Share What You Know

I’m a big believer in this simple statement. I’ve learned a great deal from others and I’m always happy to share whatever I can. If you’ve ever contacted me to ask about my laser cutter, tips on opening an Etsy shop, or are curious about needle felting, you know this to be true. In the coming weeks, I have several unique opportunities to share my skills and experience with you!


Needle felting workshops:

I’m teaching two needle felting classes this summer at Greenville Center for Creative Arts. Each session is suitable for any experience level (ages 8+). The first class (June 9th) will focus on 3D needle felting, and the second class (June 30th) will focus on 2D felting. All materials are provided. Space is limited and registration opens Friday May 5th.

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The State of Making online summit:

Are you an artist, small business owner, or just curious about the maker life? I highly recommend checking out The State of Making, which is a yearly conference made possible by Academy of Handmade. I’m one of the speakers on Day 1 (Thursday, May 3rd) and I’ll be talking shop and sharing what I’ve learned about the Etsy economy, diversifying your income streams, and keeping your chin up when you’re having a down year. Registration is FREE!

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Artist in Residence Daily Documentaries:

I’m starting to pack my bags (which are mostly full of art supplies) in preparation for my upcoming South Carolina state park residency. This amazing opportunity is giving me the chance to live in a beautiful state park for a week and create a body of work inspired by my surroundings. I’ll be sharing photos and going live on Instagram and Facebook daily, as well as posting a video journal (WIFI permitting) on YouTube so be sure to subscribe to my channel so you don’t miss an episode. You’ll get up close and personal as I explore the park, create art in real time, and you’ll see the ups and downs of my creative process. The work created during the residency will be exhibited in mid June at Art & Light Gallery in Greenville, SC. 


Spring 2018 Launches

During the winter months of 2018, I often found myself playing with paint in the studio. I made time to practice each week, invested in new brushes, and even took an intro to alcohol inks class at Greenville Center for Creative Arts in March. I’ve been inspired by the medium! The textural and graphic possibilities of paint have greatly influenced my new jewelry collections this spring. I’m excited to finally share these new additions to my Etsy shop with you. Each piece is an original one-of-a-kind, but thanks to the simple settings and delicate scale, they’re easy to incorporate into your everyday-style.

See the process in my new Maker's Eye View video on YouTube!


Alcohol Ink Collection: drips and splatters showcasing beautiful unpredictable patterns in colorful dyes, frozen in time on clear acrylic.


Mixed Media Collection: clear acrylic layered with crumbled gold leaf, pale pink paint with stark black accents, framed in a variety of simple metal bezels and laser etched wooden settings.


Intro to Alcohol Inks

Never stop learning new things. That’s a lifelong goal of mine, and I’ve made a habit of taking art classes whenever possible. Recently, I carved out a Saturday afternoon for the Intro to Alcohol Inks class at Greenville Center for Creative Arts with Dottie Bruce. It was a 6 hour workshop but the time just flew by!


After demonstrations and tips for working with the medium, we had the chance to work with the diluted dyes on smooth paper and ceramic tile. Alcohol ink is a fairly new trend, but I think it’s going to be very popular! Concentrated dyes are mixed with rubbing alcohol to water them down, and must be used on a smooth surface like yupo paper, acrylic, or other glass and plastic surfaces. You don’t have full control over what the ink will do, where it will go, how it will mix, but that’s sort of the beauty of it (from a beginner's perspective, at least).

I had a blast painting landscapes of course, had a hard time with the botanicals, and was soothed by watching the drips run and mix together with the other colors in abstract ways. The ink dries so fast, it creates these really cool outlines of color that you can’t really get with other mediums. It’s a forgiving medium as well - if you don’t like something, you just wipe it off with alcohol. Pretty easy to start over if something is looking disastrous! I will definitely be experimenting with this medium in the future...just as soon as my alcohol ink starter kit arrives in the mail!


The ink has arrived and I've already created my first collection of alcohol ink jewelry. Check them out in my Etsy shop:

Don't miss this Maker's Eye View time-lapse video showing the process:

Learning to Paint

Over the last year or so, I've been slowly getting back into painting. I enjoy it tremendously, but I don't have the skill level I'd like. I can needle felt a wool painting with my eyes shut and I can paint jewelry all day long, but a traditional painting on canvas is, for some reason, really daunting to me.

  "The Foothills on a Cloudy Day"  by Sarah Mandell (January 27th, 2018)

"The Foothills on a Cloudy Day" by Sarah Mandell (January 27th, 2018)

I enjoy viewing and collecting paintings by other artists and often wonder how they developed that distinct style which makes them so unique. I wish I had a distinct style like Annie Koelle, Charles Gatewood, or Jessica Fields. They're each so talented and I enjoy their work personally in my home, but I also stand and stare at their pieces (up close, far away) and try to figure out exactly which details make it perfect, and try to guess at what colors they mixed or which brushes they used. I enjoy art but I also analyze the heck out of it!

Each of these painters knows exactly what they're doing with colors, textures, light, and composition, but there's a raw skill that goes into the mix too. I don't think I have that particular skill, but I'm willing to put in the time to try and develop it anyway. Only recently has it occurred to me that these artists, in addition to their raw talent, probably have years and years of practice behind them. If I want to improve, a good deal of that will be my responsibility. 

Painting was the one course I was required to take at Maryland Institute College of Art that single handedly pulled down my GPA. I sucked at painting, and when you suck at something at one of the top art schools in the country, they give you C's. I told myself that it didn't matter at the time, I hustled and still graduated with honors despite my sad C's in painting because I was majoring in Environmental Design and wouldn't need to paint again, but the problem was I desperately wanted to paint, regardless of my career path. 

So here I am, almost 15 years later. I'm painting again. No grades, no real assignments or deadlines, just me and my desire to improve my skills and enjoy myself in the process.

  "Young Raven"  by Sarah Mandell (January 30th, 2018)

"Young Raven" by Sarah Mandell (January 30th, 2018)

In October of 2016 I participated in a 30 day challenge called Creative Sprint, and one of the assignments was to create something with your non-dominant hand, so I painted an abstract painting with my left hand. It was my first painting since graduating from MICA. Oddly enough, I really liked how it turned out! From there, I tried small scale landscapes as pendants and needle felted wool landscapes. Those two series are my best sellers now, and I can't help but find myself thinking the missing link between the two is painting. 

 "Left-handed Landscape" by Sarah Mandell (April 15th, 2016)

"Left-handed Landscape" by Sarah Mandell (April 15th, 2016)

Fast forward to last summer when I took a fun pet painting course at Greenville Center for Creative Arts. I captured my sugar gliders Sid & Sophie in acrylic, and I'm seriously considering signing up for additional courses. I enjoyed it so much!

 "Sid & Sophie" by Sarah Mandell (July 23rd, 2017)

"Sid & Sophie" by Sarah Mandell (July 23rd, 2017)

I don't know what I want to paint or how I want to paint yet, I just want to paint. Right now, I'm all over the place. There's no common thread, no cohesive technique, no regular schedule for practice, but I'm getting there. This year, I'm putting aside a few hours each week to paint purely for fun, something I often forget to do when I'm in the studio making orders. 

Here's to learning, making time to improve, and creating art just for my own satisfaction! 

  "The Ridge at Dusk"  by Sarah Mandell (January 21st, 2018)

"The Ridge at Dusk" by Sarah Mandell (January 21st, 2018)

Checkout my new Maker's Eye View time lapse video on YouTube showing the process of a recent landscape painting. 

Commissioning Artwork FAQ

Commissioning a piece of original art may be intimidating if you've never done it before. There’s so many unknowns. Will it look like what you envisioned? How much will it cost? How long does it take? Is the artist you have in mind currently taking on custom requests?

I wouldn’t want any of my customers to feel this way or to rule out custom orders because they’re unsure about the process. Commissioning art can be an enjoyable experience so I thought I’d share how I personally handle commissions and answer some FAQ. A huge part of my handmade business is custom work, so I welcome special requests!

Q: I’m interested in commissioning a wool landscape painting. What do I need to do?

A: Send me a message via Facebook, Instagram, Etsy, or contact form to get the conversation started. If you have a photo you’d like me to use as a reference for the piece, please include that. We'll work out the size, frame choice, deadline, and go from there. Pricing depends on size and complexity of the piece, but a good ballpark budget number for custom felted landscapes is $2 per square inch. For example, an 8x10 scene would typically run $160, which includes the frame.


Q: I saw something in your Etsy shop or Instagram that I liked, but I want it in another color (or a slightly different design, size, etc.).

A: No problem! Nearly all of my jewelry can be customized, and often times the fiber art can be recreated or tweaked to be a specific size, alternate color range, etc.


Q: Do I pay before or after the work is done?

A: 99% of the time I’ll request payment upfront. This goes for jewelry, fiber art, or any other custom orders. Once I’ve received payment, your order will be added to my list and I complete them in order of payment received (unless there’s a specific deadline previously discussed).


Q: Does a custom order cost more?

A: Not necessarily! The price is usually the same, but it may take a few days longer to create, depending on the request and if I need to special order materials.

Q: Do you offer proofs or photos prior to shipping a custom order?

A: I typically don’t do this for custom jewelry, ornaments, or smaller items. However, for the custom wool landscapes, I’m happy to to show you progress pictures upon request.

Q: Do you offer discounts on bulk orders? 

A: When it comes to jewelry, yes, I'm happy to work with you on the total price if you're ordering 10 or more pieces. When it comes to the fiber art, the price is firm. Needle felting is a very tedious process and this is the reason my fiber art work never goes on sale online or at events.


 Q: The piece I wanted to buy has already sold. Can you make another?

A: Probably so! I don't mind recreating pieces (although they'll always be slightly different than the original because they're handmade). If you see something that's sold, get in touch and I'll let you know if I can recreate something similar. 


A quick run down of do’s and don’t when commissioning art:

DON’T commission artists to knock off other artist’s work. It’s not cool, and it’s no fair.

DO ask artists for references or examples of past work if you’re unsure if they’re the right person for the job.

DON’T expect the artist to deliver the finished piece in person, even if they’re local.   

DO ask for progress images if you’re particular about the composition, materials, etc.

DON’T be afraid to be specific if you have a certain size, look, or deadline in mind. Share that with the artist from the start so they can accommodate your wishes.

DO allow the artist to do what they do best and embrace their process. The finished piece will surely look different than what you had in your mind, but hopefully it’ll be even better than what you imagined.