Felting in the Presence of Young Children

Too often, prior to having children, I heard from other moms (after talking about my art) that they wish they could still make art, but they haven't had the time or space to do with little kids. I'd give a few ideas (which I now know as a mom was likely not all that appreciated), which were quickly turned down. I figured that, kids or no kids, if you really want something, you can make it happen if you put your mind to it. It was just an excuse. "Just wait til you have kids of your own, you'll see."  

I couldn't fathom the thought of not being able to continue following my passions once I had children, and children is something I wanted. Plus, I knew artist moms, both personally as well as those I follow online. There aren't many, I'll admit, but they're there. 

This post is for those of you who are parents who want to create art, in particular felting. It's a candid look at how felting happens with kids around, especially little kids (because older kids require a bit less hands-on attention).

Of all my artistic interests, I'd say that felting is probably one of the easiest to do around small children. There are no expensive colored pencils to break, no papers or journals to rip up, no fancy markers to destroy (or mark up your house). There are no non-washable paints to track through the house. You have your soft, fuzzy wool, and depending on the type of felting you are doing, you may or may not have a sharp needle. The sharp needle easily and quickly fits in the palm your hand if you need to move it at the last minute, and sure you may stab yourself (I haven't yet, but it can happen), but you've already been doing that anyway, right? 

A project I've been working on with my 4 year old; this is entirely her doing.

A project I've been working on with my 4 year old; this is entirely her doing.

In fact, you can kill two birds with one stone here and check "sensory play" off your list as well, because you can get all sorts of sensory fun out of felt. Either they're playing with the wool itself, of which there are various degrees of softness (coarse wool, finer wool, exotic fibers, locks), a firm-yet-squishy felting pad or a heavy rice-filled sack, plus whatever item you're working on. Which, I might add, I can guarantee they will steal from you and run off with it. I read somewhere that toddlers show you they love you by trying to engage with you in play, such as making you chase them. Look on the bright side! Your baby stealing your work is both a compliment that they like what you're making and they're showing you they love you by wanting you to play with them. Once they're a bit older (5ish) you can even start introducing needle felting and work together! 

Wet felting with toddlers can be fun!

If you're wet felting, there's even more sensory fun to be had. The hot soapy water (the only "messy" part of this art form) is slippery, especially when you're rubbing and squishing the wool. And hey, if they want to spill it all over the place, all you need is a rag, and you're one step away from checking "mopping the floors" off your to-do list.  They can join in the fun, or you can try to engage them anyway, at least until they steal your sponge and run off with that too. 

He stole my sponge.

If you're thinking that you'll fit in some quiet time to yourself to work on your art... well, good luck with that. If that's what those moms were talking about before, I agree, that is definitely difficult to do with little kids at home. What you can do is put together a little travel felting kit in a tin (which I've done) and take them to a fast-food indoor playground or other secure area. They'll be busy running around playing while you can get something small done. There's also nap time or after bed time (one of the things I remember suggesting), and I certainly do work on art during that time. After all, that's when I film tutorials and/or WIP videos. However, there are so many evenings when I'm just completely wiped out that by the time I get the kids to bed - my husband comes home late so most days during the week I don't get any help - I just don't have the energy. This too shall pass, and depending on the temperament of your child it could be sooner than later (my older one let me work alone around the time she turned 3ish). However, if you adapt and find ways to make art happen despite curious little hands, it's absolutely possible. Cue surprised looks on those moms' faces who thought they knew what my future had in store.

And for a bit of fun, here are some other artist moms I follow online:

Alisa Burke - blogs about creating art with your child

Tamara Laporte - a.k.a. Willowing. I started following her prior to becoming a mom, and despite having two babies, her art business has grown exponentially. 

Marjolein Dallinga - This artist got into felting because she had young children at home and didn't have the time/space to devote to painting. She found felting to be easier to do in the presence of young children

Both Artist and Mother - This is a website dedicated to highlighting the works of women who are juggling the roles of both artist and mother. 

Sorry dads, I don't know of many artist men who are also fathers (though Picasso is a great example), but if you are the primary parent in your family and tackle the majority of caregiving while trying to continue working on your art, these apply to you too.