Alpacas & Art

Yes, you've seen other Alpaca-related blog posts here if you've been a reader for awhile. Here's another one! I'm a little obsessed with these sweet-faced creatures, but it's not just because they're so stinking adorable. They're also part of my art. Literally. 

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Recently, I visited my dad and his wife at their new home in Brandon, VT (it's actually a very old home - built in 1880 - but it's new to them). They recently retired there, and I can see why. It's such a beautiful place! Just down the country road from their horse farm was an unexpected surprise. Maple Creek Farms is home to a few dozen alpacas, which is already enough to get me excited, but then I learned they actually process all of the fiber onsite and have a mini-factory for making roving, batting, and even yarn. All the things I'm interested in! 

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I've been a knitter and felt fiber artist for almost 10 years now, so I know my materials and I work with a variety of tools every single day, but I have never actually seen how fleece is processed before I get my hands on it. I always buy roving and yarn that's completely ready for use - I don't do any cleaning or dying myself, so seeing how the fiber gets from the alpaca's back to a ball of colorful roving in my living room was quite the treat. 

Needless to say, I took about 100 pictures of the baby alpacas, some of which were just a few weeks old, and I stuffed my suitcase full of colorful roving for my return trip. I love seeing how things are made, and truly understanding the process by seeing it for myself, so this whole pit stop was right up my alley. Now I have an even deeper appreciation for the material I use every day. 

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TOWN Magazine Feature

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Greenville SC people probably already saw this, but for everyone else, I wanted to share this article in a local magazine about my time as Artist-in-Residence at Poinsett State Park back in May. The full article can be found on TOWN's website. It's such an honor to be featured in the July issue! I enjoyed recounting my experience and sharing how all of my expectations were blown away. 

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Flip through the entire issue if you like...and stop on pages 49 & 50 ;-) 

 Photography by  Eli Warren   Thank you all for being so patient while I listed all of the wool landscapes from The Poinsett Collection. Everything is now available on my new website:  www.onceagainasam.com   Several of the pieces sold during my 3-day Art in the Wild Exhibition a few weeks ago, but everything else (plus a few more) are listed online. If you've had your eye on any of the work I've been sharing post-residency, incluing the piece I'm holding in the photo above, now's your chance!    

Photography by Eli Warren

Thank you all for being so patient while I listed all of the wool landscapes from The Poinsett Collection. Everything is now available on my new website: www.onceagainasam.com

Several of the pieces sold during my 3-day Art in the Wild Exhibition a few weeks ago, but everything else (plus a few more) are listed online. If you've had your eye on any of the work I've been sharing post-residency, incluing the piece I'm holding in the photo above, now's your chance! 

 

Where Women Create

This month, I’m honored to share my personal story and creative workspace in the summer issue of Where Women Create. This magazine showcases artists, crafters, and makers in a way that allows you a personal look at their space, but also shares their creative journey. I really enjoyed reflecting on how I got to this point in my life and all the things that added up to make it what it is today. I feel like I’m just getting started - there’s so much more I want to do!

Checkout the full story below see additional photos that weren’t used in the article. All photos courtesy of the talented Eli Warren.

I was born to create. My love of art and working with my hands started early in life, so early I don’t remember when exactly. I can recall peeling my sleeping mother’s eyes open before sunrise and begging her to come downstairs and draw with me when I was about four years old, and she, in all her love and patience, would do just that. I think that’s where my story begins, with creative and supportive parents.

Growing up, I couldn’t get enough art in my life, so my parents took me to museums often and signed me up for additional art classes after school, encouraging me to pursue it. My mom was a self-taught artist, and although she did it purely for her own enjoyment and to decorate our home, there was never any question that I could do it as a serious career if I wanted to, and I’m so grateful for that freedom. As long as there was art & design in my future in some shape or form, I knew I’d be happy.

After 4 years of intense design study & a wide range of fine art studio courses, I received my BFA from Maryland Institute College of Art in 2005. Shortly after graduating I got married, lost my mom to cancer, and began working as an interior designer for a commercial architecture firm. My whole world changed in just two short months, and for the first time in my life, I wasn’t creating with my hands. I never realized how important that part of me was until it went missing.

Knowing me all too well, my husband Josh encouraged me to open an Etsy shop and get back to making. That little decision changed everything. Not only did I get back to my roots as an artist and rediscover the joy of creating, I was now on a double career path as an interior designer and an entrepreneur, and these creative pursuits complimented each other in unexpected ways.

Working as as an interior designer, I had access to all kinds of outdated material samples like leather upholstery swatches and wood veneer. I took those miscellaneous odds and ends that were bound for the trash and gave them new life, once again, in a whole new way. My business name, “Once Again Sam”, hinted at my love of reusing materials, and although “SAM” wasn’t me exactly (those are my initials but nobody calls me that), it was someone I wanted to become. I wanted to start a new creative life, and not have to choose to do just one thing or have a single career. The freedom to pursue art, the encouragement I had growing up as well as from my husband, inspired me to go for it. ALL of it.

I chose not to choose a single path. I’m currently an interior designer, a fiber artist, jewelry designer & maker, entrepreneur, and published author. That list will probably grow with time. It’s not that I don’t know what I want to do when I grow up, it’s that I want to do so many things. My greatest joy is creating and imagining, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a beautiful space for a client, an intricate design for a leather cuff bracelet, a life-like plant made out of wool fiber, or a fictional story about a soap-eating giraffe. I live to create. Any medium will do.

The majority of my time is spent working from my home studio running Once Again Sam, which has grown into a thriving small business that takes me to the post office 5 days a week and all over the southeast for craft show events. My husband Josh, who is responsible for putting the crazy idea into my head that I could actually start a small company, is my my business partner.

A good portion of our home is dedicated for Once Again Sam workspace. The dining room isn’t used to entertain anymore, it stores inventory and displays for craft shows. My husband and I share an office, where we do accounting, photo editing, etc. Upstairs is my studio, where I do final assembly, product photography, store materials, and ship orders. The basement is our workshop wonderland. Josh and I both enjoy working with wood, so we’ve got all our loud messy tools and machines down there, including my favorite tool, the 90 watt laser cutter.

Just as my days are a combination of many things, the same can be said of my handmade jewelry collection. My work marries basic hand tools with high tech equipment, and common materials are often mixed with the exotic. I still use a lot of recycled leather material in my jewelry designs, just like I did when I first opened my Etsy shop in 2009. Sometimes I do the cutouts by hand, other times I leave it to the laser cutter.

I enjoy learning new skills and have a long list of things to try. My husband and I took a wood turning class together a few years ago and have enjoyed getting into wood turning. I’m finally getting the hang of sculpting modern pendants on the lathe. I’ve also taken up painting recently, and my series of landscape pendants feature a panoramic painting that’s cut up into sections so the owner may wear an original piece of art any day of the week. A huge portion of my business revolves around custom jewelry. Customers can order a pendant featuring a portrait of their child, favorite animal, or home state, etched into painted wood. With a wide range of handmade options, there’s truly something for everyone at Once Again Sam.  

My creative journey is just getting started. I never could have guessed I’d be where I am now, and can’t wait to see where my creative careers take me in the future. Starting something can be the hardest part.

GreenCraft: Making an Upcycled Suede Necklace

It's an honor to have my suede fringe necklace featured in this month's GreenCraft Magazine! This is one of my favorite jewelry projects to make, and it's a great way to use up a variety of miscellaneous suede and leather scraps (which I happen to have a lot of around the studio). My whole handmade jewelry business Once Again Sam is centered around using recycled materials, and leather has always been the most dear to me. I enjoy searching for outdated suede clothing at the thrift store, and giving it new life, once again, in a whole new way as bold but wearable jewelry. 

Below is a step by step tutorial on how to make the statement necklace shown in the GreenCraft article, as well as a #MakersEyeView sharing a time-lapse video of the process from start to finish. Enjoy, and happy crafting!

How to make a suede fringe necklace: 

1. Gather material: I use thrift store clothing as my suede and leather source, but just about anything will work as long as it doesn't fray when cut. 

2. Cut strips: use scissors to cut an assortment of 1/4" wide strips (the length is up to you, mine are about 2 1/2 to 3"). The necklace in the photo used over 150 pieces total, in 20 different colors. 

3. Create pointed ends: give one end of each piece a pointed shape, so they'll have that "fringe" look when strung together. They don't have to be perfect!

4. Punch holes: use an 1/8" circle leather punch to punch a small hole through the top of each piece (the flat end, not the end with the point).

5. Make your chain: cut a length of thin chain around 18-20" (depending on where you want the necklace to lay on your chest), then add a clasp to one end so the leather pieces wont fall off once you begin stringing them on. The chain needs to be thin enough to go through the punched holes. I attached a needle to the end of my chain to make threading easier, because my punched hole was just barely big enough to accept the chain.

6. Start stringing: once you have your colors in the order you want them, begin adding your suede strips one by one until you're happy with the overall size.

GreenCraft has featured two of my upcycled jewelry projects in the past, and those tutorials can also be found on my blog:

Click HERE for suede fringe earring project

Click HERE for suede cuff project