Thank you all so much for your thoughtful questions and generous comments. And here are your answers:
why owls? do they hold a special meaning for you?
The owls evolved out of the birds. When I was working out the bird pattern I tried to make one from wool that was much to heavy and the shape got wonky. It turned into a little owl. That made me think of a lot of other heavy wools and tweeds I had and how owly they were and I started making larger owls. For a long time I just made the same owl over and over again – ian – the first full size owl made in 2006 I think ( named for ian mcshane whom I love).
I am a huge fan of your work. And I would love to know if you take custom orders. For instance, I have my great-grandmother’s wedding dress, and I’m wondering if this would be something you could transform into an owl or other creature/creation.
Thanks so much!
Hi Shirley – Right now I’m not able to take custom orders. It just isn’t possible time – wise at the moment but I hope I can soon. I’d love to see your great grandmother’s dress.
Thank you so much for this opportunity! Your work is so inspiring and I am always amazed by the materials you use. How do you source them, do you have any headhunters for such fabrics?
Hey Ann, you are truly an inspiration to me, thank you. I have a question about your finds- WHERE ON EARTH DO YOU FIND SOME OF THESE PIECES?! They are absolutely breath taking. Could you by any chance give specifics on any of the stores (online, shops, etc.) where you hunt?
I’d like to know how you source your vintage materials, and could you explain your thought process? Thank you for doing this! (:
I find things all over and sometimes they find me. Looking for things is a huge part of the fun for me. I go to lots of flea markets locally and sometimes antique clothing shows. I have a couple dealers I work with and ebay is a great source too – I check daily. And people give me things – my friend Stephen Szczepanek sends me incredible packages.
Thought process : that’s a big question but part of the answer is : I love fabric. I always have. Even during periods of my life when I didn’t sew I collected it. And before that my mother collected it for me. I still have a stash of fabric she saved or collected for me – picked up at flea markets etc. Things full of memories and possibilities.
i have a couple questions:
1) you have a beautiful studio in new york city. i found the city to be so expensive! is this the sole source of income for you? (your work is amazing) if not, what do you do for a living?
This is my only source of income and it is hard. If I didn’t enjoy making these things so much it would be impossible. It would be much more reasonable to do this somewhere other than NY city and that may happen someday.
the drape next to your bed looks like it has been a work in progress over time, did you find scrap lace and hand sew them all together at once or did you just keep adding until you were satisfied (if you are satisfied yet!)? how long did it take to complete this? absolutely beautiful, ann.
thank you for taking the time to answer all of our questions!
The drapes and curtains here are a functional thing but I do love the way they look. A couple years ago I started pinning bits of lace and dissected garments to them – as a way of keeping track of little bits – keeping them in front of me for inspiration. It has worked well and grown into something I really love.
I wanted to let you know that your work is so inspiring. More of a technical question: It looks like you do so much by hand. Is all of your stitching by hand or do you sometimes use a machine?
I use both hand stitching and a machine – a vintage white – it belonged to my mother and I learned to sew on it. I sew simple seams on the machine and more complicated curvy tiny things by hand. A lot of what I make is very small or has very small details. I also like to sew things inside out ( on the machine or by hand) and then turn them right side out, stuff them and sculpt the shape from the outside with hand stitching.
Wow thanks x
Have you produced a book and if not might you in the future.
I have not produce a book but I would very much like to in the near future.
Do you do workshops or tutorials.
I’ve been publishing tutorials on my blog for a while and will continue to. I’ll be teaching workshops for the first time in 2012 ( and also possibly something later this year too) and will share details on that soon. Send an email to info at ann wood handmade with workshop as the subject if you’d like to be updated on that.
Did you grow up surrounded by antiques and bits of treasures? What was your childhood like? I always envision you loving to read and loving to find secret treasures and keeping that bit of whimsy to use in your artwork. You make such magic. What or who inspired you to do what you are doing now. Thanks Ann
My parents were intensely creative people and I was as encouraged as a person could be to be engaged in and an appreciator of the arts. And I did love to read and was fed a steady stream of great books and music too. My Aunt, Rita Burlingame, is also a huge influence. She is a powerhouse of creativity and when i was a kid she spent hours working on projects with my younger sister and I; many of them projects she invented for us. She is also a collector of early american art and antiques and quilts. Her collections fascinated me as a child – they still do. Her home is amazing – she really has an eye. I use the things she taught me daily. As I began making more personal work and creating more things just for the joy of it her influence was and is unmistakable. p.s. check out the fabulous antique crazy quilt she gave me the a few weeks ago.
Thank you for this opportunity! You are truly an inspiration to me and I adore your work. Your work seems to come straight from the pages of a fairy tale, so I would like to know, what books/stories/tales inspire you to create?
A couple years ago I read “The Rings of Saturn” – Sebald and that imagery has been spinning in my head ever since. I have always loved reading about ships and voyages and shipwrecks ( loved “In the Heart of the Sea” and “Wreck of the Medusa”. I love Dickens and Hardy and many of their characters turn up – often as owls. Right now I’m reading Rudyard Kipling’s “Kim”. One of my favorite books is “Main Street” -Sinclair Lewis.
Hello Ann. Your work is always an inspiration. One of my very favorites was one you called botanical experiments. Wondering if you had done more along those lines. It appeared to be a thistle or pod of some kind.
Yes! and thanks for asking – that has turned into a larger idea and you’ll see more evidence of progress here soon
I would love to hear you talk a little bit about your work/studio space and maybe see a picture or two!
It is little! And that’s challenging but I really love it. It is a very good place for me. There are lots of pictures of it here and new ones coming soon – I took it a apart and put it (mostly) back together again this past year.
I would like to know how many hours you spent making the question mark.
excellent question – I spent 15 minutes making it and about 4 hours working on the file – photoshoping out the background etc. etc.
all i can think of is did you ever make anything ugly or did you just start out awesome?
I make a ton of duds. A lot of dismal failures. In fact it is my habit to say “ start making your mistakes” to myself whenever I begin something new – – there are usually lots on the way to anything I end up feeling good about.
Your work is so magnificent and I am a great admirer. I would like to know how do you make and attach the legs to your birds?
For the little birds I use wire and floral tape and glitter. To attach them I poke little holes in the bird and glue them in with Elmer’s glue
This isn’t a question its just to say a huge thank you for adding my shop advert onto your webpage.
Its so so kind of you. You have totally made my day!
I love your things Mr. Finch!
I love your creations! I’ve made 5 horses and have another one cut out and ready to do…did some with “mixed media” backgrounds, watercolor, acrylics, rubber stamps, and some with glued on papers. They’re fun and a good creative play project. Can’t wait to try the boats soon. Question – a coworker asked if he could buy one (I’ll just gift him one) but I wondered if it was allowed so sell items made from free tutorials if we give credit? (I was thinking of putting info on the back of the horses anyway, crediting your patterns…my painting, so anyone wondering knows it wasn’t my original idea!)
Hi Trudi – It is my policy that patterns I create and share are for personal use only but I am not hiding behind bushes ready to pounce on anyone who might sell a horse they made…. I guess I hope people won’t set up shop selling things made from my patterns or make mass produced versions. That’s my hope. Anyway- I appreciate you asking.
I love the questions others have asked before me. I would only ask the same ones, so I’ll just say that I wondered if it was possible to see more of your sketches. I am very inspired by the final creations, but to be honest for me the most inspiring is the though process behind a piece of work. I like to learn from people through that. Thanks!
I’d love to know what inspires you, where and when your ideas come to you. Also, do you keep a sketchbook or photo journal of your ideas?
Ideas almost never come to me bolt of lightening style – once in a great while I’ll dream something but usually I go hunting for them – poke around my own mind looking for places I haven’t been before or have forgotten. I think most often new ideas or projects come from failures and mistakes. I do record ideas or beginnings of ideas – in sketches and notes. Veronica: I should draw more – it is always a productive exercise for me. It’s something I do hope to show you more of going forward. I challenge the creative part of my brain a lot – I work at it and give myself assignments. I love Twyla Tharps book “ The Creative Habit” and refer to it again and again. I use her box method as a starting off point almost always. The boxes are for organization – keeping the many little bits for many little projects together as well a thinking tool, but most importantly they give me a way to start – It is very easy to put things in a box. I’m also a big list maker and start projects that way as well.
Hi Ann – I love your work, especially the owls. Owls mean a lot to me as they are my mother’s favorite birds. When I was growing up, we called our house the Owlerey, because it was so full of owl-themed things.
My question is about your sculptures. What kind of wire do you use for your boats? I have tried making wire sculptures before, and the wires I have tried are always so floppy and my sculptures won’t hold to shape, as the lightest touch bends the wire-even when I use armature wire from the art store!. What’s your secret?
Thanks, and thank you for being such a creative, inspiring woman!!
A few years ago I got several spools of mystery wire at a flea market – it was perfect – thin and pretty easy to form but held it’s shape and was flat on one side – great stuff. It’s gone and I have not had any success in replacing it. Now I use 18 or 19 gauge steel or annealed wire as well as floral cloth covered wire and paper covered wire from Japan that you can find here.
I love your work and a lot of my questions were asked by others, so I will just add one more…What is your education? Do you have a Fine Arts or Designdegree? If so, from where?
Nope – no Art degree or any other sort. I guess I’ m mostly self educated. Most of what I do now is based on skills I learned when I was 11.
I have been sewing for 30+ years and last year I started making characters. After a successful Holiday Art show I submitted and was accepted to another this summer. But i am so discouraged sewing all day, doubting the progression of my work.
Is it art or artsy fartsy?
How do you keep up the positive attitude?
How do I you price?
Pricing is hard and still a work in progress for me. I think Megan Auman offers good advise – on pricing and other businessy stuff for folks like us . If I didn’t love making these things I couldn’t. It would be impossible to devote so much time and consciousness to it. It makes me happy so I do it. I don’t worry at all about making art but I work very hard at being expressive in ways that I feel are truthfull and particular to me. For better or worse this work is a huge part of my identity.
I just want to say I love your work also, but why owls, boats, horses and birds? Childhood memories or love of them. I really just want to know more about you lol, I am so inspired by your art. Thank you for the free patterns and tutorials, I have finished 5 horses because they are so pretty and I plan to make with my grand children a carousel that they can hang up on the ceiling with horses that they decorated themselves. I will post a picture when they finish them. Thank you again from a fan in Australia.xxx
Honestly subjects aren’t usually too terribly important to me -being expressive in a way that’s satisfying to me is important – the subject is often incidental – horses, birds etc. Ships have always been fascinating to me though – in both their practical and romantic sense.
It sounds that, like me, we all have this fantasy of what it would be like to be Ann Wood, making things in Brooklyn deep into the night. In the past, I’ve been curious as to whether you work alone or with others, if you have music playing, if your fingers hurt at the end of the day, and how many hours a day you create things. What’s the hideous reality? Do you eat beans to survive and occasionally throw a little bird to the floor on its head? How did you get past horse number twelve (this is where I have been stuck for a year.) Is anyone in your way–that is, do you have to take care of anyone but yourself? Your creations are stunning and I’m always glad to see update from you when I open my mail. Your work matters to a middle-aged woman in St. Louis.
* Sometimes I make things kind of deep into the night – but not past 11 unless it’s some kind of busyness emergency or I’ve gotten obsessed with something.
* I work by myself at the moment but I had a helper a while ago and probably will again soon. I’d like to – among other things having a helper here keeps me productive and moving forward and makes me manage my time and tasks more carefully.
* I almost always have music playing – all sorts of stuff – it’s one of the perks- being in my place, working on my things, drinking too much coffee and listening to music. Pretty nice.
* My fingers do hurt at the end of the day – you wouldn’t believe how often I stab myself with very sharp things.
* When things are super busy I work as much as 16 hours a day but typically it’s 10 – 12 hours every day.
* I have eaten beans (lentils really) to survive but I like lentils and they’re good for you.
* I do throw things sometimes and use very, very bad words. When I get really frustrated with a little bird I hack off it’s head ( that’s really a practical thing – if I find myself trying to fix some defect or imperfection and it’s going on forever I end it – so I don’t keep coming back and wasting time on a lost cause).
* If I had set out to make 100 horses I don’t think I would have accomplished it. It was a one day at a time sort of affair. In fact I didn’t start any of this with much of a plan – not in the beginning anyway. I did the next thing, and the next thing – baby steps – I was and am a huge believer in the power of small things done daily.
* Mostly I do not have anyone besides myself to take care of, I don’t have children anyway. I like to work and also must work a lot and the people in my life understand that…..pretty much. On the other hand a very reasonable argument could be made that I am a little more of a hermit than is good for a person sometimes.
Thank you so much Carole – I loved your question.
Do you live in Brooklyn because you love it there or mainly just for the work opportunities? Where would you live if it could be anywhere – money no object?
Not sure if this question should be filed under “curious” or just “nosy”….
It’s a great question. I live in Brooklyn by accident but I mostly love it here. Some stuff drives me nuts – noise, lack of space, parking and crazy nyc taxes. Crazy. I moved to NY when I was 30 as an experiment. One year rolled into the next, I blinked and 15 years had gone by. As my making things and selling them situation began to evolve one of my hopes was to be able to support myself anyplace. As of a couple years ago that was accomplished but I didn’t want to go anywhere. In a perfect world I could be in Brooklyn and have a place in the country too, I have started collecting things in a box labeled “ for the country home I will ultimately have”.
I always loved sewing and paper mache, but you have inspired me to combine the two! It always takes my breath away to see the antique garments you start with, they all hold such beauty on their own, and I love how you acknowledge that. My question relates to the restoration process: you often mention soaking the white garments, turning a gray into a white, leaving it for days, etc. What do you usually soak these in?
It depends on how fragile the garment is and how stained it is. Sometimes I think just very hot water with a little woolite does the trick – repeated and repeated. For sturdy fabrics with horrifying stains I use oxyclean, detergent and hot water.
Ann, I’m so excited to be able to ask you a question about your ships. I see that they have evolved in the last five years from large wire based sailing ships to the smaller spring regatta. Is there a reason? Have your methods just evolved or were the early ships too difficult to produce and time consuming for sale. I’m truly in love with the older translucent prototypes. Not that the little skiffs aren’t darling. What methods did you most enjoy and are you still evolving? In awe!
Thank you! And I love the translucent ships too but you are right – they are very time consuming and expensive to make. They also take up a lot of studio space. The cardboard and fabric boats and ships evolved out of a desire for a little bit more of an immediate experience and to produce a boat I could share as a pattern.
Mainly I wanted to thank you for all of the inspiration…your designs are so lovely and the use of found objects and old fabrics breathtaking. Most of my questions have already been asked and im looking forward to your replies. I often scour thrift stores and pick up little lovelies along the way. I’m ok at sewing and following directions but don’t have the time (two little kids), the ingenuity, or the artistic gift to put them to their deserved use. Ive thought from time to time how neat it would be to see how you would use them. That said I wouldn’t want to be weird or Intrude on your creative process. Do you like to receive small gifts?
Thank you for the tutorials…the boats have been a favorite show and tell item for my kids and they love to send them on fantastic journeys. Darcy -Seattle, WA
Hi Darcy – thanks so much. I’m so glad you enjoy the tutorials with your kids. Sometime things chosen for me inspire me in unexpected directions so yes and thank you so much.
I have always been drawn to old things, fabrics and anything else with history and mystery. When I stumbled upon your blog page one day a few months ago, I could only stare in total amazement and fascination. You are using these beautiful old materials in a way that gives them new life. You are an inspiration to me and many others, if the above comments are any indication! All of my questions have been asked by others, but I would like to thank you for the tutorials, the patterns, the photographs of your work. In other words, thank you for sharing your life. And if you ever decide to hold an online class for any creation, whether horse, boat, owl or bird, I will be first person on your list!
Thanks so much Bridget! It’s funny how the idea of teaching has popped up so often in the past few months. I love the idea and will keep you posted on opportunities. Thanks for the encouragement.
Your work is truly inspiring and magical! Your talents as an artist and creator are very apparent. You are obviously doing what you love; following your own path (at least that’s how I imagine your life to be)! But what about the business end? What would be the best piece of advice you could give to a fellow artist/aspiring boutique owner? Thank you for the opportunity to ask!
I’m probably not a good person to ask for business advice but I can offer a thought on making something happen, something you want:
Show up. Show up and work at it every single day. Make tons of mistakes and take wrong turns but don’t stay still. Don’t wait. Show up and keep showing up no matter what. Start small.
Hi Ann, These questions are from my kids(Brian-7 and Anna-5, who were beyond excited that a famous artist liked their boats. thanks:).
How old were you when you decided to become an artist?
Hi Brian and Anna – I have always liked to make things. It has always been my favorite thing to do but I didn’t figure out that it could be my job until just a few years ago when I was 41!. Here is a picture of something I made when I was 11:
Have you always been this gifted, or rather – have you “always” created beautiful things? Have you been crafting since young ages (then what did you do?), or did you began mainly at adult age? Otherwise I think every question I want an answer for is already asked. I really do look forward to all of your answers, and I truly admire your wonderful work!
I made things constantly as a child, it was my main activity. As a grown up I made things for work as a freelancer but there was a long period where I didn’t make anything just for the joy of it. That is how I came to make 100 cardboard horses and start a blog – there is a post about it here.
I love your blog and your works!! A lot of arts and crafts seem to require a lot of special equipment, and for a little college girl like me, I don’t have the funds and/or space for all of that equipment… so when I found your blog and your things, I immediately fell in love!! I’m not too creative on my own, but saw your cardboard horses and decided to make some cardboard sheep for my room!
That’s all, thank you!
Sheep! I love it. And Thank you. My lack of funds, space etc has been a gift – limitations have always been inspiring and motivating to me.