Happy Monday! The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and the forsythias are in bloom – all in time for Halifax Crafters Spring Fair! I hope everyone got to get outside and enjoy some time in nature this weekend!
The next crafter we’d like to introduce to you takes inspiration from the natural world around her. Tacha Reed of Woodland Wool is a veteran Halifax Crafter – you may have taken home one of her adorable owls (or beavers, cats, foxes, monkeys!) that she creates using repurposed woollen materials. She’s recently expanded her offerings, and now creates stunning feltscapes, and functional hooked pieces (check out the amazing owl tea cozy below!) all of which you’ll find at the Olympic Center next weekend.
What do you make?
I make whimsical critters, “feltscapes” and rug hookings from natural and recycled materials including wool sweaters and other clothing.
What is your process?
I’m always on the hunt at Frenchies, Value Village and Good Things in Store for supplies; chunky yarn, vintage fabric and anything wool that I can shrink down and turn into something else. I don’t work with any physical patterns, I rarely even sketch things out -only when an idea hits me and I’m worried that I might lose it before I have a chance to make anything. Mostly I just map it out in my brain and then grab my scissors and my needle and thread and go for it, hoping for the best. Sometimes I have a few duds on the way as I figure out the patterns, but even those guys always seem to find someone to love them.
How long have you been a crafter?
I think I was born a crafter. My grandmother was always knitting, quilting or sewing and had a habit of collecting art and craft supplies, something that I too have adopted. You might say I have an addiction.
What is your background/How did you get started?
Many years ago I worked in animated television and every nine months or so the entire production crew would be laid off for three months until the next season started. On each break I’d fill up my time working on projects; beading, sewing, learning some new craft. After several years I realized that I had more than enough things made to fill an entire booth at a craft show. I mentioned the idea to my mother who quickly presented me with a copy of The Coast with an ad for Halifax Crafters. It seemed like fate. That was about 5 years ago and I have participated in every show since. The first few years I mostly sold reproductions of my visual art and my feather jewellery (a collaboration with east coast folk rocker Christina Martin). Over time I began to introduce my critters to the mix, first owls then kitties, foxes and monkeys and after a few years I dropped the visual art, and then the jewellery and now I focus on my woolen and hooked creations.
Why do you do what you do?
Creating the critter themselves happened by chance – one day my partner Bryan presented me with his favorite sweater that he had accidentally shrunk and he asked if I could do something with it. As a child I had a small leather camel and rabbit my grandmother had picked up at Frenchies. I remembered examining the toys, breaking them down in my head, figuring out the pattern and thinking that someday when I was older that I would make some myself. When Bryan presented me with the challenge I naturally turned to my childhood friends and made myself a camel, then a rather large rabbit. Then I looked at the shape of the remaining arm of the sweater and I made my very first owl. I got such a great response from my first few creations that I ended up sticking with it as my primary crafting hobby and before long Woodland Wool was born.
When you’re not selling at Crafters markets, where can I find your work?
You can find my critters at Put Me On in Halifax, Dots & Loops Handmade in Lunenburg, the gift shop at the Avon River Heritage Society Museum in Newport Landing, Johnny Ruth in St John’s Newfoundland and through my Etsy shop.
What makes Halifax Crafters different from other shows?
I feel like I’m with the rest of my tribe when I’m at a Halifax Crafters show. I participate in a lot of different art events but this is the one at which I feel the most at home. Every show kind of feels like a trip home to visit some long lost relatives. I look forward to catching up with the vendors and hearing about all their endeavours and I love seeing the returning patrons, especially the little fellas who I’ve watched grow with each passing year. Every year I hear at least one fabulous story about the life of one of my critters and how they have made an impact on someone’s life. I love that something I created could mean so much to another person.
What are you excited about seeing at the Spring Market?
I have a few favourite vendors, I always look forward to seeing what new t-shirt designs the Quarrelsome Yeti has come up with, and I love checking out the beautifully dyed fibres from Uber Wench. I always look forward to Kyla Francis‘ new glassware designs, we seem to share the same nostalgia for old technological devices. I can’t wait to see the new puppet dudes by CRANKY, I’ve been following them online so it will be great to meet them in person. There is just so much great stuff there that really, I’m excited about it all!
What do you do when you are not crafting?
When I’m not crafting I work as a freelance artist and designer and I help manage the art gallery side of things for the Bread Gallery in Brooklyn, NS. I am also the President of the Hants County Arts Council where I help to promote and organize several shows a year for the group. Come by my booth for a copy of our art’s digest and the Avon Land of Plenty info booklet, they can help to guide you when you take your next visit to Hants County!
How do you begin a new project?
I usually get started on a new batch of critters once I’ve picked up a number of sweaters to shrink. I always wait until I have enough of a certain colour, just in case the dyes leak (and because I don’t want to waste any water.) Once felted I cut off all of the arms and then break them up into my various critter shapes like owls, beavers, foxes and dragons. I used to make each one individually but now I treat it like a production line. My critters have four steps so I always have a collection of shells ready to be sewn, bodies ready to be stuffed, bottoms and wings/tails/ears pinned and ready to be sewn on, and a selection of nearly done critters that are just waiting for their needle felted details to be added. This way I can still keep things fairly spontaneous so it doesn’t have to feel like work.
I’m not sure there is a day that goes by that I don’t make something, whether I’m working on a critter or hooking a rug or spending time on one of my bigger feltscapes – I always have several projects on the go. A lot of my work involves repetitive motions so I’m always switching things up, trying not to do too much of one motion so that I don’t get too sore. I need these hands to last me my whole life!
Where do you do your work?
Last year we divided our garage in half with a man cave in the back for Bryan and all of my art supplies and various collections in the front. Here I work on my messier/smellier projects like working with stained glass, resin and silk-screening. Unfortunately we never got around to hooking up the heater last fall so throughout the cold winter and spring I have been working in my cozy corner of the living room. Hopefully this year we will get the garage studio operating year round and I can move all of my Woodland Wool related supplies outside and we can finally have our living room back!
What kind of music do you listen to while you work?
I tend to listen to CBC music or CBC radio 2 for the most part, when I really need some motivation I’ll pull out my favorite vinyl; Bob Marley and the Wailers, Juluka, Talking Heads, Kate Bush, Joni Mitchell, Waylon and Willie – something really familiar that I can sing my heart out to.
A place you love?
Favourite time of the year?
I live for the spring. It wasn’t until I moved to the country and planted a garden that I became fully aware of the tiny changes that take place in the environment around me. Every day I take a walk around the property and look in on each and every plant to see the changes from the day before. We are lucky to have many creatures that share our pond; ducks, geese, otters, turtles. I believe that the experience of living in the country has steered my work in it’s current direction.
Three things you need in order to create?
Music, sunlight and a comfy chair to sit in.
What’s your favourite way to procrastinate?
Writing, blogging, and email correspondence. If you finally get a long note back from me it was probably because I was avoiding doing the dishes, vacuuming or sewing for the craft show this weekend!