Our Interview with Michelle of CreativeCritters!
When and how did you first become interested in crafting?
I think I was born a crafter. From a very young age I made gifts for my family using whatever I had around. Some of the stone animals I gave Gramma when I was about 7 are still around! My mother is a very creative person as well, and I think a lot of her creativity rubbed off on me. When I took my first ceramics class in high school I fell in love with sculpting, and still have some of my first pieces. I learned how to sew and crochet from Gramma, and those skills got me started making stuffed animals and dolls. I have a wide range of interests when it comes to crafting and enjoy making a variety of different things.
How long have you been creating your chosen craft?
I've been sculpting since high school, and in my early 20's I discovered polymer clay, which you can bake in a home oven. About the same time I got some polymer clay project books as a gift and my love affair with polymer clay sculpture truly began. Dollmaking and knitting came along several years ago, both thanks to my best friend. She gave me a tutorial on making Waldorf dolls and asked if I could make one for her son. I had so much fun making his doll that I got several more dollmaking books and started creating all sorts of dolls, each being one of a kind. I've learned enough that I can now make my own patterns. My best friend also taught me how to knit a few years ago, and I've taken what I've learned and now can create stuffed animals, clothing, blankets, catnip toys- just about anything I can imagine. I started making jewelry about 5 years ago. I gave a few pairs of handmade earrings as gifts, and my cousins liked them so much they convinced me to start selling them. Jewelry is a lot of fun because I can mix my own polymer clay beads with an assortment of other beads and and findings.
What are your crafting influences?
Maureen Carlson is a big influence when it comes to sculpting. Hers were the first books I got, and she taught me everything I needed to know to create all sorts of wonderful and whimsical characters. Katherine Dewey is another polymer clay artist, and her books helped me learn how to sculpt realistic animals and people. Christi Friesen has been a big influence lately. I have several of her books and tutorials and I love her whimsical style and sense of fun. My mother also influences me on a regular basis. She's done woodworking, pewter sculptures, wooden toys, and just has that creative spark. Gramma has also influenced me. Many of the things she made because she had to (clothing, bedclothes, etc.), but you could see the pride she took in making those things beautiful, as well as functional. And I'm constantly influenced by all the creative people surrounding me on the internet now. The amount of creative talent out there is truly amazing!
Does anyone in your family do a similar craft?
For my niece's birthday I sent her a beginner's kit for sculpting in polymer clay and she started sculpting the minute she opened it! She's another very creative child, and I hope she continues to sculpt and try other craft forms as she gets older. She's definitely got my support and guidance there! I always try to encourage creativity in kids whenever possible. I remember how happy it made me as a child.
What kinds of places have you displayed your craft in your life?
I sold my work in a consignment store in New York for several years, then on another handmade site for about a year before moving over to ArtFire. I've also made quite a few sales to people who saw my work displayed in my home (and it's all over the place- LOL). The jewelry I wear is generally made by me and the gifts I give are usually handmade, so my work is displayed in the homes of my friends and family as well.
I enjoy reading, writing, gardening, exercising, animals, and nature. I'm a very active person and I love playing with my cat Calcifer, spending hours working in my flower and vegetable gardens, and taking long walks. I love being outside in the fresh air. I also enjoy cooking and baking, and my creative streak often pops up in the kitchen too. I've come up with some pretty good recipes! I frequently blog about my gardening, exercise, and kitchen adventures, along with making tutorials on how to sculpt, knit, and make catnip toys.
What is your favorite piece that you have created so far?
This is a hard question, because I love everything I make! My Steampunk Pirate Cat sculpture is one of my favorite pieces though. It was my first Steampunk piece. It took a long time to complete, but it was a fun adventure! I love to create, and that's the main reason I do what I do. Of course I want to sell my work, but I'd still make it even if none of it ever sold.
Why did you make that piece?
Several different things inspired this sculpture. For one thing, the Steampunk trend had sparked my interest. Not only have I seen some wonderful Steampunk sculptures and jewelry online, but I've read a few good Steampunk books as well. In one of those books the main character was a pirate. And then there's my cat, Calcifer, who's a wild and fluffy Maine Coone. He has inspired many pieces in my shop. He has so much character, I want to share that and preserve it in clay forever. Calcifer wishes he could fly, and that's what inspired the wings. This cat loves to be up high, and will take a flying leap off the tallest object he can find. If he only had wings he could fly around the room- LOL. And Calcifer has a bit of a pirate's personality- tough, fearless, never backs down from a fight, and more than willing to steal whatever he can get his paws on! He's also blind in one eye, which is why this pirate cat has an eye patch (I think it gives him personality).
What does it take to create pieces like that?
MANY hours and LOTS of patience! This is a large piece, with lots of small details. The cat took over a week and several bakes to complete before I could even start on those wings. For the wings I cut out, colored, and textured each and every feather before attaching it to the wing base. I did a Work in Progress on my blog so people could see some of what went into a sculpture like this. And of course a lot of creativity is needed. I pictured this in my mind first, then I had to figure out how to re-create that in clay. A lot of time is spent figuring out "How do I ___?" I'm constantly thinking about my sculptures and other creations while I'm doing other things throughout the day. I've actually found that I come up with some pretty good ideas and solutions while I'm working out.
What is special about your pieces?
My sculptures, jewelery, and stuffed animals are mostly one of a kind creations, and each is created one at a time. I'm fully involved with each piece as I make it. My sculptures often have lots of tiny details, like each of a dragon's scales being sculpted individually, and tons of tiny flowers surrounding my miniature house sculptures. I enjoy whimsical pieces, and things that just make you smile. I want my work to make people feel good. I want them to see one of my sculptures sitting on their shelf and just get a big grin, or feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I want my work to make people happy, because I get so much joy from making it. My stuffed animals are all sewn by hand, and for many of them I created the pattern myself. My catnip toys are stuffed with my own organic catnip that grows in my garden. My own cats test the new designs before I make the toys to sell (it's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it!). I like to think that my love of creating these items comes through to the customer.
What makes this kind of craft "good" to you?
Crafting and creating is always a good thing! For me, it's good for my soul. When I'm creating, I'm happy. I can forget about whatever else may be bothering me and just concentrate on making something wonderful. And if my creations can bring others happiness, that's certainly an added bonus! I need that creative outlet- I have so many ideas running around in my head! Sculpture will probably always be my first love. There's something magical about taking a lump of clay and turning it into anything you you possibly imagine. The possibilities are limitless!
Michelle of CreativeCritters
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