Thursday, January 31, 2008

Made by Moxie is Awesome!

I saw Moxie a few year's ago at UCU. Her work left a mark on me because it was really good and anyone that knows her work knows it is impressionable. We then began emailing each other and most of her emails made me blush and laugh. I knew I had to forge a friendship with this "moxie" lady. Now, every time I get to hang out with Moxie it still brings out some blushes in me, she inspires me and most importantly makes me laugh. She was kind enough to star in our pre Plush You kick off, teaching myself and others how to needle felt. It's fun to learn a little more about her every time we hang out (we have the same birthday) and this interview just made me learn a bit more.

S- Can you first explain what needle felting is and it's process?

MbM- Well first you should know that felt is a matted fabric and is the oldest textile known to mankind. The first felt was made through wet felting, where natural wool fiber is agitated using soapy water, causing the fibers to interlock. Bring in the industrial revolution and the felting needle was born. The needles are super sharp with little notches. When you poke wool fiber with these needles, they do the same job that the water and soap can do. Hundreds of these needles in machines make the felt you buy at the craft store. By taking those same needles in hand, "dry" felters can create flat fabrics, sculptures, etc.

S- If anyone is not yet aware of you and your mad skills yet, let's start at the beginning. When and how did you discover your love for needle felting?

MbM- I discovered felting (she said, deftly sidestepping that embarrassing and untrue thing you just said about how everybody knows about her mad skills), by accident. I saw Nikola Davidson felting at an Urban Craft Uprising event. It wasn't love at first sight, but I liked the colors and was fascinated by the process. At that time I was working with kids and had Nikola come and teach them. I bought some supplies for myself and, honestly I didn't think too much about it. I made some wallets for myself, some cuffs for friends, that kind of thing. Then one day I got bored and started "doodling" with wool and a needle...that's when magic happened. Two hours later I snapped out of my art-haze and had my first sculpture to show for it: a bunny with fangs wearing a suit. That's when my life changed forever. I stopped doing pretty much all other crafts and needle felting became oxygen for me.

S- I know your work is very time consuming. It has been very difficult for a lot of artists and crafters to figure out how to price their work. How do you figure this aspect out?

MbM- I know, it's really hard. Money makes art complicated and when you add in any insecurity you might have, pricing can be a sweaty panicky experience.

Most of the time, I start by doing the calculations that pretty much all the books and websites tell you to do: you figure out the cost of your materials and time and add on a sum for profit. At that point I do allow a certain amount of intuition. If it took me an unreasonable amount of time to make something simple because of a misstep, or because I was developing a new technique, I'll subtract a little. If it was super fast but also a one-of-a-kind piece, I might charge a little more. Finally, when it comes to sculptures and art pieces, I will often ask myself "how much are you willing to part with this for?" I mean, I love all of my work...a lot. So, I might charge 3x the reasonable calculation rate because that's how much it would take to pry the work from my hands. And because it's sculpture, I don't need a hundred people to buy at that price. It just takes one.

I'd like to say too, that it's really really important not to undercharge for your work. It does a disservice to all artists everywhere when you miscalculate your prices...I try to remember that when I feel shaky. Think about it this way, pricing your work appropriately is a way you can contribute to the larger art community.

S- To help you work more but to also take care of your body, you made ergonomic tools. What prompted you to make these handy tools?

MbM- I have rheumatoid arthritis which is really lame and I hate it. My hands can get pretty painful. I don't want to damage my body or cause pain to myself but I really meant it when I said that felting is oxygen to me so I had to find a way to expand my consequence-free felting time. By having two or three different shaped tools that accomplish the same thing, I can switch between them to ease the repetitive stress. Right now I'm actually having more trouble with the hand that holds the fiber in place than I am with my poking hand so I'm looking into new ways of holding/controlling as I work.

S- You have been featured on Craft: several times for this and that but this new issue hitting stands any day now features your project on the cover. It's so exciting! How was that for you?

MbM- Aw, thanks! I kinda can't believe it still. Maybe when the issue hits the newsstands it'll feel real. The folks at Craft have been really supportive of my work, and the work of so many great crafters and artists. I'm addicted to the Craft blog too. I get really inspired by people with ideas, and the blog does a good job of being a creative hub. I enjoyed making the monsters and tutorial for Issue 06. It's not a needle felting project but I'm really proud of it. I think I made it a fun tutorial to read even if you never want to do the project. (I like making people laugh almost as much as needle felting!)

S- What I find so great about you is that you are an awesome teacher! Every time I have had the pleasure of seeing you in action, you are very patient, supportive and kind. Is this something you would like to pursue more? Is it a natural talent or have you had a lot of practice?

MbM- Stop it, you're making my smile muscles hurt! I do absolutely love to teach the people. I believe in open-ended teaching methods and am always happy when I get to give people the tools and inspiration to discover their own creativity. I've always been a pretty patient and positive person and that helps when you teach. I also have a background in school-age enrichment and I've been able to translate a lot of those skills to teaching adults. And yes, I'm hungry to do more and more teaching, because it's just so much fun.

S- What are your goals for your business for 2008?

MbM- Beyond the laundry list of sculptural pieces I'd like to create this year, I'm exploring some retail possibilities, some writing possibilities and more teaching. I've also gotten a small taste of having my sculptures in a few shows and I'm interested in following that path as well. I don't know, Kristen! I felt the things that need to be felted and try not to be too goofy in the process. :-)

S- Do you have moments where you are really into making finger puppet sand then other times where you are really into making jewelry or would you say you switch it up pretty often?

MbM- Because felting is my job AND my passion, I will sometimes split my time accordingly. Like, I'll have my "work day" where I felt the custom orders, wholesale pieces, etc. Then when I'm felting "on my own time" I open up to all possibilities and work on whatever I'm in the mood for. Doing it this way helps because if left to felt on a whim at all times, all I would ever make would be puppets, and the occasional sculpture. Oh man, this is making me crave puppet making time so much! Are we done yet?

S- Since the beginning, what would you say are some of your most favorite things you have made?

MbM- How do I choose? Obviously, I loves me those puppets. I'm extremely proud of the three dangerous girl sculptures I did for the PlushYou! show last year. Oh, that "Etsy-Sketch" I made for the lab came out better than I had hoped for as well. Meh, I can't choose. It's all about the process...I learn something from every piece I make, and I feel really lucky about that.

S- Anything exciting on the horizon for you and your business that you would like to share with PY readers?

MbM- Personally, I'm the most excited about the Bay Area Maker Fair in May and of course, PlushYou!. Also, one of my resolutions this year is to eat more sandwiches and I'm looking forward to all of those as well.

You can check out all Moxie's rad work here

You can also read her hilarious and genius blog here

1 comment:

Dodo Castagna said...

OMG io love your little creatures, and jewelry. it is amazingly wonderful!