Full Time or Part Time Artist?

A fellow needle-felter posted the question on Facebook the other day.  Is needle-felting a full-time job, part-time or hobby?

I know she meant “do you support yourself by selling your needle-felted art?” and I think I can say that not very many people can manage that.  When I was a full-time teddy bear artist, my children were small and we wanted them to have a full-time stay-at-home mom.  Teddy bear making allowed me to stay home, but did I make enough money to support myself, let alone my family?   No.  It was extra income, but not very much.  I travelled a lot and spent a lot of time creating product and marketing it.  It allowed for some extras for our children and some discretionary spending money for me, but my husband’s full-time job and benefits provided our support. Eventually, I had to give up a lot of my teddy bear making and spend my days at a “real job” with a regular paycheck and benefits.  This coincided with a downturn in the economy that led to less discretionary spending, fewer people who could be active collectors, shows and shops that went out of business…a downturn in the collectibles market. So things worked out.

Right now, most of my art is donated to raise money for charitable causes.  I don’t have much time to make things.  In fact, I had an order that took me over a year to complete, but that’s another story.

Needle-felting has really taken off in the years since I started sculpting with wool.  When I started, nobody knew what it was.  They liked what I did, but I didn’t really know how to price things, so I priced them the same as my mohair pieces.  I sold whatever I made, but I didn’t make very much.  Now, there is so much wonderful needle-felted artwork out there!  I really want to get back to work!

Back to full-time vs. hobbyist.  I think if you are an artist, you are an artist all the time. At the office, I sculpt with words, I design graphics and forms and coax code into web pages. I choose promotional items that support and reinforce our brand.  At home, I paint with plants in my garden.  I photograph my flowers and dogs and use those images to convey messages. I am always creating, taking pieces and molding them into something else, but it’s not always with some kind of needle.  I tell stories – sometimes intentionally and sometimes by accident. There is an art to all of it. So yes, I am a full-time artist.

Does selling or at least trying to sell your work make you a full-time artist?  Is the benchmark how much your earnings contribute to your support?


Getting the Jump on Spring

ColeusCuttingsHooray!  I planted grass seed Monday evening working until dusk scratching up the soil, working in compost and spreading the seed/mulch mixture.  I woke up to light rain and it has been raining off and on for the past two days with no sign of stopping until Friday.  Then more rain is forecast.  Perfect cool wet weather to make those seeds swell and sprout!

Now if I can just keep Rowdy and Scamp off the seeded area.  It’s right in front of the house where they tend to play and dig around. They will have to be on leash, supervised or in the back yard for the time being. We have a fence up for the mailman, too!


ColeusDoveIndoors, I have overwintered some coleus plants and I have cut them back and rooted the cuttings.  A pinch here and there and I should have nice bushy specimens to set out when the weather is more settled.  For now, my office windowsill is full! I can hardly see my little birdie friends when they stop by to see what I am doing.

All over the yard, my perseverance in planting dozens and dozens of scilla and chionadoxa and muscari bulbs over the years has resulted in big patches and swathes of blue flowers this year!  The muscari have yet to bloom, but the other two have popped up everywhere – thick and solitary. I can only expect that the blue wonderland will continue when the muscari come on.BlueRiverEast

2015 Easter Decorating Part II

Beside the quilt ladder I have stacked some of my small chests and one antique egg crate. A prim bunny peeks out of the top chest. I got the bunny on our birthday antiquing trip.  I got the chest last fall at Mud Pies and Sassafras Tea in Prairie City, Iowa. I love the size of this chest. It has nice dove-tailed joints, too. I placed a pillow made from a quilt top that I got at Junk Jubilee in the back of the chest to fill it out.

That Reminds Me of a Story

I just love baby chicks. I remember my parents bringing home boxes with holes in the side filled with madly peeping baby chicks. When they hatch, they still retain a bit of the food from the egg which keeps them going through transit, but when they get where they are going they are HUNGRY! Dad would have the brooder house all warm and we would release them under the heat lamps. You had to be very, very quiet (like Elmer Fudd on a duck hunt) because chickens scare easily and will pile up in a corner and smother each other. Probably where the term “dumb cluck” came from.

That Reminds Me of Another Story

When I was a kid, my Grandma Hattie put the most realistic looking baby ducks in our Easter baskets. They were so soft and cute and I just adored them. Then Dad said they were made from real baby ducks. Broke my heart, but that’s the kind of thing they did back then. I don’t really know that they were made from baby ducks, but maybe baby rabbits. Either way – horrible! I had a stuffed kitty that I also loved and found out was made of rabbit skin. Grandma Hattie again. I wonder where she shopped.

2015 Easter/Spring Decorating Part I

BunsChicksToday, I share my spring-time decorating with quilts and antiques and teddy bear friends.

On the cabinet by the hearth, I have my big dolly-bunny by Joel Hoy. She is sitting in a wonderfully aged little chair that I got at the Valley Junction Antique Jamboree last year. On her lap is a bunny that I made this year and a ducky by Cindy Hom.

At her feet is a wonderful Lori Ann Corelis bunny wearing a cute cardigan repurposed from a child’s sweater with a Westie motif. This bunny holds a mohair duck with clay beak and feet by someone I used to see in Kansas City. Beside her is an old Dralon Steiff black and white bunny munching on one of a bunch of stuffed cotton carrots that I got recently on my birthday antiquing trip to Kansas City with Linda Dorr.

I love the crib-sized patchwork quilt underneath. Not sure where I got this one, but they are getting harder to find.

PoultryI am drawn to anything with cubbies and here I have used an old desk drawer with dividers turned on its end to display even more of my poultry collection. From the top are 2 Chickies by Martha Burch, a Susan McCay sailor duck, a duck by Martha Burch, a mohair Steiff duck and a Steiff pom pom chick, a duck from Alan Clark and Steve Orique, and a duck by Serieta Harrell. Beside is a vintage Steiff duck. In front are two chicks by Once Upon a Barn in Albia, Iowa (artist Jami Boldy). The GARDEN sign is also by Once Upon a Barn.

SpringQuiltsMy ladder is festooned with spring-colored quilts. The newest acquisition is the one with the purple background that I got awhile back at Found Things in Des Moines. Sadly, Found Things has lost the lease on their building and is now closed. The shop was a local favorite and will be sorely missed.


On my favorite blue metal stool from the Henkes of Rescued Junk in Earlham, Iowa sits one of my favorite bears by Craig Bottiger. By that I mean of he’s my favorite of all the bears Craig has made as well as a favorite from my collection. I am pretty sure Craig used a darling antique Steiff from the Betty Blanche collection as a model. If I had to downsize my bear collection, this guy would be safe! He has an armload of vintage Steiff Chicks.


Renewing the Blog

Easter is fast approaching – a season of renewal. I figured it was a good time to refresh and renew my blog. The original intent of the blog was to have posts by all three of the Once Upon a Needle partners, but that hasn’t panned out. I guess I am the writer in the group, so it’s probably only fitting that I forge ahead alone.

It took some doing to get this blog installed right on my website and I want to thank the folks at Lynda.com, especially Morten Rand-Hendriksen for the excellent instruction.  If you need to keep up with technology and software, I highly recommend a subscription to Lynda.com.

#Lynda.com #Mor10 #OnceUponaNeedle