getting out there

A few months back i had the honour of being interviewed by my good friend Jenn at Red Alchemy Photographic Arts.

Funny, when i agreed to do the interview i had assumed that we’d be talking about the felting process and fairies (two very awesome topics!), but instead it was a far more vulnerable discussion about barriers to creativity ending with a video interview talking off-the-cuff about perfectionism vs innovation.  unsurprisingly, video interviews are nerve-racking!  if you want check it out you are most welcome to visit her blog and say something nice about the camera-shy felter!

fyi Jenn is the talented vancouver-based photographer who captured me and my girls for a FAE magazine editorial in Spring 2014!

Red Alchemy Photographic Arts
Red Alchemy Photographic Arts

elsa the elven archer

i am so excited – i have finally completed my woodland elf archer costume!  i have named her elsa to pay homage to the first d&d character created for me by my husband, who attempted to ease me into the world of dragons by making my character deaf and mute… haha!  she’s come a long way since then!

the costume idea, amongst many others, has been bouncing around in my head for the last two months driving me nuts because i couldn’t find the time to bring it to life… and, of course, when an idea is left to brew too long it grows in complexity often to the point that it becomes daunting… but i did it! and i’m really proud!

up to this point i’ve kept my felting projects small – hats, belts and the like – but the buoyancy and shapability (is this a word?!) of merino felt lends itself so well to sculpting seamless whimsical clothing that i had to give it a try. i was also inspired by tree bark (probably due to the fact that it has been a long winter and you see beauty in things you would otherwise overlook in a vibrant summer forest) and really wanted to incorporate the beautiful textures in to my creations. so, with an abundance of beautiful italian merino wool from Artgus Studio and a full day off, due to an International Women’s Day stat (unique to my job at a university student union! yay!), i immersed myself in 8 solid hours of design & felting.

close up of the texture on the vest
close up of the texture on the vest

by the end of the day i had completed the raw version of the woodland vest and circle skirt. during the rest of the week, i squeezed in any available moment to complete the vision – sewing detail, making gauntlets, adding leather, creating a belt bag. man, i was in my element. i really could do this all of the time… sigh.

leather detailing in the works
leather detailing in the works
elf ranger making-2
elven knot belt
juniper was very helpful when it came to hammering in rivets :)
juniper was very helpful when it came to hammering in rivets 🙂

the day of the photo shoot was exciting… as this is a grassroots operation my husband was the photographer and i was the model and makeup artist : ) by the time my mother-in-law came to look after the elflets (bless her kind soul!), we had about half an hour of sunlight left to do the shoot. it was a scramble, but incredibly fun and satisfying. The outfit includes a vest, skirt, gauntlets, and leaf belt bag all hand felting with merino wool fibres and embellished with naturally dyed silk and hand cut leather. my favourite part was adorning a fairy hair wreath made by Freckles Fairy Chest – it gave the ensemble the touch of lovely that it needed. i would love to hear your comments & feedback… what do you think i should make next?!elf ranger-7

elf ranger-4

close up of the vest
close up of the vest

elf ranger-6

perhaps i'm hunting for squirrels here?
perhaps i’m hunting for squirrels here?

elf ranger-2and here’s a final shot that catches my true modelling skills ; )… if you would like to see some more of my work visit my facebook & etsy store!

work it!
work it!

entering a fairy world

three years ago i started to experiment sculpting with wool and it was truly a magnetic attraction, a flow moment in which the wool and i were one…  and what did i make?  a cone.  but damn, i was proud of that thing, not because of what it was, but because of the possibilities it woolcontained… as soon as i understood the method i felt like i could conquer the world, just me & my fibres.  i had definitely found my medium.

the process of sculpting with wool is so deeply satisfying.  it requires no tools (only a few common household items – soap, hot water, towels), and it is a fully manual process, making felting so accessible, uncomplicated, while providing such rich results.  all you have to do to turn those wonderful wool fibres into a strong, resilient & sculptable fabric is pull small thin tuffs from the roving (clean wool fibres prepared into long strips), layer them in desired form, apply hot water to open the teeny barbs in the fibre, add dish soap to make them slippery, and agitate.  and agitate.  and agitate.  while agitating, the thin fibres curl around their neighbours and the barbs hold them in place – the more you agitate (how many time can i say agitate?!), the more they tighten, and the fabric as a whole shrinks & strengthens.  what an awesome method, eh?  so tactile.  no machines required.

back to that cone!  it was wholly unimpressive, and somewhat offensive (in that cone shaped hats are only acceptable at birthday parties, no where else), but i was determined to give it a purpose.  so  i manipulated that thing: rubbed & shrunk it, pinched the point, added a curl, embellished with some leaves… and *inspirational music* there it was.  my first elf hood.  honestly, i love discoveries like that!  the process, the wool, the desire to create all led me there – i was one of the contributing factors, but it was a group effort.

isla wearing the completed hood on a cold winter day
isla wearing the completed hood on a cold winter day

at first i thought that my hats might appeal to cute-crazed mommies with little living dolls to dress (ahem, like me), but to my great delight & surprise, i got orders for adult sizes!  and that’s when the fairy world was revealed to me.  an international world where lovely people gather, dress up in creative, beautiful, whimsical clothing, and enjoy the magic and wonder revealed in our world.

since then i have uncovered something about myself, something that has been living in the depths of my character, lurking but never exposed, contained for fear that my softer side might be revealed… my girlie side.  it’s true, i tried my best to deny it in my youth – i wanted to be tough and atypical, but there it is… i love making beautiful, whimsical garments… and more so,  i want to wear them : ) now i get to go to fairy conventions and elf gatherings where i can fly free with this creative process and, bonus, zach (my hubby) can finally be accepted for the elf ranger he is!

fairy hat-1

ashley hat-1
visit my etsy store to see more!

wedding hood-1

these days i am overflowing with ideas of things i want to make and i am truly in my happy place.  who knew life would lead me in this direction?!  i am very thankful : )


i’m 32 and i have a tattoo, oh my!

so it has been a week now with my feathers and, quite frankly, it has been a tumultuous beginning.  my first night was a high, i was proud of them and felt, well, cool – i had just a teensy bit of a strut when i exited the tattoo studio : )


the next day tripped me up when the first few people i revealed it to had nothing but negative things to say.  while i understand that people have strong opinions about tattoos, i was shocked that they didn’t have the tact to keep it to themselves.  at first i thought that their disapproving bafflement was amusing, but then as others joined in and it escalated to scolding & disgust, i wilted.  i wish i could say that i got indignant or even angry (although that did come later), but i was honestly still too sensitive about my new piece of art to withstand the beating… so i slowly covered it up and didn’t show anyone else that day.  so sad!  you know when you say a word over and over again is starts to sound weird and loses meaning?  i did that to my tattoo.  i stared at it until i couldn’t see what it looked like anymore – it became shrouded in those negative remarks, blocking out the beauty and meaning.  i panicked.  tattoos are permanent!  did i make a mistake?!  was i being stupid?! am i a terrible mother?! (yes that was the content of the unwanted remarks) what will my grandma think?!  i really hadn’t prepared myself for such a backlash…  once i received the gift of tattoo money for christmas and settled on a image, i immersed myself in the world of tattoos until it was normalized and happily skipped down the path to my appointment without really looking back.  that night i had a little cry with my husband and absorbed his perspective until i regained confidence in my decision.

it sucks that my first day was so tainted!  but no matter where i am on the emotional spectrum, i am bonded with my feathers…  even at the low point when i frantically considered removing them, it felt like i was considering getting plastic surgery because someone said my nose was big or something equally inappropriate.  i’m an adult, darn it! and i made a decision that some might not agree with or like, but i didn’t do for them, i did it to express myself and to try something new and because i wanted to.  and i like it, so there.  ; )

i wonder, does a prominent tattoo place a person in a new category where others can brush aside common social graces and let their unwanted opinions fly?  was this an anomaly or have you experienced anything like it?

~ rena

falling feathers

ahhh! i did it!  it’s done!  4 hours of the happy buzz and puncture of wee needles into my forearm… funny i spent so much thought & worry on the potential design disasters that i forgot to weigh in the pain that i was going to inflict on myself (see blank flank for back-story).  the first line into the sensitive inner wrist made me wince, but compared to childbirth it was a mere tickle (or at least that is what i told myself : P )…  so i managed to get through the session without passing out or having second thoughts or getting the urge to run away – all in all, a success.

first of all, this tattoo is WAY bigger then i imagined it to be and i’m a little shocked at myself for being so relaxed about it… but when i saw the stencil on my skin it felt like they belonged.  the placement makes them fairly hidden when my arm is relaxed at my side, only the tip & tail are visible… then i turn my arm & bam!  the colouring, which consists mostly of watercolour-style browns & sepia, with bold little strips of blue, red & yellow, is inspired by the work of Michele Maule, a talented artist out of Portland.  and i have the wonderful hilary from electro-ladylux to thank for the feather illustration, fine needle handling and all-around good time : )

tattoo-2 tattoo-1

so there they are, my two feathers floating down my inner forearm.  they represent my girls, they represent freedom, and they represent releasing control that i never had in the first place.  i’m really happy with them.


~ rena

the boob-tube blues

blog4-4i admit it, i let my child watch too much tv…especially when it is so often grey and rainy outside. isla has grown quite attached to zoning out in front of the screen and i have let it happen. boo-urns. i could go on a rant about how our fast-paced, expensive, over-stimulated culture is to blame or i could pull a “no screens for a year” stunt, but i think what i really need is a plan.

the fact is i’m tired, with a slow-witted memory and low fuel for creativity, so when my daughter begs to watch a show it is so easy to give in! oh and how easily a twenty minute show spills in to an hour! it’s truly sad. however, i don’t want to ban the boob-tube entirely – i’ve witnessed the screen-lust that it causes – but, instead, limiting the time of good shows and axing any show that sucks (my naughty list includes, but is not limited to, “caillou” a whiny 3 year old who hates his vegetables, “diego” a nonsensical animal meddler…etc… i’ll allow “my little pony” because i consider it bonding time *wink*). the only problem is, and this is awful to say, tv does such a dang good (terrible) job of captivating a three year olds attention… anything else is an effort, for sure, but oh so worth it. i have noticed the way isla picks up unintended tidbits from the shows she watches and i have also noticed the zombifying effect it has on her – it happens to me too, start the day with tv & i feel nothing but lethargic. in the weakness of the moment it is so easy to concede to pleading (yes, she does), but with a game plan (literally) prepared i hope to train both of us out of this destructive convenience habit. so, when we’re stuck inside and the tv beckons, i’ve collected a list of rainy-day activities i have found to work with my little hurricane-child and my just-home-from-work-sleep-deprived self:

isla on the hunt
isla on the hunt

hide the fishies (insert any other favoured treat)

this one is such a hit! i tell isla that she’s going on a hunt & she has to play in her room for five minutes while i hide fishies or other treats around the living room. she dashes in and intently searches, asks for hints, & gleefully munches!

picnic in the living room!

this replaces snack time or, sometimes, dinner. isla gets to be the mommy and together with her assistant “child” (me) we raid the kitchen and put everything in a basket. i am always surprised at isla’s food choices – i totally thought that, when given the chance, she would only want treats – but she doesn’t take the responsibility of feeding her family lightly! fruits, vegetables, meat, cheese, and a marshmallow for dessert. and then she proceeds to eat it all without a fuss, unlike our traditional sit-down dinners. amazing. and she prepares the picnic blanket, divides up the rations, and tidies up after, too! it is usually a nice chill time – love it.

having some princess time

dress up!

this provides an outing too… go to the local thrift shop and have at’er. my experience is that kids love the activity so much more when they are involved in it’s creation. so, go with a wee budget and let them know in advance that they can only buy a few things that add up to your coins (oh money lesson!). it’s great to see what they pick out as fun dress up material. once the proud little person arrive home with their purchases & helps you give them a wash it’s time for everyone to get dressed up! this leads to craft time…

best pal elijah gets a mask too!
best pal elijah gets a mask too!


this can be another outing… go to the dollar store, collect rocks, feathers, pine cones, boxes, recycling, and have a good stock of stickers & pens & glue. then make pirate patches, magic wands, masks, musical instruments (drums, rubber band tissue boxes, shake-y things, etc), box trains, you name it… let whatever you have on hand inspire the craft! then combine with dress-up and, bam, insta-play : )

fun with baking

isla loves this. the key is to expect mess and salty muffins – if you’re good with that then it can be such a good learning time. kids love being real helpers and feeling like they are contributing in tangible ways & how cool is it that you end up with a goody at the end? go ahead and let them crack an egg (or, rather, explode it), taste-test every ingredient that goes in (isla oddly likes baking soda), and make irregular, monstrous cookie formations… it’s worth it to mentor the joy of creating food!

introduce board games

ok this is a toughy for a 3 year old, but i think it is really good to start early to create a fondly anticipated family tradition – my hope is that it lessens future videogame obsessions and replaces the constant draw of tv up & to teenage-hood. we’ll see : ) because it’s tricky to find games that occupy a 3 year old for more then a few crazy minutes, i made one up that makes everyone do silly things on each square of the path – isla stays engaged & patiently waits her turn because she gets to witness mom & dad act like monkeys, etc… i’ll post it soon!


man, play-dough. don’t forget it – it’s a wonderful activity. plus, like baking, you can make it together & it can be as salty as they want! isla particularly loves making pretend meals and giant lollipops : ) here is a good recipe.

dance time

isla and marley boogie down!

this is go-crazy-silly, who-cares-that-you-look-like-a-lunatic time. man, it’s the opposite of tv, but if you give your butt a kick and peel yourself off that cozy couch your mood will brighten and a smile will appear on your face. it is essential that you give’er cause the kids will laugh & join in the fun…providing a spirit-lifting show of antics for your camera : )

this is by no means exhaustive, check out my pinterest page to see some amazingly fun activities posted by amazingly fun & creative parents… it’ll keep you steeped in projects & your kids happy and engaged. i would love to hear what you do to keep your kids entertained on a rainy inside day and away from the infamous tv… please share!

~ rena

blank flank

for christmas this year i received an envelope with cash and a cartoon of myself with a sleeve of tattoos.  something odd happened inside me when i opened it, a sort-of gleeful/fearful feeling, an “oh fun… uh-oh!” response.  that’s because i love tattoos… but up to that moment i guess i only really loved the idea of tattoos.  darn it, now that the opportunity stared me in the face i had to quickly think it through and moderate what emotion to expose to my husband who was anxiously awaiting my reaction.  he knew it would be a loaded gift, but he was right to risk it… the excited side of me eventually won out.

so, feb 9 is the day!  this unmarked skin of mine will bear an image of my choosing.  although i have always reasoned with myself that there would never be a design i would want to bear for a lifetime, i decided right away that i could get something that represented my girls.  no possible regrets there… right?

ok, ok portraits aren’t the way to go… but what should the image be?  darn it!  such a huge decision! when i start thinking too deeply about it, it scares the perfectionist in me to death!  oooh, that perfectionist side of myself ruins everything!  or not…

yes, there is a LOT of evidence out there of unfortunate tattoos (take a look at “ugliest tattoos” for a giggle), but there are also few that are quite beautiful and meaningful… i definitely prefer to be on that side of things.

but i have to ask myself… why?  why am i considering doing this to myself?  i am terrified that i will regret the final product, and given my critical side i will likely analyse the thing until it warps into something horrible.  it’s true!  i do that to myself!  i’m a terrible candidate for a tattoo, right?  BUT, i want to challenge it – i want to get a tattoo in spite of the perfectionist, as a part of my journey to overcome/accept those parts of myself.  plus *some* tattoos are cool, darn it!  🙂

so!  the tattoo i’ve decided on may be a tad overloaded with meaning… when i look at it, i want to be reminded of freedom, of releasing control, and of my two beautiful girls – the style of the image will represent my character as a maker and my connection to the creative community and to the creator.  ya, that’s loaded…

i’m leaving a cliff hanger here… but will post pics of the process on feb 9, the fateful day.  say a prayer for me ok?  once the virgin skin is broken, i’m sure i’ll get all de-sensitized and decide on a portrait of my cat next!

do you have a tattoo?  why did you get it?  what would you get if you don’t have one already?

ramblings of one tired mama

as a chronic maker, i can’t help but have my head and hands focussed on the next project.  i am just beginning to understand that it is at the essence of my being… it is something that builds and replenishes me, a core desire.  cool!  problem.  the wisdom of motherhood has only allowed me to understand this about myself because i have so much less time (and as if to prove this point, as i italicized ‘time’ my daughter just popped out of bed!) to create.  i’m really feeling the effects of running ragged after the chaotic whims of a 1.5 & 3 year old, working a day job, husband working nights, night after night of broken sleeps and not having time to focus on getting my creative energies out.  i’m really not whining (really?!) – i just wonder if it is possible to find a heathy balance in family, work & recreation with young ones?

it is important to think about this holistically.  it isn’t selfish to consider the needs of the mother (&/or father!) when raising crazy little people, no matter how much the martyr syndrom nags you otherwise.  if the mother isn’t healthy & happy, how can she fully attend to the needs of her children, let alone create an environment where the family can flourish?  so! it is critical that the mother set aside time to replenish and address her core needs, which will be different for everyone (and i now know mine to be creating).

point understood!  but, but, but… how?  i’m chronically sleep-deprived and my time is booked solid.  argh!  my naturopath told me of a study undertaken in a few communities on the other side of the globe where people experience far less stress-related diseases.  conclusion: they live in extended family units, eat from the land, and spend their evenings sitting around the table eating wonderful meals, drinking wine and yacking until the sun sets (my words, but same content!).  and i imagine that the task of raising kids is undertaken by all involved, too.  sigh… the way we do things over here is so wrong!  i don’t know about you, but i feel the pressure to be strong, independent, need-no-help-from-nobody, raise kids, work job, stay in perfect health, and not screw my kids along the way?!  it’s ridiculous… and frankly i’m falling apart trying to manage it all.

solutions?  i definitely want to change the way i live – i want to be in community, i want to eat food i grow, enjoy life at a slower pace, live with less, take deep breaths & be “in the moment”.  but while i work towards those ideals, i have to look for outlets in the hurricane of present day.  these are a few things i’m going to implement:

1. teach my kids how to play by themselves for an hour each day.

it’s true!  isla is 3 and she has trouble occupying herself without my intervention… i’m sure i just didn’t give her the opportunity to learn, maybe because she was the first.  juniper, who is 1.5, is already much more adept at playing solo for the odd moment & i’m hoping that by the time she’s a little older i will be able to say “play time!” and both the girls can occupy themselves without my direct involvement… maybe i could just knit while supervising!

2. get my girls to participate in my projects.

isla helping me felt

this is more of an investment plan… i know they already love to “help”, but i end up turning into a dragon protecting my gold, puffing smoke outta my nostrils.  this is because my intentions are wrong, my intention is to actually get something done!  what i plan on doing is changing my perspective to focus on them and not the project, so that they adopt the love of craft time and then, eventually, we can create together or work on our own projects together (for more then 5 seconds i mean).

3. take the work out of creating.

juniper just having fun – there is a lot for me to learn from her

for me this means when i fit in creative making time, i won’t spend that time doing it as work.  i currently run an etsy store with some of my creations and i love doing it; however, when i create for business rather than for pleasure i find myself stressing about how much time it’s taking, if it’s exactly what the customer wants, how much it will cost, etc.  i need the freedom to fill that small window of time with the fun of making for the sake of exploration.  to apply this in a different way, if your passion is, say, running don’t run to lose weight, run for the exhilaration!  restore the passion of whatever you do to fill your tank by rediscovering it like a 5 year old – with wonder & without expectation.

what is your core passion?  what do you do to feed it during busy times when it can get neglected?

the world of natural dyes

i have had a kit of natural dyes taunting me from my pile of misfit crafts.  every now and then i would pull out the instruction sheet and assess the time investment, which was always just a little too much… this wasn’t your microwave dinner kinda project.  especially, with two little munchkins nipping at my feet and a list of projects growing like a weed in my mind, the desire to dye needed to be accompanied by the necessity to dye.  then i bought 10 meters of natural silk chiffon…

oh! why did i hesitate so long?  the experience of dying cloth with bark, bugs, flowers & leaves is profound… a miracle!  yes, there is a time investment, but it is a hands on, rule breaking, feel-like-a-5-year-old kind of investment.  investing in wonder is invaluable.

i began the process by soaking some logwood chips over night.  by morning the liquid surrounding the chips had taken an orange hue, but, admitably, i was lacklustre about the results.  that evening i unravelled my alum-soaked chiffon (alum is a salt that allows the dye to permanently adhere to the cloth) and added it to the logwood infused water.  it did what i expected it to, it turned that hue of browny murky orange… but then before my eyes the chiffon blossomed into the most miraculous shade of purple!

you should have seen my face while i was taking this picture… i was gleeful!  squealing to my husband in the other room to share in my discovery!

i couldn’t stop there!  i needed to see what the dried cochineal bugs would produce… would it really make such a rich fuchsia?

yes! oh wonderful day!  and a new habit solidified… darn it, now i’m never going to buy commercially dyed cloth again – and i only say darn it because i have so little time as it is with work & two little girls. even now my garden is being adorned with native plants known for their dying ability… chamomile (yellow), madder root (salmon), queen anne’s lace (green)… i must learn more!

have you ever dyed cloth naturally?  can you relate to my excitement?!  do you know of any other plants that produce dye?