January 5, 2009
Woolpets – you know those adorable felting kits that we have carried for quite some time? Have you made one yet? They are so fun and Laurie’s designs and instructions make it pretty foolproof. Today, you get a chance to know her better. (And I get a chance to show you my favorite-ever-photo that has been submitted for a limelight interview. Here is Laurie, relaxing with her sheep Hazel. What a comfortable pillow that must be!) I think I first heard about Laurie from my friend Georgia (Yarn Pirate). I asked Laurie if she could make up a few Loopy sheep for me to buy, and then we started talking about making it into a kit. We went from one kit to her full line of kits and have loved them ever since. (Note – a re-stock of more Woolpets will be here later in the week!)
Loopy: Hi Laurie! We love having your wonderful felting kits here. How long have you been felting and do you remember the first thing you made?
Laurie: Hi Loopy! I’ve been needle felting for about 6 years now. Before that, I tried wet-felting but I wasn’t getting the results I wanted. I think the first thing I made was a sheep from a kit by Kelly Riley. After that, I was hooked for good!
Loopy: I think it’s easy to get hooked on felting because the results are so rewarding. What made you get into making felted animals to sell, and then kitting them?
Laurie: Before I sold my felted animals, I had been giving them away as gifts for friends and family. More and more people began asking for them, and I found myself pretty busy. The main reason why I thought about kitting them is due to the unique nature of the craft of needle felting. Since it is a new craft, not many people are familiar with how to use the wool and needle to make a little critter. I figured if people had step-by-step photo instructions to follow, it would make learning the technique easier. Also, I myself buy kits all the time, so I enjoy learning via a kit. My husband is a photographer and has a little graphic design experience, so creating the step-by-step photo instructions and putting them in a booklet is all his talent. He’s the man behind the wool!
Loopy: The instructions and photos are what make your kits so do-able for everyone, so kudos to your husband, Kevin for his part in this. Do you have a favorite animal or figure that you have done?
Laurie: I like making sheep the most. Every time I make one, I feel a silent gesture of gratitude to sheep everywhere from which this material came. And, I love ‘decorating’ their woolly bodies with curly wool locks. And, because their bodies are not very defined, they are easy to make. Some animals take a little more concentration and patience, like a lion. I enjoy the challenge, but it’s also nice to enjoy the process itself.
Loopy: How do you come up with new ideas for kits?
Laurie: Some ideas for kits come from illustrations in children’s books. Tasha Tudor is one of my favorite artists. She has a style of illustration that I find very appealing. Whenever I go to the library or a book store, I browse the children’s section looking for inspiration. I also like to visit an Asian bookstore in Seattle that carries great Japanese craft books which are full of photos with unique craft techniques and ideas.
Loopy: That must be one reason I like your kits so much. I love Tasha Tudor’s illustrations, too. Is this a full-time job for you?
Laurie: Yes – it has been for the last year and a half. I had a Waldorf-inspired home daycare for 6 years before Woolpets became full-time. Part of Waldorf education is working with natural materials, so my interest in needle felting began in a teacher training workshop. Needle-felted puppets are used in the Waldorf kindergarten for puppet plays and story-telling. I enjoyed making animals so much that I took it to the next level of making them to sell as art. Woolpets has also been my husbands full-time job for a little over a year now. Here is a photo from my workshop, where I put kits together. I do my artwork in the main room of my house. (Second photo). It has a nice big window that lets in natural light.
Loopy: It’s fun to see your shelves of roving. It must be like a painter’s palette in there. Are you also a knitter? If so, how long have you been knitting and what do you like to make the most?
Laurie: I’ve been a knitter for about 10 years. I don’t seem to have the patience (or interest) in knitting clothing. Mostly what I make are little animals. Imagine that!
Loopy: For any other artisans out there, do you have any advice in starting up a business and marketing yourself? And any mistakes that you made along the way that you want to share?
Laurie: I think we (hubby and I) have the advantage of introducing something relatively new, so that has helped a ton as far as starting out a craft-related business. I do believe in shameless self-promotion, and do whatever it takes to get your product out there, within reason, of course. And I think that having patience can go a long way. I’m sure I have missed a step here and there but I can’t think of any worth noting. Knock on wood!
Loopy: Tell us about how your book came about? It’s wonderful! (Here’s the link, for anyone interested.)
Laurie: Thank you for the compliment! An editor from Creative Publishing contacted me and asked me if I’d like to write a book, and would my husband be interested in doing the photography for the book. I think she saw my website and that drew her interest. It was a lot of work to write the book, but Creative Publishing and our editors there were wonderful to work with!
Loopy: I hope there are more books in the future for you. Tell us about your family.
Laurie: My husband and I have been married for 7 years and we have many four-legged ‘children’. (Two-legged if you include the chickens!) We have four sheep, two dogs, 7 chickens, a cat and a bunny named Bert (who thinks he’s a chicken.) We have extended family close by and owe a tremendous amount of gratitude to them for all of their hours volunteering for Woolpets! My mom and dad help us put kits together about one day a week.
Loopy: It’s great to have a business where your family can be involved. (And it’s great to have family that is willing to be involved!) Anything else you’d like to add?
Laurie: I would love to thank everyone out there who has supported our business. It’s due in large part to their support that we’ve been able to succeed. And thank you, too, Sheri for carrying our kits in your wonderful shop! The Loopy Ewe was actually one of our first wholesale accounts. Thanks for helping Woolpets grow.