ok, so it's probably not the 'done' thing and it is very self-indulgent, but this week's featured maker is me!
Please introduce yourself …
Hi, I’m Tracy and am now scarily-close to being 40! Originally from London, I’ve lived in Glasgow and the Isle of Lewis and have now settled in Perth (Scotland, not Oz!). I have a part-time day job in an office and in my spare time I design, make and sell felt items as fatcat felt. When I’m not working or felting I love to be outdoors, whether it’s camping, walking, canoeing, birdwatching, cycling, or working in our fruit and veg garden.
How would you describe your work / style?
That’s quite difficult to answer because I’m not so sure … Everything I make is handmade and I put a lot of myself into everything I create. I work mostly with felt but also dabble in weaving and other textile work. I think I’m still trying out so many techniques and am learning more about design; absorbing lessons from artists I admire and I think ‘my’ style is still evolving as I’ve yet to settle on any one definable style.
I’m definitely enjoying the time I’ve been taking recently to explore more artistic/creative (rather than purely commercial) pieces so maybe this will help me to define my own voice. But perhaps I’ll be one of those people who never settle to one particular style …
Who, or what, inspires you?
Oh gosh, everything and anything! Which I can’t really complain about, but I just wish I had more time to make everything I wanted to. I’m really inspired by nature – so the colours and textures of the sea, the landscape we spend a lot of time in and the plants and flowers in our garden. And then there are the artists I love like Kandinsky, Hundertwassser, Rothko, Klein … I love their use of colour. I’ve been looking at a lot of folk art, Celtic patterns and rock art recently and I’m hoping this will inform some new pieces.
Do you sell your work? If so, what helped you decide to start selling your work?
I have to sell my felt work otherwise I would run out of space in the house!
I came home from my first feltmaking workshop with a lovely new felt bag, Morgan was so impressed with it he said it was good enough to sell. Earning money by selling work that I’ve created with my own hands had been a dream of mine for such a long time and when I heard that, it kind of clicked and I thought ‘why not … ?’.
Where can I buy your work?
• the Gift Gallery in York (19 Shambles, York, Y01 7LZ), facebook page: www.facebook.com/giftgalleryyork
• an cnoc in Crieff (31 East High Street, Crieff, PH7 3AF), website: www.an-cnoc.com/
• fatcat felt’s folksy shop: www.folksy.com/shops/fatcatfelt
• I also sell at various markets throughout the year, details nearer the time will be on my blog.
Do you have a website or blog address?
I have two!
There’s www.narkeymarkeysblog.blogspot.com which is where I chatter away about my life in general and then I also have www.fatcatfelt.com which is all about my felt work.
How did you learn your craft? How long have you been creating?
When we first moved to Perth, Morgan went out exploring on his bike and came back to tell me he had found a shop he thought I would love. Twist Fibrecraft in Newburgh (www.twistfibrecraft.co.uk) is an amazing treasure trove for all things textiles, I came home with some fibre and a ‘how to make felt’ book and my obsession has just grown from there! Since that first workshop, I’ve enjoyed many courses, classes and workshops, and I’m still ‘learning by doing’ too.
I think I’ve been making things pretty much as far as I can remember, but I’ve been a feltmaker for about five or six years now.
Is there any other craft skill you would like to learn?
Loads! If only I had the time. I’ve dabbled with ceramics, paper making, photography, film processing, tapestry, embroidery, fimo … and would love to learn book-binding, glass work, mosaic, crochet, knitting, spinning, wire work ... I’m about to start practicing with lino printing too!
Anything exciting planned for 2011 you’d like to share?
I’m going to Ireland in June for a workshop with Horst (www.horstcouture.com) that Nicola (www.clasheen.wordpress.com) has arranged.
I have an outdoor installation piece planned for the summer (more details to follow …!).
I’ve just started planting out seeds and plants so I’ll be experimenting with a range of natural dyes this autumn.
I’ll be taking part in the International Day of Felt in October: www.feltunited.com.
And I’ve got a workshop in November to look forward to with Angela (www.angelabarrow.co.uk/Blog).
We’ve got a family holiday coming up soon which I’m really excited about but I can’t talk about it too much here because we have lots of surprises planned!!!
Have you had any work featured in magazines/books/galleries?
Not yet, but I’m hopeful that once I’ve progressed to a stage in my development as a feltmaker that I’m happy with, I will find the confidence to start submitting my work.
Has your work won any prizes/competitions?
I’ve never been brave enough to enter anything! Maybe next year …
If I wasn’t doing this, I’d be …
I can’t imagine not doing this to be honest.
I couldn’t do this if it wasn’t for …
My obsession with all things woolly!
And a very understanding partner who doesn’t complain (too often) about wet fleece drip-drying over the bath, felt drying on every radiator, very regular deliveries of new wool/yarn/buttons/beads because I just had to have them.
Describe your perfect day.
One with 48 hours to get everything done!
Honestly though, it would be a day spent with my family at the coast, possibly taking a boat trip, lots of sunshine, loads of good food, a little reading and then falling exhausted and happy into bed.
What do you do to relax?
Funnily enough, I find feltmaking relaxing! But I also love reading, watching films and working in the garden.
Marmite … love it or hate it?
LOVE IT! Especially on rice cakes with cheese. Or on seeded bread with crunchy peanut butter and cucumber.
What’s your weakness?
Chocolate, crisps, cheese in huge quantities, and shiny things like buttons and beads!
How do you keep motivated?
Seriously though, I really love that there are always new techniques to experiment with and I’m full of ideas of new things I’d like to make (long may that last!).
And then there’s the fact that I am an obsessive list-maker. At the end of each year, I write down my aspirations for the coming year and then start to break-them down into manageable chunks, so I then have a list for each month of smaller steps I can take to move my goals along. I know it might sound obsessive but it helps for the times when I’m a bit low on motivation – I only have to look at my list and then before I know it, I’m doing something constructive.
What do you wish you’d known when you first started out?
When to trust my instincts.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
It’s a hard slog sometimes! You really need to be committed and prepared for some hard work, it helps to have the support of friends and family as well because it can take over your life from time to time.
Try a stall at a local market – it can be a scary prospect as you’re putting your work out there but you're meeting customers face-to-face and it’s a great way to get immediate feedback on your work; to meet other designer-makers and swap hints and tips. It’s also a great way to meet and chat with potential customers, even if they don’t buy from you on the day, they may visit your online shop later on. I was asked to give my first workshop by someone who visited one of my stalls, so you never know what opportunities might come your way.
Working from home or your studio can sometimes be quite an isolated existence so it’s a good idea to find out if there is a local group in your area or a forum online which you can join, it’s great to be able to chat to other folk doing a similar activity as you can share hints and tips, help each other out when it’s getting tough and share in each other’s successes.
Get as much advice as you can from people who know what they are talking about and whose opinion you value.
Do the things you can do really well and ask for help with the other stuff you might not be so experienced with.
Don’t be put off by small setbacks, treat them as a potential learning experience and change tack slightly if necessary.
Trust your own instincts and push yourself harder than you ever thought possible because it is an amazing feeling to be able to earn money from doing something that you love.
Have fun with what you are doing and don’t forget to play from time to time.