What are the Dangers of Creating Art with Fibers?
Being a teddy bear artist or needle felter is not all fun and games. Sure, you get to bring darling little creatures made of fibers to life. Sounds simple and safe, right?
Helpful Safety Tools
- Tool Caddy
- Wrist Pin Cushion
- Magnet on a Stick
- Face Masks
- Lint Remover
- Vacuum Cleaner with crevice or keyboard attachments
Beware of Sharp Objects
Most obviously, you are working with sharp pointy objects. I once was working on bears with tools all over my table. Somehow, I managed to knock a very sharp scissors off the table and it landed with one blade stuck in my leg! There was blood. My husband rushed me to the Urgent Care where they fixed me up. I still have a scar to remind me to be careful. Now I have a jar or vase or some container handy to keep those pointy tools corralled and I put them back in whenever I am not using them!
Then there are pins and needles. When my kids were young, I often worked in the family room so I could be with them. I’d stick pins and needles in the arm of my chair or couch. That could be painful and I stopped doing it when my little boy got big enough that he wouldn’t fit in my armchair with me and started snuggling beside me on the chair arm.
The handiest place to store your needle when you are moving around is often in your shirt. If your hands are full and you need a place, that shirt (or whatever you are wearing) front is always there. Trouble is, if you make a wrong move, you can stab yourself! There is also the possibility of sending it through the wash. Heaven knows where that would end up. Wearing a wrist pin cushion gives you a handy place to stick those pins and needles
Of course, many of these weapons end up on the floor. They are not always easy to see down there, depending on the surface. A magnet on a long handle is a good tool to have in your defense arsenal.
The small, often repetitive, motions involved in creating many fiber art pieces can result in injury to your hands and wrists. Carpal tunnel syndrome is the most well-known condition. You can develop cramps in your hands and fingers, numbness, joint pain, etc. Taking frequent breaks and varying your activities can help prevent wear and tear on your hands. There are many braces or gloves on the market that will help relieve these problems if you already have them. Topical ointments can also help. See your doctor for advice and treatment.
Fibers are Forever
The next hazard is the very materials you use. You are working with fibers. Fibers separate and float in the air. It’s easy to breathe them in to your nose and lungs. Wearing a face mask is a good habit to form. Post pandemic, this should be a piece of cake!
I knew a woman who made and sold an incredible number of bears per year. She had a real production line going. She and her husband cut out so many bears that there was fur flying everywhere. Her husband solved most of that problem by cutting a slot in a table for a shop vacuum. Cut pieces were passed over the vacuum slot and the loose fur fiber was sucked away! Necessity is truly the mother of invention!
If you are making small pieces or needle-felting, you might find that sticky lint removers or a vacuum cleaner nozzle designed for cleaning keyboards or other small spaces will work for you.
Find Time for Fitness
Being a fiber artist is mostly a sedentary occupation. Ever try to sew or needle felt while standing up or walking? Then there are the increasingly necessary jobs of updating your website and keeping up your marketing efforts on social media. The human body is not designed for sitting for long periods and it can lead to all kinds of health problems.
Years ago I attended a presentation by an artist who explained how she made so many teddy bears. Basically, each day, she got herself situated in a recliner with her materials all around her and did not move out of that chair for hours. I would be surprised if she is alive and healthy today. You certainly do not hear about her making bears, so maybe she gave up that sedentary lifestyle.
Set up a schedule for working that includes regular breaks for taking a walk, going to the gym, dancing, gardening, or however you prefer to incorporate activity into your routine. Nowadays there is really no excuse for spending long hours seated at your work. You can ask your home virtual assistant to remind you or set a reminder on your smart phone or fitness tracker.
Be Safe, Have Fun
I hope if you take some of these precautions, you will be healthy and happy creating with fibers! If you have some more tips for the fiber artist community, please respond in the comments below.