Friday, 28 February 2014

Materials and Techniques - 'Felt Like Sweets'

There are many types of craft. Each fortnight, I chat with someone new about the materials and techniques that they use in their craft. This time around, I'm talking to C.M. Cameron. C.M. Cameron has a great passion for craft and is a scientist in the pharmaceutical industry as well - a kindred spirit! His store, Felt Like Sweets, sells felt foods for tea parties. Miss 3, looking over my shoulder as I put this post together has just announced that she likes the felt cupcakes very lots! C.M. Cameron is based in Souderton, PA, United States and is a fellow member of EtsyKids.
Please tell us a little about yourself.

I'm C.M. Cameron, husband, and father of two little girls, Charlotte and Alice, and am overjoyed and inspired by the way my girls learn and play. I love seeing the world through their eyes, experiencing things for the first time with them.

My ambitions to start an Etsy shop started about a year ago when my wife and I bought my oldest daughter, Charlotte, a children's tea set for Christmas (you know... the cups and plates and spoons). To go along with it, I made her a set of felt cupcakes, cookies, tea bags and strawberries. She LOVED IT SO MUCH!! Her friends LOVED IT SO MUCH!!

So, I started making small sets for Charlotte to give to her playmates for their birthdays, and boy oh boy, did their mommies LOVE THEM SO MUCH!! So I started making more and more and more, and the rest is sweet history. 

Felt Like Sweets isn't my day job. By day, I'm a Chemical Engineer working in the pharmaceutical industry making vaccines (a job that I truly enjoy!). I've found though that I need a channel for my artistic and creative energies, so I make these felt cookies, cupcakes, and tea sets to wind down at night, after the girls are asleep.

What materials and techniques do you like to use? 

I've worked in may materials in the past: watercolor, clay, handmade paper, photography... Like children, it's much to difficult to select a favorite. They all have their own endearing qualities (and challenges that may drive one crazy!!).

Recently I've taken a liking to felt. I find it to be quite forgiving; I love the texture, the warmth. I sew most of my felt pieces by hand, which I think gives them a one-of-a-kind look. The tiny imperfections are part of their charm.

Many of my pieces also include beading. I love the seeming endless variety of beads that are on the market today, the vast majority of which are quite inexpensive and readily available in most craft stores (or amongst the pages of the Etsy supply shops!!). So many colors, shapes, sizes, sparkle-y-ness (is that a word?). They're just as versatile as any paint or fabric.

What challenges have you faced in the creative process?

Aside from TIME, which I anticipate is the challenge that I share with so many, I also find that my biggest challenge is focusing on what to work on... setting all the other millions of "great ideas" or "I-could-do-that" notions aside. As I stroll the isles of the craft store, I find myself seeing a hundred things that inspire a "great idea." The next reaction I have is to buy said items for as-soon-as-I'm-done-with-what-I'm-working-on-at-the-current-moment. You know this feeling!!

Steve Jobs once said, "Innovation is saying 'No' to 1000 things.

I take this to heart... I really try to set aside the really great ideas that aren't aligned with my immediate goals and vision for what I'm trying to create. Sure, I could make felt sushi, or chicken wings, or pancakes or corn-on-the cob (or paint all those things in water colors, or sculpt them out of clay or photograph them), but I'm choosing to refine and perfect the felt cupcakes and cookies... exploring those for a while, editing and re-editing and refining to make them more unique, more superb, more exciting, more fun.

I'll know what it's time to move onto the next "great idea!'

What drives you to create?

For me, creating comes easy. Not because I have some special gift or talent, but rather that it's natural to me... it's obvious, it's what I think about when I'm driving home from work, or taking a quiet walk around the block. It's how I see things...

I do find that I'm easily inspired by materials. Just having paint or fabric, some ribbon or thread in front of me is enough to come up with a few ideas for their use. I'm also not afraid of failure. I've painted many a picture that look terrible, thrown many a clay pots the fell or were lopsided. Failure doesn't scare me; it isn't bad. It's a lesson for how to improve upon the next go-round.

What is coming up next?

Like I said above, I'm into felt right now... cupcakes and cookies. I've been experimenting with scents and fragrances. Wouldn't you love a strawberry shortcake-scented felt cupcake? Mmmmm...

Once I get through the cupcakes and cookies, I'm going to stick with the tea party theme for a bit... perhaps some candies or chocolates, maybe some tea party games? I don't know. Any suggestions. Of course, like I said above, one trip through the craft store, and I may find myself quilting or candle making.


All images provided by C.M. Cameron of Felt Like Sweets.

Find out about more crafts through the entire materials and techniques series. I'm always looking for new people to talk to, so if you'd like to share what you do, please get in contact.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Materials and Techniques - 'It's My Room!'

Back on the Blog after a pleasant summer maternity break. I'm kicking things off with a Materials and Techniques interview. This is a fortnightly series of posts with other creative types, who talk about how they make their creations.

This week I am chatting to Michelle from Melbourne. Michelle makes wooden children's decor, which she sells in her store It's My Room! She is a fellow member of Handmade Cooperative.

Please tell us a little about yourself.

I’m a mum of two (a boy and a girl) and founded It's My Room! After struggling to find a quality name set for my firstborn, so I proceeded to make one myself. I currently live in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne and have a background in real estate but a bloodline in craft. I have a very supportive husband and family who never once suggested I return to my ‘day’ job and because of that I am progressively building my network and business.

What materials and techniques do you like to use?

My main materials are timber, paper and paint. It’s a tough choice, but I have to say working with paper may be my favourite material. The timber is generally a bare and the base piece so it’s also satisfying seeing it all come together. I own a linisher cutter/belt, jigsaw cutter and various cutting tools that help me get the smooth edges and finishes I need.


What challenges have you faced in the creative process?

Apart from the usual challenges of having to work around a family, I would say just getting the pieces to work and ensure they of great quality. When I first started making the name sets, I hand painted them which was time consuming and left them with a rougher, not so professional finish. I also found that although purchased direct from the wholesaler, the letters varied in size and I needed to file them down so that they were even. After a bit of experimenting, I purchased a hobby spray gun and found the finish to be smooth and even and now as my items have expanded, I also own a larger scale spray gun as well as other tools. I’ve also had to experiment with glues, varnish finishes and tape and have learned to stick with what works best.

What drives you to create? 

I think the drive is within and the constant positive feedback helps too. There are moments where I am overwhelmed and think - ‘What am I doing?  What should I do with all this stock?’ but they are short lived. My mind is in constant creating form and I just have to follow my instinct. I know what works and what doesn’t, so as much as I may love creating a particular item, I need to step back and concentrate on what works and making that better. My children are also a source of inspiration and are the testers as such. I’ve also found of late, that customers and fellow sellers have also been wonderful in suggesting items for me to make.

What is coming up next?

I have three new items that I’m in the midst of putting together before I test them out with the general market. I’m also trying to branch out a little more by adding another store and my own website. All in all though, I just want to keep doing what I’m doing so long as it continues to be enjoyable.

All images have been provided by Michelle of It's My Room.

I'm really interested in learning about the different skills that people use in their crafts. Visit the entire Materials and Techniques series. If you'd like to share your techniques, please do let me know.