owl + pussycat – feature #9

from the archives: 10.08.09

name: Amanda Wood
company: Owl + Pussycat
links: shop | blog

What do you make?
Jane Brocket has written a wonderful book about what she calls the domestic arts. I guess you could say that I am a domestic artist. I like to create useful things and since I have a young family I tend to focus on whatever we need at the moment. Right now I am making simple accessories for children and things that make a house a home like tea and coffee pot cozies, placemats, and aprons.

What or who inspires you?
I’m inspired by so many things! It could be something I’ve seen while out on a walk, the silly things my children say, the feel of natural fibres, or the way colours play together. I love peaceful colours like grey, blue, brown. I’m also experimenting with photography a lot and trying to improve my skills so I am keenly interested in the relationship between light and colour.

How did you get started?
I was very lucky to grow up in a family of creative people who by necessity were constantly making things. As a result I had access to lots of raw materials. From a very young age I was making things out of whatever I could get my hands on. When I had my own children it seemed natural to make things for them and their friends.

My grandmother was a key person in my young life and she showed me how to sew, bake, make jam, crochet (unsuccessfully) among other things. Every Christmas she would make dozens of stuffed animals for me and the hordes of cousins. I still have many of them. She was such an inspiration to me. So when I finally got up the courage to sell my handmade things I started with her children’s apron pattern. I modified it slightly to make the pockets larger and more useful and added velcro so that even little kids can put them on themselves. It is so important for them to do things on their own.

What are your favourite materials to work with?
I love to work with natural materials. Wool, cotton, linen. Natural materials seem to tell a story. They have a history that works its way into the finished item. I also love to use old textiles like sheets, wool sweaters and any old thrifted fabric that speaks to me. One of my favourite pieces of fabric is a thrifted sheet covered in orange, yellow and brown daisies. I love it!

What is the hardest and most favourite part of crafting?
The hardest part is definitely finding time to do it! With two little ones to nurture it is a definite challenge.
My favourite part is something that happens after lots of failed attempts, when the ah-ha moment arrives, everything clicks and I have figured out a new technique or created a new product.

I made these little felted wool bunnies for the boys on a whim a couple of days before Easter. Thankfully, they worked the first time (a rare occurrence) and they turned out so well! That was definitely a good moment.

List 5 of your favourite links and why you like them

blyberg: I love old books and sorely miss the card catalogues of my childhood. This quirky little site acknowledges this loss and provides an opportunity to celebrate geeky librarian stuff.

grain edit: I’ve been working with graphic designers for a number of years and I have learned so much about design in general through that medium. This site is great for inspiration.

indexed: A little reality check for my over-analytic and neurotic brain.

the impossible project: So inspiring to see these guys try to bring back an institution

the pursuit of happiness: Pure genius and poetry, almost childlike naivite. You really must read all of her work.

Do you have any advice for those in the biz?
Boy, I don’t really feel qualified to give advice. I have been making things on a very part-time basis in fits and starts for a relatively short time. I guess the one thing I could suggest is to not be too hard on yourself. There is a lot of advice out there about putting in a lot of time in order to make your craft business successful. While that is an admirable goal, I think it’s also okay to experiment and make stuff, without putting a lot of pressure on yourself.

If you can get it out there, get feedback and improve your skills, you will be much farther ahead in the long run. I would rather make fewer things more carefully and thoughtfully and have fun doing it than get stressed out.

(photo images courtesy of Owl + Pussycat)

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