Craft Britannia Shop of The Week #51, Mythillogical
Find out what inspires Mythillogical’s magical creations in this week’s CraftBritannia Shop of the Week Interview with Jenny, who sculpts and felts quirky characters and jewellery.
Describe your “typical” working day or week
I work part-time, so Mondays are the only free day I have to work on artier things. Once I’ve dropped my daughter off at school, cleaned the bathroom and emptied the bins I just try to buckle down and work manically on whatever my latest project is. I have to set an alarm so I don’t get too engrossed and forget to collect my daughter from school on time! The rest of the week I’ll log on first thing and try to catch up with Etsy, and all the social media sites I’m on, then I’ll drop my daughter at school, go to my ‘normal’ job, pick my daughter up from school, try and get housework and dinner sorted, and then try and do a little crafting in the evenings. I’m banned from artwork on Tuesdays and Fridays though- I tend to get very bad tunnel vision when I’m into a project, so I have to make sure I schedule a couple of evenings to spend with my poor, long-suffering husband!
When you are not doing Etsy related things, what are you doing?
My main focus away from Etsy is my family. I have a lovely husband, and a beautiful four year old daughter. Work-wise I manage a Reception desk at the local University. I supervise a team of student staff, who are completely fantastic and great fun to work with, and though it was never an area I’d expect to enjoy working in, it has proved to be surprisingly fulfilling, and ensures I don’t become a full-time hermit! I’m a very home oriented person, and my hobbies besides arts and crafts include reading, creative writing and cooking and baking. I did go to a youth theatre group when I was young, and I do miss performing and being on stage, but sadly it’s not something I really can find the time or courage to do any more.
What was the first piece you ever sold?
The first piece I sold on Etsy was my ‘Cat’s Pyjamas’ felted brooch, which was a little bittersweet as it was one of my favourites, and at that point I almost hadn’t expected to sell anything! Before I registered on Etsy the first piece I sold- which actually motivated me to register as self-employed and start a business, was a custom piece – a felted bunny version of Sir Digby Chicken Caesar as a brooch, for a girl who owned a bunny of the same name.
What advice would you give someone taking up your craft for the first time?
With either the felting, or the polymer clay models I think the main thing is just to have a go, and don’t be too worried about getting the effect you want immediately. It’s all about finding your personal way of working and that can only come with lots of practise. Enjoying what you are doing also always seems to have a positive effect on the final outcome too.
What material do you most enjoy working with?
I’m quite a mixed media lover and my brain seems to work in three dimensions. I studied Illustration at University, but my ‘visual style’ didn’t click until the end of the first year when we were set a project to make a model. After that I found I just couldn’t go back to two dimensional artwork. I’ve been using polymer clay from a very young age, and love mixing it with other media to make characters with a sense of life and detail. I then started needle-felting in February last year, and was immediately hooked. With both polymer clay and felting I love the organic process, and how characters seem to appear almost as if by magic!
If you could try a new craft, what would it be?
I still have some silver art clay tucked away in a drawer that I’ve been intending to try out for a while. I love learning though, so I’d happily have a go at any craft, and with a lot of the pieces I make- especially my bigger art dolls (not currently for sale on Etsy) and illustrative pieces, knowing lots of different techniques is always useful.
Which piece of equipment would you be helpless without?
Again- due to the nature of my work there are a lot of pieces of equipment I’d be helpless without! My felting needles and a certain ball ended sculpting tool I have would probably be the main ones, but I use a few different clay tools, a roller, scissors, craft knives and scalpels, a sewing kit, paintbrushes and all sorts of other bits and bobs to pull a piece together. Obviously my camera, tripod and reflector are pretty important for the final illustration or product shot too.
Tell us about what inspires and motivates you
I’ve always been inspired by Fairy Tales, especially the darker ones. I love Grimm’s and Eastern European and Russian Fairy Tales too. I like Czech animators such as Jiri Trnka (I especially love ‘The Hand’) and Jan Svankmajer (‘Darkness Light Darkness’ is particularly clever and amusing). I’m also a Jim Henson fan, I love the films of Jean Pierre Jeunet, and really massively impressed by Laika- the level of fine detail in Paranorman is very inspiring to me.
Tell us about one handmade item that you own and love
I have two of Sarah Birt’s Viking necklaces- Grinhild and Wilfric. They make me happy every time I wear them. I love jewellery that has an illustrative quality, and these two are just wonderful little characters. They are beautifully sensitively made too, and I feel like I’m wearing something very special when I put them on.
What plans do you have for your shop in the future?
Hamlet has proved to be a popular little character, and I’m hoping to produce more felted animal characters, though most of them will be slightly more tongue in cheek than Hamlet. Based on the response to the Big Bad Wolf, I’m also thinking of a range of Fairytale characters with storyboard patchwork quilts, similar to Wolfie’s. The range will include Sleeping Beauty, The Princess and the Pea, and Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and will be called ‘Bedtime Stories’.