Alpaca Dreams

One day, maybe five years from now, or perhaps twenty five years, I would love to live on a small farm and raise alpacas. They are by far the sweetest animal I've ever encountered. They're fairly small, the tallest ones are about eye level with me, they hum, have long long eyelashes for flirting, and they each have their own unique hairstyle, it seems. But, the real reason I want alpacas in my life is because they are the source of one of the many materials I use in my fiber art. I spend a few hundred hours each year needle felting, and truly enjoy this tedious but highly rewarding form of fiber sculpture. It would be a joy to raise the creature that provides what I need to make more "felted curiosities", so I hope one day my alpaca farm dreams really do come true.

Sweet alpaca face

Sweet alpaca face

For now, I live in the burbs and sadly cannot keep an alpaca in the garage, so I get to visit the animals and buy their fiber from local farms at events like the Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair in Asheville, NC. I've attended the festival for the last four years, and always come home with a couple of pounds of raw material, felting tools, and sometimes other things too. This year was no different! I scooped up several ounces of my favorite wool: corriedale, finn, and romney. I also got some alpaca fiber, which is a lot softer than sheep's wool, but is wonderful for felting and spinning. My big investment was a 24 needle holder, which looks dangerous (and it is, if you're not paying attention when felting!), a single needle holder, and a few fun things like a handmade ceramic alpaca magnet, alpaca socks, and a sweet ram sculpture made by an artist local to Asheville. It was a pretty good loot, a fun way to spend a Saturday morning, and I got to indulge my dreams of one day having a farm of my own, sourcing the fiber I need from my own backyard. 

Click through the gallery below to see photos from SAFF, my loot, and some more alpaca pics (okay, there's quite a few llamas in there too!)

Recap: Indie Craft Parade

Last weekend was the 5th annual Indie Craft Parade here in Greenville, SC. This is a top notch festival of all things handmade, and is always my best show year after year. With a record number of attendees this year, nearly 7,000 people, it’s no wonder it was a huge success for all involved.

A lot goes into preparing for a major show like this. I worked all summer making inventory and still felt like I didn’t have enough by the time September rolled in. The week of the show, I mainly focused on tweaking my table setup, and finalized some new additions to my display to ensure my booth would look it’s best and function well for the crowd of shoppers. I always do a mock up prior to this show (that’s what the dining room is for!) and that, plus carefully packing up what is essentially a miniature store, is a several day-long endeavor. The checklist is never ending!

The day before the show, I got an unexpected opportunity to appear on Studio 62 with Jamarcus Gaston to talk about the festival and my handmade business. This was my first time on TV and I was shaking like a leaf, but I’m thankful for the chance to plug this amazing event as well as share my work. Here’s the video clip

Friday September 12th was the day of set up. All the vendors showed up at assigned times to unload, and the anticipation was there from the get go, long before the VIP Gala kicked off that evening. I did a series of live posts throughout the day Friday to give a behind the scenes look at what all goes on before the doors are open. Click here for photos.

To say the show was a success would be a huge understatement. I’m not just talking record sales or attendance. Everything about the event was extremely well organized, widely publicized, and I felt energized even though I was utterly exhausted by the end of it. Below are some of my stats from the weekend, but I’ll just point out, this show is a complete anomaly - I DO NOT sell almost 800 items at every craft show I do!

Not only did I sell a lot, but I bought a lot too. That’s half the fun, right?      Here’s a peek at my Indie Craft Parade loot from some of the most talented regional artists. I could have bought something from just about every vendor. I had a hard time narrowing it down to these awesome items!

Not only did I sell a lot, but I bought a lot too. That’s half the fun, right?  

Here’s a peek at my Indie Craft Parade loot from some of the most talented regional artists. I could have bought something from just about every vendor. I had a hard time narrowing it down to these awesome items!

1. Ring from  January Jewelry   2. Print from  Chris Koelle   3. Felted Flowers from  Muncle Fred Art    4. Brass Earrings from  Olivia de Soria Jewelry   5. Bone Pendant from  Exterra88   6. Turned Walnut Bowl from Turning South  7. Trivet and Feather Ornament from  Crave Studio   8. Owl Print from  Joe Engel   9. Turned Muddlers from  Slab   10. & 11. Paintings from  Candy Pegram   12. Bowl from  Bean & Bailey   13. Tiny Vases from  April Swhingle   14. Porcupine Pendant from  Spectrum Handcrafted   15. 2015 Calendar from Paperform

1. Ring from January Jewelry

2. Print from Chris Koelle

3. Felted Flowers from Muncle Fred Art 

4. Brass Earrings from Olivia de Soria Jewelry

5. Bone Pendant from Exterra88

6. Turned Walnut Bowl from Turning South

7. Trivet and Feather Ornament from Crave Studio

8. Owl Print from Joe Engel

9. Turned Muddlers from Slab

10. & 11. Paintings from Candy Pegram

12. Bowl from Bean & Bailey

13. Tiny Vases from April Swhingle

14. Porcupine Pendant from Spectrum Handcrafted

15. 2015 Calendar from Paperform

Thanks to everyone who made this event so special!

Thanks to everyone who made this event so special!

For the love of used books

I’m a bookworm, and I’m thrifty, so it’s no surprise I’m a big fan of used books. The Really Good, Really Big, Really Cheap Book Sale occurs annually here in Greenville, SC, and this past weekend I scooped up more than my fair share of reading material (but hey, it was only $10 to fill up a giant shopping bag, so yeah...that’s my excuse). This outstanding event is put on my the Greenville Literacy Association, a non profit organization that collects all kinds of used book donations, then hosts this enormous sale each summer to raise money to help increase literacy levels here in the Upstate.

This year, I walked into the book sale with my tote bag as I have done the last 4 summers, and promised to limit myself to 5 books this year, but since it was the last day of the sale, it was only $10 for as many books as you could fit into a grocery bag, so I didn’t hold back. I picked up a stack of new novels (full list is below), art books, tourism booklets, and even a few vintage nature books I’m planning to use for some collage type of stuff in the future. All in all, a pretty good loot!

- The Activist's Daughter by Ellyn Bache

- 700 Years of Dutch Cartography

- Blue and Other Colors by D. Paul Reynolds

- Halfway House by Katherine Noel 

- What Was Lost by Catherine O'Flynn

- Trunk, a Love Story by Michael Perry

- The Opposite of Me by Sarah Pekkanen

- The Book Shop by Penelope Fitzgerald

- My New American Life by Francine Prose

- Paper is Part of the Picture

- Apples of Gold (compiled by) Jo Petter

- This is Not Chick Lit - Original Stories by America's Best Women Writers

- The Dove in Bathurst Station by Patricia Westerhof

- The Forrest & The Sea - from LIFE Nature Library

 

Photos Are Ideas

As much as I enjoyed writing Celia on the Run, I have to admit I had just as much fun putting together the photo album inspired by the book. If you haven't taken a peek yet, the album can be found here http://celiaontherun.com/roadtrip/ The majority of those photos are ones I took at some time or another, long before I ever wrote the novel. Many photos are from previous travels, some were taken just around the corner, but somehow they all worked together perfectly to give a pictorial telling of Nick and Celia's cross country journey. The first photo in the Celia on the Run photo album was taken back in 2003 in Arizona when I was with my parents on what turned out to be our last family vacation together. I remember snapping the photo from the backseat of the rental car, never dreaming that particular photo would become part of the inspiration for my first published novel. I just love to take pictures, anywhere, everywhere, and I suppose I'm now realizing that a lot of the ideas I get for art and writing come from my own photos, even if years go by in between the time the picture was snapped and when it becomes part of something more. Inspiration takes time!

Recently, my husband and I did a little aimless driving for fun, and as always, I took my camera and had a great time shooting all the random things we came across. Who knows, maybe these images will inspire another book years down the road? You just never know! These recent photos are of Gilreath's Mill, a rundown, rusty, gem-of-a-find in the middle of the woods near Taylors, South Carolina. Check back here in ten years to see if I ever incorporated this decrepit non-landmark into a work of fiction!

Gilreaths Mill-1

Gilreaths Mill-2

Gilreaths Mill-3

 

My Top Ten

It's always exciting to hear someone out there enjoyed reading Celia on the Run at the 5 out of 5 star level! A big thank you to Taeesha from a blog called A Diary of a Book Addict for her wonderful review of my debut novel. Check out her spoiler-free write up here: http://adiaryofabookaddict.blogspot.com/2012/11/celia-on-run-by-sarah-mandell-book.html# I'll admit I'm very stingy with giving out 5 stars myself so I feel totally honored here. Most books I read are 3 or 4 stars (which is good!). I enjoyed them immensely but didn't finish the book thinking, "Man, that was really and truly the best book I've ever read". So what are the best books I've ever read? Here's my top ten favorite books of from the last few years, in no particular order:

The Electric Michelangelo by Sarah Hall

My Name is Memory by Anne Brashers

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Age of Miracles by Karen Walker Thompson

In the Path of Falling Objects by Andrew Smith

Dash & Lilly's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

How Evan Broke His Head and Other Secrets by Garth Stein

The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern