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!

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Needle felting workshops: 

https://www.artcentergreenville.org/artschool-adults

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:

https://academyofhandmade.com/thestateofmaking/

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:

www.video.onceagainsam.com

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. 

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Learning Shibori Dying

Getting my hands dirty is something I look forward to. Dying my hands blue….well, that was new for me until recently. I took a Shibori dying class this weekend, and as always, learning something new and unrelated to anything else I’m involved with, tends to inspire me in unexpected ways. Not only did I learn about the historical significance of indigo, but also practical information about working with natural dyes. I can admit this now, after the fact, that I didn’t realize indigo was a plant. I guess I always assumed it was a mineral or chemical compound, but it’s actually a crop, one that’s making a major comeback on American farms. Who knew! Well, you might have known, but I certainly didn’t.

The class was organized by The Maker’s Collective, taught by Catherine Cross of the Summer Blues Indigo Dying Workshop, and hosted at Knack here in Greenville, SC. Our group spent the first hour watching demonstrations of different techniques, learning an overview of Shibori dying, followed by two hours of our own hands-on experiments. We used clothespins, rubber bands, clamped plywood, and lots of other random stuff to resist the dye in certain areas, creating all sorts of interesting and unpredictable patterns on test fabric, and eventually “real” stuff like clothing. I brought some white leather scraps from my studio, just to see if it would work, and was thrilled with the results. It was such a blast!

A few of my finished pieces

A few of my finished pieces

Some of my pieces turned out beautifully, but most did not. I couldn’t get the dye to do exactly what I wanted, but it’s nice to give up control sometimes. Here’s why my so called failures are actually good for the health of my creativity:

I need freedom to fail sometimes. I need freedom of process, to experiment with new mediums that may or may not complement the work I do for my handmade business Once Again Sam. My average day is filled with production, making finished items to fulfill orders, all of which have to look a certain way. My business is booming, which is exciting, but I don’t often have time to just dabble and screw around in the studio like I used to. I have to be diligent with my time and make make make, otherwise by business might fail.

The thing is, my business won’t fail just because I took a few hours one Saturday afternoon to go learn something cool like Shibori dying rather than working on orders. It’s healthy to get out once in awhile and try something new, just for fun, just to keep my creative juices flowing. Experimenting with different mediums is how my business started, and I have to step back and remember that, and choose to pursue more of it, because it will help me grow. Afterall, I’m a maker (who currently has blue hands), not a factory.

A Week at The Folk School

Learning a new craft is irresistible to me. I suppose that’s how I wound up with such a long list of interests, and an even longer list of things I want to learn in the future (which ranges from loom weaving to learning to ride a unicycle). Earlier this month, I did something way out of my comfort zone, and took time off to learn something I knew nothing about. It wasn’t really a vacation, more like an intense work week that left my hands stained and sore, but I’m so glad I didn’t talk myself out of it. I had a pile of reasons to cancel my art camp plans, but the part about “it might be really cool” was what got my butt to Brasstown, NC.

I chose to take a jewelry metalworking course at the John C. Campbell Folk School, a place full of history, simplicity, music from another era, misty mornings, and practically no cell reception. This is the kind of place where you can learn blacksmithing one week, and traditional basket making the next. During the week of my attendance, there were about a dozen other classes occurring simultaneously. My time was spent in an area called “Studio Row” in a building dedicated to jewelry & metals. I’m still blown away by everything I learned in such a short time, but now I feel pressure (the good kind) to continue to take classes whenever I can, because I have an awful lot of things to learn, and an uncertain number of years left to learn them.

I’m already comfortable designing and making jewelry, it’s part of how I earn a living, but working with metal was 100% new to me, so it was a humbling experience to start from scratch, not knowing what would work and what wouldn’t. The instructor, Cindy Moore of www.cooltoolchick.com was extremely knowledgeable and patient, and I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to the medium.

In just a few day’s time, my class of 8 got to try out embossing metals on the rolling mill, torch enameling, forging, soldering, the hydraulic press, cold connections (like rivets), plus cleaning & finishing techniques. We were permitted to focus on our own projects after general instruction, so I was able to skip things like wire working and making beads out of old coins in exchange for more time with the torch annealing and shaping copper, or experimenting with texturing enamel (my personal favorites, out of everything we learned). The curriculum was fairly open, which was perfect since everyone had different interests. I was thrilled to have the option for additional studio time in the evenings after dinner, which always went by way too quickly. That’s how you know you’re having fun - when having to eat or sleep becomes a major bummer because you don’t want to stop working!!

All in all, I made 32 pieces of jewelry. Some aren’t very good. Some I’m extremely attached to, and would love to add to my jewelry line in the future. I’m already making plans to invest in some of the equipment so I can continue material explorations in my own studio with my new found love of metals. I will always work in leather, wood, and wool, but I think metal is the missing element in my work, and I’m thankful to have had the chance to dabble in it just long enough to know I need to dabble more soon.

Some of my finished pieces from the class