Heads up!

It's been nearly ten years since I picked up a felting needle and created my first little rabbit. Since then, I have created countless animal and bird designs, mostly to sell,  but also for magazine and book patterns. Not  to mention easy projects for workshops. And to be honest, I came to a temporary halt with it all. Just after Andy died, four years ago, I had to apply myself to writing thirty simple patterns for my book and since then, I have struggled to come up with anything really new that excited me.

Add to this that needle felting has exploded in popularity and there are thousands of 'cute things' being offered up for sale, often at ridiculously low prices that I cannot compete with. And I do have to try to make a living somehow. Business says that when something isn't selling anymore, it's time to switch up and change.

So I've been slowly working through a design process, as I was taught to do when I was an art student. While I've had to jump out of my comfort zone to some extent, I am also going back to ideas I had many years ago. I have watched the craft of needle felting grow over the years, and I now want to move my own work upwards.   

I started out last year by making copies of antique ceramic Staffordshire animals , but they are incredibly time consuming and although they may seem expensive, the prices still don't reflect the 40-50 hours of work put into them. And as they are as exact as I can make them, there is no room left for imagination. 

Then I started looking at antique milliner's hat stands, which are simple 'heads' made of painted papier mache; I found myself  inspired again. I began my first head a few weeks ago and it was a welcome challenge. 

The first one, 'Charlotte' was made very much in the traditional design and I have to admit that simple as she looks, it was a steep learning curve and a return to my art student days to remember how to construct a face. As you can see, it's a miniature version of the real thing, which would have been life sized.

The next two heads, 'Amelia' and 'Cordelia' were also in the traditional folk style. With these first three heads I tried to emulate the flat, painted effect of the originals.

The next challenge was to make a male head, 'Mr George' the strong man and I started to move away from the flat paint effect, with a raised quiff.

'Eloise' indulged my love of all things 'Versailles'.

And by the time I made 'Emily', I had gone off the path of the painted effect and was  already planning my next series of heads.

If you're an artist trying to scrabble together some kind of living, it is a huge thing to change your known products but it's a risk I have to take. Times change and I'm a different person to the one who made that sweet little rabbit back in 2008. My life is also 'another country'.

While I'm working on the second series, the first batch of heads are now up for sale in my Etsy shop, here in the 'Miniature heads' section. With signed tags and gift boxes.

In the meantime, animals and birds are beginning to creep back in. It was probably inevitable.


Aprons and More said...

Love this transition! Now the next step is a body... Thanks for sharing the evolution process!
Katy :)

Mac n' Janet said...

Love the last one, you are so creative.

Unknown said...

What a wonderful and inspiring story about being brave enough to try something new. I went through something similar over a year ago. After almost 9 years of designing cute knitted toys, I was starting to feel uninspired by my list of potential new designs, and found far too many similar patterns being offered (sometimes for free)! So I took off in a slightly different direction, designing mermaid and elf dolls, and I'm so happy with them. I have some plans for them in the next year or so, which I hope will work out. Best of wishes to you too!

Shrimpton and Perfect said...

Beautiful work. The first, Charlotte looks like a Bronte, very nice, but oh the last one is just brilliant. I hope they do well for you.


Yarrow said...

These are fantastic, Gretel. I can't believe I've been following your blog for 10 years! As you may remember I've changed my blog a couple of times and as my life and my style of art is developing, I'm about to make the same big decisions as you. Sometimes we have no choice but to move with the times. Good luck to you dear friend.xxx

Cynthia Nicole said...

Please please you must charge more for your pieces!

I've not seen any work like yours - (there may be, but I've not seen them, and I've seen quite a bit of work out there), but i would suggest charging more!

Make them $200!
Go for what they are worth.
I think people would pay much more that you are asking.

Just a friendly bit of encouragement.
I was really shocked to see the low prices on your etsy.

No need to publish this comment!

Please try for more.
Buyers want to feel that the art they are buying is really worth something.

Karren said...

Wonderful, wonderful stuff! It's marvelous to see your thinking process as you work through the ideas. My favorite is the guy with the mustache! I can't wait to see what you do next. Well done!

Kerry O'Gorman said...

I get it. I too have been needle felting for about 7 years now and I'm always trying to experiment with something new and different. It's funny how things can take such different roads from brain to hand! Sometimes the finished piece can turn out just the way you envision it or it may take on a life of its own and become something that was unexpected.
I believe that what we do is a fairly serious new art and I learn so much about anatomy, structure, colour and design as well as the not so fun world of marketing.
I am somewhat offended when I get that "oh it's so cute" remark from someone after I've spent many many hours working, researching, designing and making a piece. The worst was when someone said "What a great little hobby." It's not a hobby for me but a love for wool and sculpture that can help me with an income doing what I love.
Your heads are lovely and I so appreciate the skill involved, not only in making them but the WHOLE process.

Jess said...

Thanks for sharing your creative journey, it's so inspiring. Your work is always so individual to you, even the 'copying' stage. It's strange that felting took off in popularity so soon after you started. I secretly thought they were always following your lead!
I love how the heads are now evolving with animals, fantastic work, love it! Jess x

rossichka said...

I am deeply impressed by your knew series of headsa, as I find them absolutely adorable! Your post made me think about the routine that should be broken if an artist wants to go ahead and develop... Thank you, Gretel, for that!