Please give us a brief bio, where you are from and how you started in this field.
Growing up in Switzerland, I began knitting around the age of six with the help of my mother, a life-long knitter herself. Under the guidance of a home economics teacher I learned professional design and finishing techniques. I soon applied these skills to making sweaters, socks, doll clothes, and scarves.
I discovered felting (or fulling, as the technical term for felting knitted garments is known), when I came across a felted hat at a yarn shop. The process, which involves hot water, soap and friction to turn a loosely knitted fabric into a warm, solid, and virtually waterproof garment, fascinated me. I have been experimenting with different shapes and colors ever since.
After several years of dyeing and knitting part time, and selling my creations through shops and galleries, I took the leap and started doing Art Festivals six years ago. I sell my felted hats at art shows all over California and the United States. I combine my travels to art festivals with visits to national parks, museums, and yarn and fabric shops. I’m also an avid hiker and birdwatcher.
I live and work in Kelseyville, California.
When did you first discover your creative talents?
My favorite class in school was home economics, particularly sewing and knitting. Fortunately these classes where offered as early as third grade, and they were mandatory for girls! As I learned different techniques I felt inspired to apply them to new projects. I never saw a sweater pattern that couldn’t be improved in some way. Usually it would serve as a starting point, and by the time I was done it would be something completely different. Imagine the joy when I learned how to design knitting patterns from scratch. Now I didn’t need someone else’s ideas as a starting point.
What or who inspires you when it comes to your work?
Many sources: My customers and friends; movies, books, museum visits, and classes.
Could you tell us about some of your work?
When I started making felt hats I was really a knitter in search of something I could make fast enough to earn some money. My first idea was to knit sweaters, but they took way too long to complete. Felt hats can be knitted quickly on large needles, even when done by hand. Then comes the fun part – putting them all in the washing machine and watching them go from loosely knitted garments to something solid, wind and waterproof that looks and feels completely different. I now make them on a knitting loom, and I’ve had to hire someone to help me knit.
As time went by I felt drawn more towards embellishments. Fabric flowers have been very popular. Here again the technical aspects have been intriguing: What fabrics look good with felt, are available in complementary colors, and don’t crush. I like to take at least one class a year to learn new techniques that can be incorporated in my work.
What inspires you to keep going and how do you keep yourself motivated?
I’m fortunate to have found in felting and hat making something that I really enjoy, so it isn’t hard to get to work in the morning. Also, there is nothing like a deadline or an art show looming to get you motivated. I do about fifteen arts and craft shows a year, and some wholesale. Since my hats are seasonal my work load is fairly light in the spring and summer; time to detach and pursue other interests. That’s usually when the best ideas happen.
How do you describe your style?
Traditional. Or maybe it’s my customers that are on the traditional side, and I’d hate to disappoint them. I’ve built up a loyal following of customers that come back year after year.
What is your approach to design?
The same as my approach to life: I make it up as I go along, and I never know where the next idea might come from, or where it might lead. Since I make wearable pieces my customers give me lots of ideas as far as fit and styling are concerned.
Any influences or anyone you look up to when it comes to designing?
When it comes to creative knitting, Kaffe Fassett has done some amazing work. I love period movies, old books and sewing patterns for new hat ideas.
Share with us something funny that has happened to you recently.
I had a few days off between art shows and spent them at a nearby national park instead of going home. One thing lead to another, I got to talking to the couple in the campsite next door, and the woman ended up buying a hat. As she walked away she asked what she should tell people when they asked where she got it from. Tell them, I said, you bought it out of the back of a van.
How did you bridge the gap of the business side of designing?
I started out slowly, doing consignment with two local galleries while working part time at one of them. Before I decided to make this my sole source of income I took a couple of business classes which was very helpful. I also read books and magazine articles, and talk to other artists about their approach to business. Many artists are tempted to focus being artists and letting the financial side take care or itself. I’m one of them. I constantly feel pulled between doing art (which I like to do), and taking care of business (a necessary evil). One of these days I’d like to hire a secretary.
Describe yourself in 5 words
Quirky, determined, unpredictable, funny, stubborn.
Any words of advice for aspiring designers/artists?
Take some business classes if you plan on earning a living doing art or design. Right now is both a great time to become involved in art and craft shows since many artists have retired and/or moved on to other fields. It is also a tough market with the economy the way it is.
What is your biggest pet peeve?
Too many pets. In my area there must be more dogs than people, and many, many abandoned cats that have become feral.
What is it like being in the art community here in San Francisco?
I live two hours north of the city, and can’t be as involved in the art community as I would like to be. I do about half a dozen arts and craft shows in the Bay Area, and try to combine them with visits to museums and gallery openings whenever I can.
How did you get involved with Celebration of Craftswomen?
I started doing the shows a few years ago, and love it because it’s women only.
How long have you been involved with CoC?
My first Craftswomen show was three years ago, and last year I was on the jury for fiber arts.