Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Interview with Felting Wonder

Today's Etsy Interview is from a woman who I've known for a good year via Etsy, and whom I had the pleasure meeting face to face last winter, when I was on a skiing vacation in Lillehammar. Inger Maaike works with wool. Her main pleasure is with felting wool and she creates a huge assortment of finished products: scarves, jackets, arm warmers, and even sculptures.

Inger is a very quirky sort of person. A nice and hospitable person, she has opinions on many subjects (and people) and is not scared to share them. Her heart is warm and she clearly is not concerned about outward appearances. Flashy is not not her style.

When I met her for coffee (after having received wrong GPS directions from my husband and arrived a couple of hours late), she gave me a tour of her house, which her and her husband had purchased not long before. Both of them were tired of the rat race in Holland and took advantage of her family ties to Norway to find a new place to live as well as a new lifestyle. Her house is of an older Norwegian style and feels very cozy, no matter what room one is in. From her kitchen window is a gorgeous view over the river valley where she lives.

I have maintained contact with Inger since then, and we have 'playful' games and contests as to who has more snow, better weather, etc. Both of us being immigrants to Norway means we have a lot in common, though we come to from two different countries, have different base languages and really, two different cultures.

I am proud to have Inger as my first interviewee.

Personal Information: Inger Maaike, married, 3 children, 2 dogs, 3 cats, the odd stray mouse. Is a mother, obsessed with fiber arts, says she is an eternal student and, most importantly an infernal optimist (as opposed to an eternal optimist, I think. That definitely suits her style more).

What word would you use to describe your creative talent: artist/craftsman/creator/other. Why do you chose this word? I am, I think, an artist foremost. I create not to sell per se, but out of an innate need to create. Sometimes very prolific and sometimes not so. But repetition is not something I am very good at.

Were you creative before this time? If so, what other creative arts do/did you dabble in? I began creating as soon as my motor skills would allow me to do so. It has been with me in one oway or another since before I can remember: sewing doll clothes, cooking on a tiny gourmet set, wood carving, dollhouse furniture, bootmaking, and bag making just to name a few. I worked with any material with a distinct, natural feel.

Can you remember the first felted creation you made? I most certainly do. After months of dithering I took the plunge and enrolled in a workshop feltmaking given by a famous Dutch felter LYDA RUMP. She wanted us to make a vessel around a resist. I of course said, 'Vessel? What use is there in a vessel? I want to make a bag.' 'No,' she said, 'you can't.' 'Yes,' I said, 'I can 'cause I paid you and I want to.' To cut a long story short, I walked out of the door with a bag in the shape of a poppy.

Is there something else that you have made that you are particularily proud of? After the first bag I made several more and then I discovered the sight called TREETOPS COLOUR HARMONY. There I saw the most amazing color combinations and much softer wool than I had worked with to date. So I ordered wool and silk and made this coat and scarf set. I never wear it and should sell it, but that is really such a cool coat combining my love for sewing and felting to perfection.

Is there something in particular that you find inspiring? Beauty, intense colors, nature, natural materials, happiness, originality..... to name a few.

When you have a quiet moment to indulge yourself, and there's no one to bother you, what is it you like to do best? I have a lot of this as I work from home and the boys are in school. I felt, spin, read, surf the net, walk the dogs. In short, I enjoy life.

How would you envision the perfect dinner? Who would be there? Would it be formal/informal? What would be served? I am not much of an eater. I eat 'cause otherwise I would perish. So for me the perfect dinner would probably be some sort of paste that contains everything I need which I can just schlurrp up and be done with it.

Where is the place that you have visited in the past that you have particular fond memories of? Why? I have travelled quite a bit but of all the places I have been I would think Istanbul is my very favorite. A stunning city in all senses.

Where is the one place you would really like to travel to one day? Why? I dream of travelling to New Zealand and Australia one day. I have never been there and both countries look absolutely incredible from what I have seen on tv.

Is there anything else you would like to add to this interview that you feel our readers would like to know? Every day might be the last one...... don't wait til tomorrow.

If you want to find Inger, check out these direct links to her different sites:

Daily Felt - Inger's Blog
Felt by Ingermaaike - her Etsy store

Monday, 28 December 2009

Secret Santa from Estonia

For those who do not know, I am a proud member of THE EUROPEAN STREET TEAM - a team of 300+ Etsy sellers who's skills range from metal work, jewellry making, sewing, sculpture... and this is just the start.

Every year one of our members, ARTMIND organizes a Secret Santa project and sends out a huge list of questions to all want-to-be participants. Then she receives the questionaires and does her best to put two and two together, finding the best matches for the year.

I'm not sure I was a great questionaire-filler-upper. I tend to try to live my life as a 'minimalistic' type of person. I don't collect things other than books and ideas (and at the moment I am considering to get rid of most of my books.... but think maybe, just maybe one day my kids might want to browse through them - tough decisions), and if there are any changes in my life that I'm working on it's getting out more, meeting people more, experiencing new things more.

I am also allergic to most perfumes and animals.

So I'm not an easy person to shop for if you don't know me well.

But - Mitsy from ARTMIND did a great job and matched me with a great woman from Estonia.

I got the package about a week before Christmas. And boy was I looking forward to it. Many other of my team members had been receiving theirs, some opening the packages right away, some waiting patiently until Christmas. I myself opened the package right away - I live by the rule that if the present does not come from a blood relative, and there's no one around to stop you (hubby was at work) then it's fair game.

The parcel came fromJelena, who runs the Etsy shop: LARIATA. I had seen her now and then when chatting with team members in our own private forums, but had not had the chance to actually get to know her very well. She works with beads, and does some amazing cluster bead work. Her shop is one that should be checked out, definitely!

Here's the goodies peeking out...... oh.... what can it be?

Some local chocolate! Good call! Chocolate and coffee are definitely my drugs of choice and I always enjoy tasting these treats from other areas of the world.

And some really cool, antique styled bookmarks with some stunning clustered bead decorations. These are already in use (I tend to read 3 - 7 books at the same time, in a pile on the floor beside my bed....) and work really well.

And the chocolate was gone before Christmas arrived, though I did manage to spread it out over a few days. :)

Much appreciation to Jelena! And much appreication to MITSY - another good job done with the SECRET SANTA. I very much like the idea that I am thinking of a new friend off in the distance, over the horizon every night before I go to sleep. A very good way of bringing people together.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Fantastic Cucumer Soap

When I first started making soap in the summer, I made cucumber soap. At this point I was not using the French Milling Process. What came out was nice. It was really great for the skin and everyone was happy.

But this time I wanted to do better:

When I made soap last night, I changed a few of my tecniques, wrote down what I did in my soap diary, and crossed my fingers. And look what I cut up today!

I am so impressed with the color of the soap - a gorgeous green color. And even though it hasn't finished curing, when I washed my hands after handling the soap and washed away the residue that was left on my fingers, that residue left my hands nice and soft.

I cannot wait until they are finished and ready to use!

Sunday, 20 December 2009

My Genius Daughter........

So last night, I finally had some time since mid-November to work on my Etsy store. The Christmas gifts have been purchased. The house has been cleaned and only needs a quick 'once-over'. Our list of food to purchase for the two traditions celebrated in this house has been made and will be purchased on Monday.

And many of my soaps, which I thought would not be ready until January are hard and ready to use!

Which means I can take pictures.... something I really like doing. It's a skill I'm still working with, but can see the improvements I've made over the last couple of years.

So I put the kids in front of the tv (usually I'm turning the tv off and telling them find something else to do) and gave them a bowl of chocolate each. 'This will keep them occupied,' I think.

And I've got myself set up and begin to arrange soap, when I hear my daughter behind me, 'Are you taking pictures of things you're going to sell, Mamma?'

'Yes.......' I say. I now realize that this is not going to go as smoothly as I had planned.

'Oh can I please help? Please? Please? PLEASE?!?!?!?!?.......' she eagerly asks. The last 'please' reaches a volume and a pitch not acheieved even when she is desprately after a toy or some gum when we're doing our weekly shopping at the store.

I can tell she desprately wants this.

And I sigh...... this is not going as smoothly as I had planned.

'What do you want to do?' I ask.

'I want to take all the pictures!' she says.

And it's then I realize that I can break someone's heart, or I can go and do some laundry. I never get enough time to do laundry. So I give her the camera and tell her to have fun and leave to find smelly clothes.

'Can I take pictures of two soaps at once?' she asks.

'You can take pictures of as many soaps as you want,' I answer from the other room.

'Can I take pictures of all the soaps together?' she yells to me as I move further into the house.

'You can take any kind of pictures with the soap - just use your imagination!' I yell back to her. I'm upstairs now.

'Okay!' she answers, in her optimistic 5-year-old voice.

And these are some of the pictures she came up with. Some of them were out of focus, but most of them were suprisingly not. I must say, I'm pretty impressed.

She's pretty good! And not just because I'm her mother. She's trying different things, seeing how different shaped soaps fit together, or don't fit together.

And I think that after Christmas is finished, I'm going to find the United Nations regulations and the Norwegian laws regarding Child Labour. She might be of more use to me than being a cute face with intelligent comments.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Chocolate Chip Soap

For those who just need to have a little bit of chocolate every day.....

This soap is so lovely and soft on your skin and faintly smells of chocolate and mint.

A perfect way to treat yourself to goodies during the holiday season without having to worry about your waist.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Christmas Soap - Julesepe

Now these soaps have been great fun to make - I've made three batches so far, most of which are destined as Christmas gifts to those living around my island.

These, as almost all of my products, are made using the French Milling Process, which means I re-melt my soaps before adding the ingredients that make my soaps special.

Most soap makers add oils and perfumes during the first process. By waiting a bit, I can wait until the curing is finished (or almost finished) and instead add ingredients direct from nature. This way the lye has completely transformed, has disappeared and the goodness of the additional ingredients can come forth without being destroyed.

In this case, I've added cinnamon, allspice, cloves and nutmeg. Not only do these combine to produce a smell that reminds everyone of their childhood Christmases, but they all have individual and combined health benifits for the skin. Some of these include anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. Allspice has been used to help skin wounds heal more rapidly. Nutmeg has anti-inflammatory products. All of which help through the winter when our skin is often dry and prone to cracking.

The smell of cinnamon has been rumoured to help with memory.

But perhaps the best thing about this soap is that it is just so fun to use. The smell is notable, but is not overpowering and will not drive your guests out of your bathroom gasping for air.

A perfect little something to keep you smiling through the holiday season.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Cucumber Oat Soap - Agurk Havre Såpe

This is a wonderfully soft soap, that is great for your hands. At the time of writing this, I only have two pieces left and need to make more, as soon as possible.

Both cucumber and oats are known for soothing irritated skin, and reducing itchiness.

A lovely light green in color, this soap has diced natural soap added to form a nice pattern.

This soap guarantees to be a sure winner!

Saturday, 7 November 2009

I Love Packages

I got a package in the mail!!

Let's peek inside.......

Can you see what it is????

My soap dishes!

All 60 of them!

I think they just look so cute.

And all these deep ridges make it so that handmade soap (well all soap, but especially handmade soap) stays dry and lasts longer.

What I like most is that they make my soap look really big. And just clear up any misunderstandings, all of my soap is bigger than the competition's soap. It's just that these soap dishes really shows that off.

Shows it off any way you display it.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

A Spicy Winter Special

A lovely, lovely soap that smells like Christmas and looks like antique artwork.

A lovely soft soap with a great lather which is then swirled with nutmeg.

On top of this lies a slice of orange, which seeps its crisp fragrance into the air. Combined with the nutmeg, this soap promises to be a great and unexpected gift to any who receive it.

Don't miss out!

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Juniper Berry/Einebær Soap

Now this is a Man's Soap! Creamy, white soap that is combined with crushed Juniper Berries. Known for the antiseptic and skin healing qualities these juniper berries make the soap look like the most delicious cake.

This soap is almost scentless in it's dry state. Instead it smells of freshness, clear air and high mountains. When put in contact with water a light sharp scent emerges, smelling clean and fresh like fir and pine trees.

He will thank you graciously if you put this on his side of the sink!

Thursday, 22 October 2009

The Philosophy Behind My Soaps

It is becoming common knowledge that handmade soap is far better than commercially purchased soaps. Cottage soap makers are appearing all over the world, producing a huge range of great soaps for a steadily increasing amount of people who have turned away from the big companies forever.

Most of the soaps that can be purchased are often very beautiful and symmetrical in nature. Perfectly shaped, smooth to the touch. Molded into sweet and angelical shapes. As with most things in my life, cute and sweet is just not the way I go about things.

I get almost all of my inspiration from the environment that surrounds me, which is anything but dainty and fine.

Perhaps one of the most important places in my life is our sea side cabin, about an hour and a half north of Bergen. The surroundings are stunning, and the nature is often decribed as raw: cold sea water (we often use scuba diving suits to wear swimming, even in the summer), the landscape is hard and steep, there are no beaches and the plants and bushes grow wild and need to be cut back every year for fear of their complete conquest of what we "own".

Our cabin is getting close to 100 years old. Huge improvements have been made during the last 10 years (a toilet and a new roof, for example). But it still shakes and creaks during the winter storms, just as it did when it was first built.
It is here that I plan to grow and/or harvest much of what I will be making my soaps from: cucumbers and carrots, juniper berries, fire nestles, furu, wild cranberries, wild flowers, blueberries, raspberries and gooseberries.

The other items that I plan to use that I cannot grow or harvest, will be purchased from the Indian and Middle Eastern community of Bergen: vanilla, spices, and poltenta being examples. They have such a better quality and quantity of these products than the local supermarkets.

These soaps will a lot like me, very basic, honest and true to the core. I do not use a lot of different oils in my recipes. And yet my soaps lather beautifully, the skin remains amazingly soft.

I like my soaps to look deliscious, so that they are a feast for both the mind and the fingers. Perhaps the heart and soul as well. Like good artwork, one's eye should travel over the random patterns created.

I look forward to walking on this new path in my life. I look forward to sharing both my successes and my mishaps with those who visit me here. It should be great fun.