I have some very creative and crafty friends and I thought it would be great to have a regular blog about them and their work. So here goes – my first interviewee is Pat Longmuir, who hails from Ayrshire in Scotland.
Thank you for agreeing to this interview, Pat. Do you recall when you first decided to become a self-employed crafter? What made you want to do this?
When I became pregnant I decided I wanted to bring up my own child and not go out to work and leave him with a child-minder or relative. I had been making clay jewellery for a while and wanted to see if I could combine being a full-time mother with a part-time crafter, selling my work initially at craft fairs and latterly online.
You began as a polymer-clay artist but later switched to needle felting; what made you change and what is it about this type of work that appealed to you?
Standing all day at a work-top making things from clay was no longer an option as I have bilateral lymphoedema and latterly problems with superficial thrombophlebitis causing painful swellings in my legs. Light intermittent exercise helps; standing or sitting too long exacerbates both problems.
Needle-felting is like modelling from clay in some ways as you start with your raw material (in this case felting wool) and sculpt it into (hopefully recognisable) objects or creatures using specially notched needles with which you repeatedly stab the wool to strengthen and felt it while moulding it into the desired shape. As with polymer clay, you can add detail and colours to obtain the desired effect. Unlike clay, you can lift and lay your work (sometimes for weeks in my case) without it being adversely affected in any way.
You have also set up another business – The Whistling Man. Can you tell us how this came about? What does it involve and why do you like it?
The Whistling Man is my vintage business which I operate in conjunction with PatsParaphernalia as a shop on http://www.Etsy.com. It came about when my husband’s step-father died leaving him the contents of his house. We discovered that he was quite a little squirrel and had lots of vintage “treasures” in his attic and cupboards that we had not known existed. At first, because the house was being sold, everything just got boxed up and moved into our attic.
After a year or so, we had to clear our attic out to have it insulated and partly floored. That is when we had to come to a decision about what to do with all the china and other objects. They were too good to give away to charity shops and we did think about car boot sales, but did nothing about it. Then, one day I was sitting meditating when the name “The Whistling Man” came to me unbidden, together with the idea for opening a vintage shop on Etsy. As I already had a craft shop on the site, it seemed a perfect solution.
At first I only listed some of the better objects found in our loft but soon I became hooked on researching the items and buying more to keep or to resell. I’m still hooked!
I’ve seen your drawings and paintings so I know you are also a talented artist. Do you have any favourite artists yourself?
I am flattered that you think so although I disagree! My favourite artists in the past were the Impressionist Movement as a whole, and Monet in particular. However, with age my tastes have changed to include many other schools and fields of art. I do love Art Nouveau and Art Deco design and recently discovered a wonderful Scottish-Jewish artist called Hannah Frank (1908-2008) whose drawings I find very inspiring.
This year I also discovered a fabulous Scottish potter, Bill McNamara, whose work I would love to own and to emulate. I have always been a frustrated potter and, if I had the opportunity and facilities, this is what I would love to do!
Have you any advice for someone who might be considering becoming a crafter?
Don’t expect to become an expert overnight. Learning a proper craft takes many years of hard work, frustration, and learning from your mistakes. You will find you learn something new every day if you keep working at any craft and in some ways you never stop. Keep your early work for comparison and never be ashamed of it as you will see from it how you have grown and improved.
You’re a busy lady. How do you switch off? What hobbies or interests do you have to help you unwind?
Reading and getting lost in a book is the best way I know to unwind. I also enjoy walking in the countryside or by the sea, and find that breathing in fresh air invigorates, renews and always inspires.
Who has inspired you, either personally or professionally?
Many people from many walks of life have inspired me in different ways. They are too many and too diverse to mention individually and I don’t want to offend by leaving anyone out!
If you could have one wish for yourself, what would it be?
Well, I am not likely to get that wish unless you can wave a magic wand, as I would wish for perfect health!
Thanks for your time, Pat, and for giving us this insight into your world.
Pat’s work can be seen and purchased at the following places: