Mary Jane Holiday Stocking by Blueberry Bandit
By Arwen O’Reilly
It’s been a while since I used my Christmas stocking, but if I knew I’d been good this year, this charming felt Mary Jane holiday stocking is the one I’d leave out for Santa. I love the and-stitched polka dots! Blueberry Bandit also sells cards and gift tags made from her whimsical drawings, many of which feature the Blueberry Bandit and his friends, so check out her Etsy shop, too.
Arwen: How did you first get involved with crafting?
BB: Well, I think it was about 1982, and involved a toilet paper roll, some pink yarn, and a plastic egg … Actually, I have been crafting my whole life, though I only recently found the courage to try to market my wares. Somehow I have been blessed with wonderfully creative and nurturing friends who gave me enough little nudges to start my Etsy shop!
Arwen: While I first fell in love with your holiday stocking, I notice you do a lot of drawing as well. Do you have an art background?
BB: I do– I went to art school for photography. I was absolutely terrified of drawing and painting classes and avoided them as much as possible. I’m not so great at drawing cardboard boxes or buildings or anything that was expected of me … I tended to have older, mostly male, art professors who just didn’t share my appreciation for the cute and quirky. But now I sometimes wish I could go back and focus more energy on painting and printmaking.
Arwen: What processes do you use?
BB: I miss photography terribly … When I was a student, I worked solely in color with a large format view camera, but now I only have a simple digital camera. I am an avid doodler and occasionally find the courage to paint, mostly with acrylics. I love bristol board, chartpak markers, and glitter! I also sew, mostly with felt or fleece. I recently acquired a Print Gocco … I love it, but I feel like I have so much to learn about it! I am very interested in learning other printmaking techniques, particularly the ones I can do at home. I have reluctantly embraced the digital world and cannot live without photoshop. This has been so instrumental in allowing me to produce multiples of my designs. I try to keep everything as hands-on as possible, even if it takes longer to make things.
Arwen: What inspires you?
BB: My previously-mentioned friends, books, films, dreams, trees, birds, animals with lots of personality…
Arwen: What’s one tip you’d give to other crafters?
BB: Just keep working at it, no matter how discouraged you may be. In the end, I think the most important thing is to nurture your creativity!
Arwen: What are your favorite crafting books/magazines/websites?
BB: Well, of course I love CRAFT! I can’t really afford to subscribe to magazines or buy many books these days, but I love to go to the bookstore and just grab an armful of bliss! There are so many great ones out there–it’s hard to pick favorites. Etsy is such an amazing resource, as well as the vast craft-blogging community. I had no idea that there were so many brilliant, driven people out there!
Arwen: What are some of your most important influences?
BB: As far as people in my immediate life: my family, my husband, my friends. I come from a long line of people who are artistic in various ways, and have been lucky enough to surround myself with creative friends. I have always been smitten with the illustrations in children’s books. I have also greatly struggled with the concept of Art vs. craft, so I greatly admire anyone who can transcend the traditional notions of what it means to be an artist. I am terrible at picking favorite artists, because I love so many! I once saw an exhibit of tiny watercolor illustrations by Paul Klee, the ones I never learned about in art history class, and I remember thinking it was somehow a turning point in my life. Recently I’ve been a bit obsessed with Henry Darger and Camille Rose Garcia. I am really excited about the emergence of the “low-brow art” movement that seems to be taking over the world!
Arwen: Me too! It’s really exciting to see the way that the two areas are merging…Now, one more question: where does the Blueberry Bandit come from?
BB: Blueberry bandit has much to do with my inner beastie … I have always been an extremely shy, reserved person, but there is also a slightly naughty, quirky part of me that is just dying to be heard (the part that might be compelled to steal a blueberry!). I often draw things that are seemingly cute and harmless, but if you look closely there is usually a subtle edge or at least a hint of humor. And I really like the way the word “blueberry” rolls off the tongue.