Biophilia and Felting Friendships

It is almost a year to the day that I gave up my day job of setting up clinical trials of new drugs for hospital patients to pursue my dream of making felt full-time.

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A post on FB this week, prompted me to reflect on why I made that choice. One year in to my new adventure and the start of a new year, this seems like a good place to pause and take stock.

The post on FB asked us to choose the 3 main reasons why we chose to use our creative talents to go self-employed because lets face it, most of us don’t do it for the financial rewards, if economic security is top of your agenda, going self-employed in the creative arts is likely to be low on your list of employment choices.

This is the list of values to choose from but you are welcome to add your own, they came from Shannah Kennedy’s book: Simplify, Structure, Succeed.

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Which 3 did you choose?

Mine were:

Freedom and Health: being self-employed means I can go for a 2 hour run or a long walk in the middle of the day if I want to, being able to down tools and go outside when the sun is shining has made me far more physically active and the psychological benefits of spending more time outside, in our beautiful British countryside, means I am far less stressed. This also relates to biophilia (see below) which is also supported by working with wool.

I also love that I don’t have to get up a silly o’clock in the morning to sit in traffic jams with thousands of other equally miserable people trying to get to the office before 9 am. There’s a lot to be said for home-working!

Order/stability : I found working in the corporate world could be incredibly stressful, every 2-3 years we would have a new VP, none of them could ever accept that the systems installed by their predecessor worked just fine and so felt they needed to restructure the entire company in an effort to leave their mark, like dogs peeing on a lamppost. We were constantly working in a state of flux, trying to navigate new processes but never being allowed to do the same thing long enough to get good at it before a new VP would come along and change everything again!

I wouldn’t describe my life as particularly ordered; Einstein summed it up well, “If a messy desk reflects a messy mind, of what does and empty desk reflect?”. I am messy and proud! 🙂 But compared to the corporate world my current work-life does feel a lot more stable, my processes only change when I need them to, not because someone else is peeing on my lamppost!

Of course, one downside to being a self-employed maker is that many of us feel we have to take the work when it comes, this can lead to working 18 hour days but that is my decision to work long hours (not due to some arbitrary deadline set by a faceless manager) and if I don’t want to work that many hours, I can always refuse a commission or only accept it with an extended delivery deadline. There’s nothing to say you have to take on every piece of work that is offered to you, in fact I think there are some things you should always say no to, but that is a whole other post!

Biophilia: Not on the list I know, but I think it is very relevant for most of us. Those of you who make felt on a regular basis will understand the deep connection with nature and the past that it brings, taking natural fibres and thousands-year-old techniques to create beautiful works guided only by your imagination and what the materials want to do.

I recently discovered this connection with nature and the desire to surround ourselves with natural materials has a name; biophilia. It seems to be something of a trend in textile studies at the moment but of course felt-makers have been familiar with the concept (if not the name) for centuries 🙂

Felting Friendships

One of the respondents on the FB page also talked about how isolating it can be to be a creative working from home, she described how she has changed from an assertive, confident woman to feeling like a timid mouse. I felt so sad reading that but I can easily relate to where she is coming from. Working on your own, 7 days a week can be tough, even for introverts who are comfortable with their own company, I can only imagine it must be an impossible challenge for extroverts.

For me, while designing and making are where I find the most fulfilment in my work, I realise that attending fairs and teaching are what keeps me sane. I need that social interaction, while Pickle (my cat) is very chatty, his conversation is hardly what anyone would think of as intelligent.

If you mostly work alone, how do you find it? Do you have strategies for coping with the isolation?

I think we are social animals (even the introverts!), we need to connect with other humans and for me, I am finding I need to collaborate and share with others, Open Studio events and craft fairs are great ways to connect but are quite sporadic so I was chuffed to bits to spend a day with Janine and Nancy making winged vessels in Janine’s studio (she has a studio to die for!). I am already looking forward to our next play-date and hope this will become a regular event in our diaries. I have long admired Ruth’s creative textile gatherings and hope we can develop something similar.

These are what we made on the day:

Janine – green vase, Teri – cloche hat with rosette, Nancy – large winged pod

My hat after it was dyed:

8 comments

  1. Great post Teri. I’ve not heard the term Biophilia either but it’s definitely a condition I’ve been experiencing for the past four or five years! There are lots on that list I can identify with but if I had to choose my top three they would be Health, Creativity and Adventure.

    1. It was a new term for me as well Karen, but when I looked it up, it so succinctly summed up most of my feelings towards felt-making and nature in general I felt sure it would touch a cord with many of us. Health has been a common value choice across multiple creative fields but I have been surprised that creativity is less popular, I wonder why?

    1. Thank you ladies, why is it that corporate managers feel the need to do that? Constant change in an organisation (or even life in general) is never good 🙁

  2. I agree with all of that. I am an introvert and spend most of the day on my own in my studio but online groups are great for a bit of company and chat and sharing and I also facetime other artist friends, so we can prop up the tablet and chat while working. Freedom, health and creativity for me, though I found it hard to narrow it down to 3.
    I am off to look up biophilia!

    1. That’s a great suggestion Karin, facetime and other video calling methods are a fantastic way to connect and share even if you can’t be in the same room. Freedom, health and creativity are proving to be very popular choices among the felt-making community – we are in very good company! 🙂

  3. Wonderful post! I can certainly relate. Although my story started with creating before a career, then again after I retired. Making time for friends and family lunches is crucial to remain sane. And the biggest plus is the friends you make along the creative path who share your passion. :-). I’m so glad you’re happy with your decision and following your heart.

    1. Thank you Marilyn, you are so right, this new path is enabling new connections that I would have missed out on otherwise, that’s not to say I love my workplace friends from the corporate world any less but it is wonderful to have friends with such a wide variety of skill sets 🙂

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