A Magical Manifestation: Sara Renzulli
I have told my felting story many times. Since we are beginning the Sarafina Chronicles, I will decree this as the official, never before heard, version. ;)
I am often asked, “How did you discover needle felting?” My first words in response are always, “Well, my sister said, ‘We have to try this. It’s called needle felting.’” And that’s the simple truth of it. My sister, Beth, is always pushing and pulling me into the things she comes across: I have managed to avoid ice climbing; I did not escape handing out candy in the giant puppet parade; I did turn her down on the triathlon and cold immersion… Perhaps I shouldn’t throw her under the bus since that fateful day, when she said “this is what we are doing,” I found my purpose! Who knows what other chapters of life I could unlock if I listen to my sister! I certainly have enjoyed many of the adventures she encouraged me to take with her, needle felting being the biggest and most important to date.
On that first day, we had pieces of wool fabric or felted sweater remnants, a handful of colors of wool fluff, a few needles, and a few pieces of foam. I happily stabbed at the fluffy tufts of white until I tamed them into a circle on top of a circle. I added some black eyes and I had a snowman. It was a miracle! What is this magic? How can I do more? I have heard many similar stories after 15 years of pursuing the craft. So many people share in this eureka feeling the first time they feel wool and use a needle.
Next I used the handy internet to find a kit from The Woolery to make three mice. They had a simple pipe cleaner armature. Those wacky little mice still grace my tree every year. Thank you to The Woolery. But aside from that, I was not finding a good source for wool or information.
Soon I found myself at Maryland Sheep and Wool. It’s an annual fiber festival about 90 minutes from my home. I was there alone; free to meander and marvel and soak it all up and buy it all up. I met some vendors there that I still use today! I made a lot of bad purchases like my roving that confounded me by not felting - turns out it was cotton. I made some good purchases too, like a lofty short staple roving that in time I would coin “core wool.”
At that point in my life, my kids were still young, about 3 and 5. I was working at home as a fine artist/painter and wrangling the boys and many animals. I did fairly well painting, as well or better as any 35 yo artists I knew. But I wanted to break out of the limits and loneliness of painting, as much as I loved it. I wanted to be a part of something. (It’s funny to be introverted but need connection so intensely. That’s for a different blog.)
I am a morning person; so I told myself that I would paint during my productive early hours and only felt in the afternoons. Over a year or two, that plan flip flopped until I was painting less and less, fitting it in around felting which I jumped on in the morning as soon as I could. I was making small sculptures and selling them on etsy. My husband said, “Who is buying this stuff!?” I said, “I don’t know but if I make it, it will sell, so I am going to keep going!” (mentioning no names, Monica.) I was in good company on etsy with Hannah Styles, Daria Lovarski, and many other established felters. But there were not many of us. 2012 was my busiest felting year ever with over 300 creations made and sold.
Enter Talbot! Talbot was a good sport, trying to help unorganized me in the midst of the chaos of my house. But right away I knew I needed his calm and his thoroughness. He helped me with my etsy shop and we even produced our first tutorials together on paper. You know, the kind you hold and read. I also taught Talbot to wrap armatures. My thinking was that if he helped me with that phase, I could make more. The truth was that I could warp fairly quickly and it did not increase my productivity. Although, Talbot passed me perfectly wrapped armatures every time. Talbot was soon lured away out of state to another job.
The need for instruction and supplies became apparent to me. Since I had learned everything, after my little mouse kit, through experimentation and trial and error, I felt encouraged and qualified to share what I knew. Which was not much at that time! The need for more space also became apparent. I am sure most of us can relate to the overflowing dining room table or insufficient craft space.
A couple of things came together at the same time; the move to The Mill and meeting Kyla. The Mill is a historic landmark very close to my house. The owner let me pay a low rent to use about 400 sq ft of space inside of it. It was quaint, better than my attic or dining room, and had heat. I carved out my workshop there. Now I just needed the person who could help me make video tutorials.
I met Kyla through our boys. Max was invited to Kyla’s son’s birthday party. He had a great time and when he returned, a mere two hours later, he had a CD with a cool cover, scene contents, and edited video that the boys made while they were there. I asked Max what else they did and he said “You know. All of it. Cake, presents..” All I thought was, “Thank you, Universe, for sending me this person! I have to meet her.” I introduced myself and explained what I wanted to do. Kyla wanted to be sure I knew that she was no professional. I assured her, “Neither am I. It’s ok.” We will figure this out. I could not pay her that first summer so she traded me for some art and an IOU. Together we made our first video - May 23rd, 2013 Small Armature!
I met Jennifer in a similar way. Our boys went to the same KungFu school. We struck up a conversation and I asked Jennifer if she needed employment. I was a growing business after all. Jennifer stepped in and did whatever we needed before she established herself as bookkeeper and spatial organizer extraordinaire.
We had a few other helpers along the way in the Mill days until Talbot’s return. Yay!
We were exploding over the edges of The Mill. It was time to find a proper business space. We found it at our current location. We grew space by space, building by building, until our current size consisting of two buildings and about 5,000 square feet. We are 8 people strong here now and a future blog will share more.
From the early days in our current space
Corrina oversees the shop
On a more personal note, felting and the journey it has led me through, was unforeseen and is inexplicable. Some people are lucky to know their purpose very early on. I floundered around for a while; attempting to support myself with odd work while I pursued art and eventually raised my boys. I was a farm hand, a line cook, a retail worker, a restaurant server, a stall mucker, and racehorse exercise rider. I love painting but I knew it was not my best, most able contribution to my own life and the world that I might reach.
But everything I had done and learned through each strange job and experience, groomed me for the very purpose that had eluded me. I was very driven to connect, create, and support myself. Felting gave me the ability to support myself and my kids. It gave me a path, which followed, led me to creating my word. It gave me friends. It gave me confidence and confirmation in sharing. Thank you for being a part of this story.
I couldn’t stop reading once I started. I could “see” your journey in my head and want to know more now! Thank you for contributing!
Leave a comment