January 30, 2009

In The Know

I'm very pleased to announce that the Black Mustard mailing list is up and running! For those who'd like to be on the list to receive news about promos, new items and more there is a handy sign up form over in the right sidebar of this blog.

There are actually 2 newsletters available to sign up for. The first will be a monthly general newsletter, which will cover shop updates, promos, upcoming plans, etc. If you'd like to receive this email once a month, make sure the "Monthly Newsletter" box is checked when you sign up.

The second is designed specifically to notify folks who'd like to know when I'll be adding a new handspun yarn to the shop. I've had quite a few requests for this since I tend to list yarns on different days of the week and they do sell fairly quickly. This will be a mini-newsletter that I will send out each time I've got a new yarn finished and ready to list. It is basically an advance notice and it will include pics and stats as well as the day and time it will be listed. If you're interested in getting this update, make sure the "Handspun Preview" box is checked during sign up.

If you have any questions, trouble signing up, etc. feel free to leave a comment here or email me at!

January 29, 2009

The "Live Life Softly" Give-away

Black Mustard Fiber Arts has a new look! One of my priorities since New Year's was to finalize my logo and branding for my Etsy shop and blog, and I'm really happy with the result. So, wherever you find me hanging out online, you'll see the Black Mustard blossom.

I've also come up with a new mantra. Following along the lines of the ideas I talked about in my "Perspective" post, I set out to pinpoint the things that are important to me, the reasons why I do what I do and what I hope to share through my work. To distill everything that I work toward into one powerful statement.

To me this means being gentle with myself and others. It means taking the time to do the things that make me feel peaceful, loving and connected. I think that's why I love knitting and spinning so much. They're relaxing and wholesome. They connect me to a tradition that was borne out of necessity and has evolved into a luxury, and a form of creative expression. There are many other things that make me feel this way: my morning walks, going to yoga classes, playing my guitar and singing with my brother, spending quality time with a friend, or with my cats, doing something kind for someone who doesn't expect it...

As a philosophy for Black Mustard Fiber Arts, it means a renewed commitment to using materials that are eco-friendly and wool that comes from happy, well-treated sheep. I love finding local folks who raise their own animals, and I'm fortunate that the owner of my favorite yarn shop shares my views and only stocks yarns from companies that meet certain industry standards for the humane treatment of their sheep. Living softly includes treading softly and it feels wonderful when I can make something that is good for the planet without sacrificing quality and style. I'm looking forward to exploring the ways that I can apply the "live life softly" philosophy to my work and life.


So, welcome to the new and improved Black Mustard Fiber Arts! To celebrate, I'm holding my very first give-away. To enter, simply leave a comment on this post sharing the ways in which you live life softly. One person will be chosen at random to receive a free pair of fingerless gloves from my shop in the color of their choice. They will be able to choose from either the "Diamond in the Rough" style or the new "Cascade" style gloves, which will be going up in the shop this weekend. There will also be a new range of colors to choose from! The drawing will take place on Monday, February 9th at 9:00pm PST and the winner will be announced on Tuesday, Ferbruary 10th. Good luck!

January 28, 2009

Chiller - Handspun Merino yarn

I've added a new handspun yarn to my Etsy shop this evening. It's 175 yards, 4.1 oz of super sproingy Merino. I'm very happy with the way it turned out.

While I was watching the colors swirl together, the name "Chiller" popped into my head and I couldn't think of anything more fitting. The colors by themselves are quite bright but there is just enough dark tones of grey and brown to mellow out the colors without turning the yarn "muddy". This is a very relaxed yarn.

The roving is from Sheepish Creations on Etsy. This was the first I've bought from her and it was amazing to spin. Drafted like butter and the colors of course are gorgeous. I will definitely be going back for more!

January 26, 2009

Etsy Monday - Mizu Designs

This week's featured seller is Kylie Budge of Mizu Designs. Kylie is a talented artist who works with Japanese style woodblock prints, lino cuts and silk screen (to name some of her preferred media). I was struck by her work the moment I saw it and was thrilled when she put aside the time to answer a few questions for my "Etsy Monday" feature.

I think it's great how every one of her designs has a story to tell, and I absolutely love her style and subject matter. Her interview is as interesting as her work itself, and I hope you enjoy reading more about her and her craft. Here's what Kylie had to say...

1. When did you realize that you wanted to be an artist/artisan?

I made a point of prioritising printmaking in my life about 11 years ago but I’ve been printmaking on and off most of my life since I was a teenager. Like a lot of creative people it’s something I have to make space for in my life or I feel like I’m denying something that’s core, part of what makes me whole. It took me a long time to be at peace with the part of me that needs to be practical and responsible and allow myself to make time for my printmaking.

2. How long have you been working with your medium and what first sparked your interest in it?

I’ve been making Japanese style woodblock prints since 1998 but have been printmaking for longer than that in other styles. I moved to Japan that year and lived in Kyoto for 7 years in total. It was being there that sparked my interest in learning more about the traditional Japanese printmaking method. I found myself an artist who as also prepared to teach me and haven’t stopped really.

sento 1 (original woodblock print)

In the last few years I’ve also been producing illustrations in the form of giclee prints. It’s all connected for me. To be a printmaker you need to be able to draw, and sometimes I just enjoy going directly there.

3. What do you find most enjoyable/rewarding about your art/craft?

I love everything about printmaking. Collecting paper and experimenting with printing on different kinds is a lot of fun. In Kyoto I could just go crazy in the paper shops. I felt very lucky to have access to that while I was there. All that gorgeous, hand made washi, It’s a printmaker’s dream! And I love the tools used in Japanese printmaking. Fine wooden brushes with horse hair and wooden handle carving knives. And the baren (a flat disc wrapped in a bamboo leaf used for printing).

Carving the blocks is hard work and requires many hours. Sometimes I’m fine with that if I’m in the right head space. But for me printing is much more enjoyable. It’s when all the hard work pays off and when the print comes to life.

Tools of the Trade

4. Where do you find inspiration for your art/craft?

Much of my design inspiration comes from Japan and all things wild and natural including indigenous Australian plant life. I love insects, especially dragonflies, and I adore seed pods.

5. What message or values do you wish to convey with your art? What does your art say to the world?

Mostly I want to find the means to convey in some small way the fragility and beauty of nature and its ephemeral, transitory state. If I can capture that even in a tiny way in my printmaking then that brings me a lot of joy.

6. Are there any other creative outlets that you use to express yourself? What are they and what do you enjoy about them?

Apart from printmaking and illustration I really like to potter around the garden and watch the way a vegetable garden comes to life over summer. I think it’s connected to that idea of enjoying the ever-changing state of things in nature.

7. Do you have any advice for other artists/artisans

If you know that as a person you need to create and it’s part of who you are as a person, then don’t deny it, don’t push it down inside yourself because there’s not enough time, or you have to do other things in your life. Give yourself permission to be in that creative space and find the time somehow. If it’s integral to who you are and how you are in the world, then unless you do this, you’re not going to be whole or happy or balanced and that will unravel you eventually.

still life blue (original giclee art print)


In closing...

Where else can we find you and your work, either on the internet or in person? (ie blog url, flickr, facebook, etc)


Any other websites or resources you’d like to recommend (not just to other artists)?

I can't live without Illustration Friday:

I get really inspired by artists like Camilla Engman and countless other amazing creative bloggers:

I adore flickr:

To read past interviews with "Etsy Monday" featured artists, click here!

January 21, 2009

Be Mine - Handspun BFL yarn

I've just updated my Etsy shop with brand new handspun yarn, in loverly Valentines shades of pink, red and purple. "Be Mine" is 168 of silky soft BFL goodness.

The roving was dyed by the very talented Lynne at Knitopia / West Coast Colour. If you live locally you should definitely check out her store - it is an oasis of wonderful yarns and hand dyed fiber, located in downtown Langley. I also bought another batch of this colorway for my mom for Christmas, so I can't wait to see how hers turns out!

January 19, 2009

Etsy Monday - Fleur Fatale

This week's featured seller is Greet of Fleur Fatale. Her shop is filled with gorgeous jewelry that strikes a perfect balance between the traditional and the unexpected, the architectural and organic, with materials that range from beads to botanical elements to felt and silk.

I love her style, and I find her photography absolutely stunning. Her pictures in and of themselves are works of art. Her pieces really stand out amidst the plethora of jewelry on Etsy, and I wanted to shed light on a shop where beauty abounds and a talented artist brings life, energy and originality to the art of jewelry making. Join me for a little walk in Fleurfatale's creative garden.

1. When did you realize that you wanted to be an artist/artisan?

As a child I was already crafting. While my sis and brother were climbing trees, I stayed inside painting, beading and drawing. After my secondary school I went to Art school and became a graphic designer. Since then I've never done anything else than making my living by being creative. I really can't do anything else, I would die if I could not create :-) I had my own graphic design bussiness for 12 years, but stopped with it when my 4th child was born. Now my kids are a little bit older, but I can't go back to a regular job. I have a child with a handicap (Down Syndrome) and one with a learning disability, so I put lots of time in guiding and educating them. But the time that is left is filled up completely with crafting! My online shop is in that way a blessing, I can work at home, I can decide all by myself when I work and craft.

2. How long have you been working with your medium and what first sparked your interest in it?

I started making jewelry end of 2007, after a while I had so many pieces that I just could not keep them all for myself. I knew Etsy already, but just didn't dare to join,I was not so sure about my creations. I promised myself to give it a try on my 40th birthday and joined Etsy in April 2008 and wooosh, what I never dared dreaming of happened, I sold immediately and people do like and enjoy my work!

And I am learning every day, I like discovering new techniques and materials, right now I am playing a lot with felt! I like mixing materials and techniques, that's why I have textile jewelry in my shop but also creations with stones, glass beads, vintage findings and polymer clay.

Lightness of Being Necklace

3. What do you find most enjoyable/rewarding about your art/craft?

Sometimes I just match materials and colors, not knowing how it will end, and when I finish then a beautiful piece, I can be very pleased! But the process of creating can also be very satisfying!

4. Where do you find inspiration for your art/craft?

It depends : sometimes I am inspired by an acorn I find during a walk, or the play of the clouds in the sky (that I see through my work room window), sometimes a song can make me create, or a vintage teapot I come across at the recycling store. But also children books inspire me , I have tons of them, If I like one, I buy two of them, one for the kids and one for myself :-) And let's not forget poetry, I lose myself in reading poetry and I am sure it inpires my work! But entering a fabric, yarn or beads shop can inspire me a too, just seeing color combinations gives me tons of ideas :-) And other things I come across accidentally, a beautiful exhibition for instance or my China tiger shoes collection (my cat brooches are inspired by them), or a book about African Tribe Jewelry...

5. What message or values do you wish to convey with your art? What does your art say to the world?

I don't have a message to the world, I just want to bring a beautiful piece, and I am very happy if someone loves it to pieces and enjoys it. That is why I like the feedback on Etsy a lot, good feedback really gives you vibes to go on with it!

I think my art is a kind of self expression. I just need to do that, I am glad there is a world outside that can appreciate what I make.

6. Are there any other creative outlets that you use to express yourself? What are they and what do you enjoy about them?

Oh well, I don't sing and don't play music (one cannot have all the skills :-), But I do try to be creative in my cooking :-) and the way I design my house, Oh, if I had the time.... But I am not only an artist, I am also a mother of four, I think I am very creative in the way that I raise and educate them :-))

7. Do you have any advice for other artists/artisans

Go your own way, try to evolve in what you do, don't create just for selling, that could not be the first aim! Create because you love it, then you'll make the most beautiful art!

Silk Diva Necklace


In closing...

Where else can we find you and your work, either on the internet or in person? (ie blog url, flickr, facebook, etc)

my flickr:

my Etsy shop:

I have a blog where I communicate about my creations , the process, the shop, my offline creative ways...

Any other websites or resources you’d like to recommend (not just to other artists)?

I have lots of dear friends on Etsy , you can find them all on this blog:

I like browsing these blogs to see what's up in the creative world...

To read past interviews with "Etsy Monday" featured artists, click here!

January 13, 2009


I've been thinking a lot recently about the reasons why I decided to cut back at my day job and make a go of selling my knitware, handspun yarns, etc. on Etsy. When you're working in a job that you don't particularly care about, money quickly becomes the primary motivator and the main measure for success in your life. I have coworkers who just can't fathom that I'd give up 40% of my pay cheque to have 2 extra days a week to myself. But I had reached a point where time was flying past me at breakneck speed, each week exactly the same as the last, and I thought, "There has to be a better way to live!" I made the change so I could live a more authentic, fulfilling and pleasant life.

But that ingrained need for financial security can be a hard one to shed. As with most things in life, it takes more than changing the external circumstances to really get at the root of the problem. Especially in the midst of the current economic situation, it's quite easy to succumb to that low level anxiety that we are all conditioned to feel about money, until you realize you've just traded one "job" for another and are in danger of turning your favorite pastimes into "work".

Every once in a while, I am provided with a reminder that I need, and a gentle nudge in a better direction. For example, before Christmas I was researching ways to improve my shop, direct more traffic to it, as well as my blog, and maximize the effectiveness of the time I spend on promoting. I was reading a lot of great tips on the Etsy forums and in the articles of Timothy Adams, who has loads of free advice for Etsy sellers (definitely worth checking out). He's got so many great suggestions in fact that I began to get a little overwhelmed, thinking I had to try them all right away and I was not doing enough to get the word out about my shop. In short I had developed tunnel vision, only looking at things in terms of their marketing effectiveness. There are so many tools available to online sellers and only so much time in a day to make use of them, that I started to get stressed out! And worse, I was spending so much time trying to do everything I could to promote that it was cutting into my actual creative time in a big way. This is what I mean about changing more than the outside situation, because I was starting to look at my Etsy business the same way I had my day job, in terms of profitability instead of enjoyment.

The reminder came when I visited the Etsy forums to post a link to my blog on a blog roll thread. My intention when I posted was to direct people to my blog, but while I was there I also clicked a few of the links to other blogs listed and found myself directed to some unexpected places. Instead of blogs that were devoted solely to self-promotion, I found pockets of the world that reflected the interests and personalities of the writers, and were so interesting and selfless that they shook me out of my stress-induced trance and reminded me of why I'm doing this in the first place. I'm sure there are tons of great blogs like these out there, but I'd like to share the two that really stood out for me that day.

The first is Believe Breathe Birth, written by Etsy seller Bellyblessings, who makes beautiful jewelry inspired by pregnancy and birth. This blog provides "pregnancy & birth affirmations, quotes, journal prompts, ideas & activities for birth preparation and celebrating the childbearing year". The post I read that day struck me as such a positive statement for expecting mothers, and I was impressed by the generosity involved in taking the time to offer it up to the world.

The second blog that caught my eye is MayhemArts' blog, Art, Life, Yoga.... MayhemArts sells beautiful handmade malas (used for meditation or chanting mantras) as well as photopraphic prints and ACEO's of yoga inspired artworks. This blog is so well-rounded that it really opened my eyes to the potential of blogging beyond mere self-promotion. The posts are inspiration and informative, and they really give a sense of the person behind the scenes.

I'd like to thank both of these people for reminding me what's really important and why I wanted to sell online in the first place. There are so many cool people taking part in the "handmade movement" online and it can be just as rewarding to make connections or promote others as it is to make that sale you're working towards (if not more so).

I've put in a lot of effort to get my Etsy shop going, and I'm quite happy with it so far. Although there are always going to be things that I can improve, it doesn't mean I have to get them all done right now. I just need to get beyond this idea that I have to be really successful before I can relax and enjoy this. The time to enjoy it is now. I can put the stress down at any time - I just have to decide consciously to do so. To remind myself that this is what I wanted, and that I've already arrived at where I wanted to be. Now I only need to enjoy the journey. The timing will take care of itself, the sales will come, and things will get done if I just do what I really care about. I'm just trying to find a balance between healthy discipline and productivity and unhealthy stress and worry.

January 5, 2009

Etsy Monday - Cozy Cottage Creations

After a bit of a break over the holiday season I'm glad to be starting up Etsy Mondays again! This week I'm featuring Lynne of cozycottagecreations, who creates wonderful 3-D needle felted works of art - like this!

I first came across her work when I was checking out a tutorial on needle felting over in the Virtual Labs on Etsy. I was blown away by her Felted Earth Ball, and when I checked out her shop I found so many more amazing pieces! I love needle felting but I have never tried anything 3-dimensional. I'm always impressed with those who do, and Lynne is extremely talented at what she does. Here's what she had to say about her craft:

1. When did you realize that you wanted to be an artist/artisan?

I don't think I ever realized or decided I wanted to be an artisan - it's just my nature to want make things and do it as well as I can. Throughout my life I would rather make something myself than buy it in a store. Sometimes when I go to buy something, because I'm so picky and have a clear picture of what I want, I can't find it! So, I make it myself. I would so love to go back in time and live in the 1800s when making everything you have was just a way of life.

2. How long have you been working with your medium and what first sparked your interest in it?

I've been felting for almost two years now. I've always loved knitting and one day an email newsletter from my local yarn store arrived in my in-box with a photo of a felted bowl. I fell head over heels in love with it, and seriously couldn't sleep because I kept turning it over and over in my head. I was leaving on vacation the next day and absolutely had to stop at the yarn store on the way to the airport to pick up the pattern. After telling myself over and over "Do not leave this pattern on the plane....", I actually left it on the plane. So then I had to figure it out for myself, and I've been creating my own patterns ever since.

3. What do you find most enjoyable/rewarding about your art/craft?

I love the figuring it out part, especially in the area of needle felting. Often I see something and my first thought is "I'm going to make that out of wool!". Then my unconscious brain chugs away at the process and my fingers get itchy to get started. I'm happiest when I'm about 2/3 into the process and I can actually start to see my vision form into reality. I also love the sound of the needle felting tool sinking into the wool - it's like the crunch of boots into new fallen snow.

4. Where do you find inspiration for your art/craft?

Mostly in nature, and lately at the grocery store. I'm probably the only Mom that tells her kids "Don't eat that apple!" because I'm using it as a model for my needle felting.

5. What message or values do you wish to convey with your art? What does your art say to the world?

Hopefully that art and beauty can arise from all sources. I have two young daughters and they are always right by my side wanting to know "what are you making?" It's important to me that they know from this pile of wool (which came from a sheep) anything can be created. That the possibilities are endless as long as you have the vision and the patience to bring it to life.

6. Are there any other creative outlets that you use to express yourself? What are they and what do you enjoy about them?

Right now I'm totally obsessed with wool, and I just want to explore every possible thing you can do with it. I always have six other projects running through my head while I'm working. I do also love to sew, and I used to do a lot of it - making quilts, playthings and occasionally clothes for my daughters. However, my sewing has really taken a back seat to my felting. I'm not a very good multi-tasker, and I like to completely exhaust one medium at a time. It might be awhile before I get back to sewing!

7. Do you have any advice for other artists/artisans

Make what you love and put it out there to the world. If you love it to pieces, so will someone else! Persistance and patience are the keys to success in anything you do! And on a practical side, if you're an etsy seller, join a team of like-minded artists and become as involved with that team as you are able. I belong to several teams and am quite active with Boston Handmade and the NaturalKids Team. The support and comraderie I get from these teams has been invaluable to both the growth of my business and my growth as an artist.

Felted Fleur Vase with Daisy


In closing...

What's on the horizon for you right now?

I'm very excited to be participating in the Boston Handmade Downtown Gallery this holiday season. The Mayor's Office for the City of Boston is sponsoring our Handmade Gallery, located right in one of the busiest shopping districts in Boston. So, if you're in the Boston area this December, come to 505 Washington St., just off the Downtown Crossing T stop, to see my work in person!

January 3, 2009

Polaris - Handspun Merino yarn

I've just listed a brand new handspun yarn in my Etsy shop. "Polaris" is 188 yards of the squishiest sport weight Merino.

I absolutely love the way this yarn turned out. Blues aren't normally "my colors" but they sure are soothing to spin. And the way the predominantly cool blues and purples are balanced with warm flashes of yellow and brown.

The roving was dyed by the amazing Kristin of All Spun Up on Etsy. As always it was a joy to spin, perfectly prepped with deep, vivid tones. Here is a picture, borrowed from the original listing.

January 1, 2009

Happy 2009!

I'm not big on New Years resolutions, but I do feel like now is a good time to set some goals to work toward in 2009. Something about the air of completion and creation that comes with this time of year compels me to take stock of what I've been doing for the past little while and lay out some things I'd like to accomplish in the coming months. Of course a lot of these will be related to fiber and my Etsy shop, but there are a few other improvements I'd like to make as well. As for my blog, I'd like to expand the scope of it to include a some of what goes on in my life outside of Etsy, to share a bit more of what fills my days with all you lovely people. So, here are my main goals, in no particular order:

My main priority for Black Mustard Fiber Arts is to polish my branding, logo, etc. I've got a couple of ideas and I'm hoping to have my artistic boyfriend help me finalize them. From there I can get all my packaging, tags, labels and business cards unified and done up properly. I also plan to take stock of all the online tools I use (Twitter, Flickr, PW, etc) and see how I can maximize their effectiveness while cutting down on some of the time I usually spend surfing once I get started. There are a couple new things I'd like to look into as well, such as starting a YouTube channel and a mailing list. There's also a big development on the horizon in the way of a second Etsy shop... I hope to have that ready to lauch by the end of January! I'd also love to take part in at least one craft fair in 2009.

For myself I've got a lot of your standard fitness goals... I want to get back into taking regular yoga classes and I plan to run 3-4 times per week. I'd also like to research nutrition a bit more. Since I've gone vegetarian I've been feeling great, and I think I'm getting everything I need in the way of protein, iron and such. But I'd like to be sure. Also, now that I'm getting close to the point where children could be a real possibility in the next couple of years, I'd like to kick any unhealthy habits I have so I can lead by example to help them develop a really good relationship with nutrition and exercise. Once the weather gets a little nicer I'm going to start riding my bike and taking the bus to work. I can't wait!

Another big area of interest for me is finding more ways to live in harmony with the world and the universe at large. In the Spring I'm going to build a compost bin in the back yard and get serious about recycling at home. I also plan to find at least one volunteer opportunity this year - to contribute my time and energy to helping someone other than myself or my immediate circle of people. This last year I've been a bit on the isolated side - spending so much time at home working on crafting and building my Etsy business. Although I've enjoyed it immensely, these last few weeks I've really felt a push to get back out into the world and interact with people more. I want to be more open to connecting with others again.

I've got 3 guitar students starting up in January, and I can't wait! My music has been another thing that's been put to the side so I could focus on knitting, spinning, etc. And that's fine, but I do miss it as well. Getting lessons going again will be a great way for me to remember to practice and play on a regular basis, and from there I'd love to schedule a few shows or hit some open mics and maybe write some new songs. I think I may start a YouTube channel for my singing and playing as well. If I do I'll be sure to share the link here.