a fabric look iridescent is
when the warp and weft threads are different colors. If you look at
the edges of the fabric swatches above, you will see that the color of the threads
on each edge are different. I hope she can use these fabrics
as palette inspiration!
I am also going to go through my beads
and buttons, and send her a small stash of things that have an aurora
borealis, iris, or otherwise multicolored finish. Perhaps these will
inspire her as closures or embellishments for her finished pieces.
If you have creative people in your
life, this type of gift exchange might work for you! Not only is it
much less stressful than finding a traditional gift, but it is so
rewarding to be able to contribute to someone’s creative process. I
love to feel that, even 2,300+ miles apart, I can be a part of Mom’s creativity. And even if the items that we send to each other
never get used in a finished piece, they still contribute to the
process. Receiving and working with Mom’s fiber pieces has pushed me
outside of my comfort zone, and that just causes my artistry to grow
– allowing me to see new materials differently, and use them in
ways that other beaders might not have thought of. I hope this post
gives you all some ideas for working with the other creative people
in your lives!