Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Nova Scotia Artisan Interview: Felting Fish Designs

Promoting Artisans

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you probably know one of my firm beliefs is in supporting artisans in creating their craft business. Sure, I also promote myself (I’m an artisan too :). I believe that many economic and environmental problems would be helped with a shift to support small businesses rather than large corporations. I have started accepting applications for blog interviews (if you are an small business artisan, send me a description of your work or website link to My first interview is with Felting Fish Designs which specializes in needle felted toys, and is skilled in other crafts including crocheting and sewing.
I invite you to take a few minutes to get to know this artisan and her work as she describes what makes her products unique,  her focus on creating functional and inspiring toys, and her favourite creations! And I love this quote, when asked about advice for other artisans,
“Treat your art as an adventure and be bold!”

Felting Fish Designs

“Natural, handmade, creative toys and needle felted mermaids,fairy folk and animals. Your place to find toys for the earth friendly family”
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Where are you located and where can we find you?
I live in Spanish Ship Bay, which is in the Liscomb area of Guysborough County.  I sell my work primarily at Guysborough Farmers’ Market, at local craft fairs and on my Etsy shop (FeltingFishDesigns). The gift shop at Liscomb Lodge will be carrying my creations this summer.
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How would you describe your creations? What makes you unique compared to a similar artisan?
    I'm a toymaker and I've tried just about every medium to make toys out there, although fiber art is my usual medium.  I taught myself to needle felt four years ago and I'm enthralled with all the colour, textural and sculptural possibilities.  I also knit, crochet and sew toys, using natural, environmentally friendly materials.  While a lot of my work is Waldorf education influenced,
    I think my work is unique because I try to follow what children actually like rather than adult dogma as to what children should like.  For example, I don't make the typical Waldorf faceless fairies and mermaids because it is my experience that children want their toys to have faces.  But I also don't exclusively use bright colours or caricatured  animals because I think children can appreciate more subtlety than the mainstream toy industry gives them credit for.
    How did you start your small business?
      I tried several handmade businesses in the past 15 years, but it was the birth of my own three children that really started me in this field. It triggered a need to give something concrete and personal from myself that would transform itself into something unique to their own imaginations.  Then I started making toys for the family resource centre I worked at and for my nieces and nephews.  Making my toys available to more children through my business was a natural progression.
    What is your artistic process? Where do you find inspiration?
      My artistic process always starts from the standpoint of how I want the player to interact with my toy.  Does it need to stand firmly to be walked across the table?  Will it brighten a dull corner for a celebration?  Will a baby grasp and shake it? I also try to make the toy beautiful enough for the adults in the child's life and the child once grown to appreciate (the creation) beyond its purpose as a toy. I find inspiration in the natural world, family, my pets and livestock, and all the people I've seen interacting with toys (adults definitely included).
    What advice would you give to a beginner artisan?
      My advice to a beginner artisan is to jump in with both feet and try to create what they imagine. Don't worry about if you're ready or need more "training" -go ahead and tackle that hard technique or try the big project if it's what you want! You'll learn by doing and from your mistakes and successes.  Treat your art as an adventure and be bold!
      How do you market your business?
        To be honest, I need to learn a lot more about marketing my business.  Right now I use word of mouth from my market, I blog, Twitter (@feltingfanatic) and try to network through treasuries, etc on Etsy.
        What goals do you have this year?
          My goal this year is to have my work available in more local venues, improve my marketing and branding of my business and network with other Maritime artisans more.  I want to get out the word that buying local and handmade is not only ethical but fun!
        What is your favourite creation?
        My favorite creation was an amigurumi octopus gardener I just sold.  I based him on what I always pictured listening to the song (*The Silver Hook: that so brings back memories of Mr. Dressup!) and gave him a watering can and gardening hat! Right now I'm finishing a knit doll based on a favourite childhood toy that I think is becoming my new favourite.
         Thanks so much for the interview.  It's great sharing stories and I'm looking forward to hearing others' stories!
        Thank you, Bethany of Felting Fish Designs :)

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