04 April 2011

Awesome Artist Feature: Wooliverse

1-Up Mushroom - by The Wooliverse - $5 USD
Some of the nerdy side of PJ. One of the many things we've connected on.

I've done a lot of craft shows in my short time was a professional crafter (even helped organised a couple), but I know from this very concentrated amount of experience that when someone recommends that you meet "somebody really awesome," you don't really ask questions. If they were so LEGIT that a craft shows organiser remembers them from the 500 + applications they viewed during the jurying process, you probably just go meet the guy!

At the Holiday Bazaar Bizarre, one of the co-organisers asked me to check out this really talented volunteer and crafter named PJ Church. "He does the most epic stuff with wool that I've ever seen! If you're interested in soft sculpture, you should really meet him when you get a chance," he said between check-ins with the various 150+ vendors at the bustling show. Needless to say, I didn't have the chance to leave my booth at a huge holiday craft fair. So PJ came to me... and I blew his mind that I had already heard of him. :)

One of San Francisco's best kept secrets, I present to you my friend, PJ of...

PJ says that his workstation is a "little tables I spend hours and hours hunched
over with felting needles, piles of wool, and bits of inspiring things"
Photo Courtesy of PJ Church

Who are you? And what drives to you create!?

The drive to create is very much a way of exploring who I am, where I'm from, and where I'm going.  I used to write poetry, and self-exploration was more obvious in that medium, but oddly, I feel like I've learned more about myself in the process of making little wool sculptures inspired by pop culture, video games, and religious mythology.

As to my terrestrial journey, I first sank my claws into this planet at a hospital in Redlands, CA.  I sharpened my horns in some interesting communities in Arkansas, Texas, and Northern California.   For the last six years I have been living in San Francisco and trying to grow wings.  I can't fly yet, but my shoulders are often sore in a way that feels like success of sorts.

When & why did you start your Etsy shop?

My wife and one of my daughters are big Etsy fans and told me about it.  The Wooliverse was created November 2010 during a nearly sleepless week I think back on as "The Big Bang." A couple months prior to starting the Etsy Shop, I'd gotten a confidence boost about what I was making when a local shop in SF (Urban Bazaar) started carrying and selling some of my stuff.  Starting an Etsy shop seemed like a logical next step.

Cthulhu - Needlefelted Soft Sculture by The Wooliverse - $333.00 USD
One of PJ's favourite sculptures because of the painstaking detail:
"I'm especially proud of the wings, which are not wet-felted and contain no wire to support them.
The details and structure come from what seems like a million stabs with a felting needle."

Describe your creative process

I wrote a lot about this in early blog posts, but basically I borrowed some ideas from the Oceana exhibit at the deYoung museum related to art and shamanism.  In short, you find  your vision or spirit creature already existing in the material (wood and Mandrake roots in the case of the Oceana exhibit.)   The "spirits" are referred to as Imunu. When you find or "see" your vision, all you are really doing making what you've seen apparent and permanent.   Like taking a pen and filling in the Rorschach test a little.

As applied to wool, it's easiest to explain it in terms of looking at clouds.  When you daydream, staring up at clouds you see shapes.  The Rorschach test in the sky!  For many of my pieces I use this process, and find the "spirit" or "Imunu" in shapes in the uncarded locks of wool I prefer to use.  It's whimsical but still kinda accurate to say that the process feels like "pinning down daydreamed shapes in the sky"

Many creations, though, come from a more conscious process, and range from realistic to cartoonish.  When I'm doing these concept pieces (as opposed to the Imunu pieces) with a definite goal, I like to work from photographs and drawings.

Sea Serpent Triptych
by The Wooliverse - $169 USD
What about your creative process fulfills you the most and why?

The process itself is something that feels "magical" to me.  It's very much like a trance, self-hypnosis, or something.  At least that's how it feels when I'm really rolling with a project, and especially if it's working with archetypal imagery.  It's not so much that that the creative process is fulfilling, but there's something very healing about it for me.  It's very much about focusing 100% of my consciousness in the present moment on what I'm doing, and that kind of meditative focus is something that carries with me in other aspects of my life. The importance of consciousness is also why I consider my yoga practice a huge part of my creative life.

The creative process is literally a journey and an adventure with surprises throughout.   I usually have a sense of where I'm going with something, but pieces usually go where they want.  And that's usually for the best. 

A Sucker for Love - by The Wooliverse - $20 USD
How did you come up with your business name?
Well, it's a conflation of Wool and Universe.  Sorta silly.  But I did come up with it in a fun way. . .an interesting dream where I was in a universe made out of--you guessed it--wool!  In the dream I was fixing broken things with my felting needle.  Anyway, there it is.  The Wooliverse.   I travel to another universe made out of wool, and bring back what I find.

How do you combat "creative blocks" in your life?

Over and over!  And those blocks are so illusory, aren't they?  Often I don't even recognize right away that I'm blocked.  And then I have to really WANT to unblock.  And it seems like I have to "relearn" the same stupid lessons over and over.  It's always about attitude I think.  If I start to see what I'm doing as an obligation, or as work, or about someone's expectations, everything comes to a halt--often including the nicer side of my personality.  It is about the process and what you get out of it.  So, really, whatever the process, it is still just really, PLAYING.

So, the best practical way to get over a block (creative or otherwise) is to stop worrying about it, chuck the blocked project into your garage, or even the trash, and do something else like color in a coloring book, go to the beach and make sand sculptures and then knock them over, finger paint, get some legos.  Zero pressure play time.

Scrubbing Bubble - by The Wooliverse
PJ says "This is a fun examples of the cuter side of what I do.
There's a lot more in the Wooliverse than just gods and monsters.

What other favourite hobbies/activities do you enjoy?

I've tried to really narrow it down these days, to be more productive at fewer hobbies.  Besides felting/soft sculpture, I am serious about yoga and consciousness.  I like to cook, love to travel.  I enjoy photography, very casually.   I used to be serious about guitar and poetry, but am just a dabbler now.  I love reading and video games, but don't manage a lot of time for either.

And I really, really enjoy just walking around looking at the world with some loud music piped into my skull through a good pair of ear buds.

To check out more about PJ Church and the Wooliverse, feel free to click on the links:

1 comment:

  1. His work is incredible! That cthulhu blows my freakin' mind!


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